Â Â Â Â If you visit Bemidji State University, and walk around the north endÂ of Deputy Hall, on the east side of the building (up the hill from Sattgast Hall)Â you will find a big concrete slab.Â Â What is that doing there?Â Well, originally, before 1958 when Elaine and I arrived in Bemidji), Bemidji State College’s power plant was in the Deputy basement.Â Some time before 1958, BSC built the present power plant, and that has been upgraded since.Â But the chimney that got rid of the smoke from the coal furnace in Deputy Hall’s basement remained.
Â Â Â Â Back then, spring quarter ended in late May.Â Swifts are late arrivers from their wintering grounds in Peru, and hundreds of swifts used the chimney in MayÂ as a pre-nesting roost.Â They would converge daily at sundown in a huge flock, and wheel around the chimney, with a few dropping down into it with each turn.Â Swifts twitter as they fly, and theÂ wheeling flock made quite a noise.Â I don’t remember timing it, but I expect it took 10-20 minutes for all of the crowd to disappear down the chimney. Â It was a spectacular thing for my ornithology class to watch, perhaps the last “field trip” before the end of Spring Quarter, while the swifts were still using the mass roost before pairing off to start individual nests in smaller chimneys and natural cavities.
Â Â Â Â Unfortunately, the Vice President for Administration did not know it was a class resource, and had it taken it down sometime in the ’60s.Â The concrete slab covers the area where the chimney came out of the ground.
Â Â Â Â Best place to see swifts in townÂ now is around sunset as they hunt insects over the downtown streets.Â If you eat at Tutto Bene or Brigid’s early enough, it will still be light when you come out.Â Â TheirÂ twitteringÂ which may attract your attention if you are not alreadyÂ looking for them.