Feature photo – Many mouths to feed / by Lawrence Eagling

A new feature for my journal, I will be picking favourite photos both old and new, and describing why I am particularly drawn to them, discussing composition, lighting and camera settings. For the first edition of this new feature I have selected a recent photo of feeding swallows taken at Oxford Island, Northern Ireland. Although we live only 30 minutes away, this was my first visit to the nature reserve set on the banks of Lough Neagh. This peaceful location has been carefully managed to create a haven for local wildlife with plenty of trails leading off from the centre to explore the surrounding area. When I visited earlier in the summer, the sky was filled with swallows, all darting through the air to catch insects and then dashing back to feed their chicks.

After a frustrating time trying to capture the birds’ aerobatic displays, I spotted two parents flying back and forth to feed three young perched slightly apart from the main roost on the rooftop of the centre. I wanted the best contrast to show their muted colours against the bright sky, so I waited crouched as low down as possible, for the parents to return. Just as the adult bird soared in with fresh food, I used a fast shutter speed to capture the image just as the adult tipped its catch into the chick’s open beak. At the time, I was so focused on the chick being fed, I have to admit I hadn’t seen the second chick begging in the background, which was framed nicely beneath the parent’s wing. I keep coming back to this image as I love the interaction between these four birds, especially the slight sense of movement on the adult’s wingtips illustrating their incredible dexterity.

I hope you also enjoy the photograph below and as always I really appreciate any comments or thoughts so please get in touch by email at lawrence@eaglingphotography.co.uk, Instagram @lawrence_eagling or twitter @LawrenceEagling.

Feeding Swallows - Lough Neagh