Audubon in Action
Kids and adults alike flock to Frank Wagner Elementary School in Monroe, Washington, to see the mesmerizing flights of thousands of Vaux’s swifts.
|Click on the image below for a video of Vaux’s swifts swirling around Frank Wagner Elementary School.
The Frank Wagner Elementary School in Monroe, Washington, has about 600 students in its classrooms and about 26,000 Vaux’s swifts in its chimney. In 2007 the birds nearly lost their summertime home—one of the largest Vaux’s roosts in the world—when officials slated the 70-year-old chimney for razing, citing concerns that it would collapse in an earthquake. That’s when Audubon intervened. The Pilchuck Audubon Society, along with Eastside Audubon, Seattle Audubon, and several other groups, formed the Save Our Swifts project to garner public attention and raise funds to restore the chimney. Pilchuck Audubon funded a $6,000 engineering study to determine the cost of an earthquake retrofit, and by mid-2009 the Washington State General Fund gave $100,000 to the school for the effort. With additional grants from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and $15,000 from TogetherGreen, an Audubon–Toyota project that funds conservation work, the chimney was fully restored last August. Now cameras inside the structure monitor the population, and swift expert Larry Schwitters launched another effort, the Vaux’s Happening, to locate and preserve migratory roosts. “Most in the school and community didn’t know a thing” about swifts inhabiting the chimney, says Schwitters, the project coordinator. “Now,” he marvels, “it’s an international sensation.”
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