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Road crews working around barn swallow in South Hall project
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About the barn swallow

Habitat: Found throughout North America in the summer and in South America in the winter. Likes open habitats such as fields.

Nesting: Cup-shaped mud nests are almost always found on man-made structures, such as underneath bridges or eaves and inside sheds or barns.

Size: About 6-7 inches long, about a 12-inch wingspan, and weighs a little more than half an ounce.
Diet: Mostly flies, along with beetles, bees, wasps, ants, butterflies and moths.

Fun facts: It’s the most abundant and widely distributed species in the world. Siblings sometimes help the parents feed their young.

Population: Declined gradually from 1966 to 2010, with a cumulative decline of 41 percent, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey.

Source: The Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Another Hall County bridge, another federally protected winged creature.

The barn swallow has emerged as the latest animal to force change in a Georgia Department of Transportation project — this time the widening of Ga. 347/Lanier Islands Parkway between McEver Road and Interstate 985 in South Hall.

“The birds are nesting under the bridge over the railroad, almost at McEver Road,” meaning workers will have to wait until September to complete the bridge barrier and side walls, DOT district spokeswoman Teri Pope said.

The good news for motorists is the birds’ nesting is no surprise to the DOT or contractor on the project and “has not delayed the construction work,” Pope said. “Crews are working around the requirements in the contract.”

The DOT found the bird, which is protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, “during the environmental review and (setup) requirements in the contract that restrict work on the bridge during their nesting season,” Pope said.

“Barn swallows, along with a few other species of migratory birds, often build their nests on bridges or highway overpasses,” according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Work on the project is still set for completion by Nov. 30.

The project is the first in a series of improvements underway or planned on Ga. 347. Workers also are widening the road between I-985 and Ga. 211/Old Winder Highway, and the DOT plans to improve Ga. 347 between McEver Road and Lake Lanier Islands resort.

Another protected bird, the osprey, has been a longtime consideration of the DOT at Boling Bridge, or the Dawsonville Highway crossing from Hall County into Forsyth County.

As part of its plans to replace the bridge, which spans the Chestatee River arm of Lake Lanier, the DOT will take down the current structure, which features an overhead truss system.

And because the upper beams of that system have served for years as a favorite nesting spot for ospreys, the fish-eating creatures will have to find a new home.

To meet that need, DOT is working with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and the Fish and Wildlife Service to identify two places where it can put up 30-foot-tall nesting platforms.

Plans have called for placing the structures on the bridge’s Forsyth side, which the birds seem to favor, and north and south of the bridge, Pope said.

Ospreys have long called Boling Bridge home, forcing DOT several years ago to work around their migratory season in making much-needed repairs to the truss system.

As part of that work, workers removed a nest and delivered it to the Elachee Nature Science Center in Gainesville.

Over the past few years, the Indiana bat, a mammal, has become familiar to area road planners and engineers, as well as the DOT.

The DOT had to consider work restrictions in specific locations on the Clarks Bridge replacement project over Lake Lanier because of the bat’s habitat.

Basically, the agency “must protect the bat habitat from May 15 to Oct. 15, as that is the time bats could be in the area,” Pope has said.

The project is moving along, as crews are pouring concrete caissons for the bridge on Ga. 284/Clarks Bridge Road and preparing to build an underground pedestrian tunnel.

Concerns about the habitat also have delayed work on Hall County’s segment of the planned Central Hall Multiuse Trail, running along Ga. 13/Atlanta Highway near Chicopee Woods Nature Preserve. The bat is protected by the Endangered Species Act.

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