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

NRMP 2 – The Night the Swifts Didn’t Show and What it Really Meant

Thank you to everyone who went out on a cold, windy, damp and not especially pleasant Sunday evening to count swifts. The good news is that we have reports from 21 chimneys, a phenomenal effort given the conditions. The bad news if that only 5, yes 5, of the monitored chimneys reported an entry by Chimney Swifts. This raises the question question, is this bad news for the swifts or merely a temporary blip? We shall look into this in the coming blog.

We start our round of activities in the west and Brandon. Margaret and Millie recorded a pair entering their usual chimney and also saw a third bird in the air. New volunteer David took on a new site on Princess Street but after 3 visits has still to see activity. Further north, John Hays dropped in at the Riding Mountain Visitor Centre earlier in the week, recording entries by 2 swifts and also noted a second pair in the area. Still further north, Ken in Dauphin experienced the rare jolt of zero entries.

In Portage, Gord and co were left disappointed, zero birds in the air and no entries at the United Church and Correctional Facility. Janice had recorded entries by 5 swifts on May 15th at the church. There were also no swifts in Southport on May 27th. Mike and Michele had been experiencing much success in St Francois-Xavier this year. That is until bleak Sunday and there were no swifts around the church during the roosting hour.

In Selkirk, 7 swifts were counted entering the large stack by Gerald and Robert (hurrah). The other chimneys in the Mental Health Centre were empty. 4 swifts were noted later in the evening around the large stack but didn’t enter. Cam and Diann had seen swifts in Lac du Bonnet but again were hit by a zero count on Sunday. David in La Broquerie saw no sign of swifts, although he did count 3 swifts enter the Steinbach chimney on Friday evening.

In South Winnipeg, Blaire has monitored the church and the behavioural foundation in St Norbert with no entries, however she is seeing swifts in the evening. Frank and Jacquie did see 4  entries in 2 chimneys on Sunday evening at Providence College.

In Winnipeg there were also mixed results. Lauren trying the West End Commons site, not previously monitored for swifts saw nothing, as did John up at McDermot, Barb and Rob at the University of Manitoba and Kelly-Anne on Academy. Tim, Patricia and Marie-Eve watched  swifts appear as if from nowhere in Osborne Village around 8:46 but then trail off in a line, presumably to take up residence in a communal roost somewhere nearby. At least one of the chimneys being monitored that evening had previously had roosting swifts this year. David at Assiniboine School wrote:

I arrived at the chimney at 8:16 and immediately saw a group of 7 swifts fly over the chimney and then enter. A minute later another 7 appeared and then entered. So 14 had entered by 8:17. Shortly after at 8:20 a group I estimated at 30 began circling the school yard and it grew to about 50 but didn’t enter until 8:35 much to my consternation. I was trying to video them since I knew they would be hard to count and so I kept lifting my iPad and lowering it when they didn’t enter. When they did finally enter it was one bunch of 26 in 7 seconds and one bunch of 25 in 3 seconds. As soon as I stopped the video 3 more entered. By 8:53 104 swifts in total had entered. The last 2 entered at 9:05. Grand total 106. I mention the 104 by 8:53 because the “normal roosting hour” with sunset at 9:23, would begin at 8:53 and these birds all entered before that.’ 

So Assiniboine School had increased from 77 swifts on the 24th to 106 on the 28th. However this is well below the season peak of 210 on May 18th. Another interesting thing happened yesterday at the zoo. Tim and Patricia were giving Chimney Swift presentations to students at Assiniboine School on Monday (we’ll post photos later this week). At lunchtime, on arriving back from a quick bite to eat, there were large numbers of swifts swirling around the chimney. At 12:04, 3 swifts entered the chimney. Within a couple of minutes, around 66 had entered. So what is going on?

Firstly, this is not a new behaviour, and has been noted in Manitoba before. Ken Wainwright in Dauphin writes that:

‘A few years back, we were at a gas bar that used to be 1/2 block from the Dauphin roost in the early afternoon, weather was overcast, maybe rain in area (it was a few years back now) and we heard and then saw swifts going down the roost chimney.’

Lewis Cocks has also noted that:

‘In previous years, I’ve witnessed Chimney Swifts on several occasions flying fast and low over water at Fort Whyte Alive during “miserable” cold very windy days when some insects were emerging from the ponds.  They were accompanied by many Swallows and a few Night Hawks. It was amazing to watch them flying and especially amazing to watch them flying into the strong north wind with apparent ease.’

Barb Stewart also added some very valuable thoughts

The literature does speak to swifts withdrawing in prolonged bouts of inclement weather to roost and go into torpor. It is an energy saving mechanism. It does not surprise me at all that the swifts would try to feed today then “decide” to roost up when the lack of insects became an issue; as a reference, the City of Winnipeg uses 12 C as a threshold for spraying insecticide. 


‘In my experience, I have seen one “early” daytime entry event that was weather related. An August premigratory group in St Adolphe started grouping up in advance of a fast moving, nasty t-storm which was setting up. I made it down in time to see ~19 swifts dive into the Church. After about an hour the electricity stopped, the rain backed off, and the swifts came out.’

Finally, Rob Stewart adds this:

‘It is probably a truism, that the more you look at something the more complicated it gets. The short answer is as Barb said: it was likely too miserable to be out. But what does miserable mean?

Too cold for bugs to be flying?

Zammuto and Franks 1981 say

Weather conditions seemed to affect reentry into the roost. On cold or rainy mornings, over 90% of the swifts that left a chimney reentered it within 30 min. On these mornings, some were reentering while others were leaving. A shortage of insects in the air may also cause reentry. The number of insects in flight was likely very high at daybreak but probably declined sharply after sunrise (McClure 1938; Glick 1939, 1957). Reduced aerial prey may have caused the swifts to reenter the roost-site at sunrise (on the average of 11 min after departure) where they remained until later in the morning.

At some stage it is also likely that, bugs or no, the birds themselves can’t stay warm. Zammuto and Franks also said that some cold mornings more birds ‘returned’ than left and figured they were coming from other smaller roosts to get a better heat source (more birds).

So I don’t know the details but it makes perfect sense for the birds to go home when it is more advantageous to do so than to continue flying and a negative energy balance is the avenue for making that decision.’

It therefore appears likely that the swifts on Monday were resting due to either a lack of food, or the need to conserve energy, or both. The same explanation might explain why many of you saw few or no birds on Sunday. The likelihood is that this was indeed a blip and Thursday evening we will see a return to normality if the improved weather holds. The key may well be Assiniboine School. If numbers here drop-off markedly from Sunday then this would suggest a redistribution by many swifts to their nesting chimneys – swifts which as the paper quoted by Rob above suggests, were coming to the large roost to retain warmth. It is also very likely that for many of you, your swifts were already tucked up in their chimney for the evening and hoping for better the following day.

We will send out details of NRMP evening 3 after June 1 – for now thank you for your continued efforts on behalf of MCSI.


A Gentle Reminder

Tomorrow, Sunday May 28, is the next designated monitoring night in the National Roost Monitoring Program.

Just in case you need a reminder, watch your chimney for one hour before sunset to 1/2 hour after sunset; record the time of every entry or exit event; note the number of swifts seen during the entry and exit events.  Sunset will be 9:23 PM in Winnipeg.

The remaining observation nights are June 1, June 5, and June 9.

Happy chimney-gazing!

About last night…

National Roost Monitoring Program
Night 1 Highlights

Thank you to everyone who managed to get out last night and monitor swifts in your towns and neighbourhoods. We have had some great feedback from a number of you and some intriguing patterns are developing across Manitoba.

Before moving to last night, a quick catch-up is needed with some monitoring which was not included in the last email update. Luc in Saint-Jean-Baptiste is where we should begin. Luc has been counting swifts in that chimney for few years but last Saturday he was the recipient of a completely new experience. I will leave Luc to tell the story:

‘Just for the records, I might have missed some entries because I was distracted during the count by two police officers. Someone in town called the police saying there was a stranger parked in the church area with binoculars… I have been in town for only 17 years… Anyway, after letting them know who I was (driver’s licence and all), what I was doing and describing chimney swifts, their nesting habits and the MCSI monitoring program, they left, laughing.’

 Phew, good job Luc – and he had a single entry, possibly missing the second one due to distractions – there were 2 birds around earlier in the evening. On a related note though, we have factsheets available and copies of the windscreen notice if anyone should want these. Please let us know if you do.

 David returned to Assiniboine School on Tuesday after his Monday no-show and counted 93 swifts. It certainly looks like we are beyond the peak of that large roost – but then again, who knows what the week might bring.

Speaking of large roosts, Ken in Dauphin had 6 birds enter the roost last night, a very low number for that site and again below the recent peak. Interestingly he did have a couple of extra birds which roosted elsewhere, a rare occurrence in Dauphin. Maybe there will be a nesting pair up there in 2017? Only time will tell. Ken also managed to recruit some local geocachers to watch the chimney last night – a creative way of trying to recruit new volunteers!

To Portage and Gord and Janice had pretty similar results to Saturday, 4 birds in the air and 1 in the old MTS building. No birds used the Red River College chimney which had recently been modified.

In La Broquerie, David recorded use of both church chimneys, 2 in each. So the swifts are sticking with that smaller chimney giving hope that it might become a breeding site in 2017.

Frank and Jacquie are probably our most long distant travelers for monitoring driving from Winnipeg to Otterburne. They recorded use of all the Providence College chimneys with 5 birds in total spread across 3 chimneys. Barb and Rob also made a longer trek from their usual St Adolphe haunts to the wonders of Pembina Highway and the Rexall near the corner of McGillivray. Following a brief daylight entry in 2016 it was imperative to confirm use of this site in 2017 – and they did just that! Barb tells the story as:

‘Rob watched the chimney as I dropped my head to fill out the form. “One in” he yells. “You’re kidding me right?” I said. We had been joking about this scenario unfolding as it did the very first swift night out in 2007… no jokes here, we have documented use of the chimney tonight by 2 swifts!’


John once again counted 2  swifts enter the McDermot chimney, one of several he discovered in 2016. Unfortunately Jane was unable to detect a swift at the Deer Lodge site but there is a corvid nesting on a platform near the top of the chimney – possibly deterring swifts form the area? There were also no shows for Blaire in St Norbert and Justin and the Good News Fellowship team on St Mary’s. New volunteer Kelly-Anne struck lucky with 2 swifts on Academy with at least 5 in the air at one time. Mike and Michelle in St Francois Xavier were also delighted to catch 2 swifts entering the church chimney for the second time this year. Interestingly, their swifts were joined in the air for a while by a third bird who did not return for the roosting hour.


Finally, a group of 4 spread out over Osborne Village to try to crack the Chimney Swift conundrum in that area. What becomes very apparent is that there are a lot of chimneys – more than enough in this area and there are at least 12 swifts in the air. New volunteer Lynnea hit the jackpot at The Biltmore with a pair tucking in for the evening. Patricia at 424 River and Marie-Ève at the United Church were both unfortunate with lots of swift activity in the air but no entries. Tim however failed to see a swift enter his primary chimney at 411 Stradbrook but did pick up a new chimney, catching a 2 swifts disappear into 375 Stradbrook which happened to be behind him – either he has eyes in the back of his head or more likely he didn’t pay enough attention to his own chimney.


Thank you to everyone who has submitted monitoring information so far and if you have more to add please let us know.

The season seems to be flying by. There is more to come though. Our second NRMP date is Sunday 28th June. Let’s hope some of those zeros can be turned to swifts. Sundown will be at 9:24 (Winnipeg and Selkirk), 9:29 (Portage), 9:35 (Brandon) and 9:42 (Dauphin).


Happy swifting everyone!
– The MCSI Team

MCSI’s First Ever 200+ Count!

MCSI Early Season Swift Monitoring Night – MCSI’s First Ever 200+ Count!

Our latest blog covers the first monitoring evening of the season and looks forward at the end to the first National Roost Monitoring Program night this Wednesday.

Thanks to everyone who braved the foul weather over the last couple of days to provide some fascinating monitoring information for MCSI. The season has really got off to an incredibly good start. This weekend we are delighted to report a record roost count for Manitoba since the founding of MCSI, a new chimney and more.

We will start in Portage la Prairie. Gord Ogilvie is leading volunteer efforts again with others assisting him. On Saturday evening they counted a maximum of 4 swifts in the air. One of these entered the old MTS building, one of the 30 priority sites for 2017 and 3 went elsewhere. The Red River College chimney which had recently been modified was watched but alas was empty for the night.

Next to Souris. Katharine Schulz, following a day of monitoring wetlands and grasslands for the IBA Program around Oak Lake stepped in and checked on Murphy’s: An Irish Legacy, surely the finest name of all swift establishments. Overall there were 8 swifts in the area, with 2 entering the chimney and 6 finding another place for the night.

In St Adolphe it appears we have 6 swifts currently in residence with 2 entering the church. We already know that another pair have taken up residence in the Main Street residence leaving another couple unaccounted for. Unfortunately Blaire was not so fortunate in the St Norbert Church, with no birds currently being detected twittering around the town.

Frank and Jacquie headed to Otterburne to monitor the Providence College site. They counted 5 birds, 2 entering the ‘skinny’ chimney and 3 entering the ‘large’ chimney.

David, a long-term volunteer for MCSI in La Broquerie, scored a bonus as a single  swift entered the small chimney at the rear of the church building. This was especially good news for David who had only removed debris blocking access to this chimney in 2016. 2 swifts also roosted in the large church chimney, and another swift flew off to roost elsewhere.

In Winnipeg new volunteer Justine was delighted to count 1 swift enter the Granite Curling Club, only the second record for this building. John again monitored his McDermot site again with 2 entries, although he struck a zero on Monday evening on Princess Street, a site which had a successful nesting attempt in 2016. Chris also counted a pair using the Foodfare on Maryland on Saturday evening.

Now to the big 3 roosts. In Dauphin, Ken commented on the lateness of his swifts, all entering the roost after the official monitoring period had ended at 10:06. At least 19 entered but given he ended up counting in the dark, more might have been around.

In Selkirk, Gerald, Carol and Robert counted 3 chimneys at the Mental Health Centre on Thursday. No swifts entered the smaller of the 3 roosts but 14 did enter the large stack.

Finally for this update we come to Assiniboine School. On Thursday Jake and Adolf took up the monitoring reigns and between 9:00 and 9:25, 210 swifts entered the chimney. Fantastic and seemingly the largest recorded roost in Manitoba since MCSI began in 2006. What makes this especially interesting is that David, Adolf and Anna counted 99 on Saturday, a drop of 111 birds in just two evenings. Where did they go? Well hopefully there will be more swifts distributed across Manitoba in the nights and days to come! The story doesn’t end there though. On Monday evening David recorded this:

‘I was at the chimney from 8:45-9:30 last night. It was pretty cold windy and overcast, although by the end it was beginning to clear. Did not see 1 swift the entire time. They all roosted before 8:45 due to cold and wind?’

This is obviously very strange but David is likely spot on with his final assertion – we will surely have lots of Chimney Swifts around the school for the coming NRMP nights.

Speaking of the NRMP, Wednesday May 24th (tomorrow) is the first official NRMP night. We will be beginning at 1 hour prior to sundown (9:19 in Winnipeg, 9:21 in Selkirk, 9:24 in Portage, 9:30 in Brandon and 9:37 in Dauphin). We look forward to hearing your stories and results from this second big monitoring night of the year. If anyone still needs a site to monitor please let us know, we have some great places looking for a volunteer to watch them. There will be a couple of us in Osborne Village – and we would love to have some more help as there are plenty of possible chimneys with no regular monitors.

Happy swifting!

– Tim, Barb, Frank and the rest of the MCSI team

A New Monitoring Season Begins!

The previous year has literally flown by – and Saturday marks the beginning of Chimney Swift monitoring season for 2017! As previously blogged, we are going for an extra day at the beginning of the National Roost Monitoring Program (NRMP) and an extra day right at the end. This means we are monitoring roosts on:
  • May 20
  • May 24
  • May 28
  • June 1
  • June 5
  • June 9
Just in case you haven’t seen them yet, the instructions and monitoring forms can be downloaded below at:
​2017 swift monitoring already appears to have various people breathless​, with an impressive early build-up of numbers. Since last we blogged Crystal encountered a couple of returning swifts at her private home in St James on Sunday 14th, and Garry reported birds around the Brazier Street chimney on Tuesday the 16th.
The Selkirk birds are back with a bang as well. Winona has already recorded 2 swifts at the Merchants and on Monday 15th May, Robert Hempler counted 7 enter the large stack at the Mental Health Centre.
Chimney Swifts are also making themselves known in Saint-Jean-Baptiste, Luc counting 4 on Sunday evening at the church.
Matt also continues to keep his eyes to the rim in Carman – a swift counted entering the Memorial Hall and another entered a private address.
In Dauphin, Ken counted another 25 swifts on Tuesday 17th entering the roost on Main Street.
Assiniboine School continues to amaze and confuddle. Barb and Rob counted 98 entering on Monday evening and David was back again on Tuesday, counting 91 entering. Interestingly both are now using videos to ensure accurate counting as the fast disappearing clumps are proving difficult to keep up with.
Good luck everyone on Saturday – we hope you enjoy this first night of the season. As you can tell, the season has begun quickly and there are plenty of swifts to hopefully share across as many sites as possible!

– Tim and the MCSI Team