‘Swift Watch’ returns to NW Portland
PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - It’s September – which means Vaux’s swifts come to roost in Chapman Elementary’s chimney in northwest Portland for the month.
Sitting on the hill next to the school and watching the annual bird migration has become a tradition that people from across the world come to experience, dubbed “Swift Watch.”
“It’s become something Portland is well known for because it’s such a unique phenomenon that happens year after year,” Colleen McDaniel, a Portland Audubon volunteer said. “I’ve had people that I’ve talked to from new York, from England, all over the United States and all over the world. Even for Portlanders, it’s an annual expedition for them to come out and watch the birds.”
The hillside starts to get packed around an hour before sunset. People come with chairs, blankets, cameras, and picnics to watch. Heather Miller-Webb said this is her 15th year coming out to “Swift Watch.”
“It’s one of my favorite things about Portland,” said Heather Miller-Webb. “Every year to come and watch, it’s just such a neat phenomenon. The first time we saw it, it was jaw dropping. It’s incredible. It’s like nothing you’ve had the opportunity to see anywhere else. It’s one of the best things Portland has to offer and I always joke where else will you see thousands of birds do choreography?”
McDaniel said not only have they seen large crowds, they’ve also seen more swifts this year.
“Audubon officially starts coming out of September 1 and on that first night we already had about 500 or so people,” McDaniel said. “Our swift numbers are a little higher than we usually see. Last night we had over 6,000 birds. It’s very possible it could be due to all the forest fires that we are seeing up in Canada that are causing them to migrate sooner rather than stick around like they usually do.”
“Swift Watch” continues through September. McDaniel expects the number of swifts to increase over the next week, so she encourages everyone to come on out and watch an amazing performance. Be sure to come early, bring a chair or blanket to sit on and pack some snacks.
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