Every Bird Matters
news and views from international bird rescue

February 7, 2018

Bird of the Month: Diving Ducks

Bird-Rescue

Canvasback – Photo by Cheryl Reynolds

February is Diving Duck Month here at Bird Rescue, and to celebrate this fun month we wanted to start out by talking about what a diving duck actually is. While all species of duck are in the same family (Anatidae) within that family ducks can be separated out into three main groups; diving ducks, dabbling ducks, and sea ducks/mergansers. Today, we will talk about diving ducks!

Diving ducks get their name from the way that they forage for food – diving underwater! In order to find the mollusks, plants, insects, and fish that they feed on, these athletic little ducks plunge themselves underwater in search of the food that they eat. According to the University of Florida, diving ducks have large webbed feet (which act as paddles) and smaller wings which they press up against their body, enabling them to dive and swim underwater with ease. While their smaller wings and larger feet may help with diving, they aren’t necessarily the best for taking flight, which is why you sometimes see ducks running across the water before taking off.

Most species of diving duck are native to North America, and we commonly see many species from the group at our clinic. Canvasbacks, Ruddy Ducks, Common Goldeneyes, Greater and Lesser Scaups, Surf Scoters, and Buffleheads are all birds that we regularly see throughout the winter months. While most of these birds do not breed in California, they often pass through during winter migration.

While we enjoy celebrating the many unique traits of the diving ducks, their conservation status is a less jovial tale. According to Ducks Unlimited, this extraordinary group of birds has suffered from the deteriorating water quality throughout North America. Increased levels of contaminants in water sources, loss of aquatic vegetation (food) due to erosion, and breeding ground loss due to landfills are just a few of the challenges that these ducks face.

Though conservation may be a concern for these birds, together we can work together in doing our part to make decisions that look out for the water systems and habitats that support them. Join us in celebrating this wonderful group of ducks throughout the month of February, and stay tuned for factoids, photos, and conservation information about this beloved group. For daily updates follow us on Facebook!

January 31, 2018

Photographers in Focus: Patricia Ware

Bird-Rescue

Elegant Tern emerges from the water with two fish in its mouth at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, Huntington Beach, CA.

Our photographer of note this time around is Patricia Ware from Manhattan Beach, CA. Patricia captures striking bird life images in and around Southern California. In her interview that follows, she shares some great tips on using her photographic equipment to the highest degree and reminds us that even after arising early to find these beautiful photos, post-production and thoughtful backup plans keep her sanity intact.

Photo of Mandarin Duck by Patricia Ware

Mandarin Duck photographed at the Los Angeles Arboretum, California.

Question: Your work is striking. How did you manage to capture that image of the Elegant Tern?

Answer: Thank you, I am so pleased you enjoy my work.

When the Terns are diving for fish, I try to capture them when they emerge from the water. To get sharp shots of fast-moving birds like Terns, you need to first put the correct settings in your camera. When I took this shot, I was using a Canon 1D mark iv, so I will describe the settings I use for my Canon cameras; however, similar settings are found for other camera models.

• Autofocus: Use AI Servo Autofocus. The AI stands for Artificial Intelligence. This algorithm determines the speed and the direction of fast-moving subjects when their focusing distance keeps changing. AI Servo Autofocus allows me to better track fast flying birds.

• Drive Mode: Set it to high-speed continuous shooting. On my Canon 1D mark iv, I was able to get 10 shots per second. When the action is at its greatest, clicking 10 shots per second gives me more opportunities to capture the action at its peak.

• Autofocus Point: Use the center autofocus for birds in flight. If I am shooting against a varied background such as trees or bushes, I will use the center autofocus point and aim for the center of the bird. If I know I will be shooting against a plain background such as a blue sky, I will use the center autofocus point plus surrounding AF point expansion.

• AI Servo Tracking Sensitivity: Set to SLOW. Setting the tracking sensitivity to slow allows me to refocus on the bird in flight more quickly when the camera locks its focus on the background rather than on the bird.

The Tern photo was taken from the bridge in the early morning at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve in Huntington Beach, CA. I waited until I saw a Tern dive and aimed as it surfaced. I didn’t realize it had two fish in its mouth until I uploaded my photos to my computer. Stopping a moment in time allows you to see even more than you did when you took the shot.

Photo of Black-necked Stilt by Patricia Ware

Black-necked Stilt walks along wetlands in Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve, Playa del Rey, California.

Q: How did you get into wildlife photography?

A: In 2008, I purchased a Canon 40D which came with a 28-135mm zoom lens. My husband and I were rowing in the Back Bay in Newport Beach, California when I spotted an Osprey in the distance. My husband said I could zoom in on the bird to make it larger and he proceeded to show me how. I was blown away that I could make something so small and far away appear close and large in camera. At that moment I was hooked.

Perusing the internet to learn more about birds and Ospreys in particular, I stumbled across one of the most widely recognized bird photographers, Artie Morris. I read his blog and purchased one of his guides to bird photography. I loved his work and wanted to emulate him.

But first I needed to learn how to use my newly purchased camera. So I enrolled in a UCLA extension course on beginning photography and Photoshop. It was exactly what I needed. The class gave weekly assignments to improve our skills. And over the next three months I learned the basics of photography and Photoshop.

I am still learning. I often watch online videos and read blogs about photography and Photoshop in order to improve my skills.

Photo of Snowy Egrets by Patricia Ware

Snowy Egret chaseing off another along the shoreline at Playa del Rey, California

Q: What are some of the challenges you face in your bird photography?

A: Getting up early (5:00 am) and driving the freeways are my biggest challenges. You need to be where the birds are and the morning light is wonderful.

I often wear black so I can hide in the shadows and then I stay in place until the birds to come to me. I love being in nature, so waiting for the birds is a joy rather than a challenge. It gives me time to enjoy the beauty surrounding me: the wonderful views of nature, the smell of the wet grasses, the birds singing in the trees or the quiet stillness.

Photo of young Egyptian Geese by Patricia Ware

Q: What camera system do you prefer? Favorite lens for wildlife photography?

A: I love taking shots of birds in flight, so I recently upgraded to a Canon’s 1DX ii. It’s great for action with its fast frame rate of 14 FPS with full tracking autofocus. The autofocus is excellent even with an extender. Additionally, I am able to take shots with a high ISO and still get wonderful image quality

When I use a tripod, my favorite lens is my 600mm. But more often I am hand-holding, and my lens of choice is a Canon 400 DO ii. Its autofocus is fast and it’s sharp with both the Canon 1.4X III and 2x III EF extenders. With one of these extenders, I have either a 560mm f/5.6 or an 800mm f/8 reach.

Because it is relatively light, I can walk for over a mile with the 400 DO ii. And because of its compact size I can take it out in our 22’ dory when we go to the Back Bay in Newport Beach, CA. Additionally, I can fit it in a carry-on when I take a flight so it makes a wonderful travel lens too.

Photo of a Allen’s Hummingbird by Patricia Ware

Male Allen’s Hummingbird photo capture in Ware’s backyard.

Q: Do you have any tips or suggestions for photographers to edit and catalog their work?

A: Good photographs, that’s what it’s all about. Once I take them, I want to keep only the best and get rid of the rest. So I need to judge: Is the subject too small in the frame? Is it out of focus? Are the whites blown out and is there enough detail in the shadows? These are a few of the things that I evaluate.

However, even if a shot is technically flawless, I may not choose to keep it if it doesn’t speak to me. It needs to say, “This is a perfect moment in time.” Like when the Tern emerges from the water with two fish in its beak or when this juvenile Peregrine lands in the ice plant after one of his initial flights.

Or my photo needs to tell me a story such as this one showing shows how one Snowy Egret aggressively chases off another from its territory.

Or the photo needs to evoke a feeling or an emotion. This shot elicited confidence showing a Black-necked Stilt holding her head high while taking a big stride.

Whatever the criterion I use to make these judgments, I need to be able to preview the image at 100%. And I need to do this quickly with little wait time so I can move on to the next shot. Even though I can preview my images in Lightroom, it’s WAY too slow. I need something much faster, and Photo Mechanic from Camera Bits meets that need. Photo Mechanic is a super-fast image browser that speeds up my workflow. This software saves me serious time in my first-pass review to cull for rejected photos. It loads quickly so I can immediately see the photo in high resolution. I can check whether the eye is in perfect focus or use any other criterion to decide if the shot is worth keeping.

Not only must I decide which photos to keep, but I also need to decide where to store my photos. When I started out taking photos, I would store them on external hard drives. This was an easy solution that worked quite well until one day one when one of my hard drives failed. I had a sickening realization that I had messed up. I tried everything to get it back. I even took it to a person specializing in hard drive recovery and he was unsuccessful. Fortunately, I was able to recover my photos by attaching the hard drive to a different computer, but I learned my lesson. I now store my photos in multiple places.

I first copy my camera memory card a 2 TB portable external hard drive. I do my first pass at selecting and then make a second copy of the keepers to a 16 TB RAID external hard drive. Once the smaller hard drive is full, I move it into a file cabinet in our detached garage and replace it with a new hard drive.

Additionally, I pay for online backup using Backblaze, which automatically backups all my files on one computer as well as my portable and my RAID external hard drives. Presently, I have over 8 terabytes in their cloud.

Some people are turned off by the initial predicted upload time by Backblaze. However, it took me much less time. Of course, I have everything set for speed: I leave my computer on day and night, I have FiOS, which has blazing fast upload speeds, and in the Backblaze settings, I turn off automatic throttle and manually set it to use the most Internet bandwidth available. Backblaze is simple to use and it keeps my folder structure the same as it is on my computer. In fact, I’ve used it for several years now and during this time, my computer crashed. I easily restored my files on my new computer.

Along with Backblaze, I upload my photos to the Amazon Cloud, whose price is included with my prime membership. This gives me added security, but for me, it’s not as easy to retrieve photos as Backblaze. I also store and organize my high-resolution jpegs on Flickr. However, I primarily use Flickr for its social network. On Flickr I can view, interact, and learn in a huge community of professional and amateur photographers. And finally, my last storage site is on Zenfolio, which is my personal website to showcase my photos.

To some, these multiple places to store my photos may seem like overkill, but I certainly have peace of mind.

Photo of Clark's Grebe swims carrying chick on its back by Patricia Ware

Clark’s Grebe swims carrying chick on its back.

Q: Why birds?

A: Birds are beautiful animals and they are everywhere. When my son was in third grade, he was assigned to do a report on local birds. So I took him to a local pond to observe the birds. The variety of birds there opened my eyes. I had never really looked before. As we researched the birds we saw, my son and I learned so much about the wildlife in our area. I then put up a feeder in my yard where I could make even closer observations and eventually take photographs.

Photo of Elegant Tern in midair ballet by Patricia Ware

Elegant Tern twists and shakes water from his body at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, Huntington Beach, California.

Q: Who are some of your favorite wildlife photographers?

A: My favorite wildlife photographers are among the contacts on Flickr I have made on Flickr (https://www.flickr.com/): Sindri Skúlason, Philip Dunn, Eric Gofreed, Salah Baazizi, Gerda and Willie van Schalkwyk. I can follow their work on a daily basis and spend time identifying what I like about their shots. I can then try to imitate what I like about their work and because we comment on each other’s work and know each other, I can email them if I need to learn more.

Q: How has working in nature enhanced your life?

A: Pure joy is being in the quiet of nature and connecting with it. I love nature. Photographing nature, especially animals in the wild, is my way of protecting our planet and sharing its beauty.

Photo of Reddish Egret by Patricia Ware

Reddish Egret appears to be walking on water at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, Huntington Beach, California.

All photos © Patricia Ware

 

January 30, 2018

Volunteer Spotlight: Mark Johnston

Bird-Rescue

Mark Johnston volunteering at our 2017 Open House

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!

Meet Mark Johnston, Bird Rescue volunteer at our San Francisco Bay-Delta wildlife center since 2016. On Mark’s first day of retirement, he was passing by the Bird Rescue center on his way to breakfast with his wife. He saw a sign out front for our open house and decided to pop in and have a look. As he describes it, he was immediately greeted by a kind and welcoming group of people, eager to show him the birds, talk about our work, and give him a tour of the facilities. It didn’t take long before Mark realized that this was the type of place that he would want to spend his time in retirement. He filled out the paperwork, and has been with us ever since!

As an outdoorsman and a fly fisherman, Mark has always been intimately connected to nature. He describes himself as having a profound respect for the animal world and feels fortunate to get to work alongside the birds at the center. He loves working with the other volunteers and has enjoyed learning as much as he has about the patients at the center. Mark volunteers on a weekly basis and is also a part of our Bird Boosters Club. He helps out with just about everything and anything we need and is one of few volunteers that work in both the administrative and clinical parts of the organization.

For Mark, the most important things in life are his family and friends. He enjoys being part of a community and is eager to help out in any way that he can for those that he cares about. He enjoys spending time with his wife of 37 years, his two sons, his extended family of close relatives, and his old workmates; he frequently travels between southern and northern California to be close to those that he loves.

When Mark is not at Bird Rescue, he can be found fishing with his nephew, tying his flies, traveling to Northern California to see family, and sampling local culinary delights (his favorite is BBQ)!

We are so grateful to have a kind-hearted and dedicated volunteer like Mark, and enjoy his company just as much as he enjoys being at the center. Thank you, Mark, for all that you do!

January 24, 2018

2017 Bird of the Year – American White Pelican

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American White Pelican – Photo by Sandrine Biziaux

The results are in! Following our 2017 Bird of the Year contest, online voters have chosen the American White Pelican as our 2017 Bird of the Year at Bird Rescue. This charismatic candidate stole the show, taking 40% of the overall vote. It beat out five other aquatic birds, including a banded Brown Pelican spotted in Mexico.

The American White Pelican is one of the largest birds in North America, occurring mostly in the Western and Southern portions of the continent. It is a common bird for us at both of our wildlife centers and is a favorite amongst staff, volunteers, and supporters.

This year’s winner was exemplary not only of the troubles that face aquatic birds but of what can be achieved when a group of inspired people take action. The Southern California pelican was a victim of fishing line injuries, and because of a long list of partners and community members, the bird was able to find its way to recovery at our LA wildlife center.

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.

Fishing line injuries are a prominent issue for many of the birds that we treat at both of our clinics, and are an example of the negative impact that humans can have on wildlife. Marine debris, including fishing lines, effects seabirds and other marine life on a daily basis and are a growing cause of concern for our oceans and our wildlife.

For us, the plight of ocean debris and its resulting injuries to wildlife is serious, and one that is worthy of spending the next year delving into. Through awareness, education, inspiration, and action – together we can do our part to reduce or remove altogether the impacts of this dire threat.

At Bird Rescue, we are as committed as ever to our mission and look forward to sharing ways that you can help us toward our goal over the next year. Stay tuned for more information on the challenge of ocean debris, and the ways that we can all help towards a solution. In the meantime, follow us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. For updates and bird education, sign up for our popular Photo of the Week – delivered via email each Saturday morning.

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

Bird-Rescue

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: