'Until you see it, you may not get how great it really is'

'Until you see it, you may not get how great it really is' »Play Video
Vaux’s Swifts are using the Chapman chimney as an evening roost during their fall migration, so grab a seat on the school lawn and in neighboring Wallace Park to observe the birds gathering overhead. On most evenings, Audubon volunteers will be on hand to share information about Vaux's Swifts. Runs till about Sept. 30th - 8/12 - (Kai Hayashi / KATU.com)

PORTLAND, Ore. - It's a tell-tale sign that fall is just around the corner when the Vaux's Swifts start circling around Chapman School's chimney.

Every year, thousands of the small birds call the chimney home for a few weeks as they migrate from the Pacific Northwest to Central America and Venezuela.

And every year, crowds gather to watch what's been described as beautiful, magical and amazing.

"Until you see it, you may not get how great it really is," one spectator told us when we stopped by recently to get a look and talk to folks about what brings them to Chapman. "It's a great experience."

According to the Audubon Society of Portland, the swift population that shows up at Chapman School every year has been doing so since the 1980s.

The school's chimney is actually one of the largest known roosting sites for the birds.

As far as numbers, the last count that the Audubon Society of Portland did was on Tuesday, Sept. 11, and at that time there were around 14,900 swifts at the school.

Keep in mind that the numbers do vary. Here are some previous counts:

  • Sunday, Sept. 9 - 12,000
  • Saturday, Sept. 8 - 4,000
  • Friday, Sept. 7 - 6,900

If You Go

  • The swifts will be there through the month of September and are best viewed in the evenings, one hour before sunset.
  • Chapman School is located at 1445 N.W. 26th Avenue.
  • Parking is limited so you might think about taking a bus there instead.
  • If you bring your dog, have some bags handy so you can pick up after them.
  • Be sure to pick up your trash when you leave.
  • Both smoking and drinking alcohol are prohibited on the school's grounds.
  • For more information on watching the swifts

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