Chimney Swift Live Cam

The Stephen Stackpole Memorial Chimney Swift Live Cam

This live feed is underwritten by Detroit Audubon in partnership with the Swift Sanctuary in Farmington, MI and is named in memory of Stephen Stackpole, whose generous bequest provided funding that makes this possible.


Swift Night Out at the Swift Sanctuary and Historic Winery, Farmington, MI


Date: 2018 dates to be determined!
Time: 6 pm to just after sunset
Location: Swift Sanctuary, 31505 Grand River Farmington, MI 48336 
Leader: Jim Bull, Detroit Audubon President

Description: Join us with our partners at the Swift Sanctuary to watch the spectacular show as up to 50,000 Chimney Swifts swirl around and around like a tornado before the avian funnel cloud swirls right down into the chimney of this historic winery. A wooded area behind the historic winery abuts the Rouge River, so there may be some migrants lurking there as well. As far as we know this is THE largest roost of Chimney Swifts in North America!

As the swifts go down the chimney we will see a projection of a live video cam of their activity inside the chimney, which is fully supported by Detroit Audubon. Bring a lawn chair to watch this incredible show. Detroit Audubon will have a table at this Swift festival both nights, we will present a PowerPoint program on swifts, and in past years there was band to add to the festive atmosphere leading up to the grand mass descent of thousands of swifts into the chimney for the night.

Please RSVP at: coming soon! 

Click Here for the Faceboook Event Page: coming soon!

Click Here for Swift Sanctuary Facebook Page:

If you have any questions about the event, please contact us at: 

 Below are some answers to commonly asked questions about the event:

Parking: We expect to have plenty of parking. We will have volunteers to help with parking around the Swift Sanctuary. We also have overflow parking just across the street at Farmington Crossing.

Seating: We will have limited seating available, but it is recommend that you bring a lawn chair for your convenience and comfort.

Music: The music will be off for the main event- the Swifts! On Saturday we will have a DJ and on Sunday the School of Rock Farmington will be performing. We listened to feedback from last year and the volume will be at a softer level and entirely off for the swifts.

Additional Guests: More guests are welcome to attend! Please feel free to invite family and friends.

After the Swifts are finished with their spectacular show, we will transition into a Haunted House. There is a $10 suggested donation for entry into the Haunted House- all to support the upkeep of the Chimney!

Stephen Stackpole 

by Jim Bull

Stephen Stackpole photo

Stephen Stackpole died January 31, 2014 at the age of 88. A Grosse Pointe resident all his life, he was a long-time member of Detroit Audubon and a great lover of birds and the out-of-doors. From the age of seven, I remember going on excursions to band Common Terns on Bob-Lo Island in Canada with my dad’s best friend, Dr. Walter P. Nickell, naturalist and ornithologist at Cranbrook Institute of Science and one of the early presidents of Detroit Audubon. Stephen Stackpole always came along to take 16mm movies of the terns. He also may have provided the boat we took to the island from a marina in Amherstberg. He never got involved in the banding, but was quietly intent on filming. A major benefactor of “Uncle Nick’s” bird research, he was also a major funder of Sergei Postupalsky’s efforts to bring back the Bald Eagle and Osprey to Michigan. His official obituary added, “Mr. Stackpole was well versed in classic literature, grammar, ancient history and nature. He enjoyed discussing the history of aviation, Mickey Mouse, and Audrey Hepburn, sometimes all in a 10-minute conversation.” He left bequests to a number of environmental and cultural organizations. Detroit Audubon received a $50,000 bequest with no restrictions. Knowing of Mr. Stackpole’s passion for bird conservation and wildlife cinematography, and after consulting with some of his family, we decided it would be fitting to use a portion of his bequest to fund the LiveCam of the Chimney Swifts inside the chimney at the Historic Winery (Swift Sanctuary) in Farmington, MI. That camera will henceforth be known as the Stephen Stackpole Memorial Chimney Swift LiveCam.

Swift Night Out Spring 2016 and the New Partnership with the Swift Sanctuary 

On the evening of Saturday, May 21, 2016 66 members and friends gathered at the historic Winery in Farmington (on Grand River near Orchard Lake Road). Detroit Audubon President Jim Bull welcomed everybody and gave a short talk about Chimney Swift natural history; then we all sat back in our lawn chairs waiting for the swifts to return to the chimney for the night. At first there were only two or three, then after a long while just a few more—this might be a slow night. After all, these are migrants roosting for a night or two, so there could be lulls between flocks. But as we watched, a few more came, then a few more, then the numbers started growing exponentially into a giant swirling tornado of birds. To our amazement, even after we had confidently counted at least 2,000 they kept coming and coming and coming. They’d swirl around the chimney, apparently sampling the air for the right temperature to enter. Some would even dip in and swirl back out. The whole tornado would then stream widely out to one side, but then appear again in few minutes coming back from the other direction. It was heart- in-your-throat impressive! We were amazed.

President Bull also made a momentous announcement that night—Detroit Audubon has signed a partnership agreement with the Swift Sanctuary, including a check for about $3,500 to underwrite the purchase of the camera that was installed last May, and the Internet cost to livestream from April to November for at least the next five years. Detroit Audubon also agreed to provide educational programming at the Sanctuary and will be exploring ways to do research with the swifts as well. We hope to use citizen scientists to learn more about the swifts that roost here, and swifts in general. Detroit Audubon has also agreed to help with fundraising to underwrite the tremendous cost of repairing and maintaining the old chimney that shelters these migrating swifts. Pieces of brick and mortar are missing, making it look pockmarked when examined closely. Of course, without the chimney, the swifts will go away.

At the time of writing, the live cam is down, but luckily Historic Winery owner and Swift Sanctuary Director David White found a volunteer to scale this very tall chimney to retrieve the camera. It is on its way to the factory for repair or replacement under the warranty. We expect the repaired one or a new one to arrive within a week or two; then the volunteer will scale the chimney again to reinstall it. Once back up and running, the camera will henceforth be known as the “Stephen Stackpole Memorial Chimney Swift LiveCam.” As soon as it’s back up and running, the LiveCam will be available on our website and throughout the world!

swifts farmington 2

Caleb Putnam, National Audubon’s Coordinator of Michigan Important Bird Area, tells us that if we can provide data documenting the incredible number of Chimney Swifts using this chimney, it could be declared one of Michigan’s Important Bird Areas (IBAs). It is automatic if the roost hosts a certain percentage of the total state population.

Look for another Swift Night Out this fall, THE big time for the swifts. Up to 50,000 have been known to roost here in one night—the biggest Chimney Swift roost in all North America. Detroit Audubon is thrilled and honored to be part of saving this chimney, underwriting the LiveCam, and promoting awareness of and research about this incredible migratory stopover site.