Chapter Provides a New Home for Chimney Swifts
Sassafras Audubon Society (Bloomington, IN)
For many years, the residents of Bloomington, Indiana enjoyed displays by the Chimney Swifts roosting in the old Fairview School. That is, until plans for a new school threatened to destroy the old building and its chimney along with it. Some Sassafras Audubon Society (SAS) members and neighborhood residents were dismayed because roosting sites of this type are becoming scarce in Bloomington and, for that matter, in most cities and towns across the country.
During the summer of 2008, concerned citizens and SAS members attended a meeting of the Bloomington Planning Commission and local School Board meetings to express their concern about loss of the chimney. They asked that the old chimney be preserved as a freestanding structure or that a swift-friendly chimney be included as part of the new construction. Although the School Board gave a sympathetic hearing, they indicated that they were already over budget and no funds were available for modifying existing plans for the building.
The SAS Board of Directors took on the challenge of fundraising for a new tower—beginning by allocating $500 to the project from its own budget. Chapter members solicited contributions through a local newspaper column, the Chapter newsletter, letters, phone calls and meetings. Between private donations and grants from the city and several foundations, SAS was able to secure a total of $13,537.
With those funds in hand, along with many in-kind contributions of labor and materials, a magnificent tower was constructed for $13,000. Interpretive signs were installed at the tower’s base to explain the significance of the tower and to thank donors. The tower was officially dedicated on May 7, 2010, with local dignitaries and Fairview School students and teachers participating. Several swifts circled above as if to say “Thank you” as the ceremony took place. Third-grade students read short statements about the life history of swifts. SAS president Jeff Riegel noted that this was a fine example of conservation in which a problem occurred, a solution was formulated, and many people worked together to implement that solution.
Construction of the tower was a human success, but what if the swifts did not cooperate? What if we built the tower and they did not come? The answer to that question came emphatically in mid-September when large numbers of swifts dropped into the tower each night for about two weeks as they migrated to their South American winter home. At the peak as many as 300 swifts put on a spectacular show as they circled the tower and gradually dropped in for the night to the delight of many observers, young and old.
FOR MORE INFO
Contact Bob Dodd of Sassafras Audubon Society at 812-339-2976 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read current and archived updates on the Chimney Swift Project in their newsletter at http://www.sassafrasaudubon.org/leaflet.html.