Putting your data to use

A few of the MCSI Steering Committee members led by Rob Stewart have just published a short paper in the Blue Jay (Summer 2017 edition) analyzing the rate of loss and preservation of Chimney Swift habitat in Manitoba. The paper uses data generated by MCSI volunteers over a decade. The information highlights the importance of retaining, and, if necessary, restoring existing habitat for conserving Manitoba’s Chimney Swifts.

You can read the full paper by clicking on the link.

Target 30, the final 15

Thanks to everyone who has so far contributed to the monitoring program in 2017. It has been a very successful year with 76 sites monitored up until this date and of those, the vast majority being occupied by swifts. We are seeing plenty of breeding activity, in chimneys from Melita to St Francois Xavier. We have also added 9 chimneys to the database with 7 of these occupied.

We still need some help covering our 30 priority sites in communities across Manitoba. So far volunteers have checked on 15 of these sites, a very good number.

We still have 15 to cover, some have a nominated volunteer already. However if anyone is visiting any of these places, please feel free to do some extra monitoring. The priority sites are (with current monitors included):

Souris – Margaret, Millie, Liz and Louanne interested in going out to monitor
1. Rock Shop
2. St Paul’s United Church
3. 11 Crescent Avenue West
4. Bonus site – the museum always looks as though it should have swifts so worth a look


Clearwater – Ken may check during daytime
1. Memorial Hall chimney


Manitou – Cliff and Paul are checking. Janice and Gord did an evening of monitoring, counted 2 birds in the air but no entries or exits
1. United Church


Stonewall – Ken checking but feel free to drop in at other times
1. 336 Main Street


Selkirk – Selkirk Birdwatchers
1. East Hydro Stack


Winnipeg – St James
1. Chimneys on Assiniboine Gordon Inn at the Park – 2 chimneys
2. Bonus chimney – The Viscount Apartments, 1794 Portage near Cavell Drive
Winnipeg – Wolesley
1. 246 Home – Ingrid to do
2. 258 Burnell – Colin to do
Winnipeg – River Heights
1. 465 Lanark (site confirmed but 3 other chimneys in area to check – contact for more info)
Winnipeg – Osborne Village
1. Bonus sites – 424 River, 2nd check required on small chimney (contact for details)
2. Bonus sites – 415 Stradbrook, 2nd check required
Winnipeg – St Vital
1. Miller’s Meats, St Mary’s – Ron to check
Winnipeg – City Centre
1. King’s Hotel, 114 Higgins
2. 139 Market – Nygaard
3. 471 William – Cam to cover
4. 515 Waterfront, Vita Foam
Winnipeg – East Kildonan
1. Bonus chimney – Gordon King Memorial United Church
2. Bonus chimney – Roxy Lanes, 385 Henderson

Of course, there are many other opportunities to carry on volunteering with MCSI throughout the summer. You can carry on monitoring your previous site, or find a new site, or look at the database and see if there is another chimney which might take your fancy.

Finally it is worth asking what all of these observations mean. Rather than reinvent the wheel it seems more appropriate to point everyone to an excellent blog from Barb Stewart posted in June 2016. In this she explains about the behaviours you might be observing and relates everything to what is happening deep inside the chimney, invisible to the naked eye. This is really an excellent piece.

If there are any questions please let us know, otherwise happy swifting to one and all!


–Tim Poole

About last night

The final evening of official Chimney Swift monitoring passed off last evening in a blaze of breezy June sunshine. A new site, seventh time lucky, and some rather overloaded nesting chimneys are among the highlights of this blog.

As ever we start with a wee bit of catching up from the previous round of monitoring and some interesting observations from around Manitoba. Following failure to mention this in the previous email, we begin in Wolesley and Nicole at the Fleetwood. There appears to be a settled pair from monitoring details on the 5th and 12th at this location. Assiniboine School also had a fairly average 177 swifts enter the chimney for the evening. Excuse of the week goes to Christian in St James. He located a new chimney on a private house on his street – apparently he’s away monitoring birds too much during summer to notice swifts diving into chimneys two doors down! Admittedly he did leave before dawn the next morning for a week of grassland bird monitoring in southwestern Manitoba so maybe we should not be too harsh on him. Bob and Valerie had 8 entries to count and 4 exits at the New Silver Heights Apartment, a total of 4 in the chimney.

Over to Melita and Jessica sent in reports of a probable nesting pair at the Health Centre. Speaking of Melita, Ken managed to track 2 swifts into the Ag Building and then drew the bonus of finding another pair in a private property by the museum complete with wonky chimney.

On the 9th, John counted a pair at the McDermot site, Margaret and Millie had 2 in their Brandon site, Cam and Diann had 1 in the Lac du Bonnet Physiotherapy and Jessica again had 2 in Melita.

Move to the 10th and Ken and Jan counted 8 in in Dauphin, including exits. The numbers here appear to be fluctuating this year but the one consistent thing is that there appear to be entries and exits and possible extra birds in town. We await their news with great interest from now on. Gord and Janice visited Manitou on the 10th, spotting a pair of swifts which unfortunately did not enter the church chimney.

Persistence finally paid for Blaire in St Norbert on the 12th, 1 swift entered the church chimney after seemingly weeks of teasing. This was her SEVENTH monitoring attempt at chimneys in St Norbert before one popped in. Strangely, the additional birds present but unaccounted on previous nights did not make a show.

In La Broquerie it was David’s turn to be bemused by the actions of the local swifts. Previously he had consistent pairs in both church chimneys plus extra birds in other unknown roosts. These birds however did not show on the 5th leaving David to assume they had moved on. Instead they reappeared! David adds that


‘My’ 2 pairs were flying around close to the church and at 9.02 and 9.03 one pair went down the large chimney.  At 9.07 oneindividual went down the small chimney.  After that I could still see 2 and maybe 3 individuals still flying around, but not immediately around the church.  They were more above the area where I had spotted 2 possible chimneys so I guess I’ll have to do a bit more spotting.’


Mike and Michele had a simpler evening in Saint Francois Xavier with their pair bedding in for the night at the church. Gord in Portage also recorded a pair in the Red River College chimney. Frank and Jacquie also had entrances and exits at Otterburne, 5  swifts in total in the three chimneys with a spread of 2, 2 and 1 across the chimneys.

St James again had some crazy activity. Jane at the Moorgate counted 10 entries and 4 exits for a total of 6 and Bob and Valerie noted (somehow) 13 entrances and 8 exits giving a total of 5. The constant activity in these sites would suggest nesting pairs with helpers.

To Osborne Village and Patricia scored bonus of the night, detecting activity on a second invisible chimney on top of 424 River with an active breeding pair. There were also 2  entries on the visible chimney. Tim at the church had 2  swifts enter by 9:19 in the large chimney and nothing in the funky side chimney (photos will follow soon on this one – it’s rather unusual). Finally Marie-Eve completed the set with 3 entries at the Rosemount. That’s 9 active chimneys noted in this area in 2017.

Finally, Rob and Barb headed to La Salle and sent the following report:

‘We scored another new site! Arriving in La Salle at 8:12 PM, we saw 3 swifts, then 4, flying low over StHyacinthe Church and in the immediate area. Sightings were constant until the roosting hour then 3 swifts was the highest number we saw. By curfew we had a single entry followed by 2 swifts entering one after the other in the bigger, East Chimney. So the total roosting = 3 and one bird was unaccounted for.’

We will add more about the opportunities for the remainder of the season later this week but for now please accept our gratitude for all your hard work over this monitoring season. Any additional information will always be gratefully received.

– Tim and the MCSI team

Rain Drops Keep Falling on My Datasheet

MCSI-2 June 9, 2017: Rain Drops Keep Falling on My Datasheet or Do I Monitor If The Weather Is Inclement?

“Keep your eyes to the sky” is our favourite Chimney Swift mantra. Tonight, keep your eyes to the sky for a tantrum which Mother Nature may be playing out.

Environment Canada is predicting wide-ranging thunderstorms for Manitoba, stretching from Dauphin to Brandon/Portage La Prairie to Winnipeg to Steinbach and surrounds. While the Chimney Swifts love feeding at the edge of storm fronts, where insects are pushed into the air column, electricity and monitors is not a good mix. Safety comes first, so please assess the weather tonight if you are considering a monitoring session.

Let’s aim for Monday, June 12th as an alternate date for MCSI-2 which will be our last formal night of spring monitoring.

Thanks to the heroic efforts of our Three Big Roost monitors, we have captured the apparent seasonal peaks for 2017. Many of our nest site monitors have reported entry/exit activity which indicates nest building is underway. It will soon be time to mull over the dataset and put the spring arrival/dispersal story together.

We hoped to kick back and enjoy a group viewing session at Assiniboine School on June 13th with June 14th being a rain date. Mother Nature seems intent on challenging both of those dates too. So, there is a change in plans…

Assiniboine School

The new, hopefully drier, viewing night for Assiniboine School is now Tuesday, June 20 with Wednesday, June 21 being the alternate date. We will assemble an hour before sunset, ~8:40 PM, and hope for a spectacular Summer Solstice swift show!

There is more action to follow this summer. Beyond the four spring National Roost Monitoring Program nights and the two MCSI spring monitoring nights, many of our monitors continue to track swifts at their sites. Also, Tim is focussing on securing monitoring for a shortlist of 30 sites which need a second documentation of use before the chimney can be registered with Environment Canada as critical habitat. More on this next week…

Happy and Safe Swifting, Tim & Frank & Barb for MCSI

Here’s the latest!

Firstly, I apologise that we have not responded to emails this week. I am currently on an IBA trip to Churchill and very busy. But thank you everyone who has got back to us so far, it is much appreciated. Some of you have asked ‘what next?’ We will answer that over the coming days. We still have a final MCSI night on Friday and would love it if as many of you could get out to monitor as possible. 


Swift with twig

Here we come to the end of the National Roost Monitoring Program 4 nights and with one single MCSI night to follow on Friday before Chimney Swift monitoring anarchy raises its head (more to follow on post formal night monitoring in later blogs), here is the latest news from Manitoba swiftland.

 Before completing a summary of Tuesday evening and the latest monitoring results, we need to revisit NRMP#3 to complete the picture from that evening. We have to start at the Moorgate on Portage and Jane. Jane monitored the Assiniboine Conservatory chimney in 2015 and saw nothing. In 2016 she took on a site in Charleswood and endured more zero counts. For NRMP#1 she looked at the Deer Lodge and did not see a single bird. Skipping ahead to Thursday, Jane recorded a fantastic 14 entries – a much larger roost at this site than previously recorded. I hope the wait for a top chimney was worth it Jane! The number rose to 16 for the final NRMP with multiple entries and exits as well – maybe some nest building in that roost?

 Luc had his usual pair at Saint-Jean-Baptiste but of more interest was the total of 5 birds in the air. More mystery as Luc has previously searched all over town for chimneys. Blaire continues to see swifts in St Norbert but including Tuesday evening, they are not using the only known chimneys at the church and Behavioural Foundation. Strange – as with Luc, Blaire has kept a strong eye out for chimneys over the past couple of years. She still had birds but no entreis ont he final NRMP evening. Garry has also confirmed a pair in his Watt Street sites.

 In Selkirk, all 3 chimneys are now occupied, pairs in the small chimneys and 7 in the large roost – down on previous years at a time when the large roost at Assiniboine School seems to be about to burst, something for the MCSI stat bods to ponder.

 To last night and Ken in Dauphin sent in his report as follows:

 ‘Well, it was exciting but at the same time disappointing tonight watching for swifts. I had one of the local guys organize an observation night tonight for geocachers and had 6 extra people. We saw a slow increase in numbers from 3 to 6 but when it came to birds going down the chimney, it was so dark, only Jan saw 1 go down none of the others!’

 What a night to throw a spanner in the works from the swifts!

 In La Broquerie, David had his 2 church pairsbehaving like a bunch of love-sick teenagers’. His extra birds seem to have moved on since Thursday and there was no activity around two new chimneys in town.

 Cam saw nothing at the Elan Design site except a pigeon nesting on the chimney but John was back up to 2 at McDermott. 4 volunteers managed to score swifts entering 7 chimneys in Osborne Village. Lauren, following 3 zero counts in the West End moved to the United Church and lucked out with 1 swift entering the chimney and a pair swooping into a structure on the side of the church which doesn’t even look like a chimney! We are investigating. Marie-Eve finally had an entry with 1 swift at the Rosemount, a new site. Tim also scored a swift on a new site, 1 at 424 River. Earlier in the evening he also caught 2 disappear into 100 Roslyn and 3 into the Biltmore en route to 424 River. Luck! Pat completed the set catching 4 entries at 321 Stradbrook. A great evening then for everyone.

 Jenny had a nesting pair at the Hampton Church rear chimney but nothing in the side chimney. Kelly-Anne also had 2 swifts on Academy. Badal counted 5 swifts in a very active chimney at the Flag Shop on Pembina. 

 Barb and Rob watched two chimneys at Lanark Gardens, Barb reported that

 ‘I had entries and exits at 465 B (nest building!) but all of the swifts were in the air at curfew!’

Frank and Jacquie returned to Otterburne and recorded 2 swifts in each chimney. Christian also counted 2  swifts into one of the Melita chimneys. Gord reported from Portage that:

 The number of swifts in Portage has dropped by half, with the most birds seen in the air at one time being five. Cal was at Trinity Church and had three entries. Janice had one entry at the MTS building. I was at Red River College and had two entries at the revamped chimney.’

 Diann and Cam in Lac du Bonnet still had a pair at the physio but not at the inn. There is still an extra pair in town to sleuth and Diann also had a swift in Pinawa. Maybe a chimney to find there. Margaret and Millie had 4 entries in the Orange Block on June 1st in Brandon but dropped down to 1 on June 5th. In St Francois Xavier, Mike and Michele had a very active evening as a pair of swifts were actively nest building. They asked if this was good news – oh yes it was!

On June 6th Valerie and Bob had a very active roosting hour with multiple entries and exits from their active swifts

 Thanks you everyone who participated in the NRMP. Again it would be great to get as many folk out for the final formal MCSI roost count of 2017. We also have the Assiniboine School Swift Watch on June 13th at 8:30pm

 Happy swifting!


June is busting out all over…

2017 is certainly turning into a very interesting year for Chimney Swifts. With just a couple of days to go before the cut-off for successful breeding (according to MCSI data from St Adolphe), we saw a huge swelling in roosting numbers at Assiniboine School – 195 in total. Last nights third NRMP was certainly full of mystery as we will see in the coming round-up.

The place to begin is probably with the most dramatic swift monitoring of the night – not at Assiniboine School – but at Otterburne where Frank arrived to monitor with fire truck and the RCMP actively putting out a blaze in a residential building at Providence College. Unfortunately the building could not be saved but obviously most importantly no one was hurt. Frank’s report included:

‘There was a fire in a dormitory at Providence College last night. When I arrived, there was a lot of smoke (drifting toward the river), fire trucks, gawkers, etc. The actual fire was in a building west of our chimneys, but there was lots of human activity near chimney 552 (trucks parking in the lance below our “skinny” chimney. . Smoke did not seem especially dense or acrid, and was almost imperceptible by 22:00. I did see five CHSW circling high above the campus at 20:32, but I only saw two CHSW enter chimneys later (and much later than usual).’

In Winnipeg, Rob and Barb had a rather uninteresting evening out at U of M, no birds. They had also visited the church at La Salle during the week with little luck. On a positive note, Barb has the following report from her St Adolphe sites:

‘three pairs are busy nest building: Main St, plus the NE and SE Club Amical! I am shocked the Church pair which roosted on MCSI-1 night May 20 is not underway; there is a lot of daily activity at the demolition site due north and plumes of dirt/dust are nearly constant…this may be the reason; will keep checking diligently until the June 3 “deadline”. Brodeur Bros. is not being used during the daytime and no roosting swifts were onsite when I checked by video May 20.’

Since this was sent, Barb has confirmed that the church pair are starting to build their nest.

Lauren saw 5 swifts overhead at the West End Commons but no one decided to take the plunge. Richard took on Academy and counted 2 entries. John had also lost a swift at the McDermott site with only 1 entering at 8:54. leaving again at 9:44 and returning a couple of minutes later – who knows what happened there! In Osborne Village Hannah, Marie-Eve and Tim retained their vigil on three apartments. At least 12 swifts were patrolling the skies above throughout the evening, although it is likely more were present across the wider area. Hannah had 4 entries and an exit on the The Village Apartments and Tim saw 2 enter a new site further east on Stradbrook. Marie-Eve for the third time saw no entries on her chimney. Earlier in the week, Tim also struck gold, watching 2 swifts entering a chimney opposite the Nature Manitoba office at lunchtime. Rudolf visited his Kildonan sites and noted 2 enter the 1010 Brazier chimney but nothing in his other two. 4 further swifts were noted in the area beforehand.

David’s report from St James went as follows:

‘We had a quite a few observers on Thursday. Adolf and Anna and their granddaughter Zoe as well as Jake and Don. I arrived a bit late. First entries occurred at 9:38 and visual count was 51 but video seems to suggest more like 58. At 9:50 another 44 entered, no video for this group. At 9:57 visual count was 50, but video seems to say closer to 60. I am vague on the video count here because there seems to be a point where a couple of swifts entered and then immediately exited and even with video which focuses and unfocusses because the swifts are moving, it is difficult to tell. Last entry occurred at 10:02. Visual count was 178 in total, however if I use the count from the videos I add 17 more and we have 195. Weather was wonderful, warm, mostly clear and a bit breezy. We also had 2 entries at the Carillon, 1 at 9:11 and 1 at 9:17. Also 1 entry at the Kings at 9:17.

​Jenny, also in St James also recorded her first swifts entering the chimney at the Hampton Church, 2 entering the easternmost one.

Michele flew solo out in St Francois Xavier and was rewarded with a bonus two extra swifts, 4 roosting for the night. In Nearby Portage, Cal had 3 swifts in the church but 13 in the air early on in the evening. and Gord watched 1 lonely swift make its way into the chimney on the Correctional Facility. The numbers in Portage have notably picked up in the last couple of days. Further west, Margaret and Millie also had 4 swifts enter the Orange Block in Brandon.

David in La Broquerie sent a report after a frustrating evening out (if having four swifts enter the chimneys can be described in such a way):

‘For most of the time I was there, there were 4 swifts, clearly 2 pairs, but at one time I counted 7 as they flew over me.  Later, after 4 had gone down for the night I saw another 4 in the air and though I waited til 10pm they never went down.  There were a few fly-bys or look-sees after the first 4 had gone down, but no entries.  So where did the other 4 go?’

David has a couple of places to check including his own artificial tower, so we await his news in the next couple of days. In another odd development, the Dauphin roost dropped to only 2 birds overnight, although up to 7 were spotted in the air. Breeding has not as far as I aware been recorded in Dauphin so maybe we are going to see something new occurring in 2017. Ken and Jan will no doubt have their work cur out.

Onto the next evening which is on Monday 5th June, the final NRMP (but not monitoring night) of 2017. We are also excited about the SwiftWatch at Assiniboine School on the 13th. Over the next evening count, you should start to detect more entry and exit cycles as birds continue to build their nests, so keep a good eye out for rapid changeovers.

Happy Swifting everyone!

– The MCSI Team