Thursday, November 13, 2008

To Protest or Not?

I live in a rural area and travel the little highway
between home and work. Along the way is a large pond that, on a quiet day, reflects the mountains behind it. I have stopped there many times to watch birds or just enjoy the beautiful sight.

Twice, I have (badly) photographed swallows there. I don’t have a long lens for quality pictures, but tried to shoot the birds as they daubed mud under the eves, obviously building nests. And twice, I have returned days later to find no swallows and the entire building scrubbed clean; barely a shadow of mud where the nests had been remained.

Okay... it’s a motel. Even though it’s the far end of their building, I’m sure owners would prefer not to have a driveway full of guano greeting prospective guests. But…how do they get rid of the birds? I imagine pressure hoses…but when do they do this? Were the nests usable yet? Where there eggs in the nests? Where do the birds go after such an assault? Do the people poison them, I wonder; trap them perhaps?

This is a small town; I’ve been here only a few years. I realize tree-huggers are not the most welcome folks in many farming and ranching communities where herbicides, pesticides, and shooting anything deemed a problem is pretty common. And, who cares about a few hundred messy swallows?

What to do, what to do? Researching the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, I found this:

Birds protected under the act include all common songbirds, waterfowl, shorebirds, hawks, owls, eagles, ravens, crows, native doves and pigeons, swifts, martins, swallows and others, including their body parts (feathers, plumes etc), nests, and eggs.

‘Take’ is defined as "to pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or any attempt to carry out these activities." A take does not include habitat destruction or alteration, as long as there is not a direct taking of birds, nests, eggs, or parts thereof.

Activities which are most likely to result in ‘take’ of migratory birds on highway projects include, but are not limited to, clearing or grubbing of migratory bird nesting habitat during the nesting season when eggs or young are likely to be present, bridge cleaning, painting, demolition, or reconstruction where bird nests are present (for example, swallows). In anticipation of this situation, structures can be protected from nest establishment by various measures, such as netting or other means of interference with establishment of nests that does not result in death or injury to adults. Removal of inactive nests of migratory birds should not be accomplished prior to consultation with the USFWS office with local jurisdiction. A permit may be required for removal of inactive nests.

So, while I sympathize with motel owners and understand their need for a clean rest-stop…I wonder if what is happening is legal and handled in a way that is not detrimental to the birds. I also wonder if I’m prepared to be a Whistle Blower. If I were to complain, who does one complain to…about the possibility of miss-treated swallows?

What would you do? Please take the poll on the right
and/or leave a comment or suggestion for me.

Research:

Photographs from Wikipedia

6 comments:

Bosque Bill said...

Yes, what the motel folks are doing is wrong and clearly in violation of the regulations... if I correctly understand the situation. But perhaps the motel folks don't even realize what they are doing is wrong.

Down here, for instance, the Open Space District is not supposed to clear brush, etc, during nesting season which is defined to last until August. I've blown the whistle here, but only to the Open Space management.

I'd contact someone on this page: http://www.fws.gov/migratorybirds/contacts.htm
I see that Dave Sharp in Denver is the Central Flyway representative. Why not ask him what would be an appropriate step for you to take. There is likely something that can be done short of legal action.

This is just my opinion. I'm not a lawyer (just play one on TV... just kidding, couldn't resist.)

Beverly said...

You, Sir...are a peach! What a good idea. I'm not very good at suggesting to someone they're handling 'their business' wrong. I've done it...and I'm learning to do it better; but I don't like to do it.

Yes, it is possible...they are nice folks but not from this country; that would be yet another hornet's nest I'd rather not poke. I like foreigners but realize they are often not well accepted and wouldn't want my 'complaints' to turn into something it's not.

Your suggestion is perfect! I'll try Dave.

Debbie said...

This is really a tough one. Where I used to live, swallows built MANY (I'm talking 100+) nests under the eaves of a house in the neighborhood. I felt sorry for the homeowner because the number of nests seemed to multiply each day. As much as I love birds, this would be a bit too much.

One day (months later), all the nests were gone and we saw that the homeowner had a ladder leaning against the house. (I don't recall the time of year, maybe fall.) I would have been inclined to do the same, sorry to say.

I took your survey and my suggestion was to call the Audubon Society. But Bill's suggestion is good too. I think since you live in the community, it would be better to let someone else handle contacting the owners. There are a lot of crazy people out there.

Beverly said...

I agree, Debbie, and am sensitive to the issue too; both of the mess and of nesting and very protective birds (I've had Jays nesting in my yard...made it hard to garden!)

I've seen buildings install netting or other stuff to discourage birds from nesting in a certain place (think pigeons at City Hall)...and agree with Bill that looking for a way to mitigate the issue without legal action would be the best way. That would be before nests are complete or when they are empty. Perhaps I’m jumping the gun here, maybe they power-washed the building before eggs were laid!

Anyway, I’m not particularly interested in doing this myself…I’ll figure out a way to get someone else to go chat with them…in the spring. I’m just getting all my swallows in a row, so to speak. :)

eleisia said...

Beverly, thanks for visiting my California birdwatching blog. The Western Scrub Jays and Steller's Jays are fun to watch when they swoop down and pick up peanuts.

I love the color of their feathers. They tend to be the bullies of the feeders though.

I haven't seen any swallows in my part of the woods.

Anonymous said...

Hi Beverly, I'm Nature Knitter's sissy and just found your blog. It's great! I have friends who've had swallows nest on one of their outdoor speakers under their eaves for a couple years now. The location is right above their patio and just a few feet from their pool. The swallows are surprisingly neat and very tolerant of people coming and going. It's too bad we can't all coexist so peacefully.

Anna