MaineChimney Swifts in Maine: 2010 Roosting Chimneys
I have attached a report of our summer work on roosting chimneys in Maine. There are two parts. One summarizes the observations of swifts at the chimney in the new Harriet Beecher Elementary School in Brunswick. The other lists counts of swifts at various Maine locations from their first appearance in early May to the end of the major migration in the third week in August.
Many thanks to all for your interest in preserving the habitats of Chimney Swifts. Their original roosting and nesting places have disappeared and their unique anatomy has adapted well to new urban habitats. Your continued interest and support in preserving at least some of a rapidly disappearing technology is appreciated. The old chimneys still have an important use in creating a more vibrant urban environment.
We have come to the end of a busy summer and have discovered several previously unknown roosting chimneys. As a result we know more about swift behavior, but in knowing more we are asking many new questions. One of them is: "Why didn't the swifts immediately accept the chimney at the Harriet Beecher Stowe Elementary School?" We provided a chimney within the specifications which we know they accept for roosting. On May 5, however, 23 swifts entered the chimney and within five minutes all 23 exited. During the May migration, groups occasionally flew by but did not enter. Similarly, the southward migration in August saw a few in the neighborhood of the construction site but none flying near the chimney.
It is known that occasionally it takes time for swifts to occupy a chimney built close to their old one. Most authorities tell us that letting the swifts decide is better than making changes prematurely. We continue discussions of what might be done and will come to some kind of determination before school construction is completed.
There is a lot we don't know about Chimney Swift decision-making. The attached summary records observations of several people throughout the summer. Notice that the major roost for migrating swifts in the state is at the Maine Medical Building. This unused chimney had at least 830 roosting there on May 20-21. Notice also the entries for Bru1 and Bru2 from July 17 to August 26. Bru1 is an extremely tall and wide chimney while Bru2 is short and narrow. Why did the August migration stream not occupy the larger chimney?
In addition to roosting chimneys, we also know more about nesting chimneys. On a trip to Orono to investigate a former a major roost in the Helen Hunt Health Center (formerly Helen Hunt High School) we found that the chimney is now capped. Many smaller chimneys in Orono are also capped but two swifts were seen entering the Orono Historical Museum (formerly a church) chimney and more than a dozen were seen feeding. Orono is like many riverside towns in Maine which have significant populations of swifts. This year's observations include Gardiner, Augusta, Camden, and Wiscasset. There are doubtless many others. The rate of capping small chimneys throughout the state appears to be increasing and the removal of unused roosting chimneys in the wake of new construction has dire consequences for migrants on their way to nesting sites further north. The species is endangered in Canada,
Many people have contributed to this project. In particular we would like to thank Dave and Janice Plummer whose observations at Maine Medical constitute the origin of our statewide work. Others have spent evenings counting: Tom and Ann Baiocchi, Joe and Christa Baiocchi, Alan and Linda Seamans, Anna Hunt, Jackie Sartoris, and Sarah Wolpow. Information about roost locations was provided by Mike Doucette, Sandy Kauffman, Doug Suitor, Eric Hynes, Andrew Gilbert, Charlotte Agel, Kristen Lindquist and Chris Corio. Finally thanks to Steve Walker for his time observing and for his lead in the development and funding of the project and to Alan Kuniholm at PDT Architects for shepherding us through the construction details and his active interest in our work.