Chimney Swifts Chaetura pelagica
It has been widely reported in ornithological journals that all aerial insectivores are suffering serious declines across the continent. Chimney Swifts face the additional problem that many old chimneys are being demolished and breeding habitat is being eliminated.
For the past couple of years we have been monitoring a Chimney Swift roost at Dickson Public School in Cambridge, ON. There is a suitable chimney on this structure which dates back to the mid eighteen-eighties, and it has been well used over the time that we have kept vigil at the site.
This year all that seems to have changed. Two nights ago I watched from around 19:00 to just after 21:00 and saw only nine Chimney Swifts. By this time last year numbers had swelled to more than a hundred. Last night, by 20:00 I had seen but one swift. Bill Read, the single most dedicated watcher in this area, came by and suggested we move to downtown Cambridge, close to the Grand River, where several other chimneys still exist. This is mere seconds away from the Dickson Street School for a rapidly flying Chimney Swift. The activity was a little better but we still counted a disappointing seventeen swifts for the night.
What has happened I am unable to say, but these numbers do not bode well for Chimney Swifts in southern Ontario. It is hard to believe that the Dickson School chimney has simply been abandoned considering that by the end of August last year almost five hundred swifts were entering to roost for the night. Nothing about the chimney has changed and the nine swifts I saw on Sunday night did indeed go into the chimney for the night.
On a little happier note, we saw our first two migrating Common Nighthawks Chordeiles minor for the year and after dark we checked the Great Egret Ardea alba roost along the banks of the Grand River and were very happy to note eleven birds settled in a tree at bank side.