Join the Audubon Society of Portland in September for the annual Swift Watch in Northwest Portland.
In September thousands of Vaux’s Swifts coalesce into a giant undulating swirl in Northwest Portland near Chapman School after spending the day eating bug. Around sunset the swirl gets more compact, like a ground pepper tornado, and begins disappearing, measure by measure, down the school’s huge old chimney. On the lawn below hundreds of mesmerized and picnic-sated Portlanders stare into the sky from the comfort of lawn chairs and blankets while their oblivious children roll down the grassy hill screaming. Cheers erupt from the crowd when the slippery swifts dodge the opportunistic Peregrine falcons, boos when the predators get lucky.
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 FAQs answering all your questions on the natural history of the swifts, the bird counts, and sundry. Oregon Field Guide did a segment on the Vaux Swifts fifteen years ago, and there’s even a movie, called On The Wing.
In 2008 and 2009 Heather and I blogged about our first visits to see the Chapman swifts:
- The Chapman Swifts at Mile73
- Witnessing the Chapman Vaux’s Swifts
- Staring at a chimney: Chapman Vaux’s Swifts 2009
Your moment of Zen, courtesy of Mike Vogel: