Saint-Jean-Baptiste – Swift Champions

The Parish Church in Saint-Jean-Baptiste on Sunday February 24, 2016 became the first recipient of the Swift Champions plaque. Swift Champion plaques are awarded to building owners, whether private individuals, businesses, organisations, schools or religious groups, who to do that extra bit to contribute towards Chimney Swift conservation here in Manitoba. 

Our relationship with the congregation in Saint-Jean-Baptiste was facilitated through our local volunteer, Luc Blanchette. Having been monitoring the town during the Breeding Bird Atlas, Luc recorded and surveyed swifts using the church chimney. During late winter 2015, Luc helped the Manitoba Chimney Swift Initiative by translating our factsheets into French (see number 1, number 2 and number 3 for English versions). While reading the text, Luc decided to ask the church for access to the cleanout trap on the chimney to confirm breeding. The church agreed and Luc was able to look into the dark recesses of the chimney. The contents were as hoped but with a bit of a surprise for laying among the assortment of Chimney Swift feathers, twigs and old nests were pieces of mortar.

It became obvious that there some damage to the chimney and on closer inspection the damage was actually fairly dangerous looking, with a large vertical crack between the bricks at the top.

MCSI and the church began to discuss the future of the chimney. Rather than demolish it, the church agreed that we would work together to secure it long-term for Chimney Swifts. The chimney in this case stood a number of metres above the treeline. Repairing the crack would be time-consuming and more costly, so we decided that removing the top layers of bricks would be the way forward. Denis Foidart, a member of the church took on the work with financial support from Environment Canada’s Environmental Damages Fund and input from the church. The results below are, I am sure you would agree, a vast improvement on the original state. 

The church have now agreed to become Swift Champions. Luc Blanchette accepted the plaque on behalf of the church at their Annual General Meeting on Sunday. The plaque was awarded by steering committee member Ron Bazin on behalf of MCSI. 

 Thank you to everyone involved in making this a success, especially the church finance committee led by Jeanette Gilmore, Denis Foidart and Luc himself. Funding was provided by Environment Canada’s Environmental Damages Fund. This is a fantastic example of an MCSI volunteer working with the community to champion the cause of Chimney Swift conservation and also the building owners being willing to work with MCSI and our volunteers to help the swifts. To see the Swift Champion agreements for owners click here and for volunteers click here . Please also contact Tim Poole at for more information. 

Wishing you the best for spring migration birding, 

Tim Poole for the MCSI Team: Frank Machovec, webmaster; Barb Stewart, monitoring program; Christian Artuso, Ron Bazin, Neil Butchard, Lewis Cocks, Ken De Smet, Nicole Firlotte, and Rob Stewart, Steering Committee Members.