Friday, September 28, 2012


Last night we went to Chapman school to watch the Vaux swifts descend into the chimney to nest.  This is a somewhat recent Portland tradition. People began to notice that these migratory birds, that typically sleep in hollowed out trees or snags, were nesting in this chimney in the city.  There is a lot of wide open space around this now disconnected chimney so the flock has lots of space to fly around to get in.  During the month of September the swifts are still in Portland and stay at the Chapman school so Portlanders gather on the hillside to watch their decent at dusk.
The flock is huge to begin with and they circle and circle around as on a few birds can make it into the opening at a time.  They each cling to the interior walls of the chimney to roost for the night. The whole process takes over an hour as the birds circle and circle around.  It is as Mr. W calls it mesmerizing.  And the event is not without its own drama.  This many birds in one spot opens them up to predators so there is usually an appearance of a hawk that comes out of nowhere and gets a swift or two.  That happened last night.  A collective gasp goes out from the crowd. I think there are some who are rooting for the hawks, but we are Team Swift.
It's nearly the end of September so I was a little worried that we might have missed them. But my grandma had mentioned that the weather would be 80 degrees through the weekend, and My Little Helper doesn't have school today so I thought last night would be the perfect opportunity to squeeze it in this year.  We made a picnic dinner and Mr. W met us at the school after work.

A huge crowd had already gathered by the time we got there so we were half way down the slope, but I don't know if you can get a bad seat for Swift watching.
 The swifts circling

 Baby Boy enjoying some apple slices while bird watching.
 It was a beautiful sunset.
 As it grew darker the swifts began their decent into the chimney more earnestly. Here are better pictures of them going in.
What a wonderful way to spend an evening with the family. I love Portland!

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