DVOC Main Page > Field Trips > Field Trip Report

DVOC Field Trip Report
by Jane Henderson

September 8, 2008

Swirling Swifts Stun Spectators

Fifty or so people turned up for the annual Chimney Swift Extravaganza at John Story Jenks School in the Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia on Monday night, September 8, 2008. People, as well as swifts, began arriving around 6:30 PM. Spectators included veteran birders as well as newcomers to the spectacle. At first, the birds came in two’s and three’s, but soon more and more arrived and began tentatively circling the chimney. People began counting them.

Every year, Chimney Swifts migrate through our area on their way to their winter destinations in northern Chile, Peru and western Brazil. After flying around all day, eating insects en route, they roost for the night in whatever tall, hollow structures happen to be available along the way. In our general area, tall chimneys fill the bill. The birds cling to the rough walls of the chimney and overlap like shingles.

Over the years, the swifts have used chimneys at three elementary school buildings: Jenks, at Germantown Avenue and Southhampton Streets; Shawmont, at Shawmont Avenue and Eva Street in Roxborough; and Dobson, at Umbria and Nixon Streets in Manayunk. Some scouting needs to be done in advance of the field trip to find out which of the chimneys will be the roost of choice that year.

By 7:15 PM several hundred swifts had materialized, and had started swirling around above the chimney. The funnel of birds became tighter and tighter, and at 7:30 they started going down. “There they go!” someone shouted. When the last swift dropped into the chimney, at 7:45, the crowd spontaneously applauded. That happens every year.

(Chimney Swifts will be in our area for the remainder of September and into early October, possibly in greater numbers than we saw on Monday, September 8.)

Jane Henderson


Picture by Doug Wechsler/VIREO

Picture by Jane Henderson

Picture by Bert Filemyr




Pictures by Jane Henderson and Bert Filemyr