Days 17 & 18

This is going to be a bit longer post because it combines two exciting events at the Althea R. Sherman Chimney Swifts’ Tower.

Yesterday we visited the tower as soon as there was a bit of light coming down the false chimney before we headed to the second day of the Iowa Prairie Conference in Cedar Falls. Because we have been photographing the chicks every other day and their eyes were open on our previous visit, it was important to go on Friday.

The three chicks were overflowing the little nest. Suddenly there was a flapping of wings by the near chick in the top image. It then climbed up under last year’s nest with its tail the only part touching its natal nest. This is typical of young birds as they leave the nest never to return into it. From this point on they cling to the vertical interiors of their parents’ nest site.

The remaining two quickly spread out to occupy the space in the nest. The sharp toenails of the venturesome chick’s right foot are just visible. Also visible are the sheaths of many new head feathers.

We decided to return today (day 18 since they hatched) to see how the chick was faring and were greeted by three little chicks in a row under their former nest. Their eyes have darkened since yesterday. Though they still huddled side by side they were not overlapping as they had been in the nest. They looked as if they might burst into a Gilbert & Sullivan song- Three Little Maids From School Are We.

After a bit, the one on the right backed down below the other two with considerable wing flapping. That provided a clear view straight through one of the peek holes.

The chicks are only about 4 inches long at this stage. Their wings already extend way beyond their stubby tails. The feathers seem to overlap like miniature roof tiles. Long toes are visible to the left of its head. Bits on down are now coming in underneath and in between the feathers. Soon it will look like what some call a flying cigar.

A parent came in to check on the chicks shortly after the one moved below the other two. We think this may be the female. She was seen most often on the nest through a private web feed. Her very light throat was very visible on the infrared video feed. The one we think is the male is the one with the light colored wing coverts. She saw that all was well and left as quickly as she had descended the false chimney.

This is a composite of two images made in close succession. Stacking images is a technique that provides greater depth of field than equipment or conditions allow. Digital photography and special software programs can stack many, even hundreds, of images to get amazing depth of field.

When we do it, we usually just manually stack two or three files as layers with masks to include optimum focus for several elements in the overall composition. In this case, one image was focused on the upper two chicks and a second on the eye of the lower chick. The files were layered using a lower opacity on the single chick so it and the boards could be lined up accurately. When the layers were registered, the opacity of the layer was returned to normal.

In a few days, the chicks will start practicing flying between the walls and up and down the chimney. We hope to be there when they do.

One Response to “Days 17 & 18”

  1. Rosemary Tiwari Says:

    thanks for your great coverage of the chimney swifts. The photos are great, but the written details and descriptions are what really interest me!