A Continent-wide Chimney Swift Roost Monitoring Project


Audubon Vaux's Happening's mission is to locate and preserve North American Vaux's Swift communal migratory roost sites.  In 2009 186 observers in 5 states and BC monitored 78 sites, finding 56 of them active and documenting 649,803 roostings.

What follows is a listing from North to South by state of the sites that participated in your "Swift Night Out". 

Vaux's Happening Huge Saturday  9/11/2010

British Columbia

Way up near Mt. Robsen there is a large Cottonwood tree at Hunaker Springs, B.C. that Ray Chipeniuk has reported as a roost site.  This late into September as expected, the swifts have left.  There was a yearly high estimate of 50 individuals.

David and Adel Routledge have been keeping a close eye on an old school/storage building in their hometown of Cumberland, Vancouver Island, B.C. Canada.  The swifts were all gone by 9/11.  They had a 2010 northbound migration one evening high count of 200 Vaux's Swifts.

Irene Manley with the Canadian Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program has been monitoring several small sites in the Cranbrook and Nelsen, BC area.  No count for Big Saturday.

B.C, Central Valley Naturalists Society member Steve Howard continues to peer across the border documenting the swift action at the Sumas, WA Old Customs House.  This is perhaps the oldest known active roost site for the species in North America.  Averaged count on 9/11 of Steve and John and Mary Rawlings was 3650, which is the best Sumas count in a long time.


The oldest active public school building in Washington State is also an active Vaux's Swift roost site.  Warren Current put this roost site on the map and continues its bird documentations.  Only 5 swifts had not headed south on 9/11.  The Orient School's North bound migration single evening high count was only 40, but Warren got into triple digits with an 8/29/10 report of 146 VASW.

One of Vaux's Happenings greatest achievements this migration was orchestrated by Susan Madsen who modified the entry door for the huge cement stack at Old Northern State Hospital in Sedro Woolley.  We had all but given up on this historic chimney with last years September Observations being zeros and single digits.  Immediately after the modification the swifts swarmed in by the thousands.  The 5950 count on 9/11 was, like Sumas, it's largest one evening count in a long time.

In Monroe WA, the decommissioned chimney at Frank Wagner Elementary School is standing straight and tall having just been fitted with large steel angles on all four corners.  The Monroe School district had considered removing this old structure due to earthquake safety concerns.  In 2009 local Audubon Chapters were able to secure state funding for a seismic retrofit to preserve this structure.  A WDFW-ALEA and a Toyota Together Green grant had a lot to do with the security cameras that are now recording 24/7 just outside, and inside this amazing chimney.  You can check the action on Marina Skumanich's fine website monroeswifts.org  We have documented over a million roostings here in the last six migrations, with the new record going to Cathy Clark who checked in 26,552 VASW the evening of 9/07/2010.  Unfortunately some avian predators ruined the count and entertainment of those who had come for the swift action as part of Monroe's Community Return of the Swifts Celebration.  Veteran observers Diann MacRae and Bill Kaufman could only document 389 on that 9/11 evening.  For where the swifts went, see below.

The old brick chimney at the Monroe School District's Administration Building is a seldom-used back up and overflow for the Frank Wagner Elementary School Roost Site.  As the frightened swifts departed the Wagner site on 9/11, Pilchuck Audubon's Susie Schaefer sprinted the 12 blocks to this back up roosting chimney in time to catch the entry of 6,153 VASW, which is the new high count for this site.

While size matters, so does location, and the modest Selleck Old School House chimney was in the right place to steal the 9/11 swift shelter show.  Bob Stallcop watched 17,591 VASW stuff their bodies into a chimney that had, until the day before, never held over 9,000.   Adding a L. Schwitters 4676 Sunday count to the 17,591 and Bob's Friday count of 15,215 adds up to a long weekend total of 37,482 individual Chaetura roostings.  I bet that's going to be difficult to beat.  Sure would like to see a lot of you try.

Jan Demorest has organized the Kittitas Audubon Chapter into a well-oiled swift counting machine.  Their main target has been the chimney at the Ellensburg old hospital.  It had a modest 145 on 9/11 but sheltered 850 swifts in the Northbound.

Thirty-five miles to the south, Richard Repp has been finding new roost sites and bringing wildlife excitement to the Yakima area.  His best find has been the chimney of the Yakima Herald, which sheltered 1279 on 9/11, according to Greg and Elizabeth Bohn.  1194 was this site's high count in the northbound migration.

Richard spent a boring 9/11 at the Old Parker Schoolhouse.  He had documented 704 VASW there a couple weeks before, but sadly struck out.  "Just wait till next year," he muttered.

While we didn't get a 9/11 count, Sanders Freed working with the American Bird Conservancy on the Fort Lewis Military Reservation, documented 3200 VASW on the evening of 9/7.  This was at the JBLM brick chimney, which he intends to see preserved.

Joan Durgin with Vancouver Audubon has been the keeper of the Camas Tavern for the last six migrations.  This short brink chimney was good for a 2500 VASW high count in May but has been empty for all of the 2010 southbound migration.  It's a mystery why.


Dan and Susanna Casey documented 251 roosting VASW in Kalispell and has probably submitted his own report.

In Hamilton Kate Stone is leader of a number of Bitterroot Auduboners watching over the local Fire Hall roost site.  The Southbound migration has been anemic, but they were able to document 218 in one evening last May.


Terry Gray, as Idaho's Swift main man has been working the last six migrations in downtown Moscow.  Never bagging large numbers, he now roams south to document some new sites in Lapwai. 


Portland Audubon's Mary Cooledge keeps track of the Portland area roost sites, and in Eugene, Lane County Audubon's Nicole Nielsen-Pincus coordinates Vaux's Happening Oregon.  We will let them write up the Oregon scene except for,

Vaux's happening just added a Rainier, OR roost site monitored by Darrell Whipple.  It's the Downtown Carpet One Store that was good for 1342 VASW on 9/11, and a higher count of 1830 on September 8.


John Hunter at Arcata Fish and Wildlife has put together a team to monitor a number of sites in the NW corner of the state.  Results have been modest at 
(1) School at 286 Sprowl Creek road in Garberville.
(2)  Old Victorian House at 13th and I streets in Arcata.
(3)  HSU Arcata, Grist Hall.

The star of the Humboldt County Swift Show is a large Redwood snag that hosted 1610 VASW on 9/11.  This once mighty conifer also is open for guests in the northbound with a one-day May high count of 884.

John's team includes David Fix, Jude Power, Cindy Moyer, K. Burton, Jay Sooter, and Margaret Taylor. Tom and Sue Leskiw.


The best-known and longest running California roost site is of the cafeteria chimney of the Rio Lindo Academy, a private Seventh-day Adventist high school.  Vaux's Happening has been blessed with the on site presence of Brad Benson who knows the chimney and its guests well.  Being the vent for an active boiler, the birds seldom visit in the spring, and have to keep on their toes in the fall.

Brand new site announcement; Healdsburg Elementary School.  Discovered by Emily Heaton too late to make a Swift Night Out documentation, it's putting to bed 500 a night in mid September.  A number of Audubon members were relieved to receive the assurance that this chimney is hooked up to nothing but open sky.

It's a long flight to downtown Los Angeles, but that is, so far, the swifts next known rest stop.  Mark Siebert spent several years watching tens of thousands of Vaux's Swifts entering the Old Nabisco Plant.  The brick structure was converted to fancy lofts in 2007 and our little birds were again forced to look for a place to spend the night in big city.  Mark vowed to locate their current LA sleeping quarters and in mid April he did just that.  The new site is a monster chimney at the back of the Chester Williams building on Broadway Street.  Audubon Deb's Center director Jeff Chapman, local artist Iva Hladis, and the LA Natural History Museum's Kimball Garrett plan to bring an awareness of this urban wildlife spectacle to ten million Southern Californians.

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