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Barn swallows make Thunder Valley home

By: Joey Chisesi Special to The News Messenger
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“When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano.” That famous song has a new twist, a new title – it’s “When the Swallows Come Back to Thunder Valley Casino” – and won’t leave. It seems the popular Lincoln casino has been plagued by swallows. Swallows were everywhere, something like Alfred Hitchcock’s movie “The Birds.” Thunder Valley Casino officials were at a loss as to how to deal with the barn swallow population that was fast taking over the exterior portions of the casino, including the fire station immediately adjacent and west of the structure. The casino and the casino built fire station were opened in June of 2003. The major attack against the birds began with the casino installing black steel netting over portions of the fire station exterior. According to Casino Public Relations Director Doug Elmets, “Netting was placed over all of the towers of the casino including other major sections of the sprawling building complex” in an attempt to dissuade swallows from nesting on the fire department and the casino. But the undaunted barn swallows continued waging their very own attack against the casino. Swallow waste was everywhere. The casino faced an annoying and serious health threat, not to mention that casino patrons were being dumped on by the barn swallows. Bird feathers fell indiscriminately on casino property, along with baby birds falling from their nests and perches. “Bus drivers, delivery trucks and security people feared for the little birdies,” Elmets said. “The casino posted a sign cautioning drivers to look out for falling birds. No one wanted to run them over and make bird squash. The little birdies were picked up by casino personnel and taken to a swallow bird hospital, where the swallows were nursed back to health. The barn swallows are a protected species of birds.” Tents were installed to protect workers using the north end of the building and act as cushions for falling birds. But bird nesting manifested itself wherever bird nesting could take place. Bird love was in progress. The swallows, totally ignorant of the mortgage crisis in California, claimed housing with no attention to mortgage rates. They continually searched for good housing deals at the casino and the adjacent fire station. Finally, the casino bosses refused to swallow this situation any longer. Not wishing to be identified as bird brains themselves, casino officials got their collective heads together and decided on a plan to provide permanent roosts for the foul. “We decided on a permanent roost for the barn swallows away from the main structures and erected a $1,500,000 tower,” Elmets said. The tower slightly resembles a Japanese pagoda yet stayed with the casino building motif. The tower is located at the far northeast corner of the casino parking lot. The edifice is three weeks old and carries an imaginary no vacancy sign on it. It’s filled with hundreds of swallows in nests that look like clay pots or beehives. Before they built the tower, Thunder Valley had a laboratory make ceramic bird nests along with clay and dirt nest models to insure the swallows opted to move to their new luxury quarters. Next up was the issue of advertising the new living quarters for the swallows. A truck with a boom box was employed to roll up and down the north corridor in back of the casino. The truck boomed swallow mating calls. The birds swallowed the idea with zeal. “It is no doubt the most expensive manmade swallow sanctuary in the country, maybe the world,” Elmets said. “All in all, beginning with the steel netting we placed everywhere, the bird hospital costs, the making of model swallow nests, the tents, the sound truck, the bill ran about $2,500,000.”