New recipes

United is Flying High on an Illy Coffee Buzz

United is Flying High on an Illy Coffee Buzz


One of the common disappointments in air travel is the swill that passes for coffee on most carriers. Starting this month, all United Airlines flights and United Club airport lounges are serving illy premium coffee, Europe’s best brew.

To keep up with recent improvements made by celebrity chef and mixologist partners for club and cabin food and wine, United realized that it could no longer ignore the one item that’s actually made onboard the aircraft: coffee. Years ago, a company merger resulted in their Starbucks contract being replaced with a something called Fresh Brew.

Big mistake.

United decided to make amends by serving the best coffee in the sky. They teamed up with illycaffe — Italy’s coffee experts for more than 80 years — to create a new premium blend exclusively for flight service. Illy applied its expertise to blind taste tests of medium, dark, and extra dark roasts of various grind sizes and dose weights. Because cabin pressure and low humidity causes aroma perception to drop, and flying altitude also diminishes taste by 30 percent, illy’s team conducted extensive in-flight taste tests, paying close attention to water quality in airplane galleys.

To solve these challenges, illy scientists, engineers, and quality directors didn’t just pick the perfect coffee blend, they engineered a new pillow-pack to better cope with higher boiling temperatures, subpar filtration, and variable water sources. And on the factory floor, illy is currently ramping up the installation of a multi-million-dollar new assembly line for the exclusive production of the coffee pods for United galleys.

To better understand the effort and engineering feats involved, I toured the company headquarters in Trieste, Italy — the long-established world center of coffee culture. While there, I enrolled in a day-long lecture at illy’s Universita del Caffe, where 100,000 students have taken extensive training courses to master every aspect related to the economics and science of coffee from seed to cup.

I learned how illy’s distinct flavor comes from a unique blend of the top one percent of Arabica beans, purchased directly from the best growers in Brazil, Central America, India, and Africa. Believing that “Better coffee makes a better world,” illy has adopted a strong commitment to sustainability and pioneered the direct-trade model. Their internationally-certified supply chain includes farmers who earn above-market prices in exchange for meeting quality standards.

The illy lecture hall is also a working laboratory where Universita Director Moreno Faina, VP Mark Romero, and Director of Quality David Brussa, a chemist, led the class through a tasting to demonstrate how illy judges nine “note” standards for the balanced illy blend: sweet, bitter, sour, fruity, toast, body, floral, caramel, and chocolate. Six cups of espresso later, I was starting to understand what United knew too well: It’s not easy to make the perfect cup of coffee, let alone the 60 million cups of coffee United serves passengers each year.

“Our collaboration with illy is helping to make the world feel a bit smaller and making flying that much more special, simply by way of a perfect cup of coffee,” said Jimmy Samartzis, United’s Vice President of Food Services and United Clubs. “By serving the world’s most well-known premium coffee in our clubs and onboard, we are communicating an experience to our customers and our employees with the quality and care that comes with every cup.”


Flying High for Chimney Swift Night Out

Grant, Henry and Eleanor Brown checking out the Chimney Swift tower in Russ Pitman Park at the Nature Discovery Center. They are excited to see how many birds will fly into the tower when the sun sets. (Photo: Josie Brown)

Is it a bat? Is it a plane? No, it’s a Chimney Swift! (Not to be confused with a chimney sweep, Mary Poppins fans!) The Chimney Swift is a small, grayish-brown bird with curved wings that swoops over rooftops and fields. They eat mosquitoes and other flying insects (yea!) and like to spend their summers in the eastern United States and Canada.

Chimney Swifts are constantly flying, even drinking and bathing in the air, only stopping at night to sleep. Swifts can’t sit on perches and need to cling to vertical walls like the ones in chimneys and caves. Sometimes people mistake Chimney Swifts for bats, but the birds go to bed at dusk, while bats are just going out for the night.

A few years ago, Deanna and Steve Sheaffer and their three children were on a walk around Braeswood Place and stumbled on a Nature Discovery Center Swift Night Out at Pershing Middle School. It looked so fun and interesting, they decided to stay. Deanna shared, “It was a great experience. Perfect activity for families - educational, interesting, intergenerational and the kids brought scooters and bikes to play in the parking lot. I ran into people I hadn’t seen in years and met several interesting new folks. We didn’t count the birds. It was just beautiful and fun to watch.”


Chimney Swifts circling a chimney ready to get tucked in for a good night’s sleep. (Photo courtesy of Houston Audubon Society)

Over the next few weeks, Nature Discovery Center and Houston Audubon Society are partnering to offer Chimney Swift Night Out events at locations around Houston where attendees can learn about swifts and discover some of the unique places where they sleep around town (spoiler alert: It’s not just chimneys!). At dusk, the Chimney Swifts start circling around the location where they are going to sleep and then start swooping into the entrance. Spectators will also have the opportunity to help count just how many birds can smoosh together to sleep in small places (sometimes hundreds).

Mary Ann Beauchemin, senior naturalist at Nature Discovery Center, said that all the findings – how many Chimney Swifts are migrating through Houston - are entered into the eBird program run by Cornell University. “It really is a Citizen Science program where the public is helping scientists gather information for better research results. The numbers of Chimney Swifts are declining. One problem is that they used to live in hollowed out trees but those get cut down in the city. Now many chimneys insides are not made of brick but instead have smooth metal liners to which the Swifts cannot cling. Luckily people are building Chimney Swift towers to give the birds a place to sleep,” she explained.

Several towers have been built for the Nature Discovery Center including a few as Eagle Scout projects. The Nature Discovery Center also provides information about Chimney Swifts on the kiosks around the base of the towers.


Spectators getting ready to join in the count at a Swift Night Out at Pershing Middle School. Norma Barnes (sitting, on left) and Don Verser (far left, facing the camera) helped start the Chimney Swift counts in Houston many years ago. Also pictured: Fred Campbell (in blue) and Sarah Flournoy (to the right of Don and Fred). (Photo courtesy of The Nature Discovery Center)

Josie and Taylor Brown and their children, Eleanor, Grant and Henry, who attend Annunciation Orthodox School, like to support any animal that is declining in population. Josie shared, “We are excited about the Chimney Swift tower structures being built around Houston to encourage nesting opportunities and Chimney Swift growth. Our kids have grown up a few blocks from the Nature Discovery Center in Bellaire and have enjoyed spending time exploring the park. Now that they are in the tween years, it’s fun to have new activities to draw us to participate.” The Browns plan to attend the Aug. 27 Swift Night Out at St. Paul’s UMC to see the Swifts in action.

This summer, Eleanor and Josie enjoyed volunteering at the Nature Discovery Center. Mom watered and Josie worked as a docent and assisted with the summer camp kids.

Mary Anne Weber, education director at the Houston Audubon Society said, “The Audubon Society is thrilled to have the community join us in learning more about birds living with us right in the middle of a big city and discover some of their interesting and unique characteristics.”

Swift Night Out events are being held starting Tues., Aug. 27 and offer a great opportunity to “wing it” and learn more about these interesting birds and meet new neighbors. We’re thinking you’ll want to “swiftly” go back again!


A Chimney Swift enjoying a solo flight on a beautiful blue sky cloudless day. (Photo Courtesy of Mary Anne Weber)

Swift Night Out Events

See the full schedule of these drop-in, family friendly events here.

What to bring: A folding chair or blanket and mosquito repellent! Binoculars are optional (the swifts are visible with the naked eye as they enter the chimney so it’s ok if you don’t have binoculars).

Tuesday, Aug. 27, 7:30 p.m.
St Paul’s United Methodist Church
1131 Binz St.
Houston, TX 77004
Meet in the Binz parking lot.

Tues., Sept. 3, 7:30 p.m.
Pershing Middle School
3838 Bluebonnet Blvd.
Houston, TX 77025
Meet in the school's northwest parking lot off Stella Link.

Sat., Sept. 7, 7:15 p.m.
Nature Discovery Center
7112 Newcastle St.
Bellaire, TX 77401
Meet at the playground next to the Evergreen Street parking lot.

Sun., Sept. 8, 7 p.m.
Sky High Sports
10510 Westview Dr.
Houston, TX 77043
Meet by Sky High Sports in the southwest corner of the lot near the detention pond.

Editor’s Note: If you’re interested in building a tower for Chimney Swifts, see details here.


Flying High for Chimney Swift Night Out

Grant, Henry and Eleanor Brown checking out the Chimney Swift tower in Russ Pitman Park at the Nature Discovery Center. They are excited to see how many birds will fly into the tower when the sun sets. (Photo: Josie Brown)

Is it a bat? Is it a plane? No, it’s a Chimney Swift! (Not to be confused with a chimney sweep, Mary Poppins fans!) The Chimney Swift is a small, grayish-brown bird with curved wings that swoops over rooftops and fields. They eat mosquitoes and other flying insects (yea!) and like to spend their summers in the eastern United States and Canada.

Chimney Swifts are constantly flying, even drinking and bathing in the air, only stopping at night to sleep. Swifts can’t sit on perches and need to cling to vertical walls like the ones in chimneys and caves. Sometimes people mistake Chimney Swifts for bats, but the birds go to bed at dusk, while bats are just going out for the night.

A few years ago, Deanna and Steve Sheaffer and their three children were on a walk around Braeswood Place and stumbled on a Nature Discovery Center Swift Night Out at Pershing Middle School. It looked so fun and interesting, they decided to stay. Deanna shared, “It was a great experience. Perfect activity for families - educational, interesting, intergenerational and the kids brought scooters and bikes to play in the parking lot. I ran into people I hadn’t seen in years and met several interesting new folks. We didn’t count the birds. It was just beautiful and fun to watch.”


Chimney Swifts circling a chimney ready to get tucked in for a good night’s sleep. (Photo courtesy of Houston Audubon Society)

Over the next few weeks, Nature Discovery Center and Houston Audubon Society are partnering to offer Chimney Swift Night Out events at locations around Houston where attendees can learn about swifts and discover some of the unique places where they sleep around town (spoiler alert: It’s not just chimneys!). At dusk, the Chimney Swifts start circling around the location where they are going to sleep and then start swooping into the entrance. Spectators will also have the opportunity to help count just how many birds can smoosh together to sleep in small places (sometimes hundreds).

Mary Ann Beauchemin, senior naturalist at Nature Discovery Center, said that all the findings – how many Chimney Swifts are migrating through Houston - are entered into the eBird program run by Cornell University. “It really is a Citizen Science program where the public is helping scientists gather information for better research results. The numbers of Chimney Swifts are declining. One problem is that they used to live in hollowed out trees but those get cut down in the city. Now many chimneys insides are not made of brick but instead have smooth metal liners to which the Swifts cannot cling. Luckily people are building Chimney Swift towers to give the birds a place to sleep,” she explained.

Several towers have been built for the Nature Discovery Center including a few as Eagle Scout projects. The Nature Discovery Center also provides information about Chimney Swifts on the kiosks around the base of the towers.


Spectators getting ready to join in the count at a Swift Night Out at Pershing Middle School. Norma Barnes (sitting, on left) and Don Verser (far left, facing the camera) helped start the Chimney Swift counts in Houston many years ago. Also pictured: Fred Campbell (in blue) and Sarah Flournoy (to the right of Don and Fred). (Photo courtesy of The Nature Discovery Center)

Josie and Taylor Brown and their children, Eleanor, Grant and Henry, who attend Annunciation Orthodox School, like to support any animal that is declining in population. Josie shared, “We are excited about the Chimney Swift tower structures being built around Houston to encourage nesting opportunities and Chimney Swift growth. Our kids have grown up a few blocks from the Nature Discovery Center in Bellaire and have enjoyed spending time exploring the park. Now that they are in the tween years, it’s fun to have new activities to draw us to participate.” The Browns plan to attend the Aug. 27 Swift Night Out at St. Paul’s UMC to see the Swifts in action.

This summer, Eleanor and Josie enjoyed volunteering at the Nature Discovery Center. Mom watered and Josie worked as a docent and assisted with the summer camp kids.

Mary Anne Weber, education director at the Houston Audubon Society said, “The Audubon Society is thrilled to have the community join us in learning more about birds living with us right in the middle of a big city and discover some of their interesting and unique characteristics.”

Swift Night Out events are being held starting Tues., Aug. 27 and offer a great opportunity to “wing it” and learn more about these interesting birds and meet new neighbors. We’re thinking you’ll want to “swiftly” go back again!


A Chimney Swift enjoying a solo flight on a beautiful blue sky cloudless day. (Photo Courtesy of Mary Anne Weber)

Swift Night Out Events

See the full schedule of these drop-in, family friendly events here.

What to bring: A folding chair or blanket and mosquito repellent! Binoculars are optional (the swifts are visible with the naked eye as they enter the chimney so it’s ok if you don’t have binoculars).

Tuesday, Aug. 27, 7:30 p.m.
St Paul’s United Methodist Church
1131 Binz St.
Houston, TX 77004
Meet in the Binz parking lot.

Tues., Sept. 3, 7:30 p.m.
Pershing Middle School
3838 Bluebonnet Blvd.
Houston, TX 77025
Meet in the school's northwest parking lot off Stella Link.

Sat., Sept. 7, 7:15 p.m.
Nature Discovery Center
7112 Newcastle St.
Bellaire, TX 77401
Meet at the playground next to the Evergreen Street parking lot.

Sun., Sept. 8, 7 p.m.
Sky High Sports
10510 Westview Dr.
Houston, TX 77043
Meet by Sky High Sports in the southwest corner of the lot near the detention pond.

Editor’s Note: If you’re interested in building a tower for Chimney Swifts, see details here.


Flying High for Chimney Swift Night Out

Grant, Henry and Eleanor Brown checking out the Chimney Swift tower in Russ Pitman Park at the Nature Discovery Center. They are excited to see how many birds will fly into the tower when the sun sets. (Photo: Josie Brown)

Is it a bat? Is it a plane? No, it’s a Chimney Swift! (Not to be confused with a chimney sweep, Mary Poppins fans!) The Chimney Swift is a small, grayish-brown bird with curved wings that swoops over rooftops and fields. They eat mosquitoes and other flying insects (yea!) and like to spend their summers in the eastern United States and Canada.

Chimney Swifts are constantly flying, even drinking and bathing in the air, only stopping at night to sleep. Swifts can’t sit on perches and need to cling to vertical walls like the ones in chimneys and caves. Sometimes people mistake Chimney Swifts for bats, but the birds go to bed at dusk, while bats are just going out for the night.

A few years ago, Deanna and Steve Sheaffer and their three children were on a walk around Braeswood Place and stumbled on a Nature Discovery Center Swift Night Out at Pershing Middle School. It looked so fun and interesting, they decided to stay. Deanna shared, “It was a great experience. Perfect activity for families - educational, interesting, intergenerational and the kids brought scooters and bikes to play in the parking lot. I ran into people I hadn’t seen in years and met several interesting new folks. We didn’t count the birds. It was just beautiful and fun to watch.”


Chimney Swifts circling a chimney ready to get tucked in for a good night’s sleep. (Photo courtesy of Houston Audubon Society)

Over the next few weeks, Nature Discovery Center and Houston Audubon Society are partnering to offer Chimney Swift Night Out events at locations around Houston where attendees can learn about swifts and discover some of the unique places where they sleep around town (spoiler alert: It’s not just chimneys!). At dusk, the Chimney Swifts start circling around the location where they are going to sleep and then start swooping into the entrance. Spectators will also have the opportunity to help count just how many birds can smoosh together to sleep in small places (sometimes hundreds).

Mary Ann Beauchemin, senior naturalist at Nature Discovery Center, said that all the findings – how many Chimney Swifts are migrating through Houston - are entered into the eBird program run by Cornell University. “It really is a Citizen Science program where the public is helping scientists gather information for better research results. The numbers of Chimney Swifts are declining. One problem is that they used to live in hollowed out trees but those get cut down in the city. Now many chimneys insides are not made of brick but instead have smooth metal liners to which the Swifts cannot cling. Luckily people are building Chimney Swift towers to give the birds a place to sleep,” she explained.

Several towers have been built for the Nature Discovery Center including a few as Eagle Scout projects. The Nature Discovery Center also provides information about Chimney Swifts on the kiosks around the base of the towers.


Spectators getting ready to join in the count at a Swift Night Out at Pershing Middle School. Norma Barnes (sitting, on left) and Don Verser (far left, facing the camera) helped start the Chimney Swift counts in Houston many years ago. Also pictured: Fred Campbell (in blue) and Sarah Flournoy (to the right of Don and Fred). (Photo courtesy of The Nature Discovery Center)

Josie and Taylor Brown and their children, Eleanor, Grant and Henry, who attend Annunciation Orthodox School, like to support any animal that is declining in population. Josie shared, “We are excited about the Chimney Swift tower structures being built around Houston to encourage nesting opportunities and Chimney Swift growth. Our kids have grown up a few blocks from the Nature Discovery Center in Bellaire and have enjoyed spending time exploring the park. Now that they are in the tween years, it’s fun to have new activities to draw us to participate.” The Browns plan to attend the Aug. 27 Swift Night Out at St. Paul’s UMC to see the Swifts in action.

This summer, Eleanor and Josie enjoyed volunteering at the Nature Discovery Center. Mom watered and Josie worked as a docent and assisted with the summer camp kids.

Mary Anne Weber, education director at the Houston Audubon Society said, “The Audubon Society is thrilled to have the community join us in learning more about birds living with us right in the middle of a big city and discover some of their interesting and unique characteristics.”

Swift Night Out events are being held starting Tues., Aug. 27 and offer a great opportunity to “wing it” and learn more about these interesting birds and meet new neighbors. We’re thinking you’ll want to “swiftly” go back again!


A Chimney Swift enjoying a solo flight on a beautiful blue sky cloudless day. (Photo Courtesy of Mary Anne Weber)

Swift Night Out Events

See the full schedule of these drop-in, family friendly events here.

What to bring: A folding chair or blanket and mosquito repellent! Binoculars are optional (the swifts are visible with the naked eye as they enter the chimney so it’s ok if you don’t have binoculars).

Tuesday, Aug. 27, 7:30 p.m.
St Paul’s United Methodist Church
1131 Binz St.
Houston, TX 77004
Meet in the Binz parking lot.

Tues., Sept. 3, 7:30 p.m.
Pershing Middle School
3838 Bluebonnet Blvd.
Houston, TX 77025
Meet in the school's northwest parking lot off Stella Link.

Sat., Sept. 7, 7:15 p.m.
Nature Discovery Center
7112 Newcastle St.
Bellaire, TX 77401
Meet at the playground next to the Evergreen Street parking lot.

Sun., Sept. 8, 7 p.m.
Sky High Sports
10510 Westview Dr.
Houston, TX 77043
Meet by Sky High Sports in the southwest corner of the lot near the detention pond.

Editor’s Note: If you’re interested in building a tower for Chimney Swifts, see details here.


Flying High for Chimney Swift Night Out

Grant, Henry and Eleanor Brown checking out the Chimney Swift tower in Russ Pitman Park at the Nature Discovery Center. They are excited to see how many birds will fly into the tower when the sun sets. (Photo: Josie Brown)

Is it a bat? Is it a plane? No, it’s a Chimney Swift! (Not to be confused with a chimney sweep, Mary Poppins fans!) The Chimney Swift is a small, grayish-brown bird with curved wings that swoops over rooftops and fields. They eat mosquitoes and other flying insects (yea!) and like to spend their summers in the eastern United States and Canada.

Chimney Swifts are constantly flying, even drinking and bathing in the air, only stopping at night to sleep. Swifts can’t sit on perches and need to cling to vertical walls like the ones in chimneys and caves. Sometimes people mistake Chimney Swifts for bats, but the birds go to bed at dusk, while bats are just going out for the night.

A few years ago, Deanna and Steve Sheaffer and their three children were on a walk around Braeswood Place and stumbled on a Nature Discovery Center Swift Night Out at Pershing Middle School. It looked so fun and interesting, they decided to stay. Deanna shared, “It was a great experience. Perfect activity for families - educational, interesting, intergenerational and the kids brought scooters and bikes to play in the parking lot. I ran into people I hadn’t seen in years and met several interesting new folks. We didn’t count the birds. It was just beautiful and fun to watch.”


Chimney Swifts circling a chimney ready to get tucked in for a good night’s sleep. (Photo courtesy of Houston Audubon Society)

Over the next few weeks, Nature Discovery Center and Houston Audubon Society are partnering to offer Chimney Swift Night Out events at locations around Houston where attendees can learn about swifts and discover some of the unique places where they sleep around town (spoiler alert: It’s not just chimneys!). At dusk, the Chimney Swifts start circling around the location where they are going to sleep and then start swooping into the entrance. Spectators will also have the opportunity to help count just how many birds can smoosh together to sleep in small places (sometimes hundreds).

Mary Ann Beauchemin, senior naturalist at Nature Discovery Center, said that all the findings – how many Chimney Swifts are migrating through Houston - are entered into the eBird program run by Cornell University. “It really is a Citizen Science program where the public is helping scientists gather information for better research results. The numbers of Chimney Swifts are declining. One problem is that they used to live in hollowed out trees but those get cut down in the city. Now many chimneys insides are not made of brick but instead have smooth metal liners to which the Swifts cannot cling. Luckily people are building Chimney Swift towers to give the birds a place to sleep,” she explained.

Several towers have been built for the Nature Discovery Center including a few as Eagle Scout projects. The Nature Discovery Center also provides information about Chimney Swifts on the kiosks around the base of the towers.


Spectators getting ready to join in the count at a Swift Night Out at Pershing Middle School. Norma Barnes (sitting, on left) and Don Verser (far left, facing the camera) helped start the Chimney Swift counts in Houston many years ago. Also pictured: Fred Campbell (in blue) and Sarah Flournoy (to the right of Don and Fred). (Photo courtesy of The Nature Discovery Center)

Josie and Taylor Brown and their children, Eleanor, Grant and Henry, who attend Annunciation Orthodox School, like to support any animal that is declining in population. Josie shared, “We are excited about the Chimney Swift tower structures being built around Houston to encourage nesting opportunities and Chimney Swift growth. Our kids have grown up a few blocks from the Nature Discovery Center in Bellaire and have enjoyed spending time exploring the park. Now that they are in the tween years, it’s fun to have new activities to draw us to participate.” The Browns plan to attend the Aug. 27 Swift Night Out at St. Paul’s UMC to see the Swifts in action.

This summer, Eleanor and Josie enjoyed volunteering at the Nature Discovery Center. Mom watered and Josie worked as a docent and assisted with the summer camp kids.

Mary Anne Weber, education director at the Houston Audubon Society said, “The Audubon Society is thrilled to have the community join us in learning more about birds living with us right in the middle of a big city and discover some of their interesting and unique characteristics.”

Swift Night Out events are being held starting Tues., Aug. 27 and offer a great opportunity to “wing it” and learn more about these interesting birds and meet new neighbors. We’re thinking you’ll want to “swiftly” go back again!


A Chimney Swift enjoying a solo flight on a beautiful blue sky cloudless day. (Photo Courtesy of Mary Anne Weber)

Swift Night Out Events

See the full schedule of these drop-in, family friendly events here.

What to bring: A folding chair or blanket and mosquito repellent! Binoculars are optional (the swifts are visible with the naked eye as they enter the chimney so it’s ok if you don’t have binoculars).

Tuesday, Aug. 27, 7:30 p.m.
St Paul’s United Methodist Church
1131 Binz St.
Houston, TX 77004
Meet in the Binz parking lot.

Tues., Sept. 3, 7:30 p.m.
Pershing Middle School
3838 Bluebonnet Blvd.
Houston, TX 77025
Meet in the school's northwest parking lot off Stella Link.

Sat., Sept. 7, 7:15 p.m.
Nature Discovery Center
7112 Newcastle St.
Bellaire, TX 77401
Meet at the playground next to the Evergreen Street parking lot.

Sun., Sept. 8, 7 p.m.
Sky High Sports
10510 Westview Dr.
Houston, TX 77043
Meet by Sky High Sports in the southwest corner of the lot near the detention pond.

Editor’s Note: If you’re interested in building a tower for Chimney Swifts, see details here.


Flying High for Chimney Swift Night Out

Grant, Henry and Eleanor Brown checking out the Chimney Swift tower in Russ Pitman Park at the Nature Discovery Center. They are excited to see how many birds will fly into the tower when the sun sets. (Photo: Josie Brown)

Is it a bat? Is it a plane? No, it’s a Chimney Swift! (Not to be confused with a chimney sweep, Mary Poppins fans!) The Chimney Swift is a small, grayish-brown bird with curved wings that swoops over rooftops and fields. They eat mosquitoes and other flying insects (yea!) and like to spend their summers in the eastern United States and Canada.

Chimney Swifts are constantly flying, even drinking and bathing in the air, only stopping at night to sleep. Swifts can’t sit on perches and need to cling to vertical walls like the ones in chimneys and caves. Sometimes people mistake Chimney Swifts for bats, but the birds go to bed at dusk, while bats are just going out for the night.

A few years ago, Deanna and Steve Sheaffer and their three children were on a walk around Braeswood Place and stumbled on a Nature Discovery Center Swift Night Out at Pershing Middle School. It looked so fun and interesting, they decided to stay. Deanna shared, “It was a great experience. Perfect activity for families - educational, interesting, intergenerational and the kids brought scooters and bikes to play in the parking lot. I ran into people I hadn’t seen in years and met several interesting new folks. We didn’t count the birds. It was just beautiful and fun to watch.”


Chimney Swifts circling a chimney ready to get tucked in for a good night’s sleep. (Photo courtesy of Houston Audubon Society)

Over the next few weeks, Nature Discovery Center and Houston Audubon Society are partnering to offer Chimney Swift Night Out events at locations around Houston where attendees can learn about swifts and discover some of the unique places where they sleep around town (spoiler alert: It’s not just chimneys!). At dusk, the Chimney Swifts start circling around the location where they are going to sleep and then start swooping into the entrance. Spectators will also have the opportunity to help count just how many birds can smoosh together to sleep in small places (sometimes hundreds).

Mary Ann Beauchemin, senior naturalist at Nature Discovery Center, said that all the findings – how many Chimney Swifts are migrating through Houston - are entered into the eBird program run by Cornell University. “It really is a Citizen Science program where the public is helping scientists gather information for better research results. The numbers of Chimney Swifts are declining. One problem is that they used to live in hollowed out trees but those get cut down in the city. Now many chimneys insides are not made of brick but instead have smooth metal liners to which the Swifts cannot cling. Luckily people are building Chimney Swift towers to give the birds a place to sleep,” she explained.

Several towers have been built for the Nature Discovery Center including a few as Eagle Scout projects. The Nature Discovery Center also provides information about Chimney Swifts on the kiosks around the base of the towers.


Spectators getting ready to join in the count at a Swift Night Out at Pershing Middle School. Norma Barnes (sitting, on left) and Don Verser (far left, facing the camera) helped start the Chimney Swift counts in Houston many years ago. Also pictured: Fred Campbell (in blue) and Sarah Flournoy (to the right of Don and Fred). (Photo courtesy of The Nature Discovery Center)

Josie and Taylor Brown and their children, Eleanor, Grant and Henry, who attend Annunciation Orthodox School, like to support any animal that is declining in population. Josie shared, “We are excited about the Chimney Swift tower structures being built around Houston to encourage nesting opportunities and Chimney Swift growth. Our kids have grown up a few blocks from the Nature Discovery Center in Bellaire and have enjoyed spending time exploring the park. Now that they are in the tween years, it’s fun to have new activities to draw us to participate.” The Browns plan to attend the Aug. 27 Swift Night Out at St. Paul’s UMC to see the Swifts in action.

This summer, Eleanor and Josie enjoyed volunteering at the Nature Discovery Center. Mom watered and Josie worked as a docent and assisted with the summer camp kids.

Mary Anne Weber, education director at the Houston Audubon Society said, “The Audubon Society is thrilled to have the community join us in learning more about birds living with us right in the middle of a big city and discover some of their interesting and unique characteristics.”

Swift Night Out events are being held starting Tues., Aug. 27 and offer a great opportunity to “wing it” and learn more about these interesting birds and meet new neighbors. We’re thinking you’ll want to “swiftly” go back again!


A Chimney Swift enjoying a solo flight on a beautiful blue sky cloudless day. (Photo Courtesy of Mary Anne Weber)

Swift Night Out Events

See the full schedule of these drop-in, family friendly events here.

What to bring: A folding chair or blanket and mosquito repellent! Binoculars are optional (the swifts are visible with the naked eye as they enter the chimney so it’s ok if you don’t have binoculars).

Tuesday, Aug. 27, 7:30 p.m.
St Paul’s United Methodist Church
1131 Binz St.
Houston, TX 77004
Meet in the Binz parking lot.

Tues., Sept. 3, 7:30 p.m.
Pershing Middle School
3838 Bluebonnet Blvd.
Houston, TX 77025
Meet in the school's northwest parking lot off Stella Link.

Sat., Sept. 7, 7:15 p.m.
Nature Discovery Center
7112 Newcastle St.
Bellaire, TX 77401
Meet at the playground next to the Evergreen Street parking lot.

Sun., Sept. 8, 7 p.m.
Sky High Sports
10510 Westview Dr.
Houston, TX 77043
Meet by Sky High Sports in the southwest corner of the lot near the detention pond.

Editor’s Note: If you’re interested in building a tower for Chimney Swifts, see details here.


Flying High for Chimney Swift Night Out

Grant, Henry and Eleanor Brown checking out the Chimney Swift tower in Russ Pitman Park at the Nature Discovery Center. They are excited to see how many birds will fly into the tower when the sun sets. (Photo: Josie Brown)

Is it a bat? Is it a plane? No, it’s a Chimney Swift! (Not to be confused with a chimney sweep, Mary Poppins fans!) The Chimney Swift is a small, grayish-brown bird with curved wings that swoops over rooftops and fields. They eat mosquitoes and other flying insects (yea!) and like to spend their summers in the eastern United States and Canada.

Chimney Swifts are constantly flying, even drinking and bathing in the air, only stopping at night to sleep. Swifts can’t sit on perches and need to cling to vertical walls like the ones in chimneys and caves. Sometimes people mistake Chimney Swifts for bats, but the birds go to bed at dusk, while bats are just going out for the night.

A few years ago, Deanna and Steve Sheaffer and their three children were on a walk around Braeswood Place and stumbled on a Nature Discovery Center Swift Night Out at Pershing Middle School. It looked so fun and interesting, they decided to stay. Deanna shared, “It was a great experience. Perfect activity for families - educational, interesting, intergenerational and the kids brought scooters and bikes to play in the parking lot. I ran into people I hadn’t seen in years and met several interesting new folks. We didn’t count the birds. It was just beautiful and fun to watch.”


Chimney Swifts circling a chimney ready to get tucked in for a good night’s sleep. (Photo courtesy of Houston Audubon Society)

Over the next few weeks, Nature Discovery Center and Houston Audubon Society are partnering to offer Chimney Swift Night Out events at locations around Houston where attendees can learn about swifts and discover some of the unique places where they sleep around town (spoiler alert: It’s not just chimneys!). At dusk, the Chimney Swifts start circling around the location where they are going to sleep and then start swooping into the entrance. Spectators will also have the opportunity to help count just how many birds can smoosh together to sleep in small places (sometimes hundreds).

Mary Ann Beauchemin, senior naturalist at Nature Discovery Center, said that all the findings – how many Chimney Swifts are migrating through Houston - are entered into the eBird program run by Cornell University. “It really is a Citizen Science program where the public is helping scientists gather information for better research results. The numbers of Chimney Swifts are declining. One problem is that they used to live in hollowed out trees but those get cut down in the city. Now many chimneys insides are not made of brick but instead have smooth metal liners to which the Swifts cannot cling. Luckily people are building Chimney Swift towers to give the birds a place to sleep,” she explained.

Several towers have been built for the Nature Discovery Center including a few as Eagle Scout projects. The Nature Discovery Center also provides information about Chimney Swifts on the kiosks around the base of the towers.


Spectators getting ready to join in the count at a Swift Night Out at Pershing Middle School. Norma Barnes (sitting, on left) and Don Verser (far left, facing the camera) helped start the Chimney Swift counts in Houston many years ago. Also pictured: Fred Campbell (in blue) and Sarah Flournoy (to the right of Don and Fred). (Photo courtesy of The Nature Discovery Center)

Josie and Taylor Brown and their children, Eleanor, Grant and Henry, who attend Annunciation Orthodox School, like to support any animal that is declining in population. Josie shared, “We are excited about the Chimney Swift tower structures being built around Houston to encourage nesting opportunities and Chimney Swift growth. Our kids have grown up a few blocks from the Nature Discovery Center in Bellaire and have enjoyed spending time exploring the park. Now that they are in the tween years, it’s fun to have new activities to draw us to participate.” The Browns plan to attend the Aug. 27 Swift Night Out at St. Paul’s UMC to see the Swifts in action.

This summer, Eleanor and Josie enjoyed volunteering at the Nature Discovery Center. Mom watered and Josie worked as a docent and assisted with the summer camp kids.

Mary Anne Weber, education director at the Houston Audubon Society said, “The Audubon Society is thrilled to have the community join us in learning more about birds living with us right in the middle of a big city and discover some of their interesting and unique characteristics.”

Swift Night Out events are being held starting Tues., Aug. 27 and offer a great opportunity to “wing it” and learn more about these interesting birds and meet new neighbors. We’re thinking you’ll want to “swiftly” go back again!


A Chimney Swift enjoying a solo flight on a beautiful blue sky cloudless day. (Photo Courtesy of Mary Anne Weber)

Swift Night Out Events

See the full schedule of these drop-in, family friendly events here.

What to bring: A folding chair or blanket and mosquito repellent! Binoculars are optional (the swifts are visible with the naked eye as they enter the chimney so it’s ok if you don’t have binoculars).

Tuesday, Aug. 27, 7:30 p.m.
St Paul’s United Methodist Church
1131 Binz St.
Houston, TX 77004
Meet in the Binz parking lot.

Tues., Sept. 3, 7:30 p.m.
Pershing Middle School
3838 Bluebonnet Blvd.
Houston, TX 77025
Meet in the school's northwest parking lot off Stella Link.

Sat., Sept. 7, 7:15 p.m.
Nature Discovery Center
7112 Newcastle St.
Bellaire, TX 77401
Meet at the playground next to the Evergreen Street parking lot.

Sun., Sept. 8, 7 p.m.
Sky High Sports
10510 Westview Dr.
Houston, TX 77043
Meet by Sky High Sports in the southwest corner of the lot near the detention pond.

Editor’s Note: If you’re interested in building a tower for Chimney Swifts, see details here.


Flying High for Chimney Swift Night Out

Grant, Henry and Eleanor Brown checking out the Chimney Swift tower in Russ Pitman Park at the Nature Discovery Center. They are excited to see how many birds will fly into the tower when the sun sets. (Photo: Josie Brown)

Is it a bat? Is it a plane? No, it’s a Chimney Swift! (Not to be confused with a chimney sweep, Mary Poppins fans!) The Chimney Swift is a small, grayish-brown bird with curved wings that swoops over rooftops and fields. They eat mosquitoes and other flying insects (yea!) and like to spend their summers in the eastern United States and Canada.

Chimney Swifts are constantly flying, even drinking and bathing in the air, only stopping at night to sleep. Swifts can’t sit on perches and need to cling to vertical walls like the ones in chimneys and caves. Sometimes people mistake Chimney Swifts for bats, but the birds go to bed at dusk, while bats are just going out for the night.

A few years ago, Deanna and Steve Sheaffer and their three children were on a walk around Braeswood Place and stumbled on a Nature Discovery Center Swift Night Out at Pershing Middle School. It looked so fun and interesting, they decided to stay. Deanna shared, “It was a great experience. Perfect activity for families - educational, interesting, intergenerational and the kids brought scooters and bikes to play in the parking lot. I ran into people I hadn’t seen in years and met several interesting new folks. We didn’t count the birds. It was just beautiful and fun to watch.”


Chimney Swifts circling a chimney ready to get tucked in for a good night’s sleep. (Photo courtesy of Houston Audubon Society)

Over the next few weeks, Nature Discovery Center and Houston Audubon Society are partnering to offer Chimney Swift Night Out events at locations around Houston where attendees can learn about swifts and discover some of the unique places where they sleep around town (spoiler alert: It’s not just chimneys!). At dusk, the Chimney Swifts start circling around the location where they are going to sleep and then start swooping into the entrance. Spectators will also have the opportunity to help count just how many birds can smoosh together to sleep in small places (sometimes hundreds).

Mary Ann Beauchemin, senior naturalist at Nature Discovery Center, said that all the findings – how many Chimney Swifts are migrating through Houston - are entered into the eBird program run by Cornell University. “It really is a Citizen Science program where the public is helping scientists gather information for better research results. The numbers of Chimney Swifts are declining. One problem is that they used to live in hollowed out trees but those get cut down in the city. Now many chimneys insides are not made of brick but instead have smooth metal liners to which the Swifts cannot cling. Luckily people are building Chimney Swift towers to give the birds a place to sleep,” she explained.

Several towers have been built for the Nature Discovery Center including a few as Eagle Scout projects. The Nature Discovery Center also provides information about Chimney Swifts on the kiosks around the base of the towers.


Spectators getting ready to join in the count at a Swift Night Out at Pershing Middle School. Norma Barnes (sitting, on left) and Don Verser (far left, facing the camera) helped start the Chimney Swift counts in Houston many years ago. Also pictured: Fred Campbell (in blue) and Sarah Flournoy (to the right of Don and Fred). (Photo courtesy of The Nature Discovery Center)

Josie and Taylor Brown and their children, Eleanor, Grant and Henry, who attend Annunciation Orthodox School, like to support any animal that is declining in population. Josie shared, “We are excited about the Chimney Swift tower structures being built around Houston to encourage nesting opportunities and Chimney Swift growth. Our kids have grown up a few blocks from the Nature Discovery Center in Bellaire and have enjoyed spending time exploring the park. Now that they are in the tween years, it’s fun to have new activities to draw us to participate.” The Browns plan to attend the Aug. 27 Swift Night Out at St. Paul’s UMC to see the Swifts in action.

This summer, Eleanor and Josie enjoyed volunteering at the Nature Discovery Center. Mom watered and Josie worked as a docent and assisted with the summer camp kids.

Mary Anne Weber, education director at the Houston Audubon Society said, “The Audubon Society is thrilled to have the community join us in learning more about birds living with us right in the middle of a big city and discover some of their interesting and unique characteristics.”

Swift Night Out events are being held starting Tues., Aug. 27 and offer a great opportunity to “wing it” and learn more about these interesting birds and meet new neighbors. We’re thinking you’ll want to “swiftly” go back again!


A Chimney Swift enjoying a solo flight on a beautiful blue sky cloudless day. (Photo Courtesy of Mary Anne Weber)

Swift Night Out Events

See the full schedule of these drop-in, family friendly events here.

What to bring: A folding chair or blanket and mosquito repellent! Binoculars are optional (the swifts are visible with the naked eye as they enter the chimney so it’s ok if you don’t have binoculars).

Tuesday, Aug. 27, 7:30 p.m.
St Paul’s United Methodist Church
1131 Binz St.
Houston, TX 77004
Meet in the Binz parking lot.

Tues., Sept. 3, 7:30 p.m.
Pershing Middle School
3838 Bluebonnet Blvd.
Houston, TX 77025
Meet in the school's northwest parking lot off Stella Link.

Sat., Sept. 7, 7:15 p.m.
Nature Discovery Center
7112 Newcastle St.
Bellaire, TX 77401
Meet at the playground next to the Evergreen Street parking lot.

Sun., Sept. 8, 7 p.m.
Sky High Sports
10510 Westview Dr.
Houston, TX 77043
Meet by Sky High Sports in the southwest corner of the lot near the detention pond.

Editor’s Note: If you’re interested in building a tower for Chimney Swifts, see details here.


Flying High for Chimney Swift Night Out

Grant, Henry and Eleanor Brown checking out the Chimney Swift tower in Russ Pitman Park at the Nature Discovery Center. They are excited to see how many birds will fly into the tower when the sun sets. (Photo: Josie Brown)

Is it a bat? Is it a plane? No, it’s a Chimney Swift! (Not to be confused with a chimney sweep, Mary Poppins fans!) The Chimney Swift is a small, grayish-brown bird with curved wings that swoops over rooftops and fields. They eat mosquitoes and other flying insects (yea!) and like to spend their summers in the eastern United States and Canada.

Chimney Swifts are constantly flying, even drinking and bathing in the air, only stopping at night to sleep. Swifts can’t sit on perches and need to cling to vertical walls like the ones in chimneys and caves. Sometimes people mistake Chimney Swifts for bats, but the birds go to bed at dusk, while bats are just going out for the night.

A few years ago, Deanna and Steve Sheaffer and their three children were on a walk around Braeswood Place and stumbled on a Nature Discovery Center Swift Night Out at Pershing Middle School. It looked so fun and interesting, they decided to stay. Deanna shared, “It was a great experience. Perfect activity for families - educational, interesting, intergenerational and the kids brought scooters and bikes to play in the parking lot. I ran into people I hadn’t seen in years and met several interesting new folks. We didn’t count the birds. It was just beautiful and fun to watch.”


Chimney Swifts circling a chimney ready to get tucked in for a good night’s sleep. (Photo courtesy of Houston Audubon Society)

Over the next few weeks, Nature Discovery Center and Houston Audubon Society are partnering to offer Chimney Swift Night Out events at locations around Houston where attendees can learn about swifts and discover some of the unique places where they sleep around town (spoiler alert: It’s not just chimneys!). At dusk, the Chimney Swifts start circling around the location where they are going to sleep and then start swooping into the entrance. Spectators will also have the opportunity to help count just how many birds can smoosh together to sleep in small places (sometimes hundreds).

Mary Ann Beauchemin, senior naturalist at Nature Discovery Center, said that all the findings – how many Chimney Swifts are migrating through Houston - are entered into the eBird program run by Cornell University. “It really is a Citizen Science program where the public is helping scientists gather information for better research results. The numbers of Chimney Swifts are declining. One problem is that they used to live in hollowed out trees but those get cut down in the city. Now many chimneys insides are not made of brick but instead have smooth metal liners to which the Swifts cannot cling. Luckily people are building Chimney Swift towers to give the birds a place to sleep,” she explained.

Several towers have been built for the Nature Discovery Center including a few as Eagle Scout projects. The Nature Discovery Center also provides information about Chimney Swifts on the kiosks around the base of the towers.


Spectators getting ready to join in the count at a Swift Night Out at Pershing Middle School. Norma Barnes (sitting, on left) and Don Verser (far left, facing the camera) helped start the Chimney Swift counts in Houston many years ago. Also pictured: Fred Campbell (in blue) and Sarah Flournoy (to the right of Don and Fred). (Photo courtesy of The Nature Discovery Center)

Josie and Taylor Brown and their children, Eleanor, Grant and Henry, who attend Annunciation Orthodox School, like to support any animal that is declining in population. Josie shared, “We are excited about the Chimney Swift tower structures being built around Houston to encourage nesting opportunities and Chimney Swift growth. Our kids have grown up a few blocks from the Nature Discovery Center in Bellaire and have enjoyed spending time exploring the park. Now that they are in the tween years, it’s fun to have new activities to draw us to participate.” The Browns plan to attend the Aug. 27 Swift Night Out at St. Paul’s UMC to see the Swifts in action.

This summer, Eleanor and Josie enjoyed volunteering at the Nature Discovery Center. Mom watered and Josie worked as a docent and assisted with the summer camp kids.

Mary Anne Weber, education director at the Houston Audubon Society said, “The Audubon Society is thrilled to have the community join us in learning more about birds living with us right in the middle of a big city and discover some of their interesting and unique characteristics.”

Swift Night Out events are being held starting Tues., Aug. 27 and offer a great opportunity to “wing it” and learn more about these interesting birds and meet new neighbors. We’re thinking you’ll want to “swiftly” go back again!


A Chimney Swift enjoying a solo flight on a beautiful blue sky cloudless day. (Photo Courtesy of Mary Anne Weber)

Swift Night Out Events

See the full schedule of these drop-in, family friendly events here.

What to bring: A folding chair or blanket and mosquito repellent! Binoculars are optional (the swifts are visible with the naked eye as they enter the chimney so it’s ok if you don’t have binoculars).

Tuesday, Aug. 27, 7:30 p.m.
St Paul’s United Methodist Church
1131 Binz St.
Houston, TX 77004
Meet in the Binz parking lot.

Tues., Sept. 3, 7:30 p.m.
Pershing Middle School
3838 Bluebonnet Blvd.
Houston, TX 77025
Meet in the school's northwest parking lot off Stella Link.

Sat., Sept. 7, 7:15 p.m.
Nature Discovery Center
7112 Newcastle St.
Bellaire, TX 77401
Meet at the playground next to the Evergreen Street parking lot.

Sun., Sept. 8, 7 p.m.
Sky High Sports
10510 Westview Dr.
Houston, TX 77043
Meet by Sky High Sports in the southwest corner of the lot near the detention pond.

Editor’s Note: If you’re interested in building a tower for Chimney Swifts, see details here.


Flying High for Chimney Swift Night Out

Grant, Henry and Eleanor Brown checking out the Chimney Swift tower in Russ Pitman Park at the Nature Discovery Center. They are excited to see how many birds will fly into the tower when the sun sets. (Photo: Josie Brown)

Is it a bat? Is it a plane? No, it’s a Chimney Swift! (Not to be confused with a chimney sweep, Mary Poppins fans!) The Chimney Swift is a small, grayish-brown bird with curved wings that swoops over rooftops and fields. They eat mosquitoes and other flying insects (yea!) and like to spend their summers in the eastern United States and Canada.

Chimney Swifts are constantly flying, even drinking and bathing in the air, only stopping at night to sleep. Swifts can’t sit on perches and need to cling to vertical walls like the ones in chimneys and caves. Sometimes people mistake Chimney Swifts for bats, but the birds go to bed at dusk, while bats are just going out for the night.

A few years ago, Deanna and Steve Sheaffer and their three children were on a walk around Braeswood Place and stumbled on a Nature Discovery Center Swift Night Out at Pershing Middle School. It looked so fun and interesting, they decided to stay. Deanna shared, “It was a great experience. Perfect activity for families - educational, interesting, intergenerational and the kids brought scooters and bikes to play in the parking lot. I ran into people I hadn’t seen in years and met several interesting new folks. We didn’t count the birds. It was just beautiful and fun to watch.”


Chimney Swifts circling a chimney ready to get tucked in for a good night’s sleep. (Photo courtesy of Houston Audubon Society)

Over the next few weeks, Nature Discovery Center and Houston Audubon Society are partnering to offer Chimney Swift Night Out events at locations around Houston where attendees can learn about swifts and discover some of the unique places where they sleep around town (spoiler alert: It’s not just chimneys!). At dusk, the Chimney Swifts start circling around the location where they are going to sleep and then start swooping into the entrance. Spectators will also have the opportunity to help count just how many birds can smoosh together to sleep in small places (sometimes hundreds).

Mary Ann Beauchemin, senior naturalist at Nature Discovery Center, said that all the findings – how many Chimney Swifts are migrating through Houston - are entered into the eBird program run by Cornell University. “It really is a Citizen Science program where the public is helping scientists gather information for better research results. The numbers of Chimney Swifts are declining. One problem is that they used to live in hollowed out trees but those get cut down in the city. Now many chimneys insides are not made of brick but instead have smooth metal liners to which the Swifts cannot cling. Luckily people are building Chimney Swift towers to give the birds a place to sleep,” she explained.

Several towers have been built for the Nature Discovery Center including a few as Eagle Scout projects. The Nature Discovery Center also provides information about Chimney Swifts on the kiosks around the base of the towers.


Spectators getting ready to join in the count at a Swift Night Out at Pershing Middle School. Norma Barnes (sitting, on left) and Don Verser (far left, facing the camera) helped start the Chimney Swift counts in Houston many years ago. Also pictured: Fred Campbell (in blue) and Sarah Flournoy (to the right of Don and Fred). (Photo courtesy of The Nature Discovery Center)

Josie and Taylor Brown and their children, Eleanor, Grant and Henry, who attend Annunciation Orthodox School, like to support any animal that is declining in population. Josie shared, “We are excited about the Chimney Swift tower structures being built around Houston to encourage nesting opportunities and Chimney Swift growth. Our kids have grown up a few blocks from the Nature Discovery Center in Bellaire and have enjoyed spending time exploring the park. Now that they are in the tween years, it’s fun to have new activities to draw us to participate.” The Browns plan to attend the Aug. 27 Swift Night Out at St. Paul’s UMC to see the Swifts in action.

This summer, Eleanor and Josie enjoyed volunteering at the Nature Discovery Center. Mom watered and Josie worked as a docent and assisted with the summer camp kids.

Mary Anne Weber, education director at the Houston Audubon Society said, “The Audubon Society is thrilled to have the community join us in learning more about birds living with us right in the middle of a big city and discover some of their interesting and unique characteristics.”

Swift Night Out events are being held starting Tues., Aug. 27 and offer a great opportunity to “wing it” and learn more about these interesting birds and meet new neighbors. We’re thinking you’ll want to “swiftly” go back again!


A Chimney Swift enjoying a solo flight on a beautiful blue sky cloudless day. (Photo Courtesy of Mary Anne Weber)

Swift Night Out Events

See the full schedule of these drop-in, family friendly events here.

What to bring: A folding chair or blanket and mosquito repellent! Binoculars are optional (the swifts are visible with the naked eye as they enter the chimney so it’s ok if you don’t have binoculars).

Tuesday, Aug. 27, 7:30 p.m.
St Paul’s United Methodist Church
1131 Binz St.
Houston, TX 77004
Meet in the Binz parking lot.

Tues., Sept. 3, 7:30 p.m.
Pershing Middle School
3838 Bluebonnet Blvd.
Houston, TX 77025
Meet in the school's northwest parking lot off Stella Link.

Sat., Sept. 7, 7:15 p.m.
Nature Discovery Center
7112 Newcastle St.
Bellaire, TX 77401
Meet at the playground next to the Evergreen Street parking lot.

Sun., Sept. 8, 7 p.m.
Sky High Sports
10510 Westview Dr.
Houston, TX 77043
Meet by Sky High Sports in the southwest corner of the lot near the detention pond.

Editor’s Note: If you’re interested in building a tower for Chimney Swifts, see details here.


Flying High for Chimney Swift Night Out

Grant, Henry and Eleanor Brown checking out the Chimney Swift tower in Russ Pitman Park at the Nature Discovery Center. They are excited to see how many birds will fly into the tower when the sun sets. (Photo: Josie Brown)

Is it a bat? Is it a plane? No, it’s a Chimney Swift! (Not to be confused with a chimney sweep, Mary Poppins fans!) The Chimney Swift is a small, grayish-brown bird with curved wings that swoops over rooftops and fields. They eat mosquitoes and other flying insects (yea!) and like to spend their summers in the eastern United States and Canada.

Chimney Swifts are constantly flying, even drinking and bathing in the air, only stopping at night to sleep. Swifts can’t sit on perches and need to cling to vertical walls like the ones in chimneys and caves. Sometimes people mistake Chimney Swifts for bats, but the birds go to bed at dusk, while bats are just going out for the night.

A few years ago, Deanna and Steve Sheaffer and their three children were on a walk around Braeswood Place and stumbled on a Nature Discovery Center Swift Night Out at Pershing Middle School. It looked so fun and interesting, they decided to stay. Deanna shared, “It was a great experience. Perfect activity for families - educational, interesting, intergenerational and the kids brought scooters and bikes to play in the parking lot. I ran into people I hadn’t seen in years and met several interesting new folks. We didn’t count the birds. It was just beautiful and fun to watch.”


Chimney Swifts circling a chimney ready to get tucked in for a good night’s sleep. (Photo courtesy of Houston Audubon Society)

Over the next few weeks, Nature Discovery Center and Houston Audubon Society are partnering to offer Chimney Swift Night Out events at locations around Houston where attendees can learn about swifts and discover some of the unique places where they sleep around town (spoiler alert: It’s not just chimneys!). At dusk, the Chimney Swifts start circling around the location where they are going to sleep and then start swooping into the entrance. Spectators will also have the opportunity to help count just how many birds can smoosh together to sleep in small places (sometimes hundreds).

Mary Ann Beauchemin, senior naturalist at Nature Discovery Center, said that all the findings – how many Chimney Swifts are migrating through Houston - are entered into the eBird program run by Cornell University. “It really is a Citizen Science program where the public is helping scientists gather information for better research results. The numbers of Chimney Swifts are declining. One problem is that they used to live in hollowed out trees but those get cut down in the city. Now many chimneys insides are not made of brick but instead have smooth metal liners to which the Swifts cannot cling. Luckily people are building Chimney Swift towers to give the birds a place to sleep,” she explained.

Several towers have been built for the Nature Discovery Center including a few as Eagle Scout projects. The Nature Discovery Center also provides information about Chimney Swifts on the kiosks around the base of the towers.


Spectators getting ready to join in the count at a Swift Night Out at Pershing Middle School. Norma Barnes (sitting, on left) and Don Verser (far left, facing the camera) helped start the Chimney Swift counts in Houston many years ago. Also pictured: Fred Campbell (in blue) and Sarah Flournoy (to the right of Don and Fred). (Photo courtesy of The Nature Discovery Center)

Josie and Taylor Brown and their children, Eleanor, Grant and Henry, who attend Annunciation Orthodox School, like to support any animal that is declining in population. Josie shared, “We are excited about the Chimney Swift tower structures being built around Houston to encourage nesting opportunities and Chimney Swift growth. Our kids have grown up a few blocks from the Nature Discovery Center in Bellaire and have enjoyed spending time exploring the park. Now that they are in the tween years, it’s fun to have new activities to draw us to participate.” The Browns plan to attend the Aug. 27 Swift Night Out at St. Paul’s UMC to see the Swifts in action.

This summer, Eleanor and Josie enjoyed volunteering at the Nature Discovery Center. Mom watered and Josie worked as a docent and assisted with the summer camp kids.

Mary Anne Weber, education director at the Houston Audubon Society said, “The Audubon Society is thrilled to have the community join us in learning more about birds living with us right in the middle of a big city and discover some of their interesting and unique characteristics.”

Swift Night Out events are being held starting Tues., Aug. 27 and offer a great opportunity to “wing it” and learn more about these interesting birds and meet new neighbors. We’re thinking you’ll want to “swiftly” go back again!


A Chimney Swift enjoying a solo flight on a beautiful blue sky cloudless day. (Photo Courtesy of Mary Anne Weber)

Swift Night Out Events

See the full schedule of these drop-in, family friendly events here.

What to bring: A folding chair or blanket and mosquito repellent! Binoculars are optional (the swifts are visible with the naked eye as they enter the chimney so it’s ok if you don’t have binoculars).

Tuesday, Aug. 27, 7:30 p.m.
St Paul’s United Methodist Church
1131 Binz St.
Houston, TX 77004
Meet in the Binz parking lot.

Tues., Sept. 3, 7:30 p.m.
Pershing Middle School
3838 Bluebonnet Blvd.
Houston, TX 77025
Meet in the school's northwest parking lot off Stella Link.

Sat., Sept. 7, 7:15 p.m.
Nature Discovery Center
7112 Newcastle St.
Bellaire, TX 77401
Meet at the playground next to the Evergreen Street parking lot.

Sun., Sept. 8, 7 p.m.
Sky High Sports
10510 Westview Dr.
Houston, TX 77043
Meet by Sky High Sports in the southwest corner of the lot near the detention pond.

Editor’s Note: If you’re interested in building a tower for Chimney Swifts, see details here.


Watch the video: ch 10 The Other Civil War