I saw the swifts

swifts2.jpg

(I didn’t draw this. I just got it from the Web.)

For all your locals:

Tonight was beautiful, cool and autumnal with a luminous half-moon shining though a layer of cloud. I drove downtown to watch the chimney swifts head home to the big chimney at Asheville Middle. A few others also came out to watch the birds.

If you haven’t yet, you should go see them! It’s really something to watch them fly home.

You know, I don’t know that the swifts really make a funnel as they fly. Why do we want to see their movements that way? Tonight what they did was make a big torus, a doughnut-shape in the air, and fly around the chimney in crazy laps. The swifts gradually siphon themselves off into the chimney — it looks like the chimney is a vacuum and is sucking birds in in a thin stream as they circle by. The swifts are black against the darkening sky, flying en masse in crazy circles, swirling and swirling.

I like to pick a single bird and try to watch it make as many laps as I can before I lose sight of it. It makes me dizzy to do this, but it’s fun.

I was at the official Asheville Swift Watch last year, and I think there are more birds this year at the middle school. And the chimney is lower to the ground and closer to where we watched from, so you can see the birds better, and better hear their constant twittering and peeping. Swifts are very small — smaller than a robin, a mere five inches from beak-tip to tail-end. Swift and darting things, they are well-named.

I hope they’re still here next weekend making doughnuts in the sky and sleeping the night away in their chimney. If they are, I’ll be back to watch them swirl home once more. I hope to make watching them an annual thing.

If you want to see the swifts fly home, come to Asheville Middle around 7 or 7:15. Come this week if you can, as they will probably soon head south. Bring something hot to drink if you like. There’s parking right there at the school. To get to Asheville Middle, turn on South French Broad by Nu-Way cleaners on Patton downtown. The school will be on your right. You can catch the swifts’ nightly performance, have a lovely drive home as the world turns blue, and be at your door before true night falls.

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