Counting Chimney Swifts at the Rice Dryer in Dayton
Have you wondered what those folks, sitting in lawn chairs at Dayton's rice dryer parking lot on Thursday evenings around sundown, looking through binoculars and spotting scopes are doing??? Members of the Lower Trinity Valley Bird Club are counting Chimney Swifts as they go to roost in some of the holes of the old American Rice Growers Association rice dryer.
The Bird Club invites you to join in for a "Swift Night Out" on Thursday, August 26 at 7:30 pm in the parking lot of the rice dryer located at the intersection of FM 1960 and State Hwy 321 in Dayton. This is usually the week we count the highest number of swifts, sometimes over 300. To keep up with the progress of "Swifts Over Dayton" check our page on the Houston Audubon Society's web site at http://www.houstonaudubon.org/index.cfm/menuItemID/689.htm
We will continue to meet on Thursday evenings in the parking lot until the birds migrate south in November. Stop by just before sundown to begin counting. It takes about ½ hour as the swifts go to roost right at dark. Sometimes we even spot a raccoon or great-horned owl in the area looking for a "swift" meal. Bring a lawn chair.
Chimney Swifts are birds specialized for high-speed aerial life. Swifts can be seen zipping through the air chasing their favorite feast - flying insects! Chimney Swifts nest in hollowed trees or chimneys. They build a u-shaped nest along the wall to hold the eggs. Swifts are only found in North America from March-November. The rest of their year is spent in South America.
Why should you care about Chimney Swifts? Chimney Swifts eat almost 1/3 their body weight in flying insects such as mosquitoes, flies and termites every day. Like many bird species, Chimney Swifts are declining in numbers and need our help. Chimney Swifts historically used large tree hollows for their roosts and nests, but now have adapted to chimneys and other structures as the old trees are destroyed. Because of losses to their natural nest sites, today, Chimney Swifts rely almost completely on humans for their nesting and roosting structures. Watching the Chimney Swifts dance and glide through the air is a visual delight that everyone should experience.
What can you do to help Chimney Swifts? If you have a masonry (brick) or clay tile chimney, keep the flue closed and the cap open from March-November to allow nesting. (Metal chimneys should be permanently capped to prevent birds from getting trapped in them). Have your chimney cleaned or "swept" before the birds arrive in March for breeding season. (Never hire a chimney sweep who advertises "bird removal". It is against the law to remove chimney swifts while they are nesting). Talk to your friends and family about the benefits of letting Chimney Swifts nest in their chimneys.
For more information on Chimney Swifts visit http://www.chimneyswifts.org This is a project of the Driftwood Wildlife Association.