Saturday, October 4, 2014

Swifts by the swizillions

After coping with the heat, rain and humidity as we spent all of August and much of September in south Florida, it was so refreshing to feel the cool breezes and see the blue skies of northeastern Illinois.

We got our first hazy views of the Chicago skyline during our final approach to Midway Airport.

Chicago skyline from Midway approach 20140917

We were out early the first morning, visiting Nelson Lake/Dick Young Kane County Forest Preserve in Batavia, near our second home. Temperatures quickly rose from the high 40s (F) at sunrise, into the high 60s by 9:00 AM. A male Rose-breasted Grosbeak surprised us by singing its spring song and provided drop-dead views of its now-subdued fall plumage.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak fall male 20140923

Song Sparrows are completely alien to south Florida:

Song Sparrow 2-20140918

Amid the sparrow flock was this White-throated Sparrow:

White-throated Sparrow 2-20140918

An upside-down White-breasted Nuthatch, another bird we never see in our Florida neighborhood, entertained us with its foraging antics:

White-breasted Nuthatch 3-20140919

Cedar Waxwings abounded at Hawk's Bluff Park near our daughter's home in Batavia.

Cedar Waxwings 20140918

The adult waxwings are handsome, almost stately in appearance,...

Cedar Waxwing adult 20140925

...but the youngsters have a ways to go before presenting themselves as ambassadors of the bird kingdom:

Cedar Waxwing juvenile 20140925

While I was watching the waxwings in a berry bush, a Scarlet Tanager suddenly popped out of the foliage.

Scarlet Tanager 2-20140921

At Lippold Park along the Fox River, a Great Egret, a Florida throwback, lofted from the shallows.

Great Egret in flight 20140918

This Hairy Woodpecker is distinguished from the similar but smaller Downy Woodpecker by its proportionally longer bill and absence of black markings on its outer tail feathers.

 Hairy Woodpecker 2-20140926

Last year we were very disappointed when the land around the secluded pond at Lippold Park was cleared of understory and the landscape was scraped and graded. The results turned out to be remarkably pleasing and hopefully will continue to be welcoming to wildlife and visitors alike.

We formerly had to slog through wetlands and Poison Ivy to get to the river bank, but now there is a boardwalk that borders the pond and branches off to the river's edge.

Lippold Park boardwalk 20140926

A Red-tailed Hawk watched us from the distance...

Red-tailed Hawk 20140926

...then lofted into flight:

Red-tailed Hawk 3-20140926

I could go on and on, but will save more of my photos for another post as I must move on to the main subject, best understood by viewing this video which I prepared to memorialize the event. 

Of course we have all heard about a "gaggle" of geese, a "murder" of crows, a "murmuration" of starlings, and so forth, but now I can only describe the vortex that descended into this chimney as a "swizillion" of swifts.

If the video does not appear in the space below, please link to  Chimney Swifts of St Charles, Illinois. Best viewed in full screen mode. Enjoy!


  1. Thank you for sharing the video. Absolutely amazing to see all those swifts descend into the chimney. Always great to visit different areas to see another variety of birds. Your photos are always fun. Have a great weekend!

  2. wow! how neat is that!? and i don't think i've ever seen a juvenile cedar waxwing, either!

  3. Such a lot of lovely bird species to welcome you back and great shots of them all. Love the video,it is amazing.

  4. So very many great captures of such a variety of birds.

  5. What a great selection of birds here. I loved seeing all of them. That video was something else. I wonder why they head into the chimney like that.

  6. Glorious series of captures!

  7. Terrific this week! Such a great variety of birds...and your commentary was super. Midway Airport was busy as a beehive when we'd fly in there....I bet it's the same only more so now-a-days.

    Love the new boardwalk!!

    The juvenile waxwing is a new one for me....that was the highlight for me today.

    And one more got some great 'take off' photos of the hawk and the egret.

    Thanks for sharing this link at I'd Rather B Birdin' this weekend. Always appreciated!!

  8. Excellent images as always. Very interesting to see the swifts flying into the chimney.

  9. Wow! The swifts video is amazing! I also LOVE your great captures of all the birds you have presented. really gorgeous! Love the hawk take-off, and the scarlet tanager looking golden. Glad you are home again.

  10. For the past few years I have been monitoring a local chimney where swifts have been roosting. It certainly is a fascinating sight when they all plummet in at breakneck speed.

  11. Thanks for the swizillion swifts -- wonderful. And its great to see your Illinois birds -- and especially to know that the project at your park didn't seem to hurt the bird population. I would be one who would be grateful for the boardwalk as I am not willing to get near poison ivy for anybird!

    It's interesting how some birds (egrets the most special of them) show up everywhere we go. While others are "our" Florida birds or our Oregon ones ....

  12. Another very colourful and interesting selection Ken. Enjoyed the video which definitely reminded me of Starlings going to roost. The new boardwalk obviously makes wildlife watching much easier.

  13. What wonderful photos! You've seen a variety of birds lately. Enjoy your week!

  14. Ken, what a great variety of birds and photos.. The Swift video is cool. Great captures..

  15. Oh what a great series! I've never seen a Rose-breasted in fall plumage! I enjoyed the video!

  16. Cedar Waxwings are among my favorite birds, they're so lovely. These are splendid images and good variety of birds.

  17. Beautiful photos! The egret is stunningly beautiful, and it certainly looks like the waxwings are hard at work upkeeping their stately appearance.

  18. Wow - thats a lot of swifts! I think I would have taken a very long time to ID the juvenile Waxwing - its a real ugly duckling.

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  19. What gorgeous birds you have captured! The boardwalk looks really nice.
    The video is amazing.

  20. What a fantastic set of birds. Love the Waxwings the most.


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