Roseburg Swift Watch – Friday Evenings During the Fall Southward Migration!

Location: Fir Grove section of Stewart Park behind the Umpqua Valley Arts Center off of Harvard Avenue

Dates/Times: Swift Watch is generally held several Friday evenings during the fall migration beginning an hour before sunset, typically beginning late in August and ending the middle of September.

Vaux’s Swifts (pronounced “vawks”) nest only in Western North America, migrating to Central and South America for the winter. Each year, thousands of Swifts gather in the chimney adjacent The Clay Place in the Fir Grove section of Stewart Park off of Harvard Avenue behind the Umpqua Valley Arts Center during their spring migration. At sunset during migration, Swifts gather in the dozens, sometimes hundreds or thousands, to communally roost. Typically, these roost sites are, as here, old industrial chimneys. While numbers vary from year to year, the display can be spectacular.

The Swifts exit the chimney in a very different way – more of a bubbling water fountain than a tornado.  And the exit time is much less predictable, occurring anytime from sunrise to mid-afternoon.

During Swift Watch, Umpqua Valley Audubon Society members will be available Friday evenings to serve as interpretive naturalists, with information and brochures about Vaux’s Swifts as well as more general information about birding and our natural world. We also often coordinate with local artists to provide free art activities for kids ages 5 and up; participants must be supervised by an adult.  In addition, weather permitting, the “Swifts Sisters and Friends” often join us to play Americana music, so come out and join in the fun.

In addition, throughout the fall migration, Audubon members will be participating in a West Coast wide data collection effort. We know swifts have lost much of their natural habitat and the number of chimneys available for roosting and nesting is also on the decline. Little is known about even the most basic habits of Vaux’s Swifts, to say nothing of how many there actually are. Working in conjunction with our partners up and down the west coast, we hope to fill in some of the data gaps.

Our data collection is part of the work being done by Vaux’s HappeningVaux’s Happening promotes the conservation of migrating Vaux’s Swifts by raising awareness of the spectacular roosting events this species displays at a limited number of large trees and old masonry structures on the Pacific Flyway. Since its beginning in the spring of 2008, the project has documented over eight million individual roosting events in the US, Canada and Mexico. It is our hope that public awareness of the importance of these sites will play a positive role in the sites’ protection.

Roseburg Swift Watch is a partnership of Umpqua Valley Audubon Society, the City of Roseburg Parks & Recreation Division, and Umpqua Valley Arts Association.