|What's a chimney swift to do when|
the chimney's entry-proof?
Chimney swifts are birds that roost vertically in upright structures like chimneys. But what’s a swift to do when people cap their chimneys? These resilient birds rely on hollow tree trunks, cave walls, cisterns and wells.
The Jonestown, Texas Swift Fest celebrates the chimney swift and its seasonal loyalty to a cistern just off Highway 1431. (Talk about repeat customers!) The festival, complete with music, barbecue, and activities for kids, takes place in late August, before swifts migrate to their winter quarters in South America.
Swifts may mate for life, but they don’t sleep alone. On late summer nights in Jonestown, hundreds of pairs fly into the 19th-century cistern that sits behind the office of Jones & Carter Real Estate.
At Swift Fest 2014, a representative from the Travis Audubon Society counted 440 birds as they entered the cistern. The annual count has ranged from a high of 2400 to a low of 14. (That low count reportedly was due to a cold front that sent swifts to South America ahead of schedule.)
Here’s a YouTube video that shows the birds dropping into the cistern:
It’s wrong to attribute human characteristics to birds, but as I watched the swifts circle the cistern many, many times before dropping into it, I remembered my kids’ resistance to bedtime, which was always strongest in summer. They'd beg to ride their bikes one more time, run through the sprinkler one more time, play catch one more time. I liked to think each additional minute of bike riding tired them out a little more. Did the multiple cistern fly-bys tire out the swifts? I hope so, because one bird's tossing and turning would have messed with a lot of swifts' sleep.
if you're surprised Jonestown celebrates the chimney swift, know that these birds spend the daylight hours foraging for insects, including mosquitos. Any bird that cuts the mosquito population in late summer deserves a party. Go, swifts!
Been to any unusual festivals lately? Details, please.