Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Swift Lounge mural

The next mural up is at Swift Lounge on NE Broadway around 19th, sort of across the street from the building with the Mary Stephens Rose, which is what I was actually looking for when I bumped into this. It was painted in 2012 by Ashley Montague, and features (among other things) a bunch of Vaux's swifts, which are the weird little birds that roost in the Chapman School chimney every fall.

Swift-watching has become a popular activity in Portland since the birds adopted the Chapman chimney some time in the 1990s. Crowds gather at the school at dusk to watch vast clouds of strange little birds swirl and vanish into the school's chimney. A friend who's an avid birdwatcher dragged me along to watch the swifts several years ago, so I can attest that it looks just as bizarre in person as it does on YouTube. The high point of the evening, though, was when a hungry peregrine falcon showed up, looking to pick off one of the countless swifts for a meal. This seemed to generally distress the crowd, and there were even a few scattered boos here and there. I was a distinct minority in rooting for the falcon. If I was more of an extrovert I would have tried explaining that we were witnessing the world's fastest bird in action, and I would have mentioned the inspiring comeback story about DDT and eggshells and the Endangered Species Act and urban falcons. And if that failed, maybe resorting to the "Circle of Life" song from The Lion King would do the trick. I mean, it's not as if swifts are gentle vegetarian birds either. But, as I said, I'm not quite extroverted enough to try all that with strangers, even when they aren't self-righteous Subaru-driving Portlanders.

No comments :