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Swift Fest 2012

September 15, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

I think I first of Chimney Swifts at Pedernales Fall State Park. Next to the bird blind is small chimney for the swifts to hit the sack if they so desire. These swifts are almost constantly on the wing, not able to perch like most birds. At night they prefer to roost in enclosed habitats, such as chimneys. The neat part about this is that the swifts will circle the chimney for a few minutes before diving in. When the bird count numbers in the hundreds or thousands, it can be quite a spectacle.

This year I learned about ‘festival’ in a small community on Lake Travis, about 45 minutes northwest of here. The festival was last Saturday (8th) from 2pm – 8pm. Not quite knowing what to expect, or even where to go, we arrived around 7:30. Below is a map of the area centered on the swifts’ location:

As you can see, it’s located on the northwest corner of FM 1325 and Jonestown St. Ideally you would park on the west side of 1325 so you don’t have to cross it, but there doesn’t appear to be much, if any, parking. I recommend parking on the east side. Around 7:30-7:45, the police will temporarily block off the road, allowing everyone to cross. I’m very bad at estimating people, but I would say there were around 50 of us, most appeared to be locals. The ‘chimney’ was a large cistern, about 5 feet in diameter, which a much smaller opening (according to satellite imagery).

As we waited, there was a bunch of commotion and people looking up in the sky. Obviously, we assumed it was the swallows. It was a huge migration of large birds. Easily one of the most spectacular things I’ve seen. Click on the link for the full size. Maybe someone can recognize them. It’s fairly blurry.

Around 8pm, the swallows started flying in, and the show lasted for about 10-15 minutes. Rather than yammer on about it, just watch the short video clip I took:

Being after sunset, the only real light came from the Shell station behind us. I was shooting at ISO 1600 and 3200. If I were to go again, I would take my 50mm f1.8 instead of my 70-200 f4. 50mm is a little short, but I would glady trade length for the extra light. Here are a few photos I salvaged:

The final bird count from the official counter was about 930 (there was some indecision). This was definitely a cool event. I’m not sure if I would go back again. Once seems enough. However, I am curious about a reported swift colony at Zilker Elementary.

Afterwards, we hit up the Cajun restaurant by our parking spot, Parrain’s Louisiana Kitchen. It was very good (even Doris liked it), but it is on slow side. So order a drink and get comfy!

Categories: Birding
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