Monday, September 6, 2010

Matt finally sees the swifts.

Every autumn in Portland, a huge group of Vaux Swifts uses the chimney at Chapman Elementary School as a place to roost as they work their way south. Watching them gather and dive into the chimney has become a community event. Matt and I accompanied our friend Deborah, who is a bird watcher in her spare time. I had seen the swifts some years ago, but this was Matt's first time.

Our vantage point.

Deborah's coworker brought his very shy daughter (right) and his niece and nephew.

I attempt self portrait with Deborah, but have zoomed in too much.


Matt takes a picture of people working out on the other side of the field.

Another friend of Deborah's arrives and brings along a picture book. Deborah reads it aloud to us. (Savvy readers will have clued in that Deborah is my librarian friend who kindly invited us to Spindrift in May.)

Matt notices that one can slide down the hill on cardboard if one has cardboard. He procures some and convinces the children to slide along with him.

The swifts begin to gather.

This was a very fit couple.
They looked fit and they were wearing shirts advertising how very fit they were.

It can be a long wait for twilight.

The excitement happens when a hawk comes looking for his dinner. Here, one has perched on the edge of the chimney, waiting.
By happenstance, I captured what happened next and uploaded it to YouTube for your viewing pleasure.

More pictures of the swirling vortex.

Eventually, all the swifts make their way into the chimney and we Portlanders pack up our picnics and head home.


Sara K. said...

Very fun! I might have a little bit of a scared of flying things moment - but they all seem quite far away! I assume the chimney is not used during the winter. Do they just sit in there? What about the droppings? Isn't that disruptive to the school? And clever Hawk. That was like a Costco trip for a hawk! Buy in bulk!

Patricia said...

Buy in bulk, Hah!

Good questions, Ms. Sterner. The chimney is not used anymore, it has been decommissioned and the school is heated another way. But there was a time when it was still being used and all the children just wore their coats on cold mornings, rather than displace the birds. They usually have moved south by early October, so there wasn't much time the students had to freeze.

The birds hang onto the sides of the chimney with their feet. I'm not sure how they arrange things once they get inside. Supposedly, there is a documentary that shows inside the Chapman Chimney while the birds are there, but I haven't seen it.

As to the droppings, I hadn't thought of that. I wonder who cleans out the chimney?