This is the fireplace screen the kids made a few years ago.
We were concerned enough to call my dad this time. We stood back as he he opened the screen, and....nothing. We turned on the lights to peer in. Then, we ran like we've never run before. Three little bat like creatures clung to the back of the fireplace and my dad yelled, 'Bats!'. We calmed down, took another look and discovered that our bats were really little baby birds huddled together on the bricks while half of their nest lay broken on the floor.
I spend a sleepless night listening to incessant squawking. I awoke to squawking, which actually made me happy since it was better than the alternative. After a few phone calls to local animal refuge centers I found out that our babies are chimney swifts, a bird that rarely perches and nests inside chimneys. They eat thousands and thousands of insects a day, including gnats and mosquitoes. Because chimney designs are changing, they're losing their nesting places and populations are declining.
I moved our three babies into a 'nest' and returned them to the dark fireplace. Apparently the moments of loud squawking and wing flapping happen when the parents swoop down the chimney to feed the babies. At least that's what we hope is happening.
We discovered a 4th baby in the bunch hours later, and aren't sure if it was always there, or if the parents brought it later.
We're told that we have another two weeks before they can fly up and out the chimney. Stay tuned for more birdie updates.