Are you still pretending that I’m still in Portland? Good. I learned around the campfire at the wedding ( I love that…campfires and weddings should always go together) that the Vaux’s swifts were passing through Portland on their southerly migration and that they roosted en masse in a now defunct boiler chimney at the Chapman School in northwest Portland. Of course I went to watch. Of course I hoped that not only would I see thousands of roiling swifts circling in a vortex, which I did, but that one of P’town’s resident peregrines might come to nab some dinner. As 17,000 swifts — according to the Audubon volunteers situated at the top of the hill overlooking the school — gathered into a tighter and tighter cloud as the dusk light grew fainter, a peregrine shot out of nowhere and dove into the fray. It made a few failed attempts. The flock of swifts, at one point, broke off from their swirling momentum to seemingly pursue the falcon, mobbing it away from them. But the peregrine was determined.
The 800 or so people who had gathered to watch — spreading their blankets and beach chairs, sipping on wine and eating their packed dinners — instantly formed two teams. One rooted for the swifts, booing the peregrine as she (I say she because the falcon seemed rather large, and most raptors have reverse sexual dimorphism, the females larger than the males) tore through the flock. The rest cheered her on, claiming victory as she thrust herself into the greatest concentration, right above the mouth of the chimney, where the swifts were draining into in an endless stream, and came away with a small form clutched in her talons. And then off she went, likely to the Fremont Bridge that straddles the Willamette River.
Interestingly, that was the first peregrine I’d seen on this road trip, one month in, one month to go.
Here’s an image, not mine, from YouTube: