Artist, author, ornithologist: Althea Sherman's legacy lives on


Jonathan Klaes constructed an artificial chimney for chimney swifts as a part of his journey toward becoming an Eagle Scout. He hopes to officially become an Eagle Scout by September. (Press photo by Molly Moser)

By Molly Moser

With sharp claws, they cling to walls. They feed on insects, and they nest in chimneys. Short, massive wing bones give them a flickering, bat-like pattern of flight, but they are not bats. These are chimney swifts, and community members throughout the area have gone to great lengths to observe and encourage their success.

In the summer of 2011, local youth Jonathan Klaes was approached by the Friends of the Sherman Swift Tower about building a nesting site for chimney swifts in Guttenberg. Klaes, now a high school junior, took on the project as part of his journey toward becoming an Eagle Scout. With help from his father, older brother, and the Boy Scouts, as well as Harold Krambeer from the Friends organization, Klaes built the 16-foot tower in four sections. 

Chimney swifts nest in vertical spaces, like chimneys or hollow trees. Short sticks, broken from the tips of tree branches, are glued in place with the birds’ saliva to form a nest large enough to hold three to five eggs. Both sexes are involved in nest construction, incubation, and feeding of babies. Because of their tiny feet, chimney swifts cannot perch or stand upright; they do everything on the wing. They drink by gliding over smooth water and collect nesting material while in flight.  

Krambeer advised Klaes to use a specific type of lumber for the inside of the tower, which must have enough texture for swifts to cling to its sides. Meuser Lumber, Bard Concrete, and Kann Manufacturing donated materials, and the Friends donated funds to the project. The completed tower is located west of the Guttenberg Municipal Swimming Pool parking lot, near Horseshoe Pond.

Continued in the pages of The Guttenberg Press

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