Swift Night Out

Read Urban Species Profile:: Swifts for detailed information about the Vaux’s Swifts. 

Twice a year Vaux’s Swifts roost in the chimney at Frank Wagner Elementary School in Monroe, Washington. Once a year the school hosts ‘Swift Night Out’ where people come visit from all over the state, and even country to watch the swifts descend at dusk into the school’s chimney. There are educational booths from groups like local Audubon chapters and there is a swift expert who gives a talk. The 4’x4′ chimney is no longer used to heat the school and is now left to the swifts. It was recently retrofitted to make it earthquake safe for the school and their bird visitors. Seattle Audubon helped the school receive a grant which is used to bring in a special program to educate the students about the swifts. Thanks to the swifts the kids learn about geography, math, biology and science…

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Presidio Habitats

Running now through May 15th of 2011 is Presidio Habitats in San Francisco. It is a joint venture between FOR-SITE Foundation and Presidio Trust and started running May 16th of this year. The Presidio has a long and interesting military history starting in 1776 with occupation under Spain followed by Mexico and finally the United States up until 1994. It is now a 1,491 acre national park with the Presidio now a National Historic Landmark District comprised of 469 historic buildings. The historic landscape is also part of the National Historic Landmark District and includes a historic forest which was army planted, transforming the dunes into a 300 acre forest.  Today Presidio is valuable wildlife habitat in the city and is home to many species of insects, reptiles and amphibians and bats and small mammals and as many as 200 bird species, as you can…

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Cambridgeshire’s Bird Hotel

This was mentioned in a recent Foragings post, but it has such great design implications that I wanted to feature it in more detail.

Over several years a landowner has turned previous agriculture land into a wetland habitat. Natural England helped with this transformation through their Higher Level Stewardship program which “aims to deliver significant environmental benefits in high priority situations and areas”. The program offers advice and and support to landowner’s for “more complex environmental management”. The most recent work at the site was the building of a wall sited to offer nesting for different bird species including the kingfisher and sand martin. Both of these bird species have Amber status from the RSPB which is the mid-level status for conservation. There are nearly 200 holes in the wall designed for the sand martin while…

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A Roof for the Birds:: Creating habitat on the Portland Mausoleum roof

This is my comprehensive project that I completed in my final year of the Landscape Architecture program at the University of Oregon. The two-term project was the culmination of my educational career and I wanted to choose something meaningful that would relate to my main interest of creating and designing urban wildlife habitat. I started to ask around and very quickly a project fell into my hands from Mike Houck, the Executive Director of the Urban Greenspace Institute in Portland. He has been responsible for creating Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge as well as a giant mural on the side of the Portland Mausoleum that overlooks Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge, and had been interested for some time in creating a green roof for the building. I was lucky enough to also consult with Bob Sallinger, Conservation Director for Portland Audubon as well as Tom Liptan from the Bureau of Environmental Services,…

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Stone Walls for Wildlife

Retaining walls are a fact of life for many landscapes, even those with only a slight slope. The majority of walls however, are constructed as a flat surface, stones bound together with mortar which don’t serve any benefit to wildlife. Stone walls however, can be quite beneficial for wildlife if designed and constructed correctly. Even if a retaining wall isn’t needed, rock shelters could be constructed in a similar manner. A rock wall, with crevices between the rocks add additional places for plants to grow and places for a variety of wildlife to take refuge in from the weather, predators, and further provide somewhere to raise young. Ground nesting bees could find space between the rocks to build their nests, cavities can be planned inside for mammals to hide or even hibernate, and small crevices can be an ideal shelter for reptiles and on lower, damper levels, amphibians. Other wildlife…

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Urban Species Profile:: Swifts

Swifts are one of the few birds that can draw crowds like rock stars. Their roosting is one of the greatest migration wonders of the natural world and they often choose to share it with us in the urban world. Several species of swifts are well known to roost in chimneys, often where many people have a chance to watch them. On the west coast of North and Central America Vaux’s Swifts roost in chimneys along their migration route. East of the Rockies, a similar species, the Chimney Swift does the same thing. They roost communally, often by the thousands and they all descend into their roost site at the same time creating a huge spectacle. At several urban sites people will gather numbering from the tens to the thousands to watch the swifts descent into a chimney. In Europe and Asia the Common Swift

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