Mark your calendars: ‘Tis the season for the farmers markets

Latest in a series of posts on the environment

Didn’t we also have one on the Greenway last year (Fridays?) and on Payrow Plaza (Tuesdays?).

———–

selections from Jennifer Sheehan, “Our 2021 guide to the Lehigh Valley farmers market season.” Morning Call, April 5, 2021.

Bethlehem Farmers Market

This popular market, based at 1 Farrington Square on Lehigh University’s campus is back after a yearlong hiatus due to the pandemic.

Opening day will be April 29 and the market will once again be held 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursdays, May through October, offering fresh local produce, lunch items, baked goods and more.

Info: bethlehemfarmersmarket.com

Bethlehem Rose Garden Farmers Market

Opening day: June 6

Regular hours: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. June to October

Location: Historic Rose Garden, Eighth Avenue and Raspberry Street

Details, vendors: The market, held in arguably one of the prettiest spots in the Valley, will be back with more than two dozen vendors (with at least eight new ones) offering organic and humanely raised chicken and beef, produce, baked goods, peanut butter, nuts, vegan yogurt, dairy, flowers, kombucha and microgreens as well as soaps and women’s and children’s clothing. This market is also moving to the circle in the park, a more central location to enjoy all the scenery.

Shoppers may notice a lot of improvements at the park this year thanks to a state grant that has funded the addition of walking paths connecting the site of the market to the children’s play area and bandshell.

Looking further ahead, the market will be part of Rose Fest, which is planned for June 26 and will be a rededication of the park and mark the 90th anniversary of the garden.

Clean up, Clean up

Latest in a series of posts on the environment

Tomorrow Saturday April 10

Southside Arts/Missy Hartney
Greenway and Hayes Street
Saturday, April 10, 10AM-1PM
Please email me at Missy@southsideartsdistrict.com if you can join us!

It’s a mess –significant help needed!

Next Saturday April 17

Sand Island Trail Clean Up
Sand Island-between Ice House and Basketball Courts
SATURDAY, APRIL 17, 2021 AT 10 AM EDT – 12 PM EDT

Two weeks Saturday April 24

Annual Earth Day/Historic District Cleanup
Downtown Bethlehem
April 24, 2021 at 8 AM EDT – 11 AM EDT

The Swift team flies again tomorrow night

Latest in a series of posts on the Swifts

The Swifts are the official City Bird of Bethlehem
They need your help

GoFundMe

Forum #2 Thursday Mar 11, 7:00-8:30 PM
Changing Methods of Construction and the Impact on Chimney Swifts

Christine Ussler, Architect and Founder, Artefact, Inc.; Professor of Practice, Art, Architecture and Design, Lehigh University; Board Member, Pennsylvania Historic Preservation; Advisory Board Member, South Bethlehem Historical Society

Scott Burnet, Chairman of the Habitat Committee of the Lehigh Valley Audubon Society (LVAS)

Peter Saenger, LVAS President, Ornithologist at Muhlenberg College Acopian Center for Ornithology

Mary Foltz (moderator), Director of South Side Initiative and Professor of English, Lehigh University

Scott Burnet visited the Masonic Temple redevelopment site in South Bethlehem on December 11, 2020 to consult with developer, John Noble, and Architect, Christine Ussler, about the potential relocation and design of the 40-foot-high 5-foot square Masonic Temple chimney. Christine Ussler will tell the story of the changing form and function of chimney structures throughout Bethlehem’s history. Scott will connect our human (his)story to the story of the swifts’ adaptation from hollow trees in old growth forests to masonry chimneys in urban environments. We will invite the audience to reconceptualize our relationship with nature to acknowledge the interconnection between human and natural history.

Save Our Swifts
GoFundMe

A seminar on the Swifts

Latest in a series of posts on the Swifts

The Swifts are the official City Bird of Bethlehem
They need your help

GoFundMe

————

Chimney Swifts.org

On February 17, Josh Berk and BAPL hosted “Chimney Swifts and their Adaptation to Urban Habitats,” the first forum in the 3-part series “S.O.S. Save Our Swifts by Saving their Urban Habitat: Telling the Story of the Chimney Swifts and their Connection to Our City.”

Jennie Gilrain moderated as Peter Saenger from the Lehigh Valley Audubon Society presented a brief overview of the Swifts (video, mins 17:40-33:30) and then answered questions from Jennie, Josh, and the audience.

Here is an audio clip of Peter’s presentation with a few of his slides, but see link to the full video above.

Can you see the bird’s claws?
Swifts are not physically made for walking but for clinging.

Nesting

Inside the chimney

Far travelers

If they have no chimneys . . .

Art work — something to think about if we foster towers in our parks

Save Our Swifts
GoFundMe

Progress on readying the $wift hotel

Latest in a series of posts on the Swifts

The Swifts are the official City Bird of Bethlehem
They need your help

GoFundMe

Frankly, the fund-raising has stalled. We’ve run out of gas at $8325. Gadfly likes even numbers. He’s going to make (another) contribution right now to try to crank up the momentum. Who will follow? Can you help? Can you encourage someone else to help? Perhaps the Swifts would make a nice home for a piece of an income tax return.

——————–

No more Masonic Temple! Only the Wilbur Mansion and the chimney! All that is left of the Masonic Temple is the concrete railing structure. The chimney now stands alone, supported by a few steel beams. John Noble and his demolition team have succeeded in demolishing the entire building while leaving the chimney standing tall. Now the immense job of stabilizing and repairing the chimney to make it safe as a freestanding structure. The chimney wall that faces the camera is the wall that was against the building.

photos and text by Jennie Gilrain

Save Our Swifts
GoFundMe

Bethlehem Storm Water Runoff Improvements on the Way

Latest in a series of posts on the environment

Gadfly:

Rebuilding crumbling stormwater infrastructure and adopting innovative new practices to reduce flooding is finally gaining the attention it deserves. The City of Bethlehem has hired a lead engineer to head up the Department of Public Works effort to manage stormwater runoff. The result will be a stormwater management plan to tackle long-standing flooding hazards and beautify streets and public areas while finding the best ways to respond to expanding state and federal regulations. This work will be paid for by a stormwater fee added to residential and commercial water bills.

To find out more, sign up for and attend one of the two virtual meetings hosted by Watershed Coalition of the Lehigh Valley on April 1 and 6th. Register at www.watershedcoalitionlv.org/Bethlehem for “Bethlehem Presentation: Stormwater Fees – What Residents Need to Know.”

“Starting this spring, Bethlehem City residents will see a small monthly stormwater fee charge on their utility bills. Join this webinar to learn more. The presentation will cover the basics of urban stormwater management and why more municipalities are approving fees to help rebuild crumbling stormwater infrastructure and create innovative new practices to reduce flooding. Learn how cities and towns are tackling long-standing flooding hazards and beautifying their streets and public areas while finding the best ways to respond to expanding state and federal regulations. There will be a chance to ask questions, with answers posted online afterwards, along with a recording of the presentation.”

Jane Cook
Monocacy Creek Watershed Association

Stormwater is also on the agenda for the open-to-the-public Public Works Committee meeting Thursday at 5:30.

A new home for the Swifts at First Pres

Latest in a series of posts on the Swifts

The Swifts are the official City Bird of Bethlehem
They need your help

GoFundMe

On a grayish, blustery March 1 afternoon, Gadfly visited the Chimney Swift Tower that Elijah Sivick built for his Eagle Scout project.

It’s on a still snow-covered tract on the north side of the First Presbyterian Church on Center Street.

The Swifts, as Gadfly and his followers now know and as Elijah wrote in his project report, have been “designated as Near Threatened since 2010” and “have experienced a 70%+ decline over the last 50 years.”

The First Presbyterian chimneys “are unable to be sufficiently cleaned with the amount of swifts currently occupying them,” said Elijah in his proposal, and so “the swifts require a new home, and a tower must be constructed in order for the swifts to begin leaving.”

We don’t want to lose those Swifts.

Residents in nearby Kirkwood Village report fondly watching the Swifts at the Church site for years and years. Just like good neighbors.

Elijah’s project was designed to help to start the Swifts migrating from the Church to the tower.

A saving act just like Jennie Gilrain initiated at the Masonic Temple.

Elijah’s tower was completed last November.

Such Scout projects by Elijah and Emily exemplify for us that there is ample know-how  available to spur much more in the way of constructing habitats to help protect the Swifts, which are now our official Bethlehem City bird.

We’re keeping alive Councilman Colon’s suggestion that Swift towers could be erected in our parks perhaps as Scout projects to educate the public on the value of the Swifts.

Tip o’ the hat to Elijah!

———–

A reminder that we’re still in need of funds for the Masonic Temple chimney project

April is comin’

Save Our Swifts
GoFundMe

Our Lady of the Swifts

Latest in a series of posts on the Swifts

Tip o’ the hat to Ilhan, who remembers the Swifts as his favorite birds from childhood in Turkey. He remembers a children’s book based on this Byzantium story translated into Turkish.

“Our Lady of the Swifts”

“Our Lady of the Swifts”
in “Oriental Tales” by Marguerite Yourcenar

A priest becomes convinced that nymphs are living in a cave and seducing his parishioners, so he blocks the cave’s small mouth and tries to starve them. While waiting for them to starve, a woman — Mary — arrives and transforms the nymphs into birds.

————–

The Swifts are the official City Bird of Bethlehem
They need your help

GoFundMe

BAPL hosts first forum on our S.O.S project tomorrow night

Latest in a series of posts on the Swifts

“S.O.S. Save Our Swifts by Saving their Urban Habitat: Telling the Story of the Chimney Swifts and their Connection to Our City”

GoFundMe

The Swifts are now the official City Bird of Bethlehem!

Join us at the Bethlehem Area Public Library (virtually) for the first in a 3-part series of presentations in partnership with Lehigh Valley Audubon Society and the South Side Initiative entitled S.O.S. Save Our Swifts by Saving their Urban Habitat: Telling the Story of the Chimney Swifts and their Connection to Our City. This series is supported by the Lehigh Valley Engaged Humanities Consortium (LVEHC) Mellon Grant for Public Forums.

Each session will stream live on BAPL’s YouTube channel.

Register for this first session using the forum title link below.

————

Forum #1 Wednesday, February 17, 2021, 7:00-8:30 PM
Chimney Swifts and their Adaptation to Urban Habitats

Scott Burnet, Lehigh Valley Audubon Society (LVAS) Chairman of the Habitat Committee
Peter Saenger, LVAS President, Ornithologist at Muhlenberg College Acopian Center for Ornithology
Jennie Gilrain (moderator), LVAS Member and Bethlehem Area School District Teacher

Peter Saenger and Scott Burnet will educate the public about these unusual birds. Swifts originally roosted in hollow trees of old growth forests, but since the Industrial Revolution, have adapted to live in chimneys in urban environments. Approximately 2,200 birds were counted entering the Masonic Temple chimney in South Bethlehem in August 2020. Scott Burnet estimates that tens of thousands of chimney swifts use this roost yearly. Since the Masonic Temple was built in 1925 (95 years ago), it is reasonable to assume that up to 95 generations of swifts have called this chimney home. Peter Saenger and Scott Burnet will tell the story of how these aerial acrobats have cohabitated with the people in multiple roosts in Bethlehem since the Industrial Revolution.

———–

“S.O.S. Save Our Swifts by Saving their Urban Habitat: Telling the Story of the Chimney Swifts and their Connection to Our City”

GoFundMe

Emily goes for the Gold!

Latest in a series of posts on the Swifts

Save Our Swifts
GoFundMe

Followers will remember that a few posts back Gadfly highlighted Councilman Colon’s suggestion that Swift towers could be erected in our parks perhaps as Scout projects to educate the public on the value of the Swifts, an idea he reiterated to Gadfly after finding a tower while he and fiancée Erin were frostily perambulating in snow-filled Fort Washington State Park last Saturday.

Gadfly hopes to highlight shortly just such a tower project in Bethlehem by an Eagle Scout, but, lo ‘n behold, he has an example by Emily, a member of his extended family.

As a 16-and-17-year-old, Emily built a tower for a Girl Scout Gold Award (the Girl Scouts equivalent to the Boy Scouts Eagle award) at the Wildlands Conservatory in Emmaus to teach children in their summer camps “the importance of preservation of animal habitat so that in the future they continue to want to play an active role in animal habitat conservation.”

Scott Burnet, a member of the Bethlehem Swift steering committee, was one of her advisors.

What a great experience for Emily.

What great continuing value for the children at the Wildlands camps and other visitors.

Let’s keep the Colon suggestion percolating!

Save Our Swifts
GoFundMe

Christine: “Let’s be brave enough to be the light our Earth needs”

Latest in a series on Bethlehem’s Climate Action Plan

Gadfly takes note of the Morning Call voices of followers Fox and Christine urging us to pursue solutions to the problems associated with climate change and reminding him that the Bethlehem Climate Action Plan is on the verge of rolling out.

By the way, did you see the climate change interview with Bill Gates on 60 Minutes last night? Very provocative.

Becky Bradley, “Going Green is an investment in our economy.” Morning Call, February 4, 2021.

Amanda Gorman, “Earthrise”

“The Swifts eat bugs, and bugs are really annoying”

Latest in a series of posts on the Swifts

Save Our Swifts
GoFundMe

Our fundraising has stalled. The bottom line hasn’t moved in four days.

That’s terrible.

Did you you think just because the Swift was named the official City Bird of Bethlehem it was game over?

The Gadfly has the morals of, as they say, an alley cat.

He will do anything for his Swifts.

Even to again using the Freemansburg kids to pry open your wallets.

WFMZ’s Bo Koltnow did a wonderful piece on those adorable kids and their support of the Swifts.

You will want to see it.

All you have to do is click on the article citation below.

But first you must make a contribution.

The link won’t work without a cha-ching here.

I swear.

———–

Bethlehem students push city to make chimney swift its official bird.” WFMZ, February 9, 2021.

Click on article citation above for Bo’s video

A group of Freemansburg Elementary School 4th graders recently took swift action and lobbied local government to help some acrobatic avians.

“They’ve been around since like the 1800’s. They are like family to us because they’ve been in the city of Bethlehem,” said Emma Huertas.

She and 14 of her classmates wrote letters to Bethlehem’s mayor and council to make the chimney swift the official bird of Bethlehem. Ryan Benfica recently addressed council to press his point.

“They eat bugs and bugs are really annoying,” he said.

2,000 per day per bird, Ryan wrote.

The swifts, which face a steep population decline, recently stole the spotlight after 4th grade teacher Jennie Gilrain led a preservation charge to save the chimney of the old Masonic Temple now being demolished.

The migrating birds rely on chimneys to survive, as they rely on them to roost.

The bird’s aerial display is what drew Mariyah George to the cause.

“They all swirl and swirl and more keep coming and they go inside the chimney,” she said.

Not only was the chimney saved but their profile is now raised. Council named the chimney swift the city’s official bird.

“First off I jumped into the air and I said I finally achieved my goal of helping the chimney swift,” Huertas said.

For Gilrain, who initially used the situation in her science class, it’s now become a life lesson.

“I hope they remember this moment and your ability to make a difference when engaged at this level of government or any level of government,” she said.

Idealism, enthusiasm and courage. The power of youth. Even a bird brain can recognize its importance.

Save Our Swifts
GoFundMe

A vision of towers in our parks

Latest in a series of posts on the Swifts

Save Our Swifts
GoFundMe

ref: Muhlenberg Lake Getting Chimney Swift Tower

So as of the City Council meeting February 2, the Chimney Swifts are the official City Bird of Bethlehem.

In his remarks preceding the vote, Councilman Colon suggested the addition of “faux chimneys” [towers] in our parks as “low maintenance” and as “educational” pieces to go along with Council’s action now centered on the giant chimney at the Masonic Temple site.

Just like Allentown has.

Councilman Colon suggests an extension, a widening of our desire to be a home for the Swifts.

What a great idea!

A mini-Swift industry here!

Gadfly has heard that Scott Burnet, Chair of the Habitat Committee of the Lehigh Valley Audubon Society, has built more than 100 such Chimney Swift towers and would be happy to advise us in the process.

Scott is part of the local steering committee for our Save Our Swifts campaign.

He’s already in the house, as ’twere!

And he’s part of the panel for the February 17 “Chimney Swifts and their Adaptation to Urban Habitats,” the first forum in BAPL’s series on the saving Swifts project.

Save Our Swifts
GoFundMe

Telling the story of the Swifts and our Bethlehem S.O.S. project

Latest in a series of posts on the Swifts

“S.O.S. Save Our Swifts by Saving their Urban Habitat: Telling the Story of the Chimney Swifts and their Connection to Our City”

GoFundMe

Join us at the Bethlehem Area Public Library (virtually) for a series of presentations in partnership with Lehigh Valley Audubon Society and the South Side Initiative: S.O.S. Save Our Swifts by Saving their Urban Habitat: Telling the Story of the Chimney Swifts and their Connection to Our City. Each session will stream live on BAPL’s YouTube channel. Register for each session using the forum title links below. This series is supported by the Lehigh Valley Engaged Humanities Consortium (LVEHC) Mellon Grant for Public Forums.

Forum #1 Wednesday, February 17, 2021, 7:00-8:30 PM
Chimney Swifts and their Adaptation to Urban Habitats:

Scott Burnet, Lehigh Valley Audubon Society (LVAS) Chairman of the Habitat Committee
Peter Saenger, LVAS President, Ornithologist at Muhlenberg College Acopian Center for Ornithology
Jennie Gilrain (moderator), LVAS Member and Bethlehem Area School District Teacher

Peter Saenger and Scott Burnet will educate the public about these unusual birds. Swifts originally roosted in hollow trees of old growth forests, but since the Industrial Revolution, have adapted to live in chimneys in urban environments. Approximately 2,200 birds were counted entering the Masonic Temple chimney in South Bethlehem in August 2020. Scott Burnet estimates that tens of thousands of chimney swifts use this roost yearly. Since the Masonic Temple was built in 1925 (95 years ago), it is reasonable to assume that up to 95 generations of swifts have called this chimney home. Peter Saenger and Scott Burnet will tell the story of how these aerial acrobats have cohabitated with the people in multiple roosts in Bethlehem since the Industrial Revolution.

———–

Forum #2 Thursday, March 11, 2021, 7:00-8:30 PM
Changing Methods of Construction and the Impact on Chimney Swifts

Christine Ussler, Architect and Founder, Artefact, Inc.; Professor of Practice, Art, Architecture and Design, Lehigh University; Board Member, Pennsylvania Historic Preservation; Advisory Board Member, South Bethlehem Historical Society
Scott Burnet, Chairman of the Habitat Committee of the Lehigh Valley Audubon Society (LVAS)
Peter Saenger, LVAS President, Ornithologist at Muhlenberg College Acopian Center for Ornithology
Mary Foltz (moderator), Director of South Side Initiative and Professor of English, Lehigh University

Scott Burnet visited the Masonic Temple redevelopment site in South Bethlehem on December 11, 2020 to consult with developer, John Noble, and Architect, Christine Ussler, about the potential relocation and design of the 40-foot-high 5-foot square Masonic Temple chimney. Christine Ussler will tell the story of the changing form and function of chimney structures throughout Bethlehem’s history. Scott will connect our human (his)story to the story of the swifts’ adaptation from hollow trees in old growth forests to masonry chimneys in urban environments. Scott and Christine will ask the audience to reconceptualize our relationship with nature to acknowledge the interconnection between human and natural history.

————-

Forum #3, Wednesday, April 21, 2021, 7:00-8:30 PM
Modeling a Solution of Cooperation between Conservation and Development, A Panel Discussion

John Noble, Developer and property owner of Masonic Temple and Wilbur Mansion
Peter Saenger, Ornithologist, Lehigh Valley Audubon Society, President
Lynn F. Rothman, Environmental Scientist, Bethlehem Environmental Advisory Council, Chair
Karen Beck Pooley, Professor of Practice, Director of Environmental Policy, Lehigh University
Breena Holland (moderator), Professor of Political Science and the Environmental Initiative, Lehigh University

Developer and property owner, John Noble will tell the story of his commitment to conservation, his discovery of the birds in the Masonic Temple Chimney in South Bethlehem, his decision to save the birds by saving an important part of their migratory habitat and the impact of this decision on his development project. Peter Saenger will speak about the impact of this project on the population of Chimney Swifts, as well as the broader impact of urban development on bird migration. Lynn Rothman will speak about the balance between environmental protection and development. Karen Beck Pooley will speak about how we might design and implement policies that protect wild species in urban areas. Finally, we will invite the public to imagine: What does it mean for a city to befriend a bird? How might the symbolic gesture of naming the Chimney Swift the Bird of Bethlehem impact our relationship to the species? Then how might we implement policy changes that reflect that changing relationship?  How might this story encourage a city-wide attitude of respect for wildlife, a changing relationship to the earth?

“S.O.S. Save Our Swifts by Saving their Urban Habitat: Telling the Story of the Chimney Swifts and their Connection to Our City”

GoFundMe

Bethlehem has a bird!

Latest in a series of posts on the Swifts

Save Our Swifts

From Illick’s Mill to Saucon Park the City is moving toward a more
environmentally rich future.
Doug Roysdon

Gadfly is envious.

Last night the Swift was recognized as the official bird of Bethlehem.

No talk yet of an official insect.

Maybe next year.

This gadfly might even stay around for that and put the family name in the running.

But, yes, City Council approved Olga Negron’s resolution to name the Swift the official bird of the city of Bethlehem by a 7-0 tally.

(You’ll love Bernie O’Hare’s delightful squinty-eyed take on our choice of the Swift as our City bird. Take a look.)

Four of those wonderful Freemansburg 4th graders called in with remarkable aplomb to make the case: Yasiel, Emma, Ryan, and Cole. Be sure to listen.

Later City Council members took turns praising the project and the kids:

Gadfly will probably have some more to say about points Council members made, but he was especially struck with Councilwoman Van Wirt’s exhortation to the kids to “Please don’t ever stop calling your government and telling us what you think.”

A tip o’ the hat to Swift advocate Jennie Gilrain and Masonic Temple developer John Noble and the community that has formed around this project.

Gadfly has written about the many values of the Swift project for our town, and he will take this opportunity to provide one more example of such in a letter from Doug Roysdon to Council:

I would like to take this chance to endorse the adoption of the chimney swift as our city bird.  Beyond the many strong environmental reasons for embracing the swift, it occurs to me that these birds, with their acrobatic flight patterns,  offer great promise for graphic imagery for future city publications, initiatives, and signage.  I think this is particularly true as we move forward with our Climate Action Plan and increasingly promote the use of native plants in our parks and on the Greenway. From Illick’s Mill to Saucon Park the City is moving toward a more environmentally rich future.  We will want just the kind of imagery the chimney swift provides to support this greener future.  

But last night’s decision was not an end.

Stay tuned for news about a 3-part series of public forums hosted by the Bethlehem Area Public Library and supported by the Lehigh Valley Engaged Humanities Consortium.

And we still have some money to raise to insure our Swifts are chimneyfied.

Swift Project headquarters is pursuing grants, but we have our part to play in raising money.

Frankly, the fundraising has stalled.

So let Gadfly remind you to contribute and to pass the word through your personal, familial, and social network.

And contributions from environmentally conscious folk from outside Bethlehem are gratefully accepted.

———–

Save Our Swifts

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

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.”
Christian

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.
Cole

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

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!
Emma

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.
Gianna

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

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

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.
Julian

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

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

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.
Mariyah

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

I think chimney swifts are cute.
Yasiel

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.
Ryan

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.
Laylah

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

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

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.

Relaxed.

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

Audobon’s obsession with Swifts

Latest in a series of posts on the Swifts

The Swifts are coming in April!
Won’t you join with us and contribute?
Click here for the GoFundMe page.

———–

“When about to descend into a hollow tree or a chimney, its flight, always rapid, is suddenly interrupted as if by magic, for down it goes in an instant, whirling in a peculiar manner, and whirring with its wings, so as to produce a sound in the chimney like the rumbling of very distant thunder.”
John James Audobon, c. 1830s

John James Audobon had an obsession about Swifts.

In the delightful chapter on the “American Swift” in his classic The Birds of America, Audobon takes us back to the Swift’s pre-chimney days in the “ancient tenements” in the almost illimitable forests of America, especially in the “Sycamores of gigantic growth. . . . those patriarchs of the forest rendered habitable by decay.”

Audobon is captivated by the Swifts abiding in a two feet in diameter hollowed branch forty feet up on a huge Louisville sycamore sixty or seventy feet high and seven or eight feet in diameter at the base.

Audobon not only watches the Swifts, he meticulously counts them.

He not only watches the Swifts, but, ear against tree trunk, he listens to them.

He not only watches the Swifts from a distance, but he scrambles forty feet up the tree to view then, voyeur-like, through a window he bores.

He not only watches the Swifts from the outside, but, if Gadfly reads him right, he goes inside the hollow tree.

He not only watches the Swifts when they are awake, he anticipates the dawn to experience their dramatic awakening:

Next morning I rose early enough to reach the place long before the least appearance of daylight, and placed my head against the tree. All was silent within. I remained in that posture probably twenty minutes, when suddenly I thought the great tree was giving way, and coming down upon me. Instinctively I sprung from it, but when I looked up to it again, what was my astonishment to see it standing as firm as ever. The Swallows were now pouring out in a black continued stream. I ran back to my post, and listened in amazement to the noise within, which I could compare to nothing else than the sound of a large wheel revolving under a powerful stream. It was yet dusky, so that I could hardly see the hour on my watch, but I estimated the time which they took in getting out at more than thirty minutes. After their departure, no noise was heard within, and they dispersed in every direction with the quickness of thought.

Yes, John James Audobon had an obsession about Swifts.

But he has nothing on Jennie Gilrain.

Any day now Gadfly expects to find Jennie rappeling up (hmm, can you rappel “up”?) the Masonic Temple chimney.

He has Bethlehem native Jim Friedman, NBC10 photo-journalist, on speed dial.

So, yes, Jennie Gilrain also has an obsession about Swifts. That’s a good thing. Without it, we wouldn’t have a campaign to save them.

Gadfly invites you to take a few minutes to read Audobon’s short charming pioneer study of the Swifts.

———-

Gadfly is distressed to receive anxious notes from eager potential contributors to the Save Our Swifts campaign who can’t locate the GoFundMe page. O my. Here it is! Right here .

Surgical demolition required!

Latest in a series of posts on the Swifts

The Swifts are coming in April!
Won’t you join with us and contribute?
Click here for the GoFundMe page.

———-

photo by Jennie Gilrain

One of the many fascinations of the “Saving Our Swifts” project has to do with the demolition of the Masonic Temple.

No slam-bang, no, sir.

The delicate touch of a surgeon is needed to leave Hotel Chimney Swift intact.

The migratory Swifts are creatures of habit. They’ve been visiting the Masonic chimney for years. Like the Gadflys to Ocean City.

Developer Noble is trying not to disturb their routine. (This guy is something else, isn’t he?)

Take a good look at the territory.

Whattaya think?

What odds do you give for a successful surgery?

Well, not to worry too much.

If the chimney can’t be saved, Developer Noble will build a new one a short distance away (yes, this guy is something else, isn’t he?), and the smart money says the Swifts will find the new digs.

This photo was taken a week ago. The surgery might be done. Gadfly is not mobile. Can anybody put eyes on the scene and report back?

———–

In case you are disoriented, you can click here for the GoFundMe page.

Replacing a roof in the age of sustainability

Latest in a series of posts on the environment

Alison Steele is a Liberty High School alum who traveled the world looking for adventure and purpose before finding it in Pittsburgh.  She has made it her mission to help others make more informed decisions around how they interact with people and the planet.

Gadfly has often called your attention to Steel Town native Steele’s blog. He is particularly struck here by the kind of and amount of research and thinking relative to a decision that in the “old days” of his less-than-admirable energy unconsciousness he would have made with the snap of his fingers.

———–

“My Cabin Doesn’t Leak When It Doesn’t Rain, Part 1

Cost analysis

In spring 2018 some shingles blew off of our roof in a bad storm, and we got a leak that made its way through our attic and down to our living room. This was not too surprising, given that our asphalt roof (generally considered to have a 20-year life) was at least 20 years old when Christian bought the house 10 years prior. He had a stack of extra shingles that came from the last roof replacement and had been using them to patch and perform roof maintenance as needed, but that supply finally ran out. Long story short, it was time to shop for a new roof, and I began exploring options.

At the time, I wrote a blog post based on some cursory research of roofing materials and investment value of asphalt, metal, and the new Tesla solar shingles.[1] Unfortunately, much in the tradition “The Arkansas Traveler,” [2] a song that was sung to me as a child (and clearly had an impact), “my cabin doesn’t leak when it doesn’t rain,” meaning Christian’s patch let us put that decision on the back burner while I did some more research. Nearly two years later, that research still hadn’t happened, and it was time for the house to remind us of our responsibility… on Christmas Eve.

We spent the holiday emptying pans of water in the attic and calling roofing contractors for quotes. I spent the week between Christmas and New Year’s diving into materials research, product warranties, and recycling options to build on my original blog post, which was only focused on financial investment, not product lifecycle. . . .

continue on Alison’s blog

“My Cabin Doesn’t Leak When it Doesn’t Rain,” Part 1