The house at 1901 Prospect St. gives life to many neighbor kids' imaginations around Halloween.
Built in 1887 and once home to Gov. John Thayer for a time, the two-story Victorian needed little decorating to be mistaken for a haunted house. Its exterior corners had rotted away, squirrels had moved in and the entrance was smothered with trees.
James and Marcie Young spent 10 years repainting the historic home gray and yellow and remodeling each room. But Marcie Young still likes to let the house relive its spooky nature each year around Halloween, draping black cloth on the porch and letting the backyard garden overgrow with vegetation.
This year, though, the house on Prospect Street didn't need her efforts to give off an eerie look.
“You’ve got thousands of bats in your chimney!” an 8-year-old neighbor boy shrieked in September.
They weren’t bats, but chimney swifts.
And there weren’t quite thousands, but hundreds, swirling from Young's 40-foot chimney for a few recent weeks.
“This has never happened before,” Young said. “Hundreds of them would fly out of the chimney, then fly in circles in the sky, then fly back through the chimney around dusk. I just had the visual of bats for the Halloween effect.”
Swifts used to nest in huge, hollow trees before houses with chimneys became more common, said Ron Stetson, owner of Lincoln's Animal Damage and Trapping Construction. They are sometimes referred to as “cigars on wings” because of their cigar-shaped bodies and no tails.
The swifts arrived at 1901 Prospect St. in mid-September, and stayed for about three weeks.
It's rare to have them in Lincoln so late in the year, said Stetson, who gets four to six calls about chimney swifts per year.
"We’re usually getting calls late June or early July," he said.
Usually he waits until September, when the birds are done reproducing and headed south, to install chimney covers for next year.
“They’re a protected species bird and they’re very beneficial to the environment,” Stetson said. “They eat a lot of mosquitoes and bugs. And because their nests are made of mud and not straw or grass, their nests are nonflammable.
"They’re not a fire hazard, just a nuisance.”
Their visits are usually accompanied by “obnoxious squawking,” he said.
Young said she barely heard a thing aside from faint fluttering noises, but several times a week a bird invaded her main floor.
She handled it herself instead of calling for help, snagging swifts with a towel then releasing them outside.
Stetson suggests people build fake chimneys atop a shed or elsewhere in their backyard to lure the birds away from the house.
Young doesn’t mind sharing her real chimney.
“They’re migrating, just let it be,” she said. “They have their own rhythm. We don’t have to try and control everything. ... Just think about it from a swift’s view.”