Last week I witnessed a plume of nearly 30,000 Vaux’s Swifts spinning through the air and down the massive chimney at Chapman Elementary School in Northwest Portland. At first glance, the swirling birds looked like reverse pollution down the top of the brick tower. Looking closer, I focused on the tiny creatures that composed the cloud, dancing in an arabesque toward their nightly roost. They do this every year for three weeks in September, a pit stop on their migration south.
Almost as impressive as this natural phenomenon was the crowd of people who had gathered to watch. It was like a fireworks show, with families on blankets and the smell of beer and wine. The audience spoke in hushed tones, as if their voices might disturb the performance. And when the last black speck finally fluttered into the smoke stack, the group of birdwatchers stood up and spontaneously broke into applause.
Here’s another interesting Swift Movement.