The Endangered Bird Above Peterborough’s Downtown

Next time you’re in downtown Peterborough, look up and there’s a good chance you’ll see one of Canada’s endangered species. The chimney swift is a bird that lives entirely on the wing, only landing to rest in its roost, often a chimney. Before European settlement, chimney swifts made their homes in large hollow trees that were common before the landscape was cleared for agriculture. Chimneys made a suitable replacement for their roosts, hence their name. Here in Peterborough, we have even erected a chimney swift “tower” in Beavermead Park to provide them with some additional habitat.

A chimney swift tower in Beavermead, Park Peterborough, Ontario 2019

Often confused for a swallow, chimney swifts can be identified by their high pitched chirping as they erratically pursue insects above the downtown. They will generally forage within 1/2 km of their roost but sometimes as much as 6 km.

This year, several field naturalists including myself have identified chimney swifts in areas far beyond their typical range in Peterborough’s downtown, so I have started collecting sightings of chimney swifts around Peterborough. Send me your sightings on twitter @StewardsNotes or using the contact form. I’ll be sure to add your sighting promptly! (Special shout out to Alexandra Anderson for all the great sightings!)

If you’re interested in monitoring chimney swifts in greater detail join Bird Studies Canada on their Swift Watch I assure you it is a relaxing way to spend several evenings!

Your Next Bird List Could Have a Big Impact!

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If you don’t know about ebird you should! It is one of the most widespread global citizen science projects in existence that helps track the migration an population of birds worldwide. To participate simply create an account on the website or app and go out to a nearby hotspot to start birding. Every species you are able to identify helps increase our collective knowledge of bird movements worldwide. Plus it is a great way to brush up your own birding skills. Peterborough and area has one of the most active Ebird communities I am aware of. We have as many active participants as the entire city of Toronto! Even still there are some gaps in the map that should be filled in. With the summer birding season upon us, let me make a few suggestions about how your next bird list could have an outsized impact.

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The 88th Peterborough Christmas Bird Count

This year nearly 80 members of the Peterborough naturalist community coordinated our 66th annual Christmas bird count. The count happened in December, but I’m only now writing about it since I have caught up from the holidays.

There have been lots of recaps and personal accounts in the newspaper and people’s blogs, but I thought there would be no harm in adding my story to the stack.

After finally meeting up with our group we made our way down to the area surrounding the Peterborough airport. It was a slow start to the morning, only making out some starlings and chickadees on the horizon. It was to be expected, the temperature was below 30 degrees. We made our way down the the Otonabee river and teased some red-bellied woodpeckers out of the silver maple swamp. It was one of the most beautiful mornings I’ve ever seen on the Otonabee, steam coming off the river and the sun sparkling in the ice that had formed on the tree branches. (more…)