I have known about the swifts' annual visit for a couple of years and every year I say, "this is the year we will go" and then...well, we don't go. I don't have a good excuse other than life gets busy sometimes. I imagine you know how that goes. But this year...we made it!
If you have never been, I highly recommend checking out the Audubon Society of Portland's site for more detailed information. However, the basics are that this flock of birds decided back in 1982 to make the chimney at the Chapman Elementary School in NW Portland their home as they migrated to South America each September. Each day they head out to hunt for bugs and each evening, just before sunset, they come together to roost in the same chimney.
As the swifts began the tradition of calling Chapman home each September, the people of Portland began the tradition of coming to watch them. In a totally Portland way, of course.....and it all begins long before the birds arrive.
HILL + KID + CARDBOARD = BEST FUN EVER.
One might think that a large number of kids, armed with cardboard and a hill, would need supervision and assistance managing the social niceties that come with such chaos. One would be wrong. There was this collective awesomeness in which the kids worked together, managed conflict independently, and just had fun. It really is kind of cool what happens when adults get out of the way kids. (something that I have to remind myself of routinely)
With all of this fun to be had, it is easy to forget why we came to Chapman Elementary to begin with. However, at about 6:45 PM, we stopped in our tracks as, seemingly out of nowhere, a group of birds flew over our heads. Then just as quickly as they arrived, they disappeared. Several minutes later they would be back, this time with more birds. They would continue this pattern of leaving and returning several times before the collective group begins to fly in circles above our heads. Dipping and diving, the birds dance through the air. Then, without warning, a small group dive suddenly into the chimney and disappear. The rest of the birds continue to fly around and around and then another small group dives into the chimney for the night. Over and over and over till there are just a few birds left. These last few are like children stalling at bedtime. They fly one way and then the other, flirting with the chimney, but never going in. Then one dives in while the other continue the bedtime battle. Finally, after several minutes, the last remaining birds dive into the chimney and the crowd responds with a loud applause.
And with that, it is time to head for home.
Thanks for reading!