My World Wednesday: Chimney Swifts

When we lived in a farmhouse, we had bats nesting in our attic. Every evening at dusk they could be seen flying, in long trails, out to feed. There were hundreds of them. Now I appreciate bats as much as the next person for their beneficial habits but having them in the attic, frequently venturing downstairs in the middle of the night, didn’t exactly please me. My father-in-law, a farmer from the old school, insisted we leave them be and we always did.

Last Sunday night, I was closing my balcony door and I noticed lots of birds flying in low, wide circles in the sky very near my house. My first thought was "Ohhhh, no, bats!" But as I watched them, I saw that they were swooping into a chimney across the street. This large brick chimney stands high on the roof of a flat building. The big flock diminished rapidly as they flew into the chimney one by one. It took only about five minutes for 100 birds to disappear.

After ruling out bats, I had a hunch, for obvious reasons, the birds might be chimney swifts. Sure enough the Internet confirmed they were. I learned lots of interesting facts about these birds. They’ll migrate to South America soon but will probably be back next year. They hang inside the chimneys with their claws; they don’t perch. They are great birds to have around as they feast on flying bugs like mosquitoes.

Everyone who watches the amazing spectacle of the birds coming home to roost is fascinated. Last night my friend Kim saw this and couldn't stop saying "Oh, wow! Oh, wow! Look at that!"

Chimney swifts are facing hard times because modern chimneys don’t provide the mortar the birds need to hook on to. And lots of people would frankly be horrified to have a chimney full of birds. The Chimney Swifts Organization will be hosting a "Swift Night Out" on September 12, 13 and 14th. This event is to get everyone outside about a half hour before dusk to observe and count swifts. I will definitely be taking part!