A man takes a photo of the Vaux Swifts during Swift Night Out on Sept. 8, 2018 in Monroe, Wa. Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

A man takes a photo of the Vaux Swifts during Swift Night Out on Sept. 8, 2018 in Monroe, Wa. Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Thousands of Vaux’s swifts put on a show at chimney in Monroe

The Vaux’s Happening Project counted a third of a million of the wee birds migrating in Washington.

Vaux’s swifts poured into the Wagner Performing Arts Center’s chimney in Monroe last month, keeping watchers and counters happy and busy. Or, as Vaux’s swifts expert Larry Schwitters reported that, during Swifts Night Out, “Nearly 5,000 wee birds entertained nearly 1,000 humanoids … It was 26 minutes of WOW!”

On Sept. 12, a counter documented nearly 10,000 swifts going into the roost. Two days later, Schwitters said that 10,000 of the birds left the chimney, probably headed south.

Schwitters has taken the “wee birds’” counts to down to the second, literally.

In the morning of Sept. 16, after a night of 5,571 swifts entering the roost, he timed their departure: 9 minutes, 10 seconds at 10:41 a.m.; or 550 seconds of swifts leaving at an average rate of “10 wee birds” a second, according to Schwitters.

By Sept. 25, the last of the Vaux’ swifts flock left Monroe and headed south.

“Our Audubon Vaux’s Happening Project documented a third of a million of these wee birds going to roost in Washington state this last migration.”

Now that’s some happening.

Vultures. Yes, those flocks of large birds circling high in the sky are turkey vultures heading south in their drifting, winging-tipping style.

In western North America in the fall, large groups fly as far as southern South America. Many of the vultures that summer in British Columbia migrate to wintering grounds in Venezuela, traveling around 200 miles a day.

They gather on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, then on a warm day take the thermals and cross the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the Olympic Peninsula, then south.

Because they need thermals, they travel during the day and avoid over-the-water routes. They seldom stop to eat.

Sewage. The Stanwood Waste Water Treatment Plant can provide a variety of birds. A recent Pilchuck Audubon outing spotted waterfowl on the water, some harassed by a peregrine falcon and an eagle. Seen were canvasbacks, buffleheads, greater scaups, blue-winged teal and common goldeneye, plus greater yellowlegs, long-billed dowitchers, pectoral sandpiper and horned grebes.

ADA map. Washington State Parks has launched an interactive online recreation map developed for people with disabilities. State parks have many Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant campsites, restrooms, trails, restrooms, showers, cabins and docks. Go to www.parks.state.wa.us/ada-recreation.

Killer whale tales. Biologist, researcher and professional photographer Jeff Hogan will put on “a whale of a show” at 1 p.m. Oct. 20 at the Northwest Stream Center in McCollum Park, 600 128th St. SE, Everett. It’s a talk and video that has been enjoyed by more than 70,000 people.

Reservations are required. Visitors will enjoy seeing a trout stream exhibit and fall foliage next to a half-mile-long nature trail, most of which is on an elevated boardwalk 3 feet above the forest floor and surrounding wetlands. The Gate House will open one hour in advance for early arrivals. Call 425-316-8592 to make a reservation. Cost is $5 Adopt A Stream Foundation members, $7 non-members.

Jungle out there. A study involving 1,400 locations, hundreds of citizen-scientists, and countless camera-trap images in Washington, D.C., and Raleigh, North Carolina, has showed that the assumption that developed areas have fewer mammals and less variety than wild areas may be in error.

North Carolina State University researchers found that there wasn’t a significant difference in mammal populations between the suburban areas and nearby wild areas in terms of how many species used them and the intensity with which they used those areas.

Cameras showed some bears near Washington, D.C., and bobcats in southern Durham, North Carolina.

A factor may be that these areas, in general, have lost the largest predator species; and the mammals are more adaptable to human areas.

Columnist Sharon Wootton can be reached at 360-468-3964 or songandword@rockisland.com.

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