Monday, September 27, 2010

That Was Swift

The throng had all the appearance of an outdoor concert. People congregated on the grassy hillside around the school in anticipation. As dusk approaches, flapping black specks appear in the sky.

More arrive until the specks look like swirling clouds of insects. Through binoculars, the insects become the Vaux's Swifts that they are.
At some moment nearing darkness, the chimney at the school takes on the appearance of a giant vacuum cleaner, sucking birds into it.

Vaux's Swifts spend a happy summer in the Northwest, then as fall approaches, they begin congregating to return to their winter home in Central and South America. In times past, the birds roosted in hollow tree snags at night. Adapting to modern circumstances, the birds began using the chimney at Chapman School sometime in the 1980's (or at least, that's when someone noticed them).

The birds don't seem to mind the crowds of people, crowds which seem to have greatly increased since the first autumn we came to watch. The swifts did, however, strongly object to the presence of the Cooper's Hawk that buzzed through to find dinner. The swifts scattered, circled behind the hawk and tried to chase it away, to no avail, as it made another pass over the chimney and took one of the swifts on its way through.

This year, we took our (non-birder) friends. Having seen this show once, I suspect they enjoyed it, but won't ever return. On the other hand, they probably don't go to outdoor concerts, either.

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