Unidentified Flying Dinosaur: Schmo With Stick

You lot are going to hate me for calling this beauty “schmo with stick,” so let me begin by explaining why. It involves a cruise through Memory Lane with the top down, and my friend Neil sitting in the passenger seat. What can I say about Neil? He was utterly awesome. He and I had many deep conversations about life, the universe and everything. We were geeks. We beat each other with sticks. No, seriously. One of my fondest memories is when we were in our living room whaling on each other with sticks, my one against his two. This was a legitimate thing. He was helping me act out a fight scene so I could write it properly. In the middle of the melee, someone called. So there Neil is, phone tucked on his shoulder, still wielding a stick in each hand, and we continue our battle. At some point, the person on the other end must have asked what he was doing, because he said, “Oh, beating my roommate with a stick.”

I adored Neil. He was one of the most fun people I’ve ever had in my life. And he had the greatest business cards in the universe.

Neil's business card. Specific identifying information removed, but otherwise just as he made it.

So, you see, “schmo with stick” is a title of honor round here. I’m happy to bestow it upon this UFD, which is one of the most awesome I’ve ever had the pleasure to photograph.


This was taken at North Creek Park, up by the parking area, where there’s a roofed structure that shelters an information sign. This little delight flew up just as my intrepid companion was reading up on the history of the wetlands. And I was all, “Omigawd, how cute, it’s got a stick!!

I was also certain it’d fly off immediately, because that’s typically my luck with birds. However, it stuck around. It even allowed me to move round to get it in better light.


How wonderful is that? I love watching birds build nests. When they’re colorful, it’s a bonus. There’s just something unutterably adorable about watching them carry little bits of stuff round in their beaks. It makes me mushy.

Then it flew off, and I was all like, “Well, crap.” But it circled round the shelter and landed on a rail fence, out in the nice light, and struck a pose. This is schmo with stick. Schmo doesn’t go hiding in the underbrush!


And it gave us a nice back view, with the filtered sunlight striking sensational deep colors from its plumage.


After a photogenic few moments, it flew back up to the rafters, and struck a few last poses.


It’s all like, “Robins. Pfft. I’ve got a much more awesome red breast than robins! Also, I have this blue back and a fabulous stick.”


Then, done with its photoshoot, it headed up to its nest for a little hard work before flying off like a superhero to find more sticks.


(Yes, it’s blurry. The little buggers are super-fast and the lighting conditions were sub-optimal. My camera is a marvel of modern design, but it’s still point-and-shoot – it can’t do absolutely everything. Still. I love the shape of the tail, and the blur kinda gives it that faster-than-a-speeding-bullet-vibe.)

I love this bird. I love everything about it: personality, looks, work ethic. You’re going to tell me it’s an invasive species, aren’t you? Because I never, ever seem to fall in love with the locals. Sigh.

Unidentified Flying Dinosaur: Schmo With Stick
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17 thoughts on “Unidentified Flying Dinosaur: Schmo With Stick

  1. 2

    Long, slender wings, long forked tail, nesting up under the eaves — it’s definitely not a bunting. And it’s not an invasive species, although there are other races in Europe and Asia. The long tail even gave a group of butterflies their name!

  2. 4

    psweet is correct – it’s a barn swallow, Hirundo rustica.

    Once again you’ve helped me justify the Stokes Field Guide, Western Region that I picked up (free)a month or so ago. Like I needed another field guide – and I don’t even live in the west.

  3. 8

    Much lovelier than the dove I saw out gathering sticks a couple of weeks ago. Besides, doves are such miserably incompetent nest builders, you kinda feel sorry for them. Your avian friend is worth admiring.

  4. 9

    I have a lovely English Setter bitch who (when she isn’t pointing bunnies and birds on our walks), will spot a stick or branch (longest one I recall was at least 5 ft long) to pick up and carry–sometimes for blocks.

    She tosses her head back and sashays down the sidewalk with it, clearly so proud of herself she can hardly stand it.

    We call them her “hotsy-totsy sticks.”

  5. 13

    One of my favorite memories of my father was watching him mow the yard when I was little. We had an acre lot, so he had an excuse to buy himself a little riding mower/tractor, and he’d mow the lawn every Saturday morning. The local barn swallow population apparently heard the mower start up, and came “running”…to follow my dad around as he mowed and stirred up the insects. They would swoop and circle in a fabulous flown dance, sometimes just inches from the tractor or my father’s head, and they would stay around just as long as he kept going. I think only dragonflies and hummingbirds are better fliers than barn swallows; they were impossibly graceful and quick.

    Thank you for triggering that for me!

  6. 15

    Here in OZ they are called spine-tailed swifts but are probably not the same bird. European names were often given to similar but totally unrelated Australian birds.

  7. 16

    Nope, not the same bird. Your swifts appear to be significantly larger and restricted to the eastern hemisphere. It does appear that barn swallows, which nest all over the northern hemisphere, may winter in northernmost Australia, however.

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