December 5, 2023

“Cheep cheep. CHEEP!” The sound was unmistakable and pretty adorable…


Opening Day for the Santa Claus Museum & Village is Saturday, May 4th and we have been gearing up for the season for the past few weeks. However, I discovered yesterday that we had a few (excuse the pun) “early bird” visitors.

It looked like our historic Santa Claus Church was the new home for a nest of hungry baby birds. Now depending on your point of view, this little tidbit of information may trigger feelings of excitement (“look honey, aren’t they cute”) or annoyance (cue the incoherent muttering about those wild critters making a mess). Not for me. The presence of these little guys caused a feeling of utter panic!

Hole in the Church

Let me back up. The Santa Claus Church was built in 1880 and like all old buildings, it isn’t exactly sealed from the elements. This particular church had a baseball sized hole on the side of the structure which apparently provided an enticing home for the local wildlife. A few weeks ago, I noticed a bird flying in and out through that hole and made a note to have someone plug it. Over the weekend, one of my wonderful volunteers stopped by and nailed a board over the hole, effectively sealing it up.

All was right with the world until I ran over to the church yesterday to grab some cleaning supplies.  I popped inside and only vaguely noticed the sound of cheeping. I think I even smiled a little… spring had arrived!

Suddenly, it registered that the cheeping was coming from inside the church walls. Realizing there was no way to take a look from inside the church, I high-tailed it outside. Sure enough, that hole was buttoned up tight and the noise was coming from right behind the board. Now I had a problem. Baby birds. No access in or out. Cue the panic.

I should mention that I am an animal lover. I have two dogs and a turtle, and I religiously fill up our bird feeders once a week.  It should come as no surprise that the thought of little baby birds stranded inside a wall made me feel queasy. Lacking a crowbar on site, I decided to enlist the help of my husband later that evening.

It was a long day and neither of us arrived home until after dark. My husband is a Park Ranger who knows a thing or two about biology. He’s also a realist. When I explained the bird predicament, he very practically stated that it was probably too late. The mama bird had not been able to get to her babies for at least a day and they were likely dead already. I’m going to chalk it up to a long day, but I started crying. I swear I could feel the weight of their little deaths on my conscience already.

Predictably, this was enough to cause my husband to dig out the crowbar. God bless the man. The two of us drove back to the Church and by the light of the car headlights, he pried off that board and allowed a very faint peep to float out on the warm night air. My husband looked at me seriously, assured me he was happy to help, but warned me that their survival was still a long shot. And no, we could not dig the nest out of the wall and bring the birds home.

Happily, the birds were still cheeping away this morning. Despite the odds, I’m hopeful that Mama Bird found her way back to the nest. As for me, I’m going to try and refrain from checking on them over the next few days. I’d rather not know if the cheeping suddenly stops, though I’m mostly convinced that it would only mean they grew up and flew away. Hopefully by Saturday the only visitors stopping by the church will be using the main entrance, rather than a hole in the wall.

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