Chimney Swifts Came to Camp Nappy ....
......again and again!
This started on May 24th of this year. Another visitor had arrived that afternoon but he did NOT stay for too long.
I've been busying myself and trying to catch up on work in the garden. After clearing the area that will be our veggie patch I went back to the patio to get the plants and hear an awful scream from inside the house! Did someone get out of the aviary and one of the cats caught him?
I went inside and saw that one of the cats had someone dark coloured in his mouth.
I thought Kramer was caught! Eeeeeeeeeeeekkkkkkkkk!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The cat went under the bed and I crawled under after him. He dropped the bird and I scooped up the poor little bird.
"Who the heck are you" I asked the sleek black bird? He's a very handsome Chimney Swift (Chaetura pelagica). I checked him over thoroughly and did not find even a scratch or a puncture wound on him. Nothing broken either! He has very tiny feet and was clinging to my finger and has very short legs. I released him in a flight area with some of our doves and he had no problem flying either!
I gave him a kiss on top of his head, apologized for making him so frightened and let him fly off to continue his business. I had no idea how he got in the house. We have two chimneys but there are glass door thingies in front of both and no gap would allow him into the house. No broken windows, no ripped window screens, no holes in the roof. I dunno!
He was a very pleasant fellow. They breed in the Eastern half of the USA from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. They spend all their daylight hours flying and catching insects. They don't even stop to drink water but swoop down and take a quick dip as they fly over a pond or stream. They winter in the upper Amazon basin!
Timing, as they say, IS everything. How lucky that I came back to the house in time to hear his distress. How nice of the cat to be gentle with his catch. I do know that the Swift made the rounds in the living room. There was a huge mess from the potted orchids and other plants that were knocked over. But soil and orchid mix can be vacuumed and everything straightened out. To mend a lovely swift would not have been so easy.
So that's how this started.
A few days later we were out of the house for about an hour and a half today and when we came home there was another Chimney Swift in the house. Sadly the bird was dead and laying in the kitchen. He must have died earlier as there was no interest in the deceased by the time we arrived. He was stiff and I saw he had feather mites too.
This bird had also been through the living room and there is a lot of clean up to do as far as plants being knocked over, soil spilled on the carpet and this bird was very poopy too. We searched all the possible entry ways for this wee bird ... fireplaces, vent fans, central air conditioning ducts / openings and we could not see how two birds had come into the house!
Since they are social birds we fear we may get more visitors. Mike already made a screen door to close off the living room / dining room from the rest of the house and the cats. Then he started working on making two screen doors for the basement to block off sections should someone be coming in through the furnace?!?!
No, it does not look very pretty. Well, pretty Hillbilly, but at least maybe we can avert future tragedy. We thought to screen all the vents but ... if someone gets trapped inside surely he will die. If he is able to get out and into our home at least he may have a better chance as the area where the cats can now wander has been cut in half or more. (Sorry kitties but this is an emergency!)
Through all this, our pet birds / inmates did not get the mites from the Swifts. There was plenty of vacuuming though.
Well, almost 24 hrs. after the second visit and no new arrivals in the house. We feel like we are living in a bird cage with all the screen doors! We tried to strategically place them to block off the potential entry way areas and keep those areas cat-free. But still, after crawling around the attic with a flashlight and everywhere else we have no idea how they got in!
We went outside and there are Chimney Swifts and Purple Martins everywhere. Living on the shores of Lake Erie we now have the annual invasion of the lake midges. They look like mosquitoes but have no mouth parts and have fuzzy antennae. There are swarms of them covering everything and at dusk they take to the skies and the humming created by their wings is easily heard. The Swifts and Martins happily feast on the flying insects. During the day the finches, sparrows, warblers, wrens and everyone else greedily feast on the steaks with wings.
We now know that we have Swifts in our larger chimney and the next door neighbour also has Swifts in their chimney as we saw several birds entering both. This is the first year that we have had Swifts making a home in our home. We have seen the Purple Martins each year but this is the first year we have seen Chimney Swifts.
Yet a THIRD Chimney Swift arrived in the house about a week later while my Brother-in-law and his family were here and we were gone celebrating our 23rd wedding anniversary. This happened at the same time as a baby mouse that Daisy had brought inside was being treated for her seizures and final hour.
It would appear that the Swifts come into the house through one of the AC vents in the kitchen. One of the cats caught this one but the bird was rescued alive but in shock. After some care and bird was placed in a carrier. There did not seem to be any injuries anywhere on the bird but he was very frightened. When he settled down and was not breathing so heavily he was force fed several times.
The following morning the bird was very alert and Nick did a test flight of the Swift in the aviary with the doves. (The Swifts have mites!) The Swift passed his flying test and was released. Nick said the bird flew up over the roof of the house and was immediately greeted by three other Swifts! They dropped down to greet their missing friend, circled the area and then rose as a group of four to continue their activities and swap stories.
I hope no Swifts have taken a wrong turn in the AC ducts. The one air conditioner vent in the house that cannot be closed seems the only point of entry possible. All the other sections of the house were blocked with the screen doors. So.... Initially there was a metal bird cage upside down (so the removed bottom covers the vent) suspended from the ceiling. Should there be another Swift ... the cage would protect the Swift from getting caught by one of the cats but also make it easy for us to see quickly and release unharmed. He/she could cling to the side and not harm the oh so important wings!
Nick found this website to help with caring for the Swift.
Then about a week later ... I could just cry! Well, truth be told, I did.
We left the house in the afternoon for about 2 hours and came home to a dead Swift on the kitchen floor. So much for our attempts at high security!
More than half the basement is blocked off with screens. The living room, dining room, aviary and one bedroom are blocked with screen. The vent where we thought the Swifts were gaining entry had a bird cage over it to prevent another bird from gaining free flight entry into the kitchen but allows them out of the vent so they can be seen and then released outside. There must have been enough of a wee gap to allow the swift to get out. :-(
Then a few days later, Yep! ANOTHER Chimney Swift!!!
This is the fifth time in about three weeks that a Chimney Swift has entered our home. A very happy ending to this short visit!
I was outside and taking down one of the feeders to relocate it. I wanted to fill it with seeds for the Goldfinches that have graced our garden with their song. As I was on the patio and just taking the feeder down I heard a strange noise. Hmmmmm! One of the cats was in the window looking out over the patio... I looked down and saw the dear sweet face of a Chimney Swift in a window from the basement.
Quickly I went inside and down the stairs. I had to climb up on the washing machine to get this most precious of guests. Unharmed! Not a feather out of place! No kitty cat intervention at all because the bird was safely in an area that Mike had blocked off with the quickly made screen doors.
WooooooooooooooHooooooooo! There are NO WORDS to express how happy I was that this little bird was 100% unharmed! I brought the bird upstairs and carried him/her outside. Of course I gave the bird a kiss on top of the head as I wished it well. The bird quickly flew off and joined other Swift friends that twittered above.
OK...... Now the mystery deepens. We had someone from a roofing company and then someone from an air conditioning company inspect our home inside and out after the fourth visit. We found where the Swifts may be entering the air conditioning system and duct work to gain access to the kitchen. That is where our four previous birds seemed to have entered.
We purposefully did not close the entrance in case there were chicks or someone else in the duct work. In October, after the Swifts have long gone for their Winter Amazon basin home, the entrance to the AC will be closed off.
This latest visitor *must* have entered through the furnace system. There is a nest in the larger of the two chimneys we have. The furnace duct work (or whatever the proper term may be) is connected to this chimney. If someone else should come through that duct work, at least they will enter a zone of safety because of the screen doors.
I am sooooooooooooooooooooooo happy this bird was 100% unharmed!
We will need to find out if the entrance to the furnace can be blocked somehow but still allow the Swifts to nest in our chimney next year if they choose to bless us with their presence again. The Swift score to this point was two killed and three released unharmed.
So very sorry the two perished! To have come all the way from Peru just to be killed by our cats in the kitchen is so very tragic. All part of the (crappy) cycle of life, eh?
After that, the project will be to thread the endoscope we have at home to look into the vent and down to the dryer.
LOL! We have many items at home for the medical needs of animals but never imagined that the endoscope would be used to look up the vent! We have used it to look at the crop and beyond of some gulls and check for fishing hooks or other items that were lodged in them but this was a first!
The Chimney Swift saga got even better. First the endoscopic exam of the clothes dryer showed there is no nest inside but we really *must* clean the vent because of the lint build up in there! Don't want any fire to start.
No new Swift rescues to report for a while. As I was outside watering flowers and watched the roof line of our home as I could hear the Swifts cruising by at top speed. There was a lot of activity in BOTH of our chimneys. One bird in another bird out then another bird in ... Woooooo Hoooooo! Looks like there is a pair of Swifts feeding chicks in both chimneys! The larger of our two chimneys actually had three birds going in and out. Perhaps they have a "helper" for their brood?
Next door has an active pair of Swifts busy with their chimney too.
I can't tell you how many times we went to the basement just to check if anyone was flying about. I spent much of the afternoon on the patio weeding and planting some more flowers with one eye on the basement window!
Then there was Chimney Swift Number Six. He dropped in for a brief visit ~*SIGH*~
I came home one afternoon to find a beautiful Chimney Swift in the kitchen. He/she was at the window over the sink and trying to get out through the glass. Our little orchids from Panama, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Peru were heavily damaged. The African Violets were in the sink but ... most importantly ... the dear little Swift is 100% OK!
Had he gone to another window there are cacti and I'm afraid he would have been injured! We were to be near 100F the following day and were thinking maybe it would be safe now to start the air conditioner. NOPE! This one appears to have come through the AC duct rather than the furnace. We purchased another fan instead of risking someone getting injured or chilled somehow in the duct system.
The funny thing was I came into the kitchen and crazy Daisy and four of our cats were laying on the floor in the kitchen. Two other cats were in other rooms snoozing. Even the cats seem to be no longer excited about a visitor dropping in on them! Daisy was bored too! Whowoulddathunkit?!?!?!?
I picked the Swift off the plants, made sure there were no injuries, gave him a kiss (or three) on his little head, thanked him for coming for a visit and I took him outside and off he flew ... twittering to the other Swifts above.
He was soooooo very calm while I handled him! Maybe he's a repeat offender? God speed little Chimney Swift!
Later that same day I was downstairs folding laundry and heard something odd. OK. Now what? The sound, a kind of scratching and fluttering is coming from the furnace. Mike opened up the furnace. Nothing. Opened the door to the incinerator. Nothing. Mike took apart the duct to the furnace and there he was! Swift Number 7!
So the little Swift was given the standard kiss on the head, thanked for visiting and sent on his way to tell his friends about the funhouse adventures. LOL! We now not only live with screen doors everywhere and no air conditioning but the duct to the furnace remains open in case Number 8 is on the way.
I have a photograph of the one Nick rescued but am unable to add it to my Photobucket collection. A ISP security issue.
Such is life at Camp Nappy.