Nest Expansion

When we visited the Althea R. Sherman Chimney Swift Tower last Saturday, we hoped to find a parent on the nest. Though we crept up the stairs as quietly as we could and peeked through the middle peek hole, she was not there. We already had a camera and short zoom lens on a tripod and placed it by the peek hole on the south side of the false chimney. Next time we may take a monopod instead of a tripod because we stay a short time and it may be easier to set up.

We did not go round to open the little door covering the small windows on the east side of the chimney to see down into the nest. If an adult came back we wanted to be as unobtrusive as possible. We have decided to seldom visit the family as incubation progresses. After the chicks are hatched we will visit more often.

These two images are in black & white because of the wonderful documentary photo we were able to make during our visit. An adult came in carrying a small stick and clung to the wall below the nest. She was just visible in the frame. This is a crop from a file that includes some of the wood around the little peek hole. Fearing to breathe and scare her off, the ISO camera setting was increased ISO3200 so that we would not have to use the little LED flashlight through the top peek hole.

However pushing the ISO up so high and using a slow shutter speed to keep the aperture acceptable brought on the noise. Noise is the colored speckles or other discolorations on a file, especially when made at low light and in the dark areas of an underexposed image. Both long exposures and high ISO settings increase the noise in an image and both had to be used in this situation. It is sort of like the grain in film images.

The top photo was made last year at a lower ISO and faster shutter speed and has little noise so when converted to black & white has a less grainy appearance.

The sky light coming down the chimney was another complicating factor with hot spots and shadows. The speckles in the file appear as film grain when it was processed as a black & white image in Lightroom and Photoshop. The file’s color temperature did not respond well to attempts to adjust it, so black & white seemed a good idea on that front also.

The rough wood absorbed many of the speckles. It rather looks like an image made with the Kodak Tri-X film we used so long ago. Sizing the file for use on the www also reduced its quality.

The bird stayed very still against the wall, only turning her head enough to keep an eye on the peek hole with a lens pressed around it. Only one photo was made in hopes that she would add the stick to the nest. After what seemed like a long time, the camera was moved away. She flew up the chimney still carrying the stick. We quickly left the tower so she could return.

We have read that chimney swifts start laying eggs when the nest is half completed. This one is adding sticks after she seems to have started to incubate. We are eager to see what transpires the next time we visit.

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