Sandys violet green swallows are nesting, thanks to the city and local businesses
In pure innocence, when the city and local business owners paid contractors to improve their façades, they also destroyed some of the nests used by swallows at this time every year.
This fact was brought to the attention of the city by a local resident who is an environmentalist and bird watcher. Mike Miller was concerned because he knew the birds would not stay in town if there were not enough nests.
City Manager Scott Lazenby, who has a swallow nest outside his kitchen window, sent the city's economic development manager, David Snider, to remedy the situation.
Miller's and Snider's first thought was to erect some manmade bird boxes and hope the birds decided to choose the boxes for nests.
They certainly wanted to encourage the birds to continue making Sandy their home in the good-weather months.
Their usual life pattern is to winter in Panama and to move north in the early spring, living in good weather places from late April through August.
'These very beneficial violet green swallows,' Miller said, 'are clean, non-destructive, entertaining and easy to accommodate.'
Bringing the situation to the attention of a manager at Ace Hardware, neither Miller nor Snider needed to ask if they had bird boxes for sale. They were immediately offered to the city (which paid the bill) at Ace's wholesale cost.
A dozen boxes, furnished by Ace Hardware, were then fastened to secure locations at City Hall, Sandy Library, Community Center, AEC Building, Frontier Building and Chariteas Café. In addition, Ace Hardware and the Sandy Fire Station erected their own boxes.
Unfortunately, according to Miller, some of the boxes went up too late, and the number of swallows in Sandy also is fewer this year.
A couple of weeks ago, there was a frenzy among the aerobatic nesting pairs because they were anxious for a nesting place. Miller said he saw about 10 birds fighting for the nest at the fire station.
But, Miller reports, all of the pairs have found nesting places.
Miller says he keeps his eyes on the sky while he is walking around town. First he hears the shrill chirp and then he sees the extremely agile birds doing their acrobatics in flight, mainly over the off-street parking lot west of Ace Hardware - all the way to the west side of the library and beyond.
'They've been coming back every year for generations,' he said, 'and they find these same little spots (for their nests). They feed while flying, and you'll rarely see them on the ground. They're very entertaining because they're endlessly acrobatic.'
Nesting near a parking lot is unusual for swallows, he says, because they prefer the edge of wetland areas where they can feed on small insects such as mosquitos - their favorite delicacy.
That fact makes their presence in downtown Sandy a benefit to local residents because while they are flying over the city they also are scooping up mosquitos and other small airborne creatures.
For a while, Miller was concerned that the absence of some of the nesting places would drive the birds out of town, but he has changed his mind.
'The heavy competition (for nests) and willingness to use the new box at Ace Hardware,' Miller said, 'tells me they'll be right back up in numbers next year.'
So this story ends with several positive outcomes, and everyone involved becomes a winner: local businesses, the city of Sandy and local residents. But especially Mother Nature and her cute little creatures.
People such as Snider and Lazenby are just happy they could contribute to the quality of life in the city.
'This is the cheapest bug mitigation program I can think of,' Snider said. 'This is another example of our municipal government cooperating with the local business community.'