Friday, October 3, 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, sprung up 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. Welcome Home! That boardwalk looks like fun and those swifts are amazing! I have never seen that many at once before!

  2. Great post, Ken! Of course, I loved the "non-Florida" birds, which I don't get to see! Great video of the Swifts!

  3. Wow, incredible swift video! Wonderful photographs of the beautiful birds you are seeing this autumn!