Every Bird Matters
news and views from international bird rescue

January 16, 2018

Bird of the Month: Albatross

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Laysan Albatross in care at our SF Bay-Delta wildlife center, 2015. Photo by Cheryl Reynolds

This month, we feature the amazing albatross group of seabirds (Family Diomedeidae). These impressive birds are well-known for their impressive wingspan, lifespan, and for their ability to travel great distances over the oceans.

According to National Geographic, these long-lived birds (50+ years) breed in large colonies on remote islands, which is the only time that they come inland. Albatrosses are found in both the Southern and Northern Hemispheres, though most species are found in the South. The Laysan Albatross (found in the Northern Hemisphere) is perhaps the most well-known in the United States and are famous for their nesting colony on Midway Atoll (National Wildlife Refuge) near Hawaii.

For us, albatrosses are symbolic of the many challenges that face aquatic birds and oceans. According to the World Wildlife Fund, the main threats to albatrosses are bycatch, invasive species, and the consumption of plastics amongst young albatross. Every year the WWF estimates that thousands of Laysan Albatross chicks on Midway Atoll die from the ingestion of plastics that wash up or are mistakenly brought by parents as food.

At Bird Rescue, our history of working with Laysan Albatross dates back to the 1970s and continues to present times. While these majestic birds are a rarity at our centers, we are proud to serve them when they find their way into our care. To learn more about the work we have done with albatross in the past, see our blog.

While the tale of the albatross can be a sad one, it’s an important one to bring up as we look at the future of our environment and the wildlife that inhabit it. Marine pollution and bycatch are serious problems that challenge our world, and it’s up to us to make a difference and do what we can to make the changes we wish to see. How can we help? Luckily, there are myriad of ways that we can all commit to protecting our oceans and the albatrosses and other wildlife that inhabit them. By reducing plastic use, buying sustainable seafood, and voting for conservation efforts (among other more deliberate changes we can make as a society), we can all do our part to help these majestic birds.

For more information on how to reduce plastic use, see this helpful article from the Oceanic Society. For more information on Albatross or to learn useful tips on how you can help be part of the solution, follow us on Facebook!

 

December 26, 2017

Year in Review: 2017

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Common Murre chick swimming with adult murre – Photo by Cheryl Reynolds

2017 has been a year of change and progress at Bird Rescue. From new hires to new opportunities, this past year has presented us with countless possibilities to grow and expand. As always, we are grateful for the support we received throughout 2017. All of the work we have done this past year would not have been possible without the generous support of all of you. As a 501(c)(3), Bird Rescue runs off of volunteer hours and donated resources. When we say that the work we do wouldn’t be possible without your help, we truly mean it. As 2017 comes to an end, we wanted to take a moment to show you all the ways that you have helped make Bird Rescue as strong as ever:

Heavily oiled Brown Pelican being washed. Photo by Cheryl Reynolds

  • YOU provided high-quality wildlife rehabilitation care for more than 3,500 wild birds.

  • YOU researched foot and body wounds often seen in grebes.

  • YOU paid for innovative surgeries that improve the state of care for injured seabirds.

  • YOU funded an increasing number of Virginia Rails – small skulking marsh birds that we have rarely seen with such frequency.

  • YOU supported us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram – a community 95,000 strong!

  • YOU gave us the chance to improve our Aging and Sexing skills for released birds through an expert training, allowing us to provide better data for science.

  • YOU supported over $75,000 in food costs for our patients.

  • YOU helped us to evacuate during the Atlas Fire in Northern California

This list highlights just a fraction of the ways that you all have helped make Bird Rescue so successful this year. As always, we are filled with gratitude for your support, and look forward to jumping into 2018 with a whole new set of goals! Stay tuned for future updates on the projects we have planned for the year to come!

 

December 22, 2017

Bird of the Year: 2017

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Join us in celebrating the year past at Bird Rescue by reading about some our favorite and most poignant patients from 2017. While we know why all of the birds listed below have special meaning for us, now it’s time to hear from you! Help us select the 2017 Bird of the Year by casting your vote by December 31st, 2017. Make sure to stay check back in early January when we announce the winner! To cast your votes, click the link below:

 

Cast your vote for the 2017 Bird of the Year at Bird Rescue!

 

#1: American White Pelican

American White Pelican – Photo by Sandrine Biziaux

Second to oil spills, fishing hook injuries present prominently in our patients, reminding us of the negative human impact on the birds for which we care. Fishing hooks are commonly discarded or left behind in coastal regions, resulting in a devastating amount of injuries to wildlife. Not only do the remnants of the hooks puncture muscles, joints, bones, and tear flesh, but the lines attached to these hooks get wrapped around the necks, legs, and bodies of birds.

Often a bird will not only suffer injuries from the gear itself but will acquire additional injuries from thrashing around to free itself. Struggling while entangled in line can result in broken bones, lacerations, and dislocations. The American White Pelican pictured above had a hook embedded in its foot, as well as a fractured lower left bill, several lacerations on its neck and foot, and a fish hook wound at the tip of the mandible.

This particular pelican found its way to Bird Rescue through the help of numerous wonderful organizations and caring individuals including our friends at the Sea and Sage Audubon Society at the San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary, Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center in Huntington Beach, and the Newport Beach Police and Animal Controls Departments. As is the case with many of the birds that we treat at Bird Rescue, we are grateful to be an integral part of such a large and caring group of individuals striving to mitigate the impacts of humans on wildlife.

 

 

#2: Common Murre

Common Murre – Photo by Cheryl Reynolds

From April to August each year Bird Rescue booms with new life, as our wildlife centers fill to the brim with thousands of baby birds. When nesting season is at its height, we see an extreme influx of orphaned, injured, and starving baby aquatic birds. Affectionately referred to as, “baby bird season,” this hectic time of year is both challenging and rewarding. Last year, between our Greater Los Angeles and our San Francisco Bay-Delta wildlife centers, Bird Rescue treated more than 2,100 baby birds in need.

Baby birds are particularly vulnerable to disturbances, and if they get rustled from their nests too early, their chances of survival are meager. With an increase in human disturbances to nesting sites and an increase in non-native predators, young birds are often at an unfair advantage when it comes to getting a good start.

It is for this reason that Bird of the Year candidate number 2 is one of our most well-loved orphaned baby birds. Affectionately named “Tugboat” after a Facebook fan commented that he “looked like a little Tugboat”, the adorable Common Murre who came to us with a fractured wing last July, was a memorable patient for us as well as for many others who followed and rooted for his recovery. Tugboat was brought to us from our friends at Wild Care after being found inside a bag at the Stinson Beach Community Center. The young murre was with us for a little over two months and was eventually released alongside another Common Murre in-care, at Fort Baker in Sausalito, California.

Bird Rescue along with other wildlife rehabilitation centers play an essential role in this very busy season. While our centers remain full of hungry chicks who need constant feeding and tending to, we are happy to do our part in rearing these young birds so that they may one day return to the wild. Watching orphans like Tugboat grow up in our care and get released is just one of the many reasons that we do the work that we do!

 

 

#3: Pacific Loon

Pacific Loon – Photo by Katrina Plummer

In April and May of 2017, the Bird Rescue Greater Los Angeles Center received a sudden influx of loon patients. In that two-month period, 145 loons were admitted, more than 20 at a time on some days. Of the three different species of loons affected, the vast majority of these patients were the beautiful Pacific Loon.

These birds were found beached all along the Southern California coast. Countless more birds washed up on shore, already deceased. The sudden die-off is suspected to have been caused by Domoic Acid (DA) poisoning from a Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB), and a number of our cases were confirmed by blood test. DA affects the brains of animals, often causing seizures, disorientation, and death.

While these algal blooms are naturally occurring events, this year it had a particularly heavy impact on the loons. These birds are especially difficult to care for, so Bird Rescue had to kick things into high gear to handle so many high-risk patients. Extra volunteers came in to help care for the birds and, along with staff, worked long hours to make sure that each bird received the care it needed. In the end, IBR was able to successfully release 36% of the loons that came into care during the height of the event.

 

Domoic Acid infected Loons treated at Los Angeles Center

Common Loon Pacific Loon Red-throated Loon
Admitted April 2017 – May 2017 19 98 28
Died 4 21% 48 49% 19 68%
Euthanized 9 47% 11 11% 1 4%
Released 6 32% 39 40% 8 29%

 

 

#4: Brown Pelican

Brown Pelican – Photo by Bart Selby

This iconic California bird was once federally listed as an endangered species. After 36 years of conservation efforts, the Brown Pelican was officially delisted in 2009. Since this time, International Bird Rescue has been placing uniquely numbered blue bands on each Brown Pelican that gets released from either of our California centers. The Blue-banded Pelican Program was created as a concerted effort to increase the number of pelican sightings of our rehabilitated birds, which provides us with valuable information we can apply towards our research.

The Blue-banded Pelican program is part of our Research and Education program at Bird Rescue, which is one of our core programs within the organization. Since implementing this program, Bird Rescue has banded over 1,200 Brown Pelicans. In 2017 alone there have been 111 blue-banded Brown Pelican sightings reported directly to the organization, and this is just the preliminary count pending a final tally (which is expected to add another couple of hundred). The Brown Pelican featured as contender number 3 in our “Bird of the Year” contest is a stellar example of the possibilities that this program offers.

The above picture of Brown Pelican “E17”, named after the unique number located on his blue band, was taken last summer nesting with two babies off the coast of Baja California. The pelican, who was released seven years ago from our Greater Los Angeles wildlife center, is a sign of hope for us that our rehabilitation efforts are paying off. While banded pelicans have previously been sighted foraging and migrating, this is the first ever sighting of one of our banded pelicans breeding in the wild. “The sighting of E17 is a confirmation of our work,” said JD Bergeron, Executive Director. “To see a former patient rejoining the breeding population is an encouraging sign of the success of our efforts and a reminder of the importance of wildlife rehabilitation.”

Note: The sighting occurred off the coast of Baja California, Mexico, on San Jeronimo Island by Emmanuel Miramontes, a biologist working with a Mexican nonprofit organization GECI A.C. (Group of Ecology and Conservation of Islands). San Jeronimo is more than 300 miles from E17’s release point in San Pedro, CA.

 

 

#5: Virginia Rail

Virginia Rail – Photo by Cheryl Reynolds

Over the past few years, we’ve seen an influx of these secretive freshwater marsh rails at both of our centers. The Virginia Rail used to be a relatively rare bird for us at Bird Rescue, and while we don’t exactly see a flood of these sweet little birds, we are seeing more of them than we have in years past. In 2017, we saw 20 Virginia Rails at Bird Rescue, compared to a total of 7 rails in 2012. Whenever we see numbers like this rise in our clinics, it inevitably leads to the question – why?

Although we can’t say for sure why we are seeing more of these quirky little birds, we can’t help but wonder if it has something to do with the habitat that they live in, and the challenges that freshwater marshes face. Though freshwater wetlands offer a myriad of ecosystem services as well as provide habitat for numerous species of wildlife, these precious ecosystems are under constant threat in our developing world. The University of California at Santa Barbara estimates that over 90% of the freshwater marshes in California have been destroyed due to draining, filling, or the crowding out by non-native species.

As an organization that specializes in aquatic birds, the plight of freshwater habitat degradation deeply concerns us. As Bird Rescue moves into the year 2018, we look forward continuing to honor our original mission while also addressing the ever-increasing threats to seabirds such as marine debris, habitat disturbance, political threats and the impacts of climate change.

 

 

#6: Western Grebe

Western Grebe – Photo by Katrina Plummer

This little Western Grebe is contender #6 in our Bird of the Year contest. She came to us after becoming contaminated with oil from a natural oil seep while she was migrating south along the coast of California. This is a very common occurrence during the winter months especially off the Ventura and Santa Barbara coastlines, and Bird Rescue takes in dozens of similar affected grebes each year.

What makes this bird special is that the records of her care and progress will be used as part of a scientific study being conducted by the Bird Rescue team. The study aims to learn more about toe, hock, and keel lesions that can affect species such as this one when they are in rehabilitative care. In the wild, Western Grebes spend all of their time in the water, so their anatomy is specifically suited to those conditions. When in care, their delicate feet and legs can easily develop lesions which are greatly exacerbated if the bird is contaminated with oil. The severity of these lesions can make the difference between life and death for a patient.

The data gathered from this study will be used to develop improved practices to better care for these unique birds. With this bird’s help, and the help from many other birds like her, Bird Rescue will be able to improve the care of grebes, scoters, and murres at both their rehabilitation centers.

 

December 20, 2017

Ron Morris: Bird Rescue Board Member Since 2014

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Editor’s Note: The work we do at Bird Rescue wouldn’t be possible without our amazing team of staff, volunteers, and board members! Read below to meet one of our stellar team members!

While Ron may be a relatively new member of the Bird Rescue board, he’s a long-time friend to the organization. As a retired Captain in the U.S. Coast Guard and the former General Manager and President of Alaska Clean Seas, Ron has been an ally of Bird Rescue since the mid 90’s. From spill exercises and oil spill response, to capture and stabilization training throughout mainland and coastal Alaska, Ron’s collaborative efforts with Bird Rescue have a long and rich history.

Ron first met our Response Services Director, Barbara Callahan in the late 80s and our late Executive Director, Jay Holcomb in the late 90s. Ron remembers working emergency response efforts with both Jay and Barbara and looks back on the events fondly. “When you’re working in that sort of a situation with someone, one where every moment counts, you begin to get a sense of who they are, of what they are made of.” Both Jay and Barbara were a pleasure to work with, and I knew I could rely on them”.

Though Ron’s official capacities may have shifted when he retired, the same sense of duty and willingness to help has stayed with him as a now Board Member and currently chairman for International Bird Rescue. Ron not only brings a career’s worth of coastal and oceanic knowledge to the table but an Officer’s ability to step in and get the job done as needed. Our Executive Director, JD Bergeron, said it best “Ron brings to the board all of the confidence and reassuring demeanor of a ship’s captain. He calmly and skillfully steers the board through the challenges of a successful not-for-profit organization as it approaches its 50th year.”

Ron found both his career with the U.S. Coast Guard and with Alaska Clean Seas to be rewarding and fulfilling but is happy to be retired and enjoying a different side of life. When Ron is not busy with Bird Rescue, you can find him traveling the countryside with his wife Kandis (married 40 years!) in their RV, at his cabin in Oregon, or spending time with his two daughters and grandchildren (including furry ones) in Washington. When reflecting on his life’s accomplishments Ron’s family was at the top of his list, his eyes lighting up the whole time he spoke of them. Ron loves to travel, golf, kayak, and ski, and is proud to stand by Bird Rescue as a beloved board member. Thank you, Ron, for bringing all that you do to the organization!

December 18, 2017

Great Egret Suffers Two Gunshot Wounds, $500 Reward Offered

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Wounded Great Egret is recovering at Bird Rescue’s Los Angeles Wildlife Center. Photo: Devin Hansen/International Bird Rescue

A Great Egret is recovering at International Bird Rescue after being found shot in Southern California on November 28, 2017. International Bird Rescue is offering a $500 reward to anyone with information leading to the conviction of the perpetrator involved.

The wounded Egret was brought to an Agoura Hills, CA animal hospital before being transferred to Bird Rescue’s Los Angeles Wildlife Center with two gunshot wounds. One pellet went in at the left breast muscle, punched a hole in the bird’s keel, exited on the right side and fractured the bird’s wing bone (ulna).

“Bird Rescue was created to mitigate human impact on birds, and most of the injuries we see on a daily basis are caused by human negligence,” said JD Bergeron, International Bird Rescue Executive Director. “A bird like this though–a beautiful white marsh bird that was used for target practice–is the victim of willful human cruelty.”

The injured bird, nicknamed “Ernie” by the students at Colina Middle School in Thousand Oaks where the animal was found, underwent a successful surgery and is recuperating at Bird Rescue’s wildlife center located in San Pedro, CA. Read: Injured egret saved on middle school campus

“To the exceptional students and staff at Colina Middle School: Thank you for coming to the aid of this bird in distress,” said Bergeron.

The abuse of this Great Egret is a federal offense. Anyone with information about this animal cruelty case, including the name or location of the perpetrator, can call the local U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement at (310) 328-1516. Callers may remain anonymous.

“We hope that whoever is responsible for this shooting can be brought to justice,” added Bergeron.

Great Egrets were nearly hunted to extinction in the 1890’s for their silky plume of feathers. Concerned citizens organized a nationwide movement that resulted in federal protection for migratory birds under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.

 

X-ray of fractured the bird’s wing bone (ulna).

Pellet removed from Great Egret by our vet during surgery.

Egret just after surgery.

 

 

December 18, 2017

Partnerships in Action: BP

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Cackling Geese Release

With the end of 2017 approaching, we thought this was a good time to tell the story of how one of our long-time clients, BP, came through this year in a big way. Our partner went to extraordinary lengths to make sure that three 4-week-old Cackling Geese were taken care of after accidentally falling into an oil pit on the North Slope of Alaska. The goslings somehow managed to make their way through the secure netting over a protected pit, ending up in a pool of oil. Once they were discovered, BP’s on-call emergency spill responders—who receive wildlife training from us annually—were immediately contacted. They were able to remove the birds from the pit, stabilize them, and then transfer them by air to the Alaska Wildlife Response Center (AWRC), our turnkey facility in Anchorage.

The goslings were met at the airport by our Response Services Manager, Michelle Bellizzi, who initiated our oiled-bird protocol while rushing them to the AWRC. Once at the AWRC, the goslings were medically stabilized for several days to get them healthy enough to withstand the rigors of cleaning. Once clean, the birds were moved to a reconditioning and waterproofing pool. For most of the next two weeks, Michelle worked with the birds to resolve chemical skin burns and help the birds reestablish their waterproofing. Also during this time, the birds were temporarily housed at The Bird Treatment and Learning Center, a partner organization in Anchorage that was able to provide them with a secure waterproofing pool for several days. Once the birds were back at the AWRC, the final waterproofing was established. Then, after meeting stringent release criteria, the birds were flown on BP’s daily charter flight up to their home in Prudhoe Bay and released into the wild!

Many resources go into rehabilitating oiled and/or injured wildlife, and that’s one of the reasons we’re so grateful for our partnerships. BP kindly paid for all of the birds’ expenses and rehabilitation, making it possible for us to save these sweet little goslings. We are continuously inspired by these relationships, and we are always pleased when communities and corporations get involved and engage in helping us protect wildlife. It truly does take a village, and we are happy to have the one we have!

 

 

 

December 10, 2017

Patient of Week: Injured American White Pelican Making Great Progress!

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After treatment: Much happier White Pelican living outside and able to eat on his own.

We’ve got some good news: The severely injured American White Pelican rescued in Orange County last month is making great progress! This bird was spotted with a terrible bill fracture at the San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary in Irvine a few weeks ago. On top of the bill fracture, the poor bird had several neck wounds and a double triple hook fishing lure in his foot.

Injured American White Pelican was spotted first in Irvine, CA. Photo by Sandrine Biziaux-Scherson

The injured bird was originally spotted at the San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary in Irvine, CA by members of the local Sea and Sage Audubon Society. Even with its severe injuries, the Pelican was flighted and evaded capture.

Just before Thanksgiving the pelican was spotted in the driveway of a home in Newport Beach. After Newport Beach Police was contacted, Animal Control Officer Nick Ott responded and was able to capture the frightened bird. It was brought to Wetlands and Wildlife in Huntington Beach and then transferred to our Los Angeles Wildlife Center.

We found the bird to be anemic and emaciated, and he had problems maintaining his body temperature. His lower bill fracture was causing his mouth to not fit together correctly, and was at high risk of becoming a compound fracture any minute, which would have lowered his chances of successful treatment dramatically. A characteristic fish hook hole in the tip of his lower bill pointed a finger at the cause of the injury. Dr. Rebecca Duerr, Bird Rescue’s staff veterinarian, said “The poor bird probably hooked his mouth trying to get the double treble hook out of his foot, and broke his bill while ripping the hook out of his mouth.”

Juvenile pelican mandibles are very flexible soft bone, which complicates pinning surgery. This bird’s mandible was fractured not only across the mandible but also was split longitudinally, making the whole front half of the left side very wiggly and unstable. Our vet is hoping the fixator style she chose does the trick.

We are happy to report that after a few weeks of intensive care and surgery, he has become much stronger and is able to live in an outdoor aviary. He’s put on more than a kilogram of weight and has a seemingly-bottomless appetite for what’s on the menu!

Intake: American White Pelican being examined by International Bird Rescue staff Julie Skoglund and Kylie Clatterbuck. Note bruising and crease at the fractured area of the lower jaw.

American White Pelicans, as you can see from the photos, are very large birds. Their wingspan can easily reach 8-10 feet. They are one of the heaviest flying birds in the world, reaching an average weight of 11 to 20 pounds.

Very loooong body: This bird is so long we needed an extension on the surgery table while working on his mouth. Center Manager Kylie Clatterbuck is keeping the pelican comfortably anesthetized right before his bill was pinned.

We would like to thank Sea and Sage Audubon Society, the Newport Beach Animal Control and our colleagues at Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center of Huntington Beach for their heroic efforts. We have high hopes things will continue to go well for this bird, and will let our colleagues know when a release is planned, to give this lucky bird a proper sendoff.

The fix: Top view, left, of the mandible after the 1st half of the external fixator was applied. Note the ugly wound at the tip of the bill where the fish hook dug a gouge. Right, Mandible radiograph after pins and external fixator were placed.

December 7, 2017

Clinic Files: Canvasback Neck Wound

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This beautiful male Canvasback was found bleeding from his neck in Milpitas, CA, after being attacked by an unknown predator. The rescuer took the duck to our friends at the Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley in San Jose, CA, who cleaned his wound and started him on antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, and pain medication. They then transferred him to us because of the severity of the wound.

Canvasback – Photo by Cheryl Reynolds.

Despite the horrible neck wound, he was able to hold his head up pretty normally and did not have any obvious evidence that his spine, esophagus, or trachea was involved, which gave us hope that the wound had a good chance of healing well. Our staff carefully cleaned and bandaged the wound, preparing him for surgery on the following day. The injury affected over 50% of the circumference of the duck’s neck, with substantial muscle and jugular vein damage, but our experienced veterinarian was able to remove all the damaged tissue and close the wound. We are happy to report that this gorgeous boy is now living in one of our outdoor pelagic pools and is on the road to recovery—which includes eating LOTS of krill! We will continue to monitor and care for this bird until he is fully ready to be released.

 

Canvasback – Photo by Jennifer Linander

One of our core programs at Bird Rescue is the Wildlife Rehabilitation Services Program. Bird Rescue operates two full-time wildlife centers in California and one turn-key facility in Alaska. While our Alaska center is only available for emergency situations, our San Francisco Bay-Delta and Los Angeles wildlife centers take in injured and sick aquatic birds year-round. Our facilities specialize in treating wounded, sick, oiled, and orphaned aquatic birds with the goal of releasing them into the wild once they are recovered.

For more information on the work we do at Bird Rescue, visit our website. For an inside peek at what goes on in our outdoor pools, check out our birdcam! For questions about this post, please email Bird Rescue at clinicfiles@bird-rescue.org.

December 7, 2017

Photographers in Focus: Ingrid Taylar

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Mama: Black-necked Stilts (Himantopus mexicanus), at San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary.

We would like to welcome you back – after a hiatus – to the Photographers in Focus feature. It’s International Bird Rescue’s tribute to wildlife photographers who inspire our passion for aquatic bird rehabilitation.

This time around, we are pleased to showcase the work of Ingrid Taylar, a San Francisco Bay Area nature photographer. We hope you enjoy her work as much as we do.

Question: How did you get into wildlife photography?

Answer: I’ve loved animals for as long as I can remember, and my interest in photography began early as well. My parents bought me my first camera in grade school, a Kodak Instamatic to document our lives overseas. I made earnest efforts in photography and was thrilled to get my first SLR at 18. But those early skills were inconsistent because I never had a lot of money for film and developing.

Brandt’s Cormorants (Phalacrocorax penicillatus) nesting in Monterey, California.

I got my first digital SLR while volunteering at Lindsay Wildlife in the Bay Area. The hospital experience helped me understand more intimately the challenges wild animals face — and that understanding grew into a passion for their protection and conservation. The telephoto lens gave me a way to connect, observe, and document while minimizing my intrusion.

Stretch: Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis)

I’m grateful I was exposed to the ethical framework and mentorship of a wildlife rehab setting before I became serious about nature photography. I learned at the outset to put the welfare of the animal above the image. We all face ethical decisions in the field: How close do we move in? Are we disturbing or endangering the animal? Are we interfering with their feeding or rest? I know that any choice I make for the sake of a photograph can potentially change an outcome for that animal. So, although I make mistakes or miscalculations like anyone else, the modalities of care I learned in the wildlife hospital are at the foundation of my field practice.

Q: Your photo of the Stilts is simply amazing. How did you come to capture this beautiful image?

A: Thank you. I shot it at San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary. I didn’t actually expect to have a salvageable image from that day because the light was challenging. So, I was looking to capture the basis of something artistic and ethereal in nature, rather than a straight-forward documentary photo.

I didn’t see the chick at first. S/he appeared in my periphery as I was snapping silhouettes of the adult birds and their reflections. It was one of those serendipitous and lovely moments that occur sometimes in the stillness. I took a few shots before a heron passed overhead and the parents hustled the chick under safe cover. I walked away at that point.

I’m very careful about photographing baby birds and will avoid it if my presence might cause stress or draw unwanted attention to the babies. I know it’s hard enough for parents to protect their chicks from daily hazards without the distraction of a photographer.

For the final image, I developed it in post-processing to bring out more of the ethereal quality. The original frame was a tad under-exposed, so I intentionally over-exposed it, and added a low-opacity vignette to accentuate the lightness.

Ruckus: Snowy Egrets (Egretta thula) nesting in a parking lot tree in Huntington Beach, California.

Q: What camera do you use? What is your favorite lens for wildlife photography?

A: I shoot with Olympus gear. I photographed for years with an Olympus E-3 DSLR, then switched to the first OMD E-M1 “micro four thirds” camera when it came off the line. The E-M1 is mirrorless technology, and the smaller size and lighter weight of the Oly gear suits my shooting style, which usually involves walking or hiking or being en route from one place to another. I also had a long-standing, unrequited love for the Olympus OM film system, so I was finally able to replace that nostalgia with a digital model. My favorite wildlife lens is my newest, the Olympus 300mm f/4 (2x crop factor). [I have no commercial affiliation with Olympus.]

Q: What’s the most challenging aspect of what you do?

A: The biggest challenge for me is dealing with some of the disregard I witness in the field. I see more harassment than I wish I did, especially of birds, and it takes an effort to retain equanimity in those situations. It’s easy to get upset. When I do need to intervene, I try to find a portal through which I can educate at the same time. A lot of people simply don’t know how to interact (or not interact) with wild animals, and then all it takes is a nudge in the right direction. A camera with a wildlife lens tends to attract conversation and questions, so I take advantage of that opportunity to share my own appreciation for these animals. Sometimes it works. At other times it can be an exercise in exasperation.

Mixed shorebird flock at Arrowhead Marsh in Oakland, California.

Q: Why birds?

A: I love photographing animals in general, and I tend not to discriminate, but birds are natural subjects because of how regularly their lives intertwine with ours, existing above and within our paradigm. They are accessible to us in urban, rural and wilderness settings. Seeing them up close through the telephoto — the eyes, the subtle expressions, the details of their feathers, their social interactions — I am awed by that gift every single time.

I’m particularly fond of the more common species, the ones frequently overlooked. I have a soft spot for pigeons, for instance, having rescued a couple of racing pigeons years ago. One of my favorite photo shoots was documenting a small group of Glaucous-winged Gulls nesting on a downtown Seattle rooftop. The gulls were ubiquitous in the area, but I always refer to these species as “gateway birds.” They are often the first wild birds that city dwellers or children encounter, the first birds they start to care about, and sometimes, the first they ever rescue or bring to a wildlife hospital. They were for me. I see these species as liaisons and emissaries of sorts, bridging the chasm between the urban and the wild.

Q: Who are some of your favorite wildlife photographers?

A: My earliest ideas of craft came from photos that helped me understand visual storytelling: documentary and war images like those of Robert Capa and Margaret Bourke-White, and, of course, the pages of National Geographic with iconic shots like the van Lawick photos of Jane Goodall interacting with chimpanzees. Photojournalism, in particular, had a huge impact on me, and it’s probably why I’m in nature photography, I’m so drawn to the grittier urban or industrial juxtapositions.

Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) during a feeding frenzy at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve in Huntington Beach, California.

In terms of creativity and composition, two well-known nature photographers whose images were formative for me were Frans Lanting and Art Wolfe. I draw inspiration and hope from conservation photographers like Cristina Mittermeier and Paul Nicklen (among others) who bring critical attention to ecological issues through their work.

It’s also encouraging to see so many more female photographers influencing the profession, and two women whose images I’ve come to know and love through our mutual interest in wildlife ethics are Melissa Groo and Mia McPherson. I am constantly motivated by the care they show for their subjects, and the high ethical standards they promote in the field.

Q: How has working in nature enhanced your life?

A: It’s made me more patient and more present in the moment. It’s helped me become more conscious of how my own everyday choices affect other species. Several years ago, my husband and I were lucky enough to take an orca photography excursion with an experienced naturalist. The conversation veered toward how difficult it was to find a mattress or sofa that didn’t contain environmentally damaging chemicals which then pollute marine mammal habitats. I think once you become aware and care, that type of concern informs your decisions, even in tangential ways. At the same time, I’m not exemplary in this regard. If anything, it’s made me more conflicted to be cognizant of my own, unavoidable impact as a human.

My aim as a photographer, outside of the personal fulfillment it brings, is to help offset some of that impact through advocacy, by promoting an appreciation for the diverse lives around us. If someone notices the beauty of a bird because of a photograph they see, if they treat a wild animal with more kindness and respect because of a story we tell, or if they care more about their environment because of how we portray it, that to me is the highest reward. Although I have my moments of cynicism and despair, I still hold out hope that person by person, we can transition to a world where compassionate coexistence is the norm.

It’s difficult to overstate just how much I’ve learned from other animals. They have an innate ability to move with the flow, to transcend hardship, to tune into the rhythms and natural cycles that are often overrun by our city lights and soundscapes. I’m still amazed at how specialized and perfect they are in their individual niches. Watching wild animals navigate their existence is a lesson in both the humility and grandeur of our short time on this earth. I’m working to be worthy of the knowledge I’ve gained through them.

Stop Trashing My Ocean: Western Gull (Larus occidentalis) with empty chip bag.

All photos © Ingrid Taylar

 

December 4, 2017

Devin Hanson: Bird Rescue Staff Since 2015

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Staff Spotlight:
The work we do at Bird Rescue wouldn’t be possible without our amazing team of staff and volunteers! Read below to meet one of our stellar team members.

Devin Hanson – bird washing at our LA wildlife center

Devin started with Bird Rescue as an intern and was so wonderful that we had to hire her as one of our two full-time Rehabilitation Technicians at our Los Angeles wildlife center. Her background is in Marine Biology, which she studied as an undergrad at the University of Oregon.

Devin originally hails from the state of Washington’s Puget Sound area, where her love of marine biology was first born. She grew up in a small town where one of the major pastimes was tracking the lives of the area’s three well-known pods of orcas. Devin recounts these experiences fondly and says they are what inspired her to go into marine science. Devin tells us she is happy to be at Bird Rescue and feels lucky to be part of an organization that provides great care for birds and great training for its staff.

When Devin is not hard at work saving birds’ lives, she enjoys gardening, dancing, and teaching. She is a lifelong competitive dancer (hip-hop, contemporary, and lyrical) who believes that dancing is fun and brings balance to her life. She recently began teaching a hip-hop class that some of her fellow staff members have attended (the word is that it’s quite the workout!).

We love having interesting, knowledgeable, and creative teammates like Devin—she’s a hard worker and a valuable co-worker, and she’s brought her dancing skills to us for some after-work fun. Thanks, Devin, for bringing all of your assets to the Bird Rescue family!

November 28, 2017

DOUBLE Your Love For Birds On This #GivingTuesday

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Thanks to a generous donor, your donation is DOUBLED today on this #GivingTuesday! Help us reach our goal of raising $40,000 for our work treating thousands of aquatic birds each year.

Learn more about what we do by viewing Bird Rescue’s Mission video below:

 

November 7, 2017

Cosco Busan Oil Spill: 10th Anniversary of Disaster on San Francisco Bay

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This month is the somber 10-year anniversary of one of the worst environmental disasters to befall the San Francisco Bay. On November 7, 2007, an oil spill near the Bay Bridge left thousands of oiled birds dead and dying.

More than 50,000 gallons of heavy bunker fuel oil leaked into the bay on that day. Carried by the bay’s turbulent tidal currents, the oily mess coated beaches and shorelines throughout the Bay, past the Golden Gate Bridge, onto Marin County beaches. Within days we and our partners treated over 1,000 birds at our SF Bay–Delta wildlife center. Read report from 2007

The oil spill occurred when the Cosco Busan container ship collided with the San Francisco Bay Bridge. The collision dumped 54,000 gallons of oil called “bunker fuel” into the Bay. The spill oiled 70-miles of Bay Area shoreline. During the aftermath of the spill, at least 3,000 live and dead birds were collected. Some biologists speculate that the number of affected birds was even greater, with reports that up to 3x as many birds may have been oiled and then succumbed to death outside the bay. This event occurred during a busy migration time for birds moving through the area.

The majority of affected seabirds included: Surf Scoters, Clark’s and Western Grebes, and Eared and Horned Grebes.

All oil spills are extremely toxic to marine life but especially bunker fuel spills. The thick oil causes the natural insulation in the bird’s feathers to break down, resulting in the bird’s inability to thermoregulate, which can lead to hypothermia and even death. For birds that float and feed through a spill, it’s a death sentence if not rescued quickly. In addition to having problems thermoregulating, once oiled, the birds will spend most of their time trying to preen the oil out of their feathers and thus ingest the oil. Weakened, they will often beach themselves and fall prey to predators or die from oil toxicity. See: How Oil Affects Birds

Thousands of Bay Area citizens moved to volunteer and gave time. With this contribution hundreds of birds were rehabilitated and released.

While we are fortunate to have not had a large spill in the Bay Area since 2007, we remain vigilant and prepared to respond to such an event at a moment’s notice.

Other media reports

Cosco Busan oil spill – 10 years later (Golden Gate Audubon)

Richardson Bay islands’ revival following Cosco Busan Spill (Marin IJ)

Ten years after the Cosco Busan oil spill: Preparedness and response improved; $30M in environmental restoration ongoing (Cosco Busan Trustee Council)

Oiled Ring-billed Gull. Photo: Glen Tepke

Washing an Eared Grebe during the Cosco Busan Oil Spill response. Photo by Russ Curtis/International Bird Rescue

 

More than a 1,000 oiled birds, including a pool full of Scoters, were treated at the San Francisco Bay-Delta wildlife center. Photo by Russ Curtis/International Bird Rescue

October 15, 2017

Atlas Fire Hits Close to Home for Bird Rescue’s SF Bay-Delta Wildlife Center

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The Atlas fire in California is has been hitting close to home for the past week at Bird Rescue. Our San Francisco Bay-Delta wildlife center, which is also our headquarters, is located in Fairfield, California, not far from the path of the fires.

We kept our birds-in-care at the facility as long as we could before the poor air quality and the looming possibility of evacuation rose beyond our acceptable threshold. For the well-being of our birds, we made the decision on Wednesday evening to release those that were healthy enough to go, and to transfer the remaining patients to partner centers outside the fire zone.

Preparing aquatic birds to be transferred to any outside facility (especially those not specialized in aquatic care) takes a tremendous amount of energy, and we are grateful that our team of employees and volunteers stepped up to the challenge. From exit examinations to preparing the bird’s medications and food, paperwork, and arranging transport, the process is extremely time-consuming and tedious.

Huge thanks to partner centers WildCare (San Rafael), Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA (San Mateo), The SPCA for Monterey County (Monterey), and Pacific Wildlife Care (San Luis Obispo) for receiving these patients. We hope that they are all adjusting nicely to their new respective centers.

So long as it is still safe to do so, our center will remain open as a service to the public for wildlife emergencies. However, we will not be receiving new patients until the situation improves. Our hearts go out to our employees, volunteers, and supporters who have already been impacted. We join in unity with the communities affected, our fellow emergency response professionals, and all the many of you who have stepped up to help out, with shelter, with donations, and with your support.

In our 46-year history, we have never needed to evacuate all of the birds from our facility. We have been through floods, handled numerous oil spill emergencies, felt earthquakes, endured other extreme weather, and yet this evacuation is unique for our SF Bay-Delta wildlife center. Our flight aviary may be motionless at the moment, but we are thankful we can see the uncharred hill behind us through the smoke.

While we are not currently accepting new patients at our SF center, we are happy to report that business, as usual, will go on at our Los Angeles wildlife center. We are glad to be able to continue to serve the Los Angeles area and are eagerly awaiting the ability to do so again at our SF Bay-Delta wildlife center.

To keep updated on the most current situation at Bird Rescue, please follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Thank you again for all of your support, which is needed now more than ever!

Sincerely and with gratitude,
The International Bird Rescue Team

 

September 27, 2017

Volunteer Spotlight: Susan “Mac” McCarthy

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Editor’s note: The work we do at Bird Rescue wouldn’t be possible without our amazing team of staff and volunteers! Read below to meet one of our stellar team members.

Susan McCarthy – Volunteer Since 1971

A writer and a volunteer, Susan (or Mac as we’ll call her) has been on the front lines with Bird Rescue since 1971, getting her start at the Standard Oil spill incident that prompted the very formation of our organization! From oil spills to her work as a writer, Mac’s commitment to animal welfare has been an inspiration to us over the years.

A long-time Bay Area resident, Mac has always had a soft spot for avian wildlife. Growing up in a home that valued the welfare of all animals (including a mother who used to drive her to our center so she could volunteer!) it’s no wonder that Mac has dedicated her life to studying and writing about animal behavior.

As a professional writer, Mac’s work can be seen in her non-fiction books When Elephants Weep (which she co-authored with Jeff Masson) and Becoming a Tiger. In addition to her work in animal behavior, Mac also runs a blog with her colleague Marjorie Ingall, Sorry Watch, which analyzes apologies, both public and private.

We are so grateful that Mac has chosen to spend her time helping our efforts over the years, and are delighted to get to spend time with such an interesting and dedicated woman!

Read Mac’s account of bird rescue at the 1971 San Francisco Bay oil spill: http://www.outsidelands.org/1971_oil_spill.php

September 17, 2017

Patient of the Week: White-tailed Kite

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Rare patient: A White-tailed Kite in care at our SF Bay-Delta Center.

Because of our specialization with water birds, it’s not often that we get to work with or talk about non-aquatic birds, such as this gorgeous, juvenile White-tailed Kite. You may remember three oiled Prairie Falcon chicks that we featured last summer. While we specialize in aquatic bird species, we work with any species that is in need to the best of our abilities.

This kite came to our San Francisco Bay-Delta wildlife center in need of food, water, and warmth after being found crouching near a chicken coop at a private residence in Vallejo, California. The home owner brought the bird to our clinic and we quickly worked to stabilize it, providing the needed warmth and fluids and force-feeding it since it was not ready to feed on its own. We cared for the bird for a couple of days until it was stabilized, and then transferred it to our colleagues at Lindsay Wildlife Museum where it could receive specialized long-term care from their raptor specialists.

White-tailed Kites are medium-sized raptors that can be found in open grasslands and savannas. A good way to spot them in the wild is their characteristic hunting style of hovering over the ground in search of small mammals! They have a bright white tail, grey back and wings, and a white face. Click the photo at top to see footage of a kite hunting and feasting.

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, it is unknown whether these soaring beauties are nomadic, migratory, or both. They can be found roosting communally in the off-season.

Though White-tailed Kites are not currently threatened, all raptor species face the challenge of contamination from our environment. Sitting at the top of the food chain, raptors are heavily affected by the toxins that get into their diets. When their prey (small mammals, birds, etc.) are exposed to toxins, these toxins can get more concentrated in the bird of prey when they ingest the animal.

While we love our water birds at Bird Rescue, we’re always happy to celebrate all birds, and this White-tailed Kite is a true beauty. For more information on White-tailed Kites, go here.

Photos by Senior Rehabilitation Technician Jennifer Linander