I believe I found out about the swifts from the book This is Portland, which my mom had bought on one of her visits and gave to me before we came here winter 2104 to scout out places to live. It seemed pretty intriguing immediately, but I somehow hadn’t made it to see them (heralded as “one of Portland’s most spectacular natural events”) in the previous two Septembers I’d lived here. This time, I set a reminder in my phone and Nat and I drove up to Chapman Elementary in Northwest on a Thursday evening in early September to see thousands of Vaux’s swifts prepare to roost for the night in the school chimney. This location is one of the largest known roosting sites of migrating Vaux’s swifts, thousands of which gather in the city every year in late August as they prepare to migrate to Central America and Venezuela.
I know a lot of these photos look the same but I feel like I could look at hundreds of them. The birds are so tiny and yet make up this giant mass, especially as it gets darker and they start to funnel into the chimney. They kind of look like fleas (or for those who’ve had fleas, more like flea dirt, I suppose). Murmurations of starlings are some of my favorite things to see, so I thought this was very cool.