People of PAS

Larry Schwitters was featured in this recent Farmington, Michigan newspaper article:

Chimney swift cam will track Farmington’s record roost
By: JONI HUBRED-GOLDEN | May 8, 2015 | Farmington Voice

With help from the Detroit Audubon Society and a daring chimney swift expert, owners of the historic winery building on Grand River in Farmington on Thursday celebrated the installation of a camera that will help track thousands of chimney swifts that roost inside the historic building’s iconic smokestack.

From left, Jim Bull of the Detroit Audubon Society, Farmington city council member JoAnne McShane, swift expert Larry Schwitters, swift sanctuary program manager Michelle Romans, and historic winery building owner David White cut the swift camera ribbon.

Swift expert Larry Schwitters, who has tracked the Vaux swift on the West Coast, climbed the smokestack to install the camera. It will begin broadcasting a live feed in about a week.

A middle school educator for 30 years, Schwitters spoke about the years he spent tracking Black Swifts in the State of Washington’s waterfalls and his work with a Vaux swift project launched by the Audubon Society. He agrees with estimates that Farmington’s chimney swift population is the largest in North America.

“You see the video of it, you can see it’s massive,” he said.

The swifts most closely resemble hummingbirds and migrate from Peru as far north as 150-200 miles into Canada, Schwitters said. They find warmth by clinging to the brick walls inside chimneys and inside hollowed out trees. He showed photos of black swifts roosting behind waterfalls, and a blanket of swifts clinging to the bark of a tree in Texas.

Schwitter also pointed out that swifts only stay in a roost for about two days, so it’s likely the Farmington birds are not the same group each night. “They’re on their way north to Canada now,” he said.

‘An unbelievable resource’

The Detroit Audubon Society is covering the $1,000 cost of the video camera. Member Jim Bull, who attended Thursday’s ceremony, said the Society got involved because of its mission to protect birds and preserve habitat.

“This is just an incredible thing to have here,” he said. “We were just thrilled to find out we have within our territory the largest concentration of chimney swifts in North America.”

City council member JoAnne McShane said the swift sanctuary “puts Farmington on the map as being an environmentally friendly roost for 50,000 swifts.”

She and her husband, Will Nutting, who attended the ribbon cutting ceremony, both pointed out the educational possibilities. “This is an unbelievable resource that very few people know about,” Nutting said.

Swift sanctuary program manager Michelle Romans, whose husband David White owns the building, said a “Swift Night Out” event is planned for September. The evening will give people an opportunity to watch the swifts swirl into the smokestack and learn more about the birds.

Romans said the camera installation and Audubon Society involvement were long-term goals, and she is surprised to have accomplished them in just two years. Her next step is getting kids involved with the project.

“I never thought it would be this big,” Romans said. “I am thrilled.”