I don’t know when I first discovered Chimney Swifts. I think I heard a funny high pitched “yippering” and looked up and saw a large group of small, black birds flying, swooping, zig-zaging up above. They just kept flying; never taking a rest on a wire or a tree branch. I thought they were a kind of swallow but there was something different about them so I looked it up and discovered the Chimney Swift aka “the flying cigar”. I recently read a fantastic article on swifts by the great Helen McDonald in the Times. I highly recommend it http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/16/magazine/rescuing-wildlife-is-futile-and-necessary.html
I’ve been getting to know more about them during my stay in Austin, Texas and I’m kind of getting obsessed with them.
“At the end of the breeding season, the swifts’ communal instincts peak prior to fall migration. They congregate in flocks of hundreds and even thousands at suitable roost sites.” http://www.chimneyswifts.org/Information Handout 2014.pdf I found one of these roost sites and joined a group of other birders to watch a spectacular show of over a thousand chimney swifts filling the sky above a giant chimney and then as the sky grew dark, fluttering down into the chimney one by one.
The Chimney Swifts numbers are declining and they need our help in any way possible. There’s a bunch of ways to help but here’s one way to start helping and it can fun, communal and spectacular.
“On one night (Friday, Saturday or Sunday) over the second weekend of August and / or September observe the roost starting about 30 minutes before sunset and estimate the number of swifts that enter. After the last swift enters the structure, please fill out our on-line reporting form. http://www.chimneyswifts.org/page238.html
One roost site I visited had people lounging on comfy lawn chairs, children running around and even dogs. Sounds like a pretty good night to me.
Go outside. There will never be another day like today.
If you are unable to locate a roost on your own,
take a look at some of the reports from previous years to locate an established roost near you:
A Swift Night Out 2014
A Swift Night Out 2013
A Swift Night Out 2012
A Swift Night Out 2011
Much of this information is provided by a fantastic website with everything you need to know about the Chimney Swift http://www.chimneyswifts.org.