Saturday, September 24, 2011

Portland Swift Watch 2011

I joined my daughter, Polly, on the lawn at Chapman School for a picnic and to witness the spectacular display of Vaux’s Swifts as they gather to roost in the school’s chimney. Volunteers from Portland Audubon were there present information about the swift.
Chapman School
Swifts are insect eating birds that migrate south each fall.  At sunset during migration they choose a place where dozens to thousands of birds can roost.  Since the late 1980’s the Chapman chimney has been one of these roosting sites.
Vaux's Swift

Coming to view the swifts as they prepare to roost – has become a very popular activity at the Chapman School site in recent years.

 Most evenings in September there are in excess of 2000 people gathered on the school lawn and neighboring Wallace Park grounds to watch and listen as the swifts gather overhead before entering the chimney.

While they wait, children take advantage of the dry grass on the slope to "sled" down on cardboard brought from home.
 Most people bring a picnic and it is fun to make new friends with the folks on the next blanket.
Polly walks over from her flat to watch, several evenings a week. It is such a unique thing -  one of the many great things about living in Portland.
 As we watched the Swifts circle, a hawk came from a nearby fir tree to see what was on the menu for his dinner. The crowds cheered and clapped as he chased swifts and they, in turn, chased him. He finally got his dinner.

In the fall swifts congregate in large groups as they prepare for their migration southward to Central America and Venezuela. During September large groups of swifts pass through the Portland-Vancouver Metropolitan region. It is not uncommon for these migrating swifts to use chimneys to roost in during the night and once a population of swifts locates an appropriate chimney they are likely to return year after year. Groups of roosting swifts can range in size from just a few individuals to as many as 35,000 in some larger smokestacks. Chapman School in Northwest Portland houses the larges known roost of migrating swifts in the world! Typically the swifts will only stay a couple of weeks before continuing their migratory journey.


The Tablescaper said...

How neat! I never knew anything about this. Sounds a bit like the swallows of Capistrano.

Thanks for bringing your interesting post to Seasonal Sundays.

- The Tablescaper

Snap said...

What fun! I learned something today ... thank you! Great way to spend time with kids.

Pondside said...

That is so interesting - like nothing I'd ever read. I can understand why people are enthralled with this - it's magical.

Sarah said...

What an interesting post. It reminds me of the Bat flight in Austin. People gather on the Congress Ave Bridge to watch the bats fly out at dusk. Hundreds of bats fill the sky.

Honey at 2805 said...

This is so neat and I can certainly understand the crowd coming out to watch it! I would be there to if I could!

Thank you for linking to Potpourri Friday. I appreciated your participation. Sorry I'm so tardy in commenting, but I've been away for the past four days. Hope to see you again this week! Nest time, please include a link back to my Blog in your party post! I appreciate it so much! See you Friday!


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