Volunteer Champions

Champions plaques and agreements are not just for our committed landowners. We are also distributing these to volunteers who go that extra mile for Chimney Swifts. Recently three of our longest-serving and most committed volunteers became the first to become ‘Swift Champions’.

Frank Machovec
DSC_0255Most readers have probably had some sort of communication with Frank over the years. Frank served MCSI as its third coordinator, even volunteering his time for part of this period as funds dried up. Previous to that, he served on the MCSI Steering Committee and the board of Nature Manitoba. Frank also gave a presentation on MCSI at a national conference on Chimney Swifts in February 2013 and even made the Metro in his time (http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/our-communities/metro/Chimney-swifts-Wolseleys-cutest-residents-204341521.html). Since deciding to take a step back from the coordinator role and the Steering Committee, Frank has remained involved in MCSI. Frank, and his wife Jacquie, have spent many hours monitoring swifts. Going that extra mile, they do not do the obvious thing, only monitoring the swifts closest to their home in Winnipeg, they also travel further afield to Otterburne (btw if anyone can help here, please let us know), Saint Adolphe and some of the other commuter towns south of Winnipeg. Frank is still a vital cog for MCSI, serving as our webmaster. Being webmaster involves more than the occasional posting of a blog or a new document-it also involves updating information, improving the layout, contacting the web hosts and even seeking out a new web hosting (see the new blogsite Frank recently set up at https://mbchimneyswift.wordpress.com/. It is fair to say that even when taking a more backseat involvement in MCSI, we still rely hugely on Frank’s skills and endeavours.

Barb and Rob Stewart
Two other names synonymous with the MCSI are Barb and Rob. Most people probably know Barb, at least by email or phone, but Rob is perhaps less known to many volunteers. Their involvement in MCSI began back in 2007 and (possibly fortunately for MCSI) was due to Barb breaking her arm! During Barbs recuperation, Mike Quigley, the first MCSI coordinator, gave a piece on CBC Radio asking for volunteers to monitor Chimney Swifts. Unable to work, Barb responded and the love affair with Chimney Swifts began! Rob, more used to studying walruses, was told of his impending doom on arriving home from work and they promptly began monitoring in Saint Adolphe, and they have not stopped since! Over the years, Barb and Rob have monitored the five nesting chimneys in Saint Adolphe. Barb in her chair must be one of the most familiar summer sights in that small town. Both have also been brilliant ambassadors for Chimney Swifts in the town, enthusing local people about the cause. They serve on the Steering Committee, providing a lifetime of scientific knowledge to Chimney Swifts. Barb has recently taken care of the monitoring program, she writes fantastic blogs for the website, articles for newsletters, reached out to other organisations, recruits volunteers and liaises with Environment Canada about the National Roost Monitoring Program. All this as a volunteer. Rob and Barb , also coordinated the move of the St. Adolphe tower from its original location and  built a rain shield for it. Rob was also especially instrumental in writing the MCSI guidelines for nesting and roosting chimneys http://www.mbchimneyswift.ca/Documents/MCSI_artificialstructures2015.pdf.


Barb Stewart (left)  with Suzanne Leclerc

I am sure everyone would agree that Frank, Rob and Barb have been brilliant championing the cause of swift conservation across Manitoba. If anyone is interested in hearing more about the Swift Champions program or would like to nominate a volunteer or building owner, please contact Tim Poole at mcsi.outreach@gmail.com or 204-943-9019.

Tim Poole

Suzanne and Arthur Leclerc – Swift Champions!

Following the award of a Swift Champions plaque to the Paroisse Saint-Jean-Baptiste, we have a second recipient to award. For many years, the Leclerc family in Saint Adolphe have been amazing supporters of the work of the Manitoba Chimney Swift Initiative. Local priest, Father Michaud must take much of the credit for their involvement. On July 22nd 2007, Father Michaud announced to the congregation at mass that it had been confirmed that Chimney Swifts had taken up residence in the church chimney. A few days later, Suzanne Leclerc, whose sister-in-law had been at mass, approached a couple of MCSI volunteers at the church because they had seen a couple of swifts entering and exiting their chimney. The excited volunteers, one of whom was Barb Stewart, made their way over and confirmed that this was another nest site for Chimney Swifts. You can read more about it here: (http://www.mbchimneyswift.ca/Documents/stadolphe_2007.pdf).

IMG_1038.JPGSince 2007, the Leclercs have not only been happy hosts to their summer lodgers, they have given extra support to MCSI volunteers. For example, each spring and fall, they allow an MCSI volunteer to enter their home and clear out the contents of the cleanout trap. This allows MCSI to continue with our long-term study of breeding success in Saint Adolphe. The chimney has also been repointed in the intervening years to retain the habitat for swifts.

Speaking with Suzanne, you know that the swifts are in good hands in their home. We are delighted that she and Arthur have agreed to become Swift Champions.

Tim Poole

Swifts on the move!

Another week and those swifts sightings are increasing all the time. Since our last update, Chimney Swifts have moved north along he Atlantic coast of the USA to South Carolina and Georgia, are now being spotted in Nashville and seemingly are becoming abundant in the states bordering the gulf of Mexico. Onwards and upwards as they say!

Swift dist 23rd March
Thanks again eBird!
Tim Poole
Habitat Stewardship and Outreach Coordinator
Manitoba Chimney Swift Initiative

Swift migration update

Hello swifters

Here is the latest eBird update on the migration route of Chimney Swifts. In just a week swifts have spread west into Texas and north as far as Tennessee. Given we are still in mid-March, it is not surprising that Chimney Swifts have been documented laying two broods in a season in Texas.
March 16th Chimney Swift update
Again, if you would like to see these maps for yourself, go to http://www.ebird.ca, select ‘Explore Data’ and then ‘Species Maps’.


Tim Poole

Things are looking up!

(An article by Tim Poole for the Fort Rouge Leisire Centre Newsletter)

I am sitting on the grass opposite the Fort Rouge Leisure Centre minutes before sundown in late May, eyes fixed on the large brick chimney at the rear of the building, with the noise of heavy Osborne traffic as background music. I am waiting to see an endangered bird enter its evening roost. This might not seem like an obvious place to find a threatened species but the bird in question may be present in your place of work, leisure, worship or home.

3 CHSW_Hampton chimney_1461_blurred

Chimney Swifts are present in Winnipeg from May until August before heading to South America to spend the winter. Since 1968 their population has declined by 95% leading to the Chimney Swift becoming a protected species federally and provincially. This huge decline is linked to the loss of suitable nesting chimneys, as furnaces are modified and chimneys become capped or lined. Prior to the arrival of European-style settlements, Chimney Swifts nested in large dying trees like the cottonwoods along the river. The Chimney Swift has demonstrated a remarkable adaptability, responding to the loss of nesting trees by making use of chimneys. Chimney Swifts show a preference for open, unlined, brick chimneys, a minimum of two and a half bricks across and in close proximity to trees and rivers where they can feed on up to 1000 mosquitoes each day.

At this point I should add that no one need panic. These are birds which have lived alongside Manitobans for over 100 years, yet hardly appear to be noticed. Each nesting chimney will contain a single pair who build a small cup-shaped nest out of dead twigs detached from surrounding trees. In some cases, they use a chimney as a roost, and in these circumstances there may be significantly more birds present.

In a few weeks from now, if you are close to the Leisure Centre around dusk, listen out for light chattering and a small black missile with wings hurtling across the evening sky. Smaller than a House Sparrow, these agile birds are like miniature, chattering, jet planes as they search for food and converse with other swifts. Suddenly a single swift will circle the chimney a few times before plunging vertically headlong into it, possibly followed by other swifts. Other swifts spotted in the evening sky might be roosting in chimneys on Beresford or even over the road in Riverview.

The Manitoba Chimney Swift Initiative was started by Nature Manitoba in 2007 with the aim of monitoring and conserving these special birds in Manitoba. We are keen to get in touch with any local residents who would be interested in monitoring swifts. We are also keen to arrange an evening out at a chimney to show people the swifts entering a chimney. Finally, if you see Chimney Swifts, think they may be using your chimney or would like to receive some factsheets, please contact me as indicated below.

Tim Poole, Manitoba Chimney Swift Initiative Habitat Stewardship and Outreach Coordinator

mcsi.outreach@gmail.com and 204-943-9029

Migration Progress

Hello swifters

. It’s coming up to mid-March and I thought this would be a great opportunity to keep all our volunteers who do not use eBird updated on the migration movements of Chimney Swifts through North America. I will try to make this a weekly event.

The map only shows records from 2016. The earliest records are those found in Peru. In February there is clear movement into Central America, with the most recent records in Florida and Alabama (last record on the 7th).

eBird CHSW on March 9 2016

To see these maps for yourself, go to http://www.ebird.ca, select ‘Explore Data’ and then ‘Species Maps’.


Tim Poole

And now for something different…

Spit & Sticks: A Chimney Full of Swifts by Marilyn Grohoske Evans with illustrations by Nicole Gsell

Something a bit different for all you swifters out there late on a Friday afternoon in early March – a children’s book about Chimney Swifts!

Spit & Sticks is a story based around a farming household in Texas and their summer visitors. The book is very educational, telling a story of a pair of Chimney Swifts as they arrive in spring, nest and produce three offspring. The human family are illustrated alongside getting ready for their own new arrival, almost as if in a parallel universe. For example, opposite a painting of the adult swifts building their nest is the human family building a crib. The language is designed to educate the young reader about the life cycle of Chimney Swifts:

Fun ends. Work begins. The birds’ long claws snatch twigs from the treetops. They carry them to the chimney in their beaks. Inside the chimney, the pair pastes the small sticks together with a special glue made from their own sticky spit. The pair won’t quit until their half-saucer nest is perfect.’

This is in my view a terrific resource for sharing the remarkable story of the Chimney Swifts with younger children. The language is simple and the parallel story with the human family would help illustrate the story for younger readers.

The book is available on Amazon and you can take a sneak peek inside (http://www.amazon.ca/Spit-Sticks-Chimney-Full-Swifts/dp/1580895883).

The Manitoba Chimney Swift Initiative is keen to promote the Chimney Swift message to communities across the swift range in Manitoba. We have small funds available to purchase a few copies as an outreach opportunity for any local school, community centre or library who might be interested. If you think this might suit your local school or community please let me know by Friday March 11th and I will out in an order.

Tim Poole, Habitat Stewardship and Outreach Coordinator, MCSI, mcsi.outreach(at)gmail.com