Monday, September 23, 2013

september tradition: vaux's swifts in portland

Every year since I have lived in Portland, I have gone to watch the swifts. I used to live a few blocks away from the school where they roost, and would walk there most nights to watch it all unfold. It is truly amazing to watch, and I love creating the tradition with my family to visit the swifts every autumn. 

So here is the story: every September thousand of migratory birds (named Vaux's swifts) stop in Portland on their way to Central America. Since the 1980's they have been roosting in a chimney at an elementary school, and hundreds of people come to watch them near sunset as they fly into the chimney to roost. I can't really explain how incredible it is to see, but the birds transform from the tiny swirling black dots in the sky to these massive groups of spiraling birds flying around and into the brick chimney. Every night, there will be a hawk or falcon that swoops in to catch a bird, and it causes gasps of excitement from the crowd. Here is a little more information, and there was a documentary made as well. 

So every year we pack a picnic and a blanket and some cardboard. The dry grass hill is covered with children sliding down it on cardboard and in boxes. The boy loves it and we let him run wild while we settle down and watch. It is super crowded, but I love it anyways. And I love that I live in a city where  every September, hundreds of people come out as the sun sets to watch some birds. 

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