Please support the resolution to name the Chimney Swift the official City Bird of Bethlehem

Latest in a series of posts on the Swifts

Save Our Swifts

In a letter of January 18 to Councilwoman Negron, advocate Jennie Gilrain laid out the following seven reasons why City Council should name the Chimney Swift the official City Bird of Bethlehem.

The Audubon Society, the Sierra Club, and Bethlehem’s Environmental Advisory Council (EAC) have endorsed the idea.

Developer John Noble could not be more cooperative in assuring that our Chimney Swifts don’t lose their lease.

A resolution to name the Chimney Swift the official City Bird of Bethlehem comes before Council Tuesday night.

We need to step up right away. The number of contributors to the GoFundMe campaign is an excellent gauge of concrete general community support.

Please contribute (or contribute again!).

Please pass the word to family and friends and through your social media contacts.

There are bird lovers everywhere who will want to help the Swifts survive.

Did you see those incredibly cute letters from the Freemansburg 4th graders?


  1. Economic Impact: Naming the Chimney Swift the Bird of Bethlehem would attract birders to our city. According the 2011 U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services National Survey, “bird watchers spend nearly $41 billion annually on trips and equipment. Local community economies benefit from the $14.9 billion that bird watchers spend on food, lodging and transportation. In 2011, 666,000 jobs were created as a result of bird watching expenditures.”
  2. Health and Safety: Swifts are insectivores. Each bird eats 2,000 insects per day. (2,200 swifts in one Masonic Temple chimney per night X 2,000 insects per swift = 4,400,000 insects consumed per day per chimney roost.) Chimney swifts are a safe and healthy alternative to pesticides.
  3. Historical Significance: Swifts are part of Bethlehem’s history. They have been living here since the Industrial Revolution, more than 100 years. One elderly retired steelworker who lives in South Bethlehem said that he has been watching the swifts go into the Masonic Temple Chimney for 75 years!
  4. Wildlife Protection: Swifts are in sharp decline (72% since the mid 1960’s). It is our responsibility to cherish and protect this species that depends on our urban habitat.
  5. Model of Cooperation: Developer, John Noble’s environmentally conscious response to the swifts that live in the Masonic Temple chimney provides a model for positive relationships between developers and conservationists. Bethlehem could set a precedent of encouraging such cooperation.
  6. Cleanliness: Swifts are relatively clean birds. They do not cause problems of guano-covered parking lots, walkways and parks. In fact, their droppings are difficult to find. A researcher called Scott Burnet, asking for samples of the chimney swift droppings. Scott builds and maintains hundreds of chimney swift towers throughout Pennsylvania and had difficulty finding any droppings in or around these roosts.
  7. Beauty: Swifts are beautiful to watch. They fly like aerial acrobats in groups of two and three during the day. When they enter their chimneys in large numbers at dusk, they are a spectacular sight to see.


Save Our Swifts

Don’t miss this Historic Southside Bethlehem Citizen Survey

The latest in a series of posts on the Southside

This post from City Hall seems easy to miss, no fanfare, but seems quite important!


Bethlehem City Hall

January 28

The City hopes to gain some input from residents, business owners and visitors regarding their views and preferences related to future development in south Bethlehem. Below are 2 links for the quick survey related to the south side planning study.

English version

Spanish version

Please take a look and complete the survey when you have time. We’d also appreciate it if you can share this link with others that may be interested in the future development of South Bethlehem.


Here’s the important rationale for the survey!

The City of Bethlehem is preparing a plan to address historic preservation and development issues within the South Bethlehem Historic Conservation District.  This area is generally along the Third and Fourth Street corridors, west of Hayes Street and east of Wyandote Street.  The Plan will recommend revisions to the City’s Historic Conservation District regulations that currently regulate demolition of older buildings, changes to the fronts of buildings, and the exterior design of new buildings and additions.  There also are expected to be recommended adjustments to the City’s Zoning Ordinance.  There will be public meetings held in the upcoming months.

Freemansburg Elementary 4th graders support the Swifts

Latest in a series of posts on the Swifts

Jennie Gilrain taught a science lesson on habitat loss and its effect on the survival of species using our local Chimney Swifts as an example, and her excited students — some of whom are pictured here — wrote letters to Mayor Donchez and City Council. Click on the students’ names to see their full letters.

Please make the Chimney Swift the Bird of Bethlehem. Then people will notice the Chimney Swift and think, “Maybe this bird is really special, and I should help it.”

The swifts’ feet can’t grip onto tree branches. So when the chimneys are gone, they can’t rest in the trees, and they keep flying until they die.

We are the next generation, so thank you for making this city a better place to live in for us and the swifts.

When swifts fly, it’s like a paintbrush gliding through the air. . . . When the Chimney Swifts are flying it’s like a princess is dancing in a ballroom, because it is super dainty and elegant!

Chimney Swifts are in rapid decline. . . . This makes me sad because I care about the birds. I want you to care about the birds too.

Please save our birds. Chimney Swifts are beautiful. When they go into the chimney, it looks like a tornado.

I hope you have enough time to think about saving the Chimney Swifts. Please save our Chimney Swifts.

progress on the chimney

Chimney Swifts are the most beautiful birds when they work together; and if you care about beauty, then chimney swifts will help you make Bethlehem a more beautiful place.

They are almost extinct. They are dying. . . . Please.

They are not going to be able to nest, and they are going to be cold. . . . please hear me out.

I love the swifts very much. I don’t want to hurt them. I want them to have a home. So please protect the swifts because they are part of our community.

Chimney swifts are beautiful, and they deserve homes like we do.

I think chimney swifts are cute.

Swifts are part of our city’s history and have been living here for a long time. They are part of our family, so we should be nice to them.

I want you to put up chimneys for all the Chimney Swifts to live in. You should do this because you’re my friend, and I’m your friend.

photos by Gilrain and C Noble, art work by Audobon


Please contribute
we’re starting our second 100 donations
we need to keep going

Save Our Swifts

Mayoral candidate Dana Grubb sees rebuilding city workforce morale as first challenge

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

Campaign website

“I believe that the first challenge of the next mayor will be to rebuild the morale of the city workforce. . . . Far too many instances of fearful, tense and depressed conditions within city hall have been reported. The city workforce is the single most important asset that the public and the mayor have: a respected and content workforce will deliver better services.”

Campaign Facebook
Campaign website

Mayoral candidate Dana Grubb: “It is time for a mayor who is not a political insider”

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

selections from Sara K. Satullo, “It’s a race: Dana Grubb enters Democratic Bethlehem mayoral field.”, January 27, 2021.

Former Bethlehem city administrator Dana Grubb on Wednesday jumped into the Bethlehem mayoral race.

Grubb, 70, is running as a Democrat and he’ll face Bethlehem City Councilman J. William Reynolds, 39, in the May Democratic primary. Mayor Bob Donchez cannot run again because of the city’s two-term limit for mayor.

Over his 27-year career in city government, Grubb helped create the tax increment financing district that ushered in the redevelopment of the former factory into the SteelStacks campus.

“Our history is what makes Bethlehem unique, and distinguishes it among others,” Grubb said. “We need to build on that history to secure and grow our future.”

 In his speech Grubb touted his ability to work collaboratively across departments over his career to solve the problems facing the city. He vowed to bring that attitude back to City Hall.

 Grubb was the city grants administrator and deputy director of community development among other roles. He retired from the city in 2004 after he and Harvey Joseph, who was the environmental health director, got into a fistfight in City Hall. Then-Mayor John Callahan told them they could retire or be fired.

 “I also believe in personal accountability, service to community, and leaving the world in a better place,” Grubb said Wednesday. “We’re all held accountable for the mistakes we’ve made. We should learn from them, and then move on to remain active and contributing members of society.”

Currently, Grubb owns a small business providing photography to local Relators, the Wind Creek Event Center and working for The Bethlehem Press.

The lifelong city resident said he’s running for mayor solely to serve the citizens of Bethlehem. If elected, he will not take city health benefits or accrue a pension, he vowed.

 “It is time for a mayor who is not a political insider, someone who will be independent of political expediency, and who will seek only to serve Bethlehem residents and improve the quality of life throughout the community. It is nobody’s ‘turn’ to be Mayor, after holding other elected offices,” Grubb said referencing Reynolds, who lost to Donchez in the 2013 mayoral primary but did not challenge him four years later. “Bethlehem needs someone who will apply common sense and logic to governance, and not default to political favoritism based on campaign contributions or other influential factors.”

Bethlehem residents tell Grubb they don’t feel their government is responsive and Grubb says city worker morale is at an all-time low. A respected and content workforce will deliver better services to residents, developers, contractors, business owners and relators, he said.

If elected, Grubb would form a a small business concierge, a one-stop shop to help aspiring and current business owners navigate bureaucracy.

 “Public service is an attitude as well as a commitment, and poor morale among city workers affects how well services are delivered to the community,” Grubb said.

The Bethlehem Parking Authority is a top complaint for many residents and business owners, who feel it is not responsive or in touch with the community’s needs, he said. Grubb floated the idea of possibly bringing the day-to-day operations of the authority into City Hall, allowing the authority to operate solely as a financing authority.

The city needs to continue to expand its tax base via economic development, but in a manner that respects the city’s rich history and is compatible with its neighborhoods, Grubb said. Bethlehem needs more affordable housing — not public housing — but homes for working-and-middle class families like the one he grew up in, he said.

“Community development has played second fiddle to economic development for too many years,” Grubb said.

He vowed to create a city-wide affordable housing task force. (Councilwoman Grace Crampsie Smith recently created an affordable housing task force.)

Public safety and a strong parks and recreation systems would be at the forefront of city services in his administration, Grubb said.

 “I believe that a robust community policing program strengthens relationships between residents and law enforcement, and builds trust,” he said. “Training in both traditional law enforcement disciplines as well as newer applications will ensure that every resident can trust the Bethlehem Police Department to apply the law equally, to everyone, at all times.”


selections from Anthony Salamone, “Former city administrator Dana Grubb is second Democrat to announce a run for Bethlehem mayor.” Morning Call, January 27, 2021.

Former city administrator Dana Grubb announced his campaign Wednesday, delivering a 10-minute speech before supporters at the Steel Ice Center in south Bethlehem.

Before his speech, Grubb said there are several key issues facing the city’s next mayor, including improving public safety, building up the city’s affordable housing stock, and creating a caretaker, or “concierge,” to help small businesses.

Grubb, 70, whose nearly three decades of work for the city included time as grants administrator and deputy director of community development, last held a city position in 2004. He was forced to retire after fighting with another employee in City Hall.

But the northeast Bethlehem resident, who said he received approximately $24,000 a year in a city pension after retiring, has stayed active in Bethlehem government in various ways. He has also worked as a freelance writer and photographer, and has owned a photography business. He said during his speech that he would not take another pension or accept health insurance benefits if he is elected mayor.

No Republican has formally announced for mayor. The Northampton County Republican Committee did not respond to messages seeking comment. Bethlehem traditionally has held a Democratic majority among voters, with the last Republican mayor, Ken Smith, serving during the 1990s. He resigned three months early in 1997 to take a position at Lehigh University.

How many city birds are there?

Latest in a series of posts on the Swifts

“This level of cooperation between developers and conservationists is extremely unusual and highly commendable.”
Peter Saenger, Lehigh Valley Audobon Society

We are closing in on 100 donations!
Won’t you join with us and contribute?
Click here for the GoFundMe page.


See the terrific story by Tami Quigley and great pictures: “Answering the SOS That’s Save Our Swifts, Wyandotte St. migratory visitors.” Bethlehem Press, January 20. 2021.


So we look to have a resolution at the February 2 City Council meeting to name the Chimney Swift the official City Bird of Bethlehem.

And so Gadfly was curious about how many other cities have such an “animal.”

The wikipedia compilers show that Bethlehem would join about 3 dozen other cities in the U.S. in naming an official City Bird.

No Swifts on that wikipedia list.

We will be unique.

Gadfly’s survey of that list indicates that such actions have been the result of hometown heroes and grassroots movements — resident participatory activities dear to Gadfly’s heart.

Take Rockford, Illinois, for example.

Just this past July, Rockford adopted the peregrine falcon as a result of the movement initiated by a high schooler.

Gadfly was drawn to the Rockford story by a Bethlehem resonance.

Young Jackie Kuroda “led the efforts to designate the bird because of its ability to adapt and overcome,” which “makes it the perfect bird to represent the comeback that Rockford has been making too.”

Rockford, a comeback town like us.

But the building in which the falcon nest is currently for sale is causing concern: “I don’t know the future of the building or how long we’ll be allowed to have our cameras up there,” Jackie’s mom said. “But I hope whoever the new owner is — that they’ll welcome these birds just as much as the community has.”

Worry over the stability of the nesting site.

Like us too.

But in Bethlehem new owners of the Masonic Temple site John and Lynn Noble, here pictured with Jennie Gilrain, have stepped up to pledge security for the Swifts.

“The western wall has been ripped away and the steel beams have been cut close to the chimney’s edge,” [Gilrain] said. “Demolition has been slowed down significantly in order to preserve the chimney, which drives up the cost of equipment rental and labor.”

According to Noble, the crew was working carefully by hand with chisels, hammers and jackhammers around the eastern edge of the chimney during the first full week of January.

“I think the level of care and skill that John and the demolition crew are employing to save the chimney is quite astounding,” Gilrain said.

“In the end, if the existing chimney cannot be saved, John Noble has agreed to build a duplicate roosting tower on the property, 60 feet to the north of the original,” Gilrain said.

According to LVAS President Peter Saenger, “This level of cooperation between developers and conservationists is extremely unusual and highly commendable.”

Gilrain calls it “Miracle on Wyandotte Street.”

Now it is time for us to step up too.

Please contribute
let’s break 100 donations

Save Our Swifts

Grubb on the mayoral stump for the first time tomorrow

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

A reminder that mayoral candidate Dana Grubb meets the public tomorrow for the first time after his press release announcement a week ago.

That would be 11 am at the Steel Ice Center, 320 East First Street on the South Side, tomorrow Wednesday, January 27 — mask and social distancing in order.

Gadfly is still under house arrest (first rendezvous with the vaccine tomorrow!).

He hopes some followers will attend and report back to Gadfly headquarters.

At the moment Grubb and Councilman Reynolds are the only contenders in the mayoral ring.

The competition is a good thing.

Let’s make sure we hear the different views.

The local ballot so far

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

Having mentioned the May primary election, let’s remember what the ballot looks like so far. The official deadline for candidates to file their petitions is March 9. Lots of time for the fields to enlarge.


J. William Reynolds

Dana Grubb

possibly Bryan G. Callahan


City Council

Hillary Kwiatek

Grace Crampsie Smith

Bryan G. Callahan

possibly Olga Negron and Adam Waldron

Bloggers needed

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

In a post entitled “Would you like to do some blogging?” in his Lehigh Valley Ramblings today, Bernie O’Hare makes the case for and makes a call for additional bloggers to cover the upcoming local election(s):

This year’s municipal races will attract far fewer attention (and votes) than the Presidential election we just endured. But it is arguably far more important. What your local elected officials do in office has much more of an impact on your daily lives than whatever Congress and the President do. Are the roads being maintained? Do 911 dispatchers answer your emergency calls? Are police or firefighters around when you need them? Are you being taxed to death? Is anyone out there doing any thing about warehouse proliferation or the increased truck traffic?  These issues matter. Yet turnout in municipal races drop dramatically after a Presidential race.  The result is elected officials, often bad, who have received insufficient scrutiny. Compounding that problem is a local press that no longer has the manpower to pay attention to local races. 

In my blog coverage, I usually focus only on a few races where I have an adequate  understanding of the issues and candidates. These would primarily be in Northampton County, Bethlehem and Allentown.  That leaves numerous races uncovered. Also, I write from my own perspective on things. Though I always try to be factually accurate, I am biased. It would be refreshing to both my readers and myself to see stories, especially about upcoming elections, from others. 

If you have such an interest, please email me at 

Gadfly wholeheartedly seconds Bernie!

We need more perspectives.

And this is a good time to remind everybody that, since the May 18 primary tends to finalize the Bethlehem mayoral and councilmanic positions, Gadfly plans to fold his wings May 19.

And that he hopes that somebody will either take over this blog or establish a new one.

Every community needs a gadfly.

Contact me through the blog or at

Councilwoman Crampsie Smith running for re-election

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

For Immediate Release

Contact: 610-554-1857

Grace Crampsie Smith                                                                                       January 22, 2021

Grace Crampsie Smith has announced her candidacy for re-election to Bethlehem City Council. Crampsie Smith was appointed to Council in September, 2019 to fulfill the unexpired term of Shawn Martell, and won election to a 2- year term, effective January 2020.

She is the Chair of the Public Works Committee, and a member of the Public Safety and Community Development Committees.

Crampsie Smith is a School Counselor at Easton Area High School. Previously, she worked as an addictions counselor and administrator of services for those with developmental disabilities, mental health diagnoses, and their families. She has also instructed community college courses that focused on the Americans with Disabilities Act and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

In her 1st first year as a council member, she  initiated and co-chairs the Affordable Housing Task Force, which is comprised of members of public and private entities whose goal is to formulate recommendations to address and alleviate the lack of housing that is affordable for working and middle class within the city.

She sponsored a resolution to assure insurance coverage for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) care for 1st responders, and she recently introduced a Responsible Contractor Ordinance.

She is a member of the NAACP Community Advisory Board, Lehigh Valley Regional Housing Advisory Board, Northside 2017, Lehigh Valley ROAR, Lehigh Valley 4 All, Bethlehem City Democratic Committee, Northampton County Council of Democratic Women, Northampton County Democratic Committee, Bethlehem Food Co-op, and American Legion Auxiliary.

Crampsie Smith regularly partners with Pros Fore Clothes to facilitate clothing drives for the homeless and those in need. She also assisted in initiating the Moravian College Block Watch.

Councilwoman Crampsie Smith believes that her interpersonal and professional skills have been a definite asset while serving on council,  and she seeks re-election so she can continue promoting her agenda of  assuring public health and safety, balancing economic development with housing that is inclusive and affordable, and encouraging sound fiscal management.

“While my first year in office has been challenging given the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent challenges, it has been an honor and privilege to represent and serve the members of our diverse Bethlehem community. I look forward to continue to work towards the delicate balance of progress while concurrently preserving our city’s unique history.

She is the grateful  mother of three children: Shannon, a student at Widener Law School, Bridget, a student at Jefferson Medical School, and Brendan, a student at Albright College.

What the Swifts have to teach us: the value of vesper flights

Latest in a series of posts on the Swifts

“When I read the news and grieve, my mind has more than once turned to vesper flights, to the strength and purpose that can arise from the collaboration of numberless frail and multitudinous souls.”
Helen Macdonald

Saturday morning.

A day off for most of us.

Gadfly imagines you with morning coffee or tea and toast.


With time to read.

And think.

To think of the Swifts and the value of community.

The value of vesper flights far above the madding crowd where we pool our separate selves in this fractured time to chart our common societal journey.


from Helen Macdonald, “The Mysterious Life of Birds Who Never Come Down.” New York Times Magazine, July 29, 2020.

On warm summer evenings, swifts that aren’t sitting on eggs or tending their chicks fly low and fast, screaming in speeding packs around rooftops and spires. Later they gather higher in the sky, their calls now so attenuated by air and distance that to the ear they corrode into something that seems less than sound, to suspicions of dust and glass. And then, all at once, as if summoned by a call or a bell, they fall silent and rise higher and higher until they disappear from view. These ascents are called vespers flights, or vesper flights, after the Latin vesper for evening. Vespers are evening devotional prayers, the last and most solemn of the day, and I have always thought “vesper flights” the most beautiful phrase, an ever-falling blue.

Their vesper flights take them to the top of what is called the convective boundary layer. The C.B.L. is the humid, hazy part of the atmosphere where the ground’s heating by the sun produces rising and falling convective currents, blossoming thermals of hot air; it’s the zone of fair-weather cumulus clouds and everyday life for swifts. Once swifts crest the top of this layer, they are exposed to a flow of wind that’s unaffected by the landscape below but is determined instead by the movements of large-scale weather systems. By flying to these heights, swifts cannot only see the distant clouds of oncoming frontal systems on the twilit horizon, but they can also use the wind itself to assess the possible future courses of these systems. What they are doing is forecasting the weather.

Migratory birds orient themselves through a complex of interacting compass mechanisms. During vesper flights, swifts have access to them all. At this panoptic height, they can see the scattered patterns of the stars overhead, and at the same time they can calibrate their magnetic compasses, getting their bearings according to the light-polarization patterns that are strongest and clearest in twilit skies. Stars, wind, polarized light, magnetic cues, the distant stacks of clouds a hundred miles out, clear cold air, and below them the hush of a world tilting toward sleep or waking toward dawn. What they are doing is flying so high that they can work out exactly where they are, to know what they should do next. They’re quietly, perfectly, orienting themselves.

Swifts don’t make these flights alone. They ascend as flocks every evening before singly drifting down, while in the morning they fly up alone and return to earth together. To orient themselves correctly, to make the right decisions, they need to pay attention not only to the cues of the world around them but also to one another.  Swifts on their vesper flights are working according to what is called the many-wrongs principle. That is, they’re averaging all their individual assessments in order to reach the best navigational decision. If you’re in a flock, decisions about what to do next are improved if you exchange information with those around you. We can speak to one another; what swifts do is pay attention to what other swifts are doing. And in the end it can be as simple as this: They follow one another.

Thinking about swifts has made me think more carefully about the ways in which I’ve dealt with difficulty. When I was small, I comforted myself with thoughts of layers of rising air; later I hid myself among the whispers of recorded works of fiction, helping myself fall asleep by playing audiobooks on my phone. We all have our defenses. Some of them are self-defeating, but others are occasions for joy: the absorption of a hobby, the writing of a poem, speeding on a Harley, the slow assembly of a collection of records or shells. “The best thing for being sad,” said T.H. White’s Merlyn, “is to learn something.” As my friend Christina says, all of us have to live our lives most of the time inside the protective structures that we have built; none of us can bear too much reality. And with the coronavirus pandemic’s terrifying grip on the globe, as so many of us cling desperately to the remnants of what we assumed would always be normality — sometimes in ways that put us, our loved ones and others in danger — my usual defenses against difficulty have begun to feel uncomfortably provisional and precarious.

Swifts have, of late, become my fable of community, teaching us about how to make right decisions in the face of oncoming bad weather. They aren’t always cresting the atmospheric boundary layer at dizzying heights; most of the time they are living below it in thick and complicated air. That’s where they feed and mate and bathe and drink and are. But to find out about the important things that will affect their lives, they must go higher to survey the wider scene, and there communicate with others about the larger forces impinging on their realm.

Not all of us need to make that climb, just as many swifts eschew their vesper flights because they are occupied with eggs and young — but surely some of us are required, by dint of flourishing life and the well-being of us all, to look clearly at the things that are so easily obscured by the everyday. To take time to see the things we need to set our courses toward or against; the things we need to think about to know what we should do next. To trust in careful observation and expertise, in its sharing for the common good. When I read the news and grieve, my mind has more than once turned to vesper flights, to the strength and purpose that can arise from the collaboration of numberless frail and multitudinous souls. If only we could have seen the clouds that sat like dark rubble on our own horizon for what they were; if only we could have worked together to communicate the urgency of what they would become.


Please contribute
let’s break 100 donations

Save Our Swifts

What the Swifts have to teach us

Latest in a series of posts on the Swifts

“Swifts have, of late, become my fable of community, teaching us about how to make right decisions in the face of oncoming bad weather.”
Helen Macdonald

You have been following Gadfly’s support of our Save Our Swifts campaign spearheaded by Jennie Gilrain and with the blessing of Masonic Temple site developer John Noble. You may have even contributed to the campaign. 91 people have so far, and there’s room for plenty more. (hint, hint)

There’s word on the street that there’s a move afoot to name the Swifts the official bird of the City of Bethlehem.

There’s further whispers of a resolution at the next City Council meeting.

It behooves us to get to know the Swifts.

We may soon be seeing images of them everywhere from on police cars to our water bills.

I can imagine Swifts illuminated on the side of the Hotel Bethlehem at migration time.

Now Gadfly already told you that you could know Swifts by reading scientist/naturalist JJ Audobon, he of considerable fame.

What Gadfly didn’t tell you, however, is that ol’ Audobon is the typical cold, detached scientist.

While not exactly Dr. Frankenstein, he killed and stuffed his birds.

Gadfly couldn’t bear to tell you that before.

On a midnight excursion to the Louisville Sycamore Swift Hotel, JJ and his Igor “caught and killed with as much care as possible more than a hundred [Swifts], stowing them away in [their] pockets and bosoms” for further examination.

Gadfly appreciates the “as much care as possible” gesture, but we’re not talking about love here.

We want to love our Swifts.

With a tip o’ the hat to Jennie, Gadfly would like to recommend “ornitho-poet” Helen Macdonald’s New York Times Magazine essay “The Mysterious Life of Birds Who Never Come Down.” 

Here we will find love.

Here we will find respect.

Here we will find awe.

Gadfly gives you a taste:

The bird was suffused with a kind of seriousness very akin to holiness. . . . Swifts are magical in the manner of all things that exist just a little beyond understanding. . . .  they are creatures of the upper air, and of their nature unintelligible, which makes them more akin to angels. . . . If the swifts were flying low over rooftops, I’d see one open its mouth, and that was truly uncanny, because the gape was huge, turning the bird into something uncomfortably like a miniature basking shark. . . . They still seem to me the closest things to aliens on Earth. I’ve seen them up close now, held a live grounded adult in my hands before letting it fall back into the sky. You know those deep-sea fish dragged by nets from fathoms of blackness, how obvious it is that they aren’t supposed to exist where we are? The adult swift was like that in reverse. Its frame was tough and spare, and its feathers were bleached by the sun. Its eyes seemed unable to focus on me, as if it were an entity from an alternate universe whose senses couldn’t quite map onto our phenomenal world. . . . They mate on the wing. And while young martins and swallows return to their nests after their first flights, young swifts do not. As soon as they tip themselves free of the nest hole, they start flying, and they will not stop flying for two or three years, bathing in rain, feeding on airborne insects, winnowing fast and low to scoop fat mouthfuls of water from lakes and rivers. . . . Common swifts spend only a few months on their breeding grounds, another few months in winter over the forests and fields of sub-Saharan Africa, and the rest of the time they’re moving, making a mockery of borders. 

Gadfly usually gives you selections and then a link to full articles or news stories. A bow to your busy lives.

But he would really like you to read this whole article.

It’s kinda long for sure.

But it’s exquisitely written and should not be excerpted.

Look for the phenomenon of “vesper flights.”

See what the Swifts have to teach us.

And be ready to tell me what you think.


Save Our Swifts

Riverport starting to whet our appetites!

The latest in a series of posts on the Southside

Such good news! (Reminds Gadfly to wonder what’s happening lately on the Banana Factory renovation front.) The Morning Call online article linked below has a great image gallery at which you should look.


selections from Ryan Kneller, “First four vendors, including a brewery and Mexican eatery, announced for Bethlehem’s Riverport Public Market.” Morning Call, January 19, 2021.

The first four vendors of a highly anticipated public market on Bethlehem’s South Side have been announced, and they are likely to make your mouth water.

A start-up brewery, a local winery, a Mexican restaurant and a micro creamery have signed on to occupy the Riverport Public Market. The center is set to open later this year at the site of the former Starters Riverport restaurant at 17 W. Second St., the market and principals of Ashley Development Corporation announced in a Tuesday news release.

Before the pandemic, experiential concepts were among the strongest performers in both the retail and [food and beverage] world,” Natalia Stezenko, the market’s design and project manager, said in the release. “The pandemic has put those concepts on hold, and many experiential players that were thriving will simply not make it through the crisis without help. But, we see the public market model as the vehicle which can lead a resurgence of the experiential retail and F&B economy.”

In terms of a tentative opening date, the development team is “optimistic for November,” Stezenko added.

The forthcoming market’s vendors include:

Soaked Winery: Soaked Winery aims to create an environment “where everyone is welcome and where the stuffy heirs of wine snobbery fall by the wayside.”

Jealous Star Brewing Co.: Jealous Star Brewing Co. is the brainchild of restaurateur Ramiro Bravo, brewer Brendon Velasquez and Tim Kiss. The brewery, whose name is derived from Norse mythology, will focus attention on hand-picking ingredients catering to each style of beer.

TYT Lite: TYT Lite will be a new fast-casual Mexican concept from Ramiro Bravo, owner of Tacos Y Tequila in downtown Allentown and Palmer Township. TYT Lite will have street tacos, burritos, burrito bowls, quesadillas and nachos on the menu for your on-the-go authentic Mexican cuisine fix.

Batch Microcreamery: Established in 2019, Batch will open a third location at the upcoming Riverport Market in Bethlehem. The micro creamery, which also has locations at the Downtown Allentown Market and newly opened Trolley Barn Public Market in Quakertown, offers super premium, hand-crafted ice cream that is made on-site.

Riverport Public Market, occupying a two-story, 24,000-square-foot space, will feature 24 food and beverage vendors and create “a vibrant new place to celebrate local food and craft culture,” according to the release.

In addition to showcasing unique, freshly made food and other high-quality selections from artisans, the market will host a variety of cooking classes and events featuring instructors ranging from in-house vendors and local chefs to nationally known cookbook authors in a demonstration kitchen.

“We seek harm to none and harmony for all”

“We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation, rather than share it.”

Amanda Gorman was an Inauguration sensation with her poem “The Hill We Climb.”

Find information on her below provided by a member of a discussion list to which Gadfly belongs.

Some of his favorite lines in the poem are here. What are yours?

We are striving to forge our union with purpose
To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and conditions of man.
And so we lift our gaze, not to what stands between us, but what stands before us.
We close the divide because we know to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside.
We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another.
We seek harm to none and harmony for all.

“The Hill We Climb”

The following information on Gorman provided by Abdul Alkalimat:

Now 22-years-old, West LA raised Gorman was named Youth Poet Laureate of Los Angeles at the age of 16. At 19, while in college at Harvard, she was named the first-ever National Youth Poet Laureate.

The poem she read

The position of Youth Poet Laureate


Her website

Her inaugural reading


Her poetry

Her other readings

Oprah gave her earrings

“But while democracy can be periodically delayed,
it can never be permanently defeated.”

An opportunity to step up: “our city needs your civic engagement”

Latest in a series of posts on City Government

The City just published the following announcement seeking applications for volunteer positions on the City Authorities, Boards, and Commissions — what Gadfly calls our ABC’s.

The primary election is May 18. We will be electing a mayor and City Council members. But sometimes we too little recognize that a lot of the City work and a lot of the decisions are made by volunteer residents serving on the ABC’s.

The City is looking for volunteers. Now is the time for you to think about where you can participate.

Follow the link in the announcement to the list of ABC’s. If unsure about what one of the ABC’s does or what you might be suitable for, you can talk to Alex Karras in the Mayor’s office

The City has been responsive to calls for new blood on the ABC’s, especially from women and people of color.

For a pep talk, I recommend Councilwoman Negron’s still relevant 2019 article posted below.


Appointments Available For Bethlehem Residents Interested in Serving on Authorities, Boards, Commissions

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Appointments are available for Bethlehem residents who may be interested in serving on one of our various authorities, boards, and commissions!

Please review the following link for information specific to each of them:

Interested citizens are encouraged to send their letter of interest and resume to the Office of the Mayor at


Olga Negron, “Your View by Bethlehem councilwoman: Want to help democracy? Serve on a government board.” Morning Call, August 31, 2019.

Voting in national elections is important, but it’s only one of many ways that citizens can fulfill their duty to contribute to the governance of their communities and country.

I’m Councilwoman Olga Negron, vice president of Bethlehem City Council and the first woman of color elected to Bethlehem City Council. Getting elected to City Council was not a matter of chance or luck. I’ve been civically engaged all my life. Before running for local office, I served in many volunteer positions within the city, such as on the Planning Commission, the Public Library Board and many other nonprofit boards.

As a member of these governing bodies, and now as an elected official, I’m here to tell you that our city needs your civic engagement.

A few highly visible decision-making positions in local government are elected positions and each of us has to be a resident of our municipality in order to hold that post (mayor, city council, etc.).

However, that’s not the only way to be part of the decisions about what happens in our city. There are many, other extremely important nonelected positions in local government that need to be filled by volunteers, such as positions on the Public NegronLibrary Board, Fine Arts Commission, Housing Authority, Human Relations Commission, Board of Historical and Architectural Review, City Planning Commission, Environmental Advisory Council, Historic Conservation Commissions, Parking Authority, Recreation Commission, Redevelopment Authority, Zoning Hearing Board.

Although some positions have residency requirements, in many cases people who sit on these commissions and boards don’t live in our city.

We also have individuals who have been members of the same board or commission for 15 to 20 years, and some individuals are members of two or three boards at the same time. Why, you might wonder?

Some of these positions require an expertise (electrical, health, financial, etc.). And these are also nonpaid positions, which makes it more difficult to find individuals willing to serve.

Many times when there are vacancies, they need to be filled rather quickly and the person charged with selecting nominees is “stuck” with the same few individuals.

However, it’s important to know that not all positions require a specific expertise; most just require a dedicated person with common sense and love for our city who is willing to be the voice of their community.

As a member of city council, I understand that one of my roles is to provide a check and balance on the mayor of the city and at the same time to be the voice of the people.

But the people in our city have diverse voices, and what we need is more of that diversity working in our government. That’s why I’m reaching out to challenge every single one of you to get civically engaged, to share your talents and put them to work for the betterment of our city. Don’t wait until you are negatively impacted by a government decision to get involved in local decisions.

A functioning democracy requires citizens who care what their government is doing and who put the time in to make it work for them. At the municipal level, you can have an impact on the political.

When citizens get involved in local government, they make it possible for government to do more than elected officials could accomplish alone.

Just this year, the city’s Environmental Advisory Council proposed several ordinances that would otherwise never become a possibility.

When members of local boards and commissions tell us what they think is good for the city, their views can have a significant impact on the decisions that elected officials make.

By getting involved in local government, you can make a big difference in the governance of our collective life and community long before the 2020 presidential election arrives.

City: info on vaccine and on utility bills

Bethlehem Health Bureau To Expand Vaccine Distribution

Bethlehem Mayor Robert Donchez announces that the Bethlehem Health Bureau will expand vaccine distribution.

The Bethlehem Health Bureau will now expand COVID-19 vaccines to individuals age 65 or older and individuals 18-64 years of age with certain medical conditions that increase the risk of severe illness from the virus.

“The Bethlehem Health Bureau has done an outstanding job vaccinating over 2,850 individuals in the first priority group.  We now look forward to vaccinating additional individuals who are now eligible to receive the vaccine,” Mayor Bob Donchez stated.

The Bethlehem Health Bureau is expected to receive vaccine shipments on a weekly basis. The Bethlehem Health Bureau will continue to provide updates as to when the vaccine will be made available to additional groups.

For a complete list of groups who are eligible to get vaccinated in the 1A phase or to schedule an appointment at one of our upcoming clinics, please visit and click on the COVID-19 vaccine tab.

Proof that individuals are eligible to receive a vaccine in the 1A phase will be required at the time of appointment.

Individuals can contact the Bethlehem Health Bureau at (610) 865-7083 with any questions.


Mayor Bob Donchez announced today that the City of Bethlehem is experiencing significant delays affecting delivery of customer utility bills due to problems within the US Postal Service as they deal with the Covid-19 pandemic and backlog from the Christmas holiday season.  Utility bills (which include water, sewer, and recycling charges to city residents) are running two to three weeks behind schedule.

Due to these problems which are outside the customer’s control, the City has suspended all penalties and late fees on overdue utility bills until March 31, 2021. We appreciate our customer’s patience as we work with the USPS to rectify the situation.

USPS expects to catch up with their backlog and resume normal delivery schedule in the next few weeks.

Dana Grubb entering the mayoral race

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

Lifelong City Resident and Former City Worker

To Announce Candidacy for Bethlehem Mayor


For Immediate Release

Lifelong Bethlehem resident and former City administrator Dana Grubb will announce his candidacy for the 2021 Mayoral Election on Wednesday, January 27. The announcement will be made at 11 am at the Steel Ice Center, 320 East First Street on the South Side. All persons at the event must be masked; social distancing will be required.

Grubb, who served as the city’s Grants Administrator and the Deputy Director of Community Development among other offices, will lay out the key tenets of his candidacy and reveal some of the principles by which he intends to govern. Not a career politician, and known for a principled work ethic, Grubb brings to his candidacy not only solid experience with the City’s governance but also a background as a small business owner and a journalist. Most of all, he brings his deep and abiding love of the city, and a genuine desire to make it a better place.

Press Contact: Deb Courville 570-996-7534 (SMS & voice)/