As many Yakkers have concluded (myself included), Rich is befuddled
and really doesn't have a clue about the dynamics of the avian world.
Tuesday evening I decided to give the Parker Heights School chimney
another look. I came away dazed and fazed. My newest theory on
swift roost events is that like snowflakes, no two are exactly alike.
Usually (?) arriving at a site a half-hour before sunset puts you on the
scene before any sizable gathering of swifts. Tuesday's sunset was
close to 7:43 pm. I arrived at the school at 6:52...almost an hour before
sunset. And what did I see but swifts diving on the chimney with the
vengeance depicted in childhood cartoons when some fool with a stick
whacks a hornet nest.
At the bottom of the tally sheet I use, I have the following advice from
Vaux's Happening Coordinator Larry Schwitters: In nice weather, the
swifts will go to roost close to sunset. Dark, cold and windy conditions
result in earlier entry. But the real complication is rain. Swifts beat
the big drops regardless of time of day
Given that heads up, I expected the evenings high gray overcast with
just very scattered mini-raindrops and little wind to result to possibly
result in the swifts starting to mass around 7:15 pm.
Heck no! They were dropping like flies at 6:52 pm.
6:55 - 255 swifts in
7:03 - 175 more
7:10 - 155
7:15 - 30
7:18 - 20
7:24 - 40
And then spread over the next twenty minutes, another 29 entered,
the last one at 7:44.
So, 704 (plus how many before I arrived?) in the house by 7:44. Two
days earlier, NO swifts entered prior to 7:57 and 496 of the 497 roosting
that night made the plunge in mass in the two minutes between 8:06
My conclusion is that these are definitely dry-land loving EASTERN
Washington swifts. A WESTERN Washington swift would have never
considered last night's weather to be dark OR cold OR windy OR
(most importantly) a big-drop rain event.
Also new to me last night was the high number of birds spinning or
popping out of the top of the stack. Often a single or handful of swifts
would "fall" beneath the rim only to pop back out over the rim in a
second or two and then rejoin the feigners.
Arriving with entry underway, was discombobulating.
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