Friday, September 2, 2011

Chimney Swifts

There is a school in the city of Dublin (Ohio, not Ireland), not far from my house, that is locally famous for the number of Chimney Swifts that use its chimney. Great swirling masses of the flying cigars build to a crescendo about this time of year. A visit near dusk is a memorable experience, as large squadrons of swifts rocket low overhead. Seemingly all of them are delivering rapid electrical chip notes, and the collective din of the birds is a blizzard of sound.
As twilight approaches, the swifts drop lower and lower, circling the tall chimney with increased urgency. At times, the whirling vortex of birds resembles a living tornado, being sucked magically into the brick tower. Such is the spectacle that even nonbirders exiting the school, or adjacent library, stop dead in their tracks. Eyes drawn skyward by the flurry of staccato notes, the people will stop and stare at the mass of birds. I sometimes wonder what they think. Does the awe-inspring sight of hundreds of Chimney Swifts darting into a chimney send them to Google when they reach home? Or do most people just dismiss the birds as "bats" and resolve to call the city and urge them to do something about the problem.

Here is a brief video I made of the swifts last night. This was just after sunset, and birds were pouring into the chimney. This roosting operation will go on for a few more weeks, and then these incredible aerialists will strike out for South America where they'll spend the winter. If you've got a swift roost nearby, take the time to visit and witness the show for yourself. Better yet, take a kid along. They'll surely be fascinated.

Columbus Audubon hosts an event known as "Swift Night Out", and encourages people to visit this very school where I made these photos and video. It'll be on the evening of September 9, and the details are RIGHT HERE. Try and make it over if you can. It'll be worth it.

1 comment:

Nellie from Beyond My Garden said...

Very interesting. So many swifts. We have our six every summer. Sometimes one of the young ones ends up behind our fireplace insert. We don't usually know it until spring but some of the fledglings end up there and put up enough racket for me to get them and let them back outside.. I read your blog entry a couple hours after reading Mark Gretch's artical in Birdwatching Digest about Laurinburg NC Chimney swifts. Nice coincidence. (plus I went to college in Laurinburg)

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