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