Wall Birds

Last year’s chicks at the Althea R. Sherman Chimney Swifts’ Tower left the nest and continue to clump together on the wall for days. This year’s youngsters were in a row when we first saw them all out of the nest. Then one moved away from the others. Today when we entered the tower the chicks were spaced apart on one wall. Then they moved individually to three walls.

We were able to make individual portraits on two of the chicks. The one above is through one of knot holes using a short zoom lens. The tripod and camera had to be at an angle to the knot hole to see the chick on the wall at a right angle to the hole. Fortunately it was close to the far corner so was visible. The file needed to be cropped to a square because the wall on either side of the knot hole was so out of focus it was very distracting.

Arranging the tripod and camera in tight quarters to focus through the knot holes can be a challenge. We are using rubber lens hoods to shield the lenses and to conform somewhat to the walls around the holes. The required angle did not allow the rubber lens hood to keep ambient light coming from the windows hitting the wall. We also use rubber lens hoods for our shorter zoom lenses when travelling because they take up less room in our bags and are useful when one needs to photograph through glass, such as at an aquarium.

The chicks are maturing quickly. Their feathers look more and more like the adults. However, their wings are still growing and will soon be at the 11 to 12 inch (approx. 30 cm) wingspan of an adult.

This youngster stayed on the door that comprises most of the lower west wall. The door can be opened to clean the rain pan and other maintenance. The other two moved around practicing flying from wall to wall and sometimes higher and lower in the false chimney. This is typical of young birds before their parents take them out for practice flights.

Both its strong feet with sharp nails and its stiff, sharp tail feathers provide a good grip on the vertical walls. The door wall is across from the small glass window so was easier to photograph; though the pod pan needed to have a few more elevation pads as the camera needed to be angled down to make the image.

We use small LED flashlights with orange tissue paper filters to focus before using flash to make an image, as in the lower image. The top image was lighted only by the LED because there is no way to use a flash when focusing through a knot hole. Sometimes we use several LED lights but not this time.

No parents came in today. Perhaps next time.

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