Jackie Ballance: A last stand for the barn swallows?

Published: 11/22/2019 3:04:20 PM
Modified: 11/22/2019 3:04:08 PM

Like many North American bird species, barn swallows are in steep decline, making our Fort River refuge colony in Hadley special for many reasons, including its size — it’s the largest known colony in Massachusetts — and its annual breeding success.

But they are in grave danger. Currently, the swallows nest at the mercy of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. For the past year, however, FWS has taken steps that ensure the destruction of the old, but previously sound, stable where the same swallow colony has nested every summer for decades. FWS has offered only double-talk about saving the colony.

There’s good science behind saving the stable, plus private donations have been pledged to finance necessary repairs and maintenance. But reasoning with the FWS has not worked. They haven’t even followed their own due process.

Having removed important internal supporting elements of the structure, they are now neglecting the stable, apparently hoping it will just fall down. Details have been reported widely in the local media for more than a year. Just Google “Hadley Barn Swallows” to read the reports of the whole Kafkaesque story.

Though a notice of intent to sue under federal environmental law has been served, the stable and the swallows are quickly running out of time. The Save Our Swallows organization (S.O.S) has called for a massive public outcry to save this unique home for these beautiful, extraordinary, and no-longer-so-common birds.

S.O.S. is simply asking that FWS repair and maintain the stable, that they allow the scientists and experienced volunteers of S.O.S. to enter the premises and collaborate on its restoration before the swallows return to find their nesting place in ruins.

Jackie Ballance



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