There’s a local phenomena in Portland often referred to as the Chapman School Swifts. We heard about it from some locals as we purchased their 1997 Corolla Wagon, nicknamed Swanicorn, around this time last year. Swifts are a type of small bird who spend nearly their entire lives airborne. When they want to land they can’t perch like most other birds, instead they hang suspended along vertical walls such as those found in chimneys, caves, and hollow trees.
Every year starting in late August and extending through most of September thousands of Vaux Swifts prepare to roost for the night in one of Portlands favorite local landmarks, Chapman Elementary School’s chimney. Last Friday Andrew and I invited a few friends to join us for our very first swift watch. We arrived around 6pm and spent the next two hours watching kids slide down a hill on pieces of cardboard, occasionally catching a kid or two with our backs, and finally, watching the swifts in their swarm-like descent into the chimney. It was truly a local spectacle and one I hope to enjoy every year.
Next time we visit we will be sure to bring a blanket to sit on, a picnic for feasting, and a few more friends to enjoy it with. You can find out more about the Chapman School Swifts at the Audubon Society of Portland’s Swift Watch.