Photographs by Laurie Buchwald
RADFORD – For decades, a flock of chimney swifts the old chimney at McHarg Elementary School home during the spring and summer months, but renovations at the school required the chimney to be demolished, and the birds temporarily lost their warm season roost.
Now, a new chimney is on site at the school to provide a roost for the birds, and to provide STEM education for the students at McHarg.
Chimney Swifts are a vulnerable species of migrating bird. Each bird eats up to 12,000 mosquitoes, termites, flies, and other insects a day. Several birding enthusiasts in Radford, including Wilson Rankin and his wife, Dr. Liz Altieri, spearheaded the effort, gained the support of the Radford City Public Schools administration, and several donors stepped up to the plate to make the project happen. Thompson and Litton designed the tower.
Recently, a ceremony was held to dedicate the Chimney Swift Tower at McHarg School. Trina and Jack Murphy and Erica Sunshine, who designed the tower for Thompson and Litton were present, as were some of the major donors – Rankin, Altieri, Laurie Buchwald and Greg Kalen, Ann Elliott and Tom Pierce, members of the New River Valley Bird Club, and Clyde and Kendall Kessler.
“We are very grateful for the support of Radford City Schools, and Michelle Green, Principal of McHarg, and Jane Swing, School Board member, who were in attendance representing RCPS,” said Altieri. “A special shout out to Stacey Howard, RCPS Director of Technology and Bob Sheehy, retired RU Biology professor, who got the cameras installed and the technology working. We would also like to recognize Von Nester of Sign Systems for the fine work on our plaques. Finally thank you to the almost 100 people who contributed to making the tower a reality.”