Fledged but Still Roosting

Althea R. Sherman Chimney Swift's Tower

We made what was our last visit to the Althea R. Sherman Chimney Swifts’ Tower for this nesting season yesterday afternoon. At home we had watched the webcam and were quite certain the last juvenile had fledged either on the weekend or late that morning. To be certain we drove over in the afternoon. We had hoped that several might be resting in the chimney for a few more images. First we watched the webcam monitor and saw no one and then entered the tower.

After creeping up the stairs as usual, we waited a moment at the top. There was no sound in the “chimney”; not even the flutter of wings of someone practicing flight. After checking all the peek holes, cracks between boards, and the observation windows, we slowly opened the door to the chimney. Still no sounds and a look inside found only the empty chimney with the catch pan at the bottom badly in need of cleaning. That will be done after the family no longer comes to roost.

A bright sky was visible through the top of the chimney. The opening in quite large to invite Chimney Swifts to both nest and roost in it. The webcam is anchored to have a good view of the area below. The old ladder is still attached to the wall to enable someone to cover the hole for the winter and open it in the spring.

Last evening, this morning and again this evening the family is back roosting in the tower. They are late risers with the last juvenile leaving around midday for life on the wing until evening. They may stay about for several weeks before starting their migration to South America.

We photographed from two locations these last several weeks. The side view images were made with the camera on the panpod we mentioned in an earlier post. The panpod was on a small box on the narrow seat/shelf where Althea spent many hours. A tripod ballhead is attached to the pan enabling the camera to be still while shooting in the dark.

A small flash on a flash cable was held next to the lens in the narrow observation window. An LED flashlight was used to focus. Sometimes Live View was used instead of the viewfinder. And of course, a shutter release cable also reduced camera shake. These observation windows are on the east wall.

When using the top or middle peek holes through the south wall, a rubber lens hood was useful. It sealed out light from the two windows and protected the front of the lens. The lens on the panpod camera also had a rubber lens hood.

The peek holes are in the wall that is opposite of this year’s nest on the north wall.  When using the middle hole, a flash on a cable or an LED flash light were pointed through the top hole.

The bottom hole is too small for photography by is a useful way to check the bottom of the opposite wall. There is a peek hole along the stairway for checking the bottom area on the west wall.

As we were leaving, we think we saw several swifts. The swallows seem to have left the nearby barn so we hope it was the youngsters practicing their newly developed skill.

We are very grateful to the Althea R. Sherman Chimney Swifts’ Tower Project, the Johnson County Songbird Project and the Cedar County Historical Society for this amazing experience. With a special thanks to the Tower Project Director, Barbara Boyle.

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