In Portland, there’s a magnificent yearly natural event that begins at the end of August and continues through all of September. Folks gather on the lawn of the Chapman Elementary School in Northwest Portland to watch thousands of Vaux Swifts warm the Chapman chimney to roost for the night. It may not sound incredibly exciting, but you’d be amazed at how wrong you could be. There is an amazing sense of beauty as you watch countless swifts swirling in formation. Waves upon waves of swifts fly overhead to join the tornado of birds hovering over this lone chimney, and it’s almost as if you’re watching a choreographed dance. Hawks sometimes make an attempt at what they consider to be easy prey, and they find themselves being chased by a swarm of swifts. It happens every evening every year in September.
Unless it’s a passion of yours, I’m assuming bird watching doesn’t normally get penciled into your calendar. I’d highly recommend those who happen to find themselves in Portland in September to make time for swift watching. For some, it’s a great one time event: something to see just to say you can see it. For others, it becomes a yearly family picnic: pack a basket, watch the birds, and enjoy the last beautiful days of summer before the mist and clouds move in for the year. No matter the reason, it’s enjoyable and a great way to enjoy a cool September evening.
Be sure to visit the Audubon Society’s webpage on more information regarding Swift Watch. There is still time to see it before the swifts continue on with their migration.