Keeping you in the loop

We at MCSI believe it is important to keep our volunteers and supporters informed in relation to the latest research and information from elsewhere in the Chimney Swift (and wider swift) world. Here are a couple of interesting tidbits that have come to our attention recently.

We begin around a slightly older story from 2012 that came up again in recent conversation – and if you haven’t seen it yet is worth the look. Soil scientists can find out about the history of an area by studying the structures and chemistry of soil taken from a borehole. In the same way, a biologist can learn a lot about Chimney Swifts from studying guano (or swift poop) remaining in the bottom of a chimney. In one particular study from Ontario (dated 2012), we learn about changes in diet over time linked to the spread of DDE in the wider environment. It appeared that the number of beetles in the diet of Chimney Swifts declined as levels of DDE (a chemical that comes from the pesticide DDT) increased. Beetles were replaced in the diet of swifts by less nutritious ‘true bugs’. There is also an interesting comment about the need for conserving chimney habitats in the final paragraph – we certainly support this view! If you haven’t seen this story before then please look at

This segues nicely into some news from London Ontario. We are delighted to share a few articles from Winifred Wake. Winifred has long provided MCSI with advice and assistance and carries a huge wealth of experience. She has published a couple of papers, one in The Cardinal and the other in Ontario Birds and we are delighted to have permission to publish these on our resources page. The Cardinal article analyses chimney loss in London, painting a similar picture to that MCSI published in the Blue Jay. You can read this excellent piece at The piece in Ontario Birds provides an overview of conservation efforts in London between 2004 and 2015. This is extremely relevant to us here in Manitoba as so many of the issues do overlap and this exchange of experiences going forward will only benefit each organisation as we strive to conserve this species. You can read the piece at

The rescued chicks

Finally, this segues nicely into news from CBC Manitoba! Winifred was the rehab specialist responsible for the final preparation and release of the Manitoba Chimney Swift chicks (take a look here). These birds were released around a roost in London Ontario. A neat segue then as we move onto a nice profile of Tiffany Lui, the Manitoban rehabber who painstakingly cared for the chicks here in Manitoba. You can read more about Tiffany at

Tim Poole
MCSI Coordinator

Lewis Cocks Swift Champion !

Our latest Swift Champion plaque was presented recently to Lewis Cocks. Many of you will already be familiar with Lewis as a longtime supporter of Chimney Swift conservation in Manitoba. Indeed, Lewis was the closest we have to a founder of MCSI – it was his idea to do something for Chimney Swifts and he was the initial driving force in setting up what we now call the Manitoba Chimney Swift Initiative. Below Lewis answers a few questions about his involvement as a champion of Chimney Swift conservation in Manitoba.
1. What were you doing before helping to set up MCSI? 
I was able to retire in 2005 but still had an interest in policy, writing, working with others, making a difference and doing something for our feathered friends.
2. You were instrumental in starting MCSI back in 2006. Why Chimney Swifts? 
Chimney Swifts populations were in decline, they were urban adapted which meant they were flexible and perhaps amenable to artificial roosting and nesting structures. In essence, if you build something for them, will they come? 
3. What were your original intentions for MCSI and how and why did they evolve to where we are now? 
Originally our MCSI Steering Cmte was heavily focused on erecting Swift friendly structures, which didn’t attract and retain Swifts so we adapted, we stopped building stand alone structures and switched to repairing existing Swift friendly structures that were falling into disrepair. Interest in our initiative grew along with the need to better understand the breeding biology of Swifts. 
4. Who else was involved in those early days? 
The granting agencies all wanted to know who would be involved in any proposed activity and it was felt that the original project submission should be a blend of public and private interests. As such, Dr Jim Duncan from Manitoba Conservation, Ron Bazin from the Canadian Wildlife Service of Environment Canada, Cheryl Hemming from the City of Winnipeg Naturalist Services Branch were consulted and were integral and essential early contributors and since I was a Board Member of the Manitoba Naturalists Society ( Nature Manitoba ) we had a great cross section of quite knowledgeable and keen people. Soon after grants from the Federal and Provincial Governments came through we recruited our first of several MCSI Project Coordinators Mike Quigley who was provided office space and support in the City of Winnipeg Naturalist Services Branch Office. 
5. What have you learnt about Chimney Swifts since beginning MCSI? 
Chimney Swifts are amazing. They come here from the Amazon to raise their young on insects that they hover up from the air above us, within a very tight time frame, find suitable nesting sites, raise young under very demanding circumstances where the weather can be hot, cold, wet and dry and when insects can be super abundant or practically non existent.
6. What are your hopes for the future for Chimney Swifts in Manitoba? 
You have to be optimistic or else why do what we do. It may not be too late, but honestly, the trend is for the CS population to continue to decrease. There’s problems and opportunities here in Manitoba and throughout their home range. In the Amazon there is massive habitat destruction, there’s problems over the great distances they travel north and south including increasingly erratic weather, we’re losing most of our suitable chimneys, there are even recent reports of major declines and shifts in insect populations that are complex and just barely beginning to be understood.  
7. Anything to add?  
There are many very talented, brilliant and committed people who thinking and doing good things to make sure that Swifts survive and thrive and they deserve our thanks and support. 
As does Lewis deserve and thanks for his years contributing to our understa
nding of Chimney Swift conservation here in Manitoba. Thanks Lewis!
— Tim Poole

2017 MCSI Data added to the Website !

Thank you once more to all our volunteers who spent hours in sunshine, wind and rain collecting Chimney Swift data in 2017. The fruits of your labours can be found in two datasets which we uploaded to the MCSI website today.

The first of these is the National Roost Monitoring Program (NRMP) dataset. This dataset includes all data collected during four set evenings joining other volunteers across eastern Canada. The data collected by our volunteers has been submitted to Environment and Climate Change Canada in Quebec. We have also added the additional MCSI three night results to this dataset. It should be noted as well that the evenings of May 28 and June 9 had terrible weather, hence the low numbers of counts (and low numbers of birds where counting took place). Here is the link .

The second dataset is a summary of all chimneys monitored between 2014 and 2017 (for 2007-2014 see The figure in the lefthand column for each year represents the largest number of birds seen entering the chimney in that year, the columns following include a note on whether we could determine if the chimney was used for nesting or just roosting, the known status of a nesting attempt and finally the date and details of the high count for that year. You can take a look at this data by clicking here.

Spreadsheets can be amended and documents can be re-uploaded to the website so please, if you have any additional data to submit please do so. Also, we have tried to be as accurate as possible when recording your data but occasional mistakes do happen when dealing with large amounts of data from multiple sources. If you spot any missing or misrepresented data please let us know and again we can amend. The important thing is for us to have the most accurate and up to date dataset possible.

Finally, thank you once more for everyone who made 2017 such a special monitoring year for the Manitoba Chimney Swift Initiative. You can see just by looking at the number of sites monitored in 2017 that this has been an absolutely phenomenal year.

By the way, we have updated our Monitoring Results page to include links to new information from the Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Manitoba. you should take a look…

Manitoba Government News Release about saved CHSW chicks

News Release – Manitoba  September 29, 2017

Click here for additional details about the rescue from CBC News/Canadian Press (no fake news here!).

St Adolphe Nest Outcome Summary for 2017

St Adolphe Church

Brodeur Bros. was unoccupied the entire year – absolutely no sign of an entry or exit.

A nesting attempt was made at the other 4 sites and 3 attempts were successful (75% success). This ties the previous record of 3 successful breeding attempts in 2013, however, in that year all 5 nest sites had a breeding pair onsite (60% success).

The SE Club Amical nest failure took place on July 10 (Day 6-8). Crop dusting took place outside St A. on July 2, 3, and 9.

The number of fledglings per site was low, although behavioural estimates tend to be underestimates: 1 fledgling at NE Club Amical (behavioural obs.); 2 fledglings at the Church (behavioural obs.); and 3 fledglings at the Main St site (clutch size = 3 = 100% fledging based on physical evidence; behavioural observations estimated n=2 fledglings).

A pdf version of the 2017 Nest Outcome Summary for St. Adolphe may be  seen at

Tim and I are connected to a U of W grad student, Martine Balcaen, who had mosquitoe traps at Howden C.C. on Red River Dr and Marchand Rd (my area northwest of St A.) She noted interesting pulses of mosquitoes between trap locations and shifts in the mass of mosquitoes relative to other species of flying insects. We will follow up with her to see if some explanation can be offered for the successful year of Chimney Swift breeding in St A. relative to the stinking low numbers of mosquitoes in the valley all season long!

The big question to ponder this year is “If mosquitoes never present as a primary food source at the beginning of the season, therefore they do not decline in numbers with mosquito abatement programs mid-season, do Chimney Swifts shift to other prey species with better breeding success?” There’s another big difference this year though: when the hot temp’s arrived the strong winds didn’t; compare to 2011 when rip roaring winds blew for days on end with 30+ C temps – in 2011 the Church nest failed Aug. 2nd on Day 25 (3-5 days before fledging was due) when no bugs could be found.

There’s always a good reason to keep checking in on the birds next year…

Barb Stewart


End of season update

It’s been over a week with no reports, so it’s very unlikely that any Chimney Swifts remain in Manitoba. Thanks to everyone who has contributed to the Manitoba Chimney Swift Initiative over the course of this busy summer. If anyone still has any outstanding data to submit, it is never too late to email them to us – the more the merrier!

In 2017 you have generated a phenomenal amount of data and below are just a few highlights from a very successful summer.

 Number of Communities with Active Monitoring: Volunteers monitored Chimney Swifts in 24 Manitoban communities. The communities in question were: Brandon; Carman, Clearwater; Darlingford; Dauphin; La Broquerie; La Salle; Lac du Bonnet; Lower Fort Garry; Manitou; Melita; Otterburne; Portage la Prairie; Selkirk; Souris; Southport; St Adolphe; St François Xavier; Saint-Jean-Baptiste; Steinbach; Stonewall; The Pas; Wasagaming and; Winnipeg. Swifts were also noted in Morden and the Turtle Mountain Provincial Park.

Number of Sites Monitored: A very impressive 137 sites were monitored in 2017, up from 87 in 2016. This is an awesome effort from a lot of people.

Number of New Sites: We added 39 new site codes to the MCSI database. 32 of these sites were active (i.e. someone saw a swift fly into, or out of, the chimney). New sites were added in La Broquerie, Melita, Selkirk, Lower Fort Garry, Portage la Prairie and Winnipeg (Downtown, South Point Douglas, Fort Rouge, the West End and St James). The La Broquerie chimney is of particular interest. In 2016, volunteer David Dawson was involved in helping to remove an old bees nest and masonry from the top of a second chimney on the church. In 2017 the chimney was used by a second pair of swifts. Well done David!

List of 31 Target Sites: Amazingly, we were able to monitor every single target site identified prior to the breeding season. Of these, 1 was already capped, 1 was later demolished, 13 were unoccupied on the date of monitoring and 16 were occupied. See

Old Database Sites With Chimney Swifts: There are a number of sites present on the database which have no swift records. In 2017 swifts were seen entering a few of these sites in Winnipeg. These were the Nutty Club Food Club on Lombard, VJ’s on Main and 303 Assiniboine Avenue, which turned out to contain a rather large roost. In addition, the Via Rail Station in the The Pas and St. Hyacinthe Church in La Salle were confirmed as active sites.

Number of Volunteers: We are aware of 95 volunteers who have been out and about monitoring chimneys in 2017. This is up from 61 in 2016. The Selkirk Birdwatchers Club led by Gerald Macnee, the Assiniboine School monitors and Gord Ogilvie in Portage la Prairie have coordinated group monitoring in local areas. Frank and Jacquie Machovec also deserve a mention, being always willing to drive longer distances to monitor swifts where no local volunteers are available.

A keen observer, indeed: John Hays watched over a dozen chimneys in and around downtown Winnipeg!

Creative volunteer recruitment: Jan and Ken Wainwright have kept monitoring the Dauphin roost throughout the season over a decade. In an attempt to drum up more local interest in the swift population they put on an evening for geocachers with up to 6 coming along for the show! Swift watches were also organised in Portage la Prairie and Winnipeg and larger blitzes in Selkirk and Souris.

Largest Roost: Jake Peters counted 210 swifts enter Assiniboine School on May 18th. This was the largest total ever counted by MCSI. The largest fall count was by John Hays at 303 Assiniboine Avenue in Winnipeg, a total of 102 on August 6th.

Confirmed Breeding: It is not always easy to determine nesting success but in 2017 we did have a few sites confirmed. From the information supplied we think we have successful breeding in Brandon, St Adolphe, Winnipeg, La Broquerie and Dauphin. Active nesting behaviour was observed in a number of other places – including The Pas for the very first time.

​Latest fledgling swifts​: Margaret and Millie had a later brood in Brandon. The fledglings were last noted on August 28th having first been confirmed on August 24th. The hatch date is unknown – but this does appear to be a late record for Manitoba.

Latest roosting birds: The Selkirk Birdwatching Club managed it again! Gerald, Carol, Robert and Donna had a single swift at the Selkirk Mental Health Centre on September 2nd. Cal Cuthbert also had birds at the Red River College in Portage la Prairie on August 30th.

Latest birds in air: Rudolf Koes noted a swift over Assiniboine Park on September 3rd flying quite high over the river.

In relation to the latter, we have book prizes for the Selkirk Birdwatchers Club and Rudolf Koes. We will be in touch with them to collect their prizes.

Although the swifts have migrated to their winter feeding grounds in the Upper Amazon, MCSI will continue to be active on a number of projects. Keep an eye on our website during the winter for latest news and developments.

On behalf of the MCSI Steering Committee thank you to everyone who has contributed to making 2017 such a successful monitoring season for swifts. Here is to a successful 2018!
— Tim Poole

A Happy Ending

The last remaining swifts are still lingering in Manitoba with birds still being counted into chimneys in Brandon, Portage la Prairie and Selkirk. Well done everyone involved! We will give a comprehensive update soon.

However, the subject of this blog is of a swift rescue par excellent by Bird Studies Canada’s own Christian Artuso. If you cast your mind back to a previous blog, we left it with a story about Christian rescuing a swift from a chimney in a private household in Tuxedo. The story went as follows:

‘An adult bird had slipped down through the gap in the damper and chimney and could not get back up. I was able to very carefully use my two (large) cupped hands to coax the bird upward to the bottom of the damper (having covered the fireplace glass with black plastic and poking my head through it). The swift perched upside down clinging to the bottom of the damper for a split second and from there i gently coaxed it through the damper gap.  Once through the gap the swift flew straight up and straight out – no signs of damage to the wings and clearly no impediment to flight.. impressive in fact. During this process chicks were audible but i could only see one wall of the chimney and could not see the nest…’

That was the 25th July. On the 27th Christian and then Frank and Jacquie Machovec returned to monitor the adults to ensure they were still actively feeding the chicks. Christian reported at 2:52pm:

‘Things are looking good. the adults have been in and out of the chimney at least three times so it looks like they have found their babies. I will come by after 5 pm to check again and I can update you then but more than likely the plan of attack will be to leave the parents to do the job…’

Everything seemed fine. Christian noted at 5pm that adults were still entering and exiting as normal. When the owners of the house returned home from work that evening and chatted with Christian outside, they decided to go in and just check that everything was ok in the fireplace.

And a good job they checked! Here again Christian takes up the story:

After Frank and Jacquie had found a good pattern of entries and exits in the late morning and early afternoon, I went back at 16:30 and observed two entry/exit cycles between then and 17:30. On both occasions one adult entered and left again within 7 minutes. The family came home around 17:30 and I greeted them in the driveway.  I suggested we check the fireplace just in case, thinking that after doing that I could go home and call it a day. Well, I was horrified to see baby swifts in the fireplace.

 Not knowing how long they had been there since slipping through the damper gap a second time I decided to act quickly. I put two swiftlets in a box and left one clinging to the fireplace wall (far enough out of my way) and then reached my head in to look up with a flashlight. I could not see any gap in the sponge, paper and cardboard I had stuffed between the damper and the wall but obviously something was not right. Removing the sponges and paper I found that there were five baby swifts in total since one was clinging on the brick wall half way up that I had not seen previously. Since none of the babies looked injured in any way I hatched a new plan to try to get all the babies to cling to the wall and then somehow to try to force the jammed damper into a closed position.

This was not easy at all! The chimney was slightly tapered above the damper and I needed to get the babies above the taper (to maximise the chances that the adults would feed them) and then I needed to encourage them to leave my hand and grab the wall. This meant I had to jam my head right into the chimney with eyes closed due to all the falling soot, carefully cupping a baby swift in one hand, as I slid my arm through the narrow damper gap all the way to my shoulder. I got several scrapes and bruises, especially on my inner biceps doing this but it was the only way to get my arm in high enough.  One by one, I picked up the babies and coaxed them onto the wall (the same wall as their sibling “on high” assuming it was the best seat in the house). Their gripping power was staggeringly strong for such little creatures but their reluctance to leave my hand was also noticeable. When they finally latched onto the wall I had to hold my finger against their back and gently back my hand away. It took some time but finally I could see all five clinging to the wall in what I considered reasonably good positions. The next trick was to try to move the damper into the closed position by scratching away as much soot as possible and gently wiggling it back and forth. Crystal brought a screwdriver and some WD40. I didn’t use the WD40 in the end because, after much scraping and wiggling, I got the damper loose enough that we could turn it into the closed position. It still doesn’t work by turning the knob alone but it opened and closed with Crystal turning the knob and me pulling on it from inside the fireplace. What a relief that was. To be absolutely sure, I wedged a sponge under the damper and we made sure it was good and locked in place. Just before triple checking and closing the damper, I noticed that two of the baby swifts had climbed upwards, one of them had made almost a foot of vertical gain and the other an inch or two. All five were cling to the wall. This was a good sign.

 When all was said and done, I was completely black – hilariously so in fact. My face was as black as though someone had smeared it liberally with shoe polish and my hair was looking like a sooty grey Afro-frizz. I can tell you that when I caught a glimpse of myself in the car mirror I got a shock! Rather than audition for a black and white minstrel show, I went home for a LONG shower and a whole lot of scrubbing!

Once a little more respectable, I went back at 19:20 and observed one adult enter at 19:25 and exit 13 minutes later. Then at 19:55 two adults entered the chimney almost simultaneously. One exited after three and a half minutes but the other had not exited by 20:20 when I decided to leave. Obviously the adults are feeding and that is the most important thing. I couldn’t stand really close to the chimney and watch the top at the same time so I could not hear them; however, the pattern of entries and exits throughout the day (thanks to Frank and Jacquie for great work monitoring) and after the intervention made me feel confident we had given them the best shot we could. A confab with Barb confirmed that the pattern of entries and exits is good for chicks of this age. Fingers crossed none got dehydrated in the fireplace and that all five make it through!’

Following this, Christian, Frank, Jacquie and on one occasion, Tim, took up the mantle of monitoring the swifts, checking everything was ok. During this period all reports were sent to Barb and Rob Stewart and they gave some brilliant interpretation of the behaviour being observed. The good news was that somewhere around August 11th and 12th Crystal, the homeowner stopped hearing the chicks in the chimney and they fledged (we have since confirmed this from the contents of the chimney).

This success would not have happened without the support of Crystal Dalgleish and her family and we were delighted to hand over one of our legendary plaques. We will also work with the family to fix the damper.

Thanks also to Frank, Jacquie, Rob, Barb and of course Christian

–Tim Poole

New Fall Roost Discovered in Downtown Winnipeg

Last week Patricia stepped outside a friends apartment and noticed a large group of swifts forming over the Donald Bridge. In the following few minutes, 19 swifts entered the northern chimney on an apartment block at 303 Assiniboine Avenue.

A few days later, Marie-Eve, a fellow U of M postgraduate biologist whom Patricia had been visiting that fateful first evening, watched 40 swifts enter the chimney from her apartment overlooking the chimney, plus 2 popping into the southern chimney on that same building.

John followed up again last night and counted an impressive 103 swifts, with a possible exit thrown in for good measure.

It is very common for large roosts to form during fall migration, although this is the largest recorded in Winnipeg since MCSI began formal monitoring.

The swifts are beginning to gather for migration but watch out for any further evening gatherings as they prepare for the long journey to South America.

Swift viewing highlights

smiling sunThe end of July is almost nigh and it feels like the right time for an update on the exhausting summer of swift activity. Highlights of the previous month include new active chimneys in The Pas, Portage la Prairie and Winnipeg, a swift rescue and more!

First some context from the month of July, and the best way we can do that is to paste some of Barb Stewart’s reports from St Adolphe. On July 3rd Barb reported:

‘I have checked in on all of the St Adolphe nest sites over the last two days. Brodeur Bros is still unoccupied; no primary occupation during the spring arrival phase and no secondary arrivals of late migrants/dispersing locals in late June. The SE and NE Club Amical, Church, and Main St sites are all occupied and all pairs are incubating eggs. There are quick exchanges with ~ 50-70 minutes between visits. Yesterday at the Church, I saw repeat hovers at the ends of a dead Manitoba Maple branch. It is a tree with a newly exposed flight path now that the old convent/school/nursing home has been demolished. Nest building does stop completely with hatching so that is another indication that incubation is still ongoing. There was one interesting entry at the Church with a swift blowing by a goldfinch that was perched on the chimney rim.’

Her update on July 13th was as follows:

‘What a difference a few days makes…in St Adolphe, the SE Club pair failed to show up on Monday (July 10) and again today (July 13) – the nest has failed. However, feeding juveniles has moved into the non-brooded stage at the Main St, Church, and NE Club sites. Consecutive entries/exits sure help make monitoring definitive! The NE Club Amical pair were feeding 4 X hour and the other 2 sites were 3 X hour. Lots of continuous, low flying action this morning and again, some buzz-by’s over the artificial tower top but no entries. The group size in town was 7 in the air while 2 adults were in the NE Club, so at least 9 swifts are in town.’

And on July 24th:

‘In St Adolphe, the earliest fledging date has been July 27th; the latest on record are Aug. 11, 12, and 16th; most have occurred between July 30 and Aug. 6Currently, 3 nest sites are active in St A and while I need to put my head down into the datasheets to fine tune details, this year’s fledglings are due out ~Aug. 1-4thI checked in with the St Adolphe sites this morning and all 3 of the active sites were still ok. There was a lot of low flying feeding and activity by the swifts; recently fledged Purple Martins and adults added to the chaos. Quite fun chaos though. Wind was the issue – lining up on the chimney tops for entries was tough on occasion.’

Elsewhere, it’s been a busy month with a lot of monitoring and a fair few new sites to boot. Joel in The Pas reported in on July 18th:

Yesterday at 7:10 am was getting gas at a station adjacent to a long suspected swift site at 5th and Larose.  As usual look up at the chimneys hoping to see an entry/exit.  While their sitting on the chimney is a small bird, the angle and crouched position make it impossible to id. Could it be a fledgling swift, I ask myself, hoping.  Realize my truck has an air lock so it takes quite a long time to fill.  It was getting to the time my tank is just about filled when whoosh a swift comes out of nowhere and enters the chimney.  This rousts the perched bird which turns out to be a juvenile sparrow, when swooping through the air comes another swift to escort the sparrow away.’

Further south and Ken and Jan in Dauphin are expecting their first confirmed fledgling swifts in the coming days. This site has been a regular large roost but in 2017 a pair have decided to attempt nesting for the first time in 10 years monitoring. Fingers crossed that the nest will be successful!

In Brandon, Margaret and Millie were still reporting 2 swifts in the Orange Block as of July 19th.

Further south in Souris and back to June, Katharine gets the award for most dedicated volunteer for 2017. Following her very early morning Breeding Bird Survey, Katharine spent the entire day in Souris monitoring swifts. She checked four sites and had successful entries at the museum and Chocolate Shop. Great effort!

Heading east and to Portage la Prairie. Gord has just reported a new site in the west of the city with non-brooded young and also that a pair is in residence in the Southport site. There was also news that swifts were checking out some of the historic buildings in the Fort La Reine Museum earlier this spring. On July 5th there was a blitz night with Janice recording breeding activity in the main chimney at the Trinity United Church and a roost in the second chimney. Cal also had a pair in the Victoria College chimney that evening. Cal and Betty continued monitoring the church one evening per week with both chimneys occupied by swifts.

South to the area around Morden and Carman. Paul and Valerie confirmed daytime activity on the Darlingford Museum again for 2017. On July 26th Patricia and Tim noted at least 5 swifts in Carman and Patricia counted 3 entry/exit cycles on the Memorial Hall. Later that same day, Matt, Tim and Patricia observed 2 swifts in Morden but no entries. If anyone lives down there, please keep an eye out for swifts! They also checked the towns of Miami, Roseisle, Homewood and Roland, found some interesting looking chimneys but no swifts on the day.

The southeast, an area which is probably under-observed when it comes to swifts has thrown a tantalising observation. Carla Church from the Manitoba Conservation Data Centre thought she heard swifts in the town of Roseau River on July 12th. if anyone is in the area please take a look! A little further north and Frank and Jacquie counted 5 swifts at Providence College using 2 chimneys but unfortunately not showing any breeding activity.

Frank and Jacquie had more luck on their return to Winnipeg. On the 24th they found a new site at 415 Mulvey and noted numerous entry/exits including a possible early juvenile tumbling awkwardly.

John has been his energetic self. We make it that in the month of July alone John has watched at least 14 chimneys. He found a new site at 486 Sherbrook and another at 527 Waterfront. Another of the sites John was watching, the Bardal Funeral Home on Sherbrook was discovered by Christian one evening while visiting a friend in the area. In the Exchange, Tim found a new site at 54 Adelaide while out on his lunchtime stroll and as of today (the 26th), the adults were still feeding young in the chimney. Ron also noted daytime activity at VJ’s on July 5th.

In Osborne Village, both Marie-Eve and Patricia confirmed use of two new apartment blocks. Patricia also discovered a new site on the Mount Royal Apartments on Portage with daytime entries on July 20th. This was on the western end of a group of apartments with a known site on the eastern end. This chimney on the New Silver Height Apartments also had daytime entries and exits, with adults likely to be feeding non-brooded young.

In St Vital, Badal counted 2 swifts at the Good News Fellowship chimney but nothing at Christ the King School in mid-July.

Heading north along the Red River and congratulations to Gerald, Robert, Nia, Linda, Carol, Sharon, Ray, Sybil, Ray, Dorothy and Virginia from the Selkirk Birdwatchers for a terrific one night blitz in Selkirk and Lower Fort Garry. We now have two occupied sites at Lower Fort Garry including a roost with 4 swifts. Gerald also added yet another new site in Selkirk, the Lord Selkirk Hotel having 5 swifts. 24 swifts were counted at the large stack chimney at the Mental Health Centre as well. This dedicated group continue to provide excellent coverage in this area!

Christian was also called on by the Dalgleish family in Tuxedo to perform a swift rescue act when a swift was found in the fireplace. the family managed to continue the swift in the fireplace before Christian arrived. He tells the rest of the story as follows:

‘An adult bird had slipped down through the gap in the damper and chimney and could not get back up. I was able to very carefully use my two (large) cupped hands to coax the bird upward to the bottom of the damper (having covered the fireplace glass with black plastic and poking my head through it). The swift perched upside down clinging to the bottom of the damper for a split second and from there i gently coaxed it through the damper gap.  Once through the gap the swift flew straight up and straight out – no signs of damage to the wings and clearly no impediment to flight.. impressive in fact. During this process chicks were audible but i could only see one wall of the chimney and could not see the nest…’

​Phew, all ends well then!

Over the next couple of weeks we will start to see a change as swift adults are joined in the air by juveniles. So please keep those reports coming, we really appreciate them!


— Tim Poole

Canada Day Update

Firstly We hope all our supporters had a wonderful Canada Day Weekend! Since the last email update there has been a plethora of observations, some new sites and real progress in monitoring our list of 30 target chimneys.

We start though in The Pas. Swifts have been noted here previously but never has a swift been noted entering a chimney before the past week. A note was sent to Chimney Swift Towers from Joel Kayer from the Pas on June 26th:

‘Finally got a swift going into a chimney this am, 7:56 in the north most stack at the via station.  It all took place in a split second with the swift coming down from the stratosphere  and doing a half circle over the chimney and the entering.  On the 21st saw 4 swifts flying over this site.  Seemingly in 2 courting pairs.’

​A massive development in The Pas for sure. Speaking of new places for swifts, Gerald Macnee of Selkirk Birdwatchers Club fame made a couple of terrific discoveries at the Lower Fort Garry Parks Canada site, counting swifts into chimneys ​on buildings within the fort, one in the southwestern building and four in the southeastern. Seems like Parks Canada now have swifts in Wasagaming and Lower Fort Garry now. Just need to find one in Wapusk to complete the set! Gerald has with the help of other members of the Birdwatchers Club, with special mention to Robert Hemplar, continued to monitor Selkirk chimneys and even bagged a second new site, noting a daytime entry at an apartment on Main Street.

Ken and Jan in Dauphin and likewise continuously checking out their site and are down to a single pair of birds seemingly. This is big news as breeding has never before been noted in this chimney after a decade of consistent monitoring.

In Melita, Ken, Christian, Alex, Jessica and Cassidy have done a terrific job in between grassland bird monitoring and Burrowing Owl activities at checking out the local swift hangouts.

Two new sites have been added to the database this year including the very fetching chimney photographed by Christian below.  

Further north in Souris, a group of seven people descended on the town for a night of peacocks and swifts on June 27th. Louanne took the Rock Shop and had a pair enter. Ken took the church and funeral home, 2 and 1 respectively. Margaret and Millie looked at the pub (4) but had the only blowout at the Corner Closet. Glennis had 2 in the chocolate shop. Finally Gillian and Tim did the museum. Nothing until 10:09 then a single entry on the east side.

The Orange Block in Brandon still had a pair nestling in for the night when Margaret and Millie checked on June 24th.

Gord, Janice, Cal and co have still kept up a terrific pace in Portage la Prairie. Gord did also manage to drop into Clearwater but saw no sign of swifts and spotted a pair in Manitou with Janice one evening who passed up the opportunity to enter the church chimney. In Portage itself, there have been entries in the Red River College, Correctional Centre and in both church chimneys. Gord also had a group of seven join him for a swiftwatch evening at the church. Finally Gord sent an interesting observation:

‘Last night, June 25 around 9PM, I observed 3 swifts chasing a Kestrel south of the Red River College building. But that does not compare to Selkirk where I once observed 15 swifts pursuing a Merlin.’

Frank and Jacquie have been on their usual committed selves and travelling over southern Manitoba in pursuit of those hard-to-get-to sites. With a Tim Horton’s en route, this time they traveled down to La Salle and watched the church. Frank’s report the following morning created a buzz of mystery:

We witnessed one exit and one attempted entry to the larger church chimney, and there were definitely four CHSW cavorting in the area, circling the site at various heights. We did not see the four birds return to the chimney, but we did hear them (very noisily) overhead at 22:11. We left around 22:30 because of the low light levels.

Interestingly in Winnipeg, Cam Bush reported a similar exit and no re-entry on 471 William around the same time. This was Cam’s first ever swift entry/exit action having tried in vain at another site previously.

Onto Winnipeg and John Hays has been his usual brilliant self, covering a huge amount of ground since June 12th. He has confirmed swift use at the Nygaard Building on Market, Vita Foam on Waterfront, 70 Higgins and found a new spot on Pacific, the coffee place chimney:

I hadn’t planned to chimney watch yesterday but was biking by Higgins and just had to stop and have a quick look. Within two minutes two exits. I was hooked, the gardening would have to wait. Road a couple of blocks to Vita foam and noticed the building has a chimney on the east end as well as the one I had watched on the west end of the building. Spent 23 minutes and got a zero , I will try it again. Went to the west side of  Vita Foam and didn’t chimney watch but did see 3 swifts in the air just a block west of there. Looked for chimneys in the area but did not see any likely nest sites. Heading home I noticed two chimneys with a nice looking coffee shop with sidewalk seating across the street. What a perfect spot to watch a chimney. Waiting to make my order inside, looking at the chimneys through the window, I had an entry and a quick exit. Sat out front having coffee for 30 minutes but no more action from the chimney but the coffee was great.

Thanks for the tip John and even more so, thanks for finding a new swift chimney. On a related note, Marie-Eve spotted an entry on the rear of VJ’s on Main, the first time this building has housed swifts. Tim has also confirmed another new site in South Osborne.

In St James, Frank and Jacquie had a pair in the Beverage Room at the Assiniboine Gordon Inn in the Park and David confirmed a new site on Portage at the top of Cavell. Assiniboine School continues to amaze with 108 counted on our Swiftwatch evening attended by 16 people. Follow the link below for a video of the swifts entering and flying around the chimney. Interestingly experienced counters were struggling with the amount of ‘misses’ and ‘dips’ towards the chimney on that evening.

Finally, an update on St Adolphe. We put it here as there is some useful information on breeding behaviour for any swift watchers out there. Over to Barb for a report on July 3rd:

I have checked in on all of the St Adolphe nest sites over the last two days. Knowing you follow your sites through the summer, I thought you may be interested in where things are at. Feel free to share the news with others.

 Brodeur Bros is still unoccupied; no primary occupation during the spring arrival phase and no secondary arrivals of late migrants/dispersing locals in late June.

 The SE and NE Club Amical, Church, and Main St sites are all occupied and all pairs are incubating eggs. There are quick exchanges with ~ 50-70 minutes between visits.

 Yesterday at the Church, I saw repeat hovers at the ends of a dead Manitoba Maple branch. It is a tree with a newly exposed flight path now that the old convent/school/nursing home has been demolished. Nest building does stop completely with hatching so that is another indication that incubation is still ongoing. There was one interesting entry at the Church with a swift blowing by a goldfinch that was perched on the chimney rim.

 There were many low flights over the artificial tower but the swifts were “just looking” and no entries were made.

— Tim Poole