A few photos of red-rumped swallows. Had again driven to my favourite jungle resort near Masinagudi, Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, Tamil Nadu. This place is in Sigur Plateau which is contiguous to Mudumalai and Bandipur National Parks, and an important wildlife corridor between Western and Eastern Ghats. Sigur plays a critical role in the migration and  genetic diversity of tigers and elephants. I go there frequently, just to take a break from urban life and experience the jungle with all my senses. Sometimes I drive around, encountering gaurs and elephants, large herds of cheetal and sambar deer, and maybe an occasional leopard. And spend every evening around the campfire under the stars, listening to the sounds of the forest, and looking at the twinkling lights of Nilgiri homesteads 3,000 feet above. This time I didn’t have any interesting encounters with mammals, so stalked these swallows for a while. Stalked, as in literally stalked on foot (using bushes as cover, moving in slow motion), to get close enough while making sure that they were not uncomfortable with my presence.

Red-rumped swallows (Cecropis daurica) breed in open hilly country and the Indian bird is a resident. They are
aerial insectivores – very fast flyers who swoop on insects while airborne. They look like barn swallows but have pale or reddish rumps, face and neck collar. They are usually found over grasslands and breed in open, hilly country.

Please swallow properly! Feeding time. 

Feeding red-rumped swallows in Nilgiri

These mouth to mouth encounters would last for a tenth of a second. The juvenile would be hopping or flying around, and then come and rest for a few moments. Sometimes the parent would come down to feed it. The parent’s landing + feeding + taking off would last for 1-2 seconds in total.

Red-rumped swallow in flight. Shot through branches. 

Flying red-rumped swallow Nilgiris Nilanjan Ray

Time to land. Red-rumped swallow in Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve.

Swallow about to land

Bird on a wire – red-rumped swallow on a forest fence

Bird on a wire - red-rumped swallow

My back and arms were stiff after handholding the 3+ kg gear for a few hours. For each such ‘interesting moment’ shot, I waited for many minutes while pointing (handheld, I was half hidden by a bush) at the probable direction of action. It was an exercise in experimenting with camera autofocus and maximizing the capabilities of one’s gear. I was using a Nikon D500, and found the Group mode rather useful. Depends on what the bird is doing through – sometimes 3D AF works better. It took a lot of stalking – for more than hour – to get the birds comfortable to my presence and to learn their behaviour. These swallows fly so fast and erratically, one needs to anticipate what they are going to do.

Sharing a few more shots. The green background comes from the forest backdrop.

Though shalt not pass! Guess it learnt from Gandalf in Lord of the Rings 😉

Funny shot of swallow on a wire

Red-rumped swallow with an insect kill

Red-rumped swallow with an insect kill

Hungry hoon! Sub-adult swallow begging to be fed.

Hungry sub-adult swallow

With a freshly caught kill

Red-rumped swallow with a kill

Swallow balancing against the wind

Swallow balancing against the wind

P.S. This is a monochrome shot of a flying red rumped swallow, this time taken in Uttarakhand, another favourite haunt of mine.