Numbers of Vaux’s swifts should be building throughout most of August and into September. The outside chimneycam is temporarily off-line and we are pursuing repairs. Thousands of Vaux’s swifts roost in the large chimney for several weeks prior to their fall migration. Don’t miss the Monroe Swift Night Out, September 15 from 5:00PM to dusk and for a fun and education packed evening with spectacular views of returning swifts and more: http://monroeswifts.org/see-the-swifts/announce2012/
Vaux's swift (Chaetura vauxi) is the smallest of the four species of swifts in North America. Vaux’s swifts are approximately 5 inches long and are most closely related to hummingbirds. They nest in the Pacific Northwest and winter from central Mexico south to Central America. This unique bird is named after an Englishman, William S. Vaux, and is pronounced "Vawks" rather than "Voh."
Vaux’s swifts spend the majority of their day in the air feeding on flying insects. A single swift may consume as many as 20,000 insects in a single day. Unlike most birds Vaux’s swifts do not have a back talon, so they cannot perch on tree limbs and are most effective at clinging to the rough interior surfaces of hollow trees or rough brick-lined chimneys in urban areas for shelter. Within these hollow spaces, referred to as roosts, a few thousand to several thousand swifts can concentrate as they make their spring or fall migrations. Their roosting sites and movements constitute one of the great migration wonders of the natural world, and the Vaux’s cam in Monroe, Washington, is helping to reveal many little-known secrets about the life of the Vaux’s swift.
The Vaux’s Swiftcam was developed by Larry Schwitters, Project Coordinator for the Audubon Vaux’s Happening. Funding from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and assistance from many supporters and partners has made the camera possible. As of April 2011, the Vaux’s swift cam has been streaming video to the Internet with different views from the Frank Wagner Elementary School Chimney in Monroe, Washington. This school is one of the few places in North America where a large roost of Vaux’s swifts congregates. It is thought to be the second largest such roost in North America, with more than 20,000 swifts counted one night during the spring migration.
What you will see (and hear) in the video clips
OutsideCam, is located on the exterior edge of the chimney and captures images of the swifts as they gather in the evening, forming a dark cloud, and hover above the 4- by 4-foot square, 40-foot high chimney—and then suddenly begin their descent into the chimney, lasting perhaps 40 minutes or more as 20,000 swifts plunge into the roost. The same camera captures the reverse morning exodus. Both movements have attracted the attention of opportunistic predators like crows, falcons and other hawks attempting to take advantage of this large quantity of potential food. The cameras are equipped with a microphone, so turn up your volume to hear as well as see this exciting phenomenon!
ChimneyCam, peers down into the depths of the chimney-roost capturing the largely unknown activities of Vaux’ swift ‘quiet time’.