Murder most fowl? Mystery surrounds disappearance of Barrhaven bridge barn swallows

Barn swallows, an endangered species, are agile flyers that catch insects in mid-air and weigh only 17 to 20 grams, or less than one ounce. Photograph by: Arpad Benedek , Ontario Nature

Barn swallows, an endangered species, are agile flyers that catch insects in mid-air and weigh only 17 to 20 grams, or less than one ounce.
Photograph by: Arpad Benedek , Ontario Nature

When barn swallows vanished after holding up a $24-million bridge replacement in Barrhaven last summer, officials never whispered the word “murdered”.

But newly released documents show the sudden disappearance stirred up a whodunit at Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources.

Enforcement officers investigated. Managers wrote memos. The minister was briefed.

Then the drama, like the birds, just went away.

Until now.

The Citizen has obtained emails from the MNR with brief but revealing passages that tell of the allegation and conclude that “we … don’t want to go there.”

The emails show a lawyer reported the shooting to MNR investigators, but officers couldn’t find enough evidence to lay charges, and soon closed the case.

The swallows had built two nests under the old bridge where Jockvale Road crosses the Jock River. The bridge was set for demolition to make room for a bigger new bridge, but the ministry stopped the work because barn swallows are endangered.

The next day, birders and reporters went to the site and found the birds had disappeared. Work eventually resumed, with conditions to protect the nest in case the swallows returned.

By Tom Spears, OTTAWA CITIZEN
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