At what point does profit trump ethics?
In an unimaginable act of callousness, thoughtlessness and contempt for the International Migratory Bird Act, it appears that employees or agents of the Bridge Bay Resort Marina have been illegally destroying active nests of scores of breeding Cliff Swallows (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota), in what appears to be an attempt to improve the appearance of the property, which is currently slated to be offered for sale.
These are the same kind of swallows so enthusiastically welcomed back every year at Capistrano after their 7000 mile journey from South America.
But at Bridge Bay Marina, it appears, they are being treated like vermin.
In an apparent attempt to keep the pricey Bay Marina on Shasta Lake spiffed-up and well-groomed for future sale, marina personnel seem to be wrecking the nests of actively breeding, migratory Cliff Swallows and trying to sweep the evidence into the lake.
According to slip-owner Jim Wiegand, nests have been disappearing overnight, the ghostly outlines of the mud structures still visible on the rafters where they had been built by the swallows.
It seems many had eggs or new chicks in them before being knocked down.
He even got photos of scuff-marks where someone tried to scrape the remains of nests into the lake, using the bottom of their shoe.
Cliff Swallows are delicate and dapper little aerial acrobats with a sweet and busy call (listen to him, here) that like to nest in large colonies and consume huge quantities of pesky insects. Millions of people around the world rejoice in the arrival of these charming and picturesque travelers.
Which begs the question; Who deliberately kills hundreds of baby birds, and hides the evidence, just so they can show their property to a potential buyer? Is this a company-ordered extermination or is it the work of just one sick individual?
According to Wiegand, who first noticed suspicious remains of once-active swallow nests and reported it, little has been done to save this colony of swallows. This is beginning to reek of politics, corruption and greed – The usual components of most environmental or wildlife abuse.
“Virginia(Shasta Lake Ranger Station) at USFS talked to Mr. Rollins at Bridge Bay and he admitted they were knocking them down but were in compliance with the law,” Jim told me. “We do not know how he would even know what his employees are doing, because as far as we have seen he never goes down to the marinas. We have never seen him down on the docks in the 7 years we have been there. As anyone can see from the images, well developed nests are being knocked down – which is explicitly illegal.”
Bridge Bay Marina (Seven Crown Resorts) operates under a ‘special use’ permit, which means they have been granted permission to pursue business even though migratory species are present.
“In Northern California, Shasta Lake and most of the land around Shasta Lake is under the control of the US forest Service. Bridge Bay Resort (Seven Crowns Resorts) operates under a special use permit on land under the jurisdiction of the US Department of Agriculture, US Forest Service. They issue the permit so Bridge Bay Resort can operate their business on this land/lake. They also get a cut of the money that comes in from moorage customers and house boat rentals. Boat moorage is about $200 a month and houseboat moorage is about $400 a month. Houseboat Rentals also bring in several thousand a week during the peak summer season.”
“At Bridge Bay Marina the Cliff Swallows had nested above the marina walkway areas for years but a new upper level employee was brought in about 2 years ago and Bridge Bay Marina apparently had decided to eradicate the swallows from their marina even though most of the marina customers enjoy the swallows,” Jim explained.
As to the legality of their actions, Wiegand said. “Legally Swallows nests can be taken down when they start building to discourage nesting, but nests can not be destroyed after they set up camp and lay their eggs. This is a violation of the Migratory Bird Act. Whoever was responsible for knocking down the nests knew what they were doing, it was impossible to not see the eggs as they kicked the nest remains into the lake off the walkways. In addition, minimum wage meatheads should never be able to make the call about (the viability of) a swallow nest.”
Jim continued, “This year nearly every nest has been exterminated. One pair had built their nest 4 times. The last time it was knocked down was a few days ago. In my opinion it is probably Bridge Bay Marina employees knocking down the nests. They clearly have motive and we have seen them doing it in previous years in nesting seasons. The law was put there so these protected birds would not be killed. Also not all nests have the conical small opening even after having young. So at the very least they are not qualified to make any decisions about knocking down nests without the opinion of an expert. “
As this is being written, the trashing is continuing, even now threatening the viability of the entire 2012 Cliff Swallow breeding season. Last year on just one of the two marinas at Bridge Bay there were 21 successful nests.
This year there are NONE.
“The total count I have so far this year is 40 destroyed nests that had eggs or young on the two marinas,” Wiegand said. “I first contacted the Department of Fish and Game about the destruction of these nests with eggs on May 19. I made contact with the forest service the first week of May after a nest was destroyed but did not hear back about any of this until the last week of May. Since that day 36 more nests with eggs or young have been destroyed.”
Interfering with nesting activities of migratory birds is an International offense.
The Treaty states: “Specific provisions in the statute include a Federal prohibition to “pursue, hunt, take, capture, kill, attempt to take, capture or kill, possess, offer for sale, sell, offer to purchase, purchase, deliver for shipment, ship, cause to be shipped, deliver for transportation, transport, cause to be transported, carry, or cause to be carried by any means whatever, receive for shipment, transportation or carriage, or export, at any time, or in any manner, any migratory bird, included in the terms of this Convention . . . for the protection of migratory birds . . . or any part, nest, or egg of any such bird.” (16 U.S.C. 703). This applies to birds included in international conventions between the U.S. and Great Britain, the U.S. and Mexico, the U.S. and Japan, and the U.S. and Russia.”
Of course, knowing about the Act, anyone responsible for removing or destroying active nests of the swallows is aware of their crime and will take whatever steps felt needed to conceal their actions.
Wiegand told me, “I cautioned the DFG and Forest Service that this would happen and this is why I’ve taken hundreds of images and collected egg shells, as shown in the photos, and yolk as evidence – So it also would not disappear like other important evidence has since all this began.
So this begs the question of why the DFG and Forest Service are doing so little. Are they just turning a blind eye to the destruction?
“I was told a letter was sent to Bridge Bay by the Forest Service the first week of June about this problem.” Jim told me, “But the nest destruction has not stopped. And for the poor swallows at Bridge Bay, is there no justice?”
With all the other damage Humans, and our all-consuming, destructive headlong rush to profits, are doing to our planet, the desecration of nests of this agile, beautiful and innocent little bird seems downright gratuitous.
Are there no bounds to our selfishness and lack of ethics?
What price, beauty?
The Forest Service has a great opportunity to not only help the swallows, but encourage more tourism by building an easy to construct shelter for them to nest nearby. In this day and age the apparent eradication a whole colony is not only barbaric, it is poor management. These birds really are an important part of the experience at Shasta Lake and they were here long before Seven Crown Resorts came on to the scene.
If anyone sees or knows anything about the destruction of swallow nests this year on Bridge Bay Marina, they should contact Lt. Scott Willems at the Regional Headquarters of the Dept of Fish & Game at (530) 225-2300 or Gary Stacey, President of the Wintu Audubon Society at (530) 921-3390.