Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Ontario SwiftWatch

This past weekend Jean and I participated in Ontario's first provincewide blitz to monitor Chimney Swifts entering chimneys.

A weekly birding column, 'Wing Beat', authored by Lionel Gould, informed us of the event where volunteers are asked to choose a night between June 26 and 28 and observe chimneys that have swifts. The St. Catharines Standard article stated that the Chimney Swift population has declined in Canada by 96 per cent over the last 40 years. The species is listed federally as threatened and Bird Studies Canada organized the event to prevent further decline in the population through conservation efforts.

While barbequing on the back patio Sunday, 8 Chimney Swifts flew over our yard chittering away, reminding us we still had one evening available to count them entering a chimney. We had a good idea where they were roosting. The Lake Street Armoury must have chimneys suitable for swifts.

It was asked that volunteers start at least 20 minutes before sunset so around 8:15 PM we headed over to Lake Street to stand across the road at a suitable vantage point. It was raining so we took our spot beneath the entrance overhang of a local credit union. There are 3 chimneys on the east side of the building. Which one would they choose?

During the 60 minutes of monitoring we observed the aerial acrobatics of the swifts as well as streaks of lightning shooting across the sky behind the armoury. The swifts appeared to be teasing us as they flew towards the chimney but at the last second pulled away to continue some last minute feeding on some flying insects.

A total of 8 swifts entered chimneys (3 in the front chimney, 2 in the chimney directly behind it & 3 in the chimney to the south) at the Lake Street Armoury. The exact number we observed flying over our yard earlier in the evening. Hopefully, with conservation efforts, that number will soon double. It was quite an impressive sight viewing 70 Chimney Swifts in Valdosta, Georgia 2 years ago. One that I would welcome back to the Niagara Region.

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