Kevin M. asked me on Friday if I wanted to go photographing Saturday.  I’d just been to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge that morning, but Lynn and I didn’t have anything planned so it sounded like a good idea to me!  I told him to pick a spot and he wanted to go  down to Osceola County / Joe Overstreet Road.

We’d already had a very nice trip – trying to find Red-Cockaded Woodpeckers at Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area, checking the Bald Eagle nest and finding the Scissor-tailed Flycatchers again on Joe Overstreet – among other things.  As we got close to the lake, we started to notice a lot of Tree Swallows.

Tree Swallow TrioTree Swallow Trio

These birds are winter migrants in our area and breed as far north as Alaska.  We’re used to seeing them here but as we got closer to the lake, we’d never seen them like this.

Tree SwallowsTree Swallow Swarm

There were thousands – maybe tens of thousands (?) of the birds in the fields and areas close to the lake.  They were madly flying around chasing something.  Eventually we got close enough to notice the hoards of blind mosquitoes they were after.  Here’s one of those that got inside the car.


These aren’t really mosquitoes and they don’t bite, although they were thick enough to be bothersome (for us, not the Swallows).  Actually, I don’t think they’re blind either!  We stopped by the store at the landing and I asked the young lady running it about all the birds.   She told us that when the chizzywinks show up, it’s not uncommon for large groups of birds to go after them.  I’ll say!  I’d never heard them called that and had to ask her to repeat it so I could make a note and look up the word.

If you’ve ever seen or tried to photograph Tree Swallows, you know how energetic / erratic their flight is.  Going after the flies was definitely a high energy task and we also saw them congregating on some nearby wires to rest between servings of their chizzywinks happy meals.

Resting Tree SwallowsResting Tree Swallows

Photographing Tree Swallows is usually hard because it’s difficult to keep them in the frame.  Photographing this spectacle was hard too,  but it wasn’t because we couldn’t keep them in the frame – they were literally wherever we pointed our cameras.  It was just that it was so chaotic that I was never sure what I was capturing. and I was worried about depth of field and motion blur.  There was plenty of light, so I ended up stopping down and making sure my ISO was high enough to get a fast shutter speed.  This frame is my favorite:

Chizzywinks and swallowsChizzywinks and swallows

Something like this is why I really like photography.  It gets me up and out of the house and every once in a while, I see something amazing that I’ve never seen before.  And if I can figure out how to photograph it, I can share it with people too.  Fun!

Also, I occasionally learn a new word!

My video skills are not the best and this is a bit jumpy with a lot of wind noise, but here’s a ~20 second recording of this:

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go out and explore nature.  You may see something amazing – and make some interesting photos!

©2020, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

10 thoughts on “Chizzywinks!

  1. What a great post! I feel the same way about photography! So nice to be out and seeing the beauty! Wonderful images!

  2. I followed your link and the Chizzywink pictured on the link did not appear to be the same bug. The tail curved upward towards the end and it was fairly slim. Your photograph showed a stout, gradually narrowing abdomen. Am I seeing this wrong?

  3. A terrific post to which I can definitely relate, Ed!

    This time of year is great for observing large concentrations of swallows in feeding frenzies as they prepare to head north. Photographing them, as you point out, is whole ‘nother thing!

    You did a wonderful job capturing the essence of Tree Swallow action!

    And – you taught me a new word, too. Been swatting those things for — a LOT — of years and never heard them called “chizzywinks”.

    1. Thank you Wally – Seeing all those swallows was very exciting.

      The bugs were very thick close to the water. We didn’t spend a lot of time down there – I’m not sure how many we would’ve inhaled if we’d stayed longer!

  4. Chizzywinks have been a problem where I live (on the rim canal of Big O). FYI. Purple Martins love them as well. Thanks for the great post and video.

    1. You are very welcome Kathryn! I’d never heard of chizzywinks before that day. There sure were a lot of them there.

      I don’t know much about Lake Okeechobee or the rim canal and haven’t been there. Judging by what’s on the web it looks like a great place.


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