The 2010 Swift Watch takes place throughout the month of September.
So here’s the deal. Every September thousands of Vaux’s Swifts come to Northwest Portland, eat lots of bugs, swirl and dive and circle the chimney at Chapman School (off NW 25th between Pettygrove and Raleigh).
A Peregrine falcon or two dive bombs at them, occasionally getting lucky. Drama!
Right around sunset they then all together start swirling into the chimney, tens of thousands of them, where they roost for the evening. Meanwhile on the lawn below, hundreds of Portlanders gather with their lawn chairs and blankets and unruly children and stare at the sky, mesmerized by the swirling black pepper tornado. The crowd boos when a falcon gets lucky, and cheers when he’s thwarted.
Seriously, it’s a hell of a lot of fun. Read Heather’s excellent account of our first visit in 2008, and mine from 2009. Here’s a video Heather filmed last year:
The Audobon Society of Portland maintains the Swift Watch webpage, which includes details on the best times to show up, explanations of the phenomena, and an FAQ answering all your questions on the natural history of the phenomena, the bird counts, and sundry. Oregon Field Guide did a segment on the Vaux Swifts a decade ago, and there’s even a movie, called On The Wing.