Firstly, my apologies for the egregiously overused Portlandia line, but this post really is about putting pictures of birds on things. You see, the transition from summer to fall is a magical time in the Pacific NW. The leaves are beginning to turn, the smell of fresh rain is in the air, and desperate sun seekers spend hours stuck in traffic returning from the coast on Sunday afternoons—a small price to pay for one last chance at a sunny beach weekend. But within Portland, the one true sign of the arrival of fall is the return of the Vaux’s Swifts, who spend their late evenings swarming the Chapman Elementary School chimney before eventually roosting within.
The swirling of the Swifts into the chimney at Chapman School is a site pleasing to the eye. Image by Chad Draizin
The so-called Chimney Swifts, which now number in the thousands, have been roosting at Chapman Elementary since the 1980’s. The school was actually modified to discontinue use of the chimney in order to support the roosting avians, a move that we certainly appreciate as we, ourselves, put great effort into living in balance with the natural world. Over the few, brief weeks that the Swifts are in town before continuing their southward migration, they will also draw large flocks of human beings who are eager to witness the erratic majesty of the birds’ flight. It is one of the most unique natural occurrences in this area, and presents a perfect photo opportunity.
Chapman School - temporary home to the Swifts for the month of September. Image by Nichole Alhadeff
If you plan to photograph the Swifts this year, here are some things to keep in mind. A long lens will help you zoom in on the birds, which are quite small, and see over the crowds of people. Steadiness is key as the light will be low, so a tripod will help, but be mindful of those behind you. Most importantly, don’t let your pictures be lost in time in a Facebook album—make prints! This, of course, is where we come in. Plywerk panels, being made from sustainably harvested bamboo and maple, are a perfect medium on which to put birds. (Well, pictures of birds, we mean.) In fact, 5 out of 5 Chimney Swifts agree that Plywerk is the preferable alternative to traditional picture frames (something about birds not liking glass; we can understand).
Get out there while you can, and don’t forget to send us your pictures so we can take some Plywerk and put a bird on it! (I just can’t help myself!)