Every Bird Matters
news and views from international bird rescue

March 20, 2018

Birding the Napa River with International Bird Rescue and Sierra Club’s Solano Group: A Flyway Festival Outing


Editor’s Note: This piece was prepared by Sierra Club trip leader, Phil Kolmetz.

International Bird Rescue’s Executive Director, JD Bergeron, leads a group of nature enthusiasts on a birding walk.

On Saturday, February 10, 2018, International Bird Rescue collaborated with the Sierra Club for a special birding experience in conjunction with the 2018 Flyway Festival (an annual celebration of migratory birds traveling through the San Francisco Bay Area).

The walk was a rare chance to participate in a program led by Bird Rescue’s own Executive Director JD Bergeron. He partnered with passionate naturalist, veteran backpacker, and local Sierra Club trip leader, Phil Kohlmetz. The two led a dozen people on a guided walk along the Napa River in American Canyon, CA, not far from our San Francisco Bay Area/Delta Wildlife Center. The location was special to Bird Rescue, as we often release rehabilitated birds at this very location.

The group walked 4 miles along the levees of the Napa River Bay Trail. (Quite far for many birders!) JD shared his love and deep knowledge of migratory aquatic birds, songbirds, and raptors, noting over 60 different species. Phil highlighted local environmental restoration efforts, as this area was once home to an active landfill, as well as a massive salt harvesting operation. In addition, Phil talked about local efforts to create a regional park district to administer and further protect this sensitive and restored habitat.

Participants included experienced birders and current supporters of International Bird Rescue, Solano County residents, Sierra Club members, first-time birders, and long-time naturalists. The mix of skill and interest levels meant lots of opportunities for education and cross-pollination. While the focus was certainly on bird identification, we discussed other natural processes such as reclamation, plant succession, and avian migration.

Programs like this are a great example of the types of partnerships that Bird Rescue is developing as we put our new mission (inspiring stewardship of our global waters by rescuing and protecting aquatic birds) into practice.

Follow our social media feed and our website for upcoming opportunities to participate directly with Bird Rescue’s public education programs:

March 19, 2018

International Bird Rescue Co-Hosts NWRA Symposium 2018



Center Manager, Kylie Clatterbuck, led an informative presentation and lab on Waterproofing and Protective wraps. Participants were able to practice applying protective wraps to various types of aquatic birds and learn how to examine such birds during waterproofing checks. Photo by Angie Trumbo

The National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association held their 2018 “Partnering for Wildlife” Symposium in Anaheim, CA during the first week of March. International Bird Rescue was proud to Co-Host the event along with Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center, Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network and California Wildlife Center. Staff and volunteers spent many hours preparing presentations, labs, special events and entertainment for the symposium. Those hours were invested well, as “Partnering for Wildlife” was a huge success!

The NWRA symposium was a wonderful opportunity for wildlife rehabilitators to network, share their experiences, and learn a wealth of new information from other organizations and experts. Bird Rescue was fortunate to have many staff and volunteers involved with the event being held so close to home.

The 2018 symposium truly was an event of partnership, from the collaboration of the host organizations to the cooperative seminars that were held throughout the conference. Bird Rescue Operations Manager, Julie Skoglund, and Veterinarian Dr. Rebecca Duerr worked with representatives from Bird Ally X, Focus Wildlife, Oiled Wildlife Care Network, and Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research to hold an all-day Oiled Wildlife Seminar on rehabilitating oiled birds – from intake to release. The team gave presentations and led discussion groups to help teach participants about the complexities of caring for oiled wildlife. The process involves far more than simply removing the oil, and topics included stabilization, nutritional needs, the importance of blood values, waterproofing, and release conditioning in addition to the wash process. The seminar leaders were all able to share their knowledge and experience by going over case examples from their various locations. Bird Rescue was honored to work alongside these groups to help improve the care of oiled wildlife across our nation.

Dr. Duerr also worked alongside several other wildlife veterinarians and California Department of Fish and Wildlife to teach an all-day seminar for licensed Veterinarians and Veterinary Technicians to learn skills needed to treat wildlife patients in private practice and the related rules and regulations. Dr. Duerr also gave a talk on the harmful algal bloom that affected so many of our loon patients last spring, plus lecture and labs on avian anatomy and necropsy.


March 15, 2018

Founder of Bird Rescue Celebrates 81 Years of Inspired Living


Alice Berkner releases a Commun Murre

In 1971, when she was just 34 years old, Alice Berkner did something that had never been done before: she faced down the seemingly impossible task of rescuing and protecting 7,000 wild birds that had been contaminated in a massive oil spill near the Golden Gate Bridge.

The plight of these birds inspired Alice, along with a handful of concerned volunteers, to do everything they could to save them. The work they did together became foundation of International Bird Rescue, which now has worked nearly 250 spills around the world.

Today, we continue to take inspiration from Alice’s example and we endeavor to bring new solutions to the seemingly impossible:

Alice Berkner with a Long-tailed Duck

  • In January 2015, we rescued over 300 birds contaminated with a “mystery goo”, bringing our crisis response experience to a non-oil spill challenge.
  • In September 2015, we took in over 500 starving and ill common murres from the Pacific Coast, seemingly the victims of changing ocean temperatures which may have been caused by humans.
  • We are currently conducting a study into better treatments for typical wounds seen in seabirds to improve their survival chances.

We have expanded our mission beyond oil spills to all areas that impact wild birds, particularly urban wildlife conflict, fishing line & fish hooks, orphaning caused by habitat disturbance, and other large-scale crises. We aim to inspire stewardship of our global waters–both marine and fresh–by continuing Alice’s legacy of rescuing and protecting the birds that live, swim, and feed there.

It all comes down to a basic premise: birds and all wildlife have as much right to this planet as we humans do, and we owe whatever advantages we can provide in exchange for the new challenges we have introduced.

Please join me in celebrating Alice Berkner, her contributions to a cleaner and more just world, and to the message of hope that she has given us by donating to raise a $1,000 or more together!

March 14, 2018

Ventura 2018 Mystery Oiled Seabird Response

Photo of oiled seabird called a Western Grebe beiung washed at International Bird Rescue.

An oiled Western Grebe, a seabird that spends the majority of its life in open ocean, gets cleaned of natural oil seep at Bird Rescue’s Los Angeles Wildlife Center.

By Kylie Clatterbuck, Los Angeles Wildlife Center Manager

Late last month International Bird Rescue received the news that our friends at Santa Barbara Wildlife (SBW) were seeing an unusually large number of beached oiled birds along the coast near Ventura Harbor.  Oiled birds can be a common occurrence this time of year due to the ocean’s natural oil seeps and the migrating birds who overwinter in Southern California waters. However by the end of February 2018,  there were at least 11 live oiled Western Grebes captured during search and collection.

A Western Grebe rests on net bottom caging awaiting cleaning of natural oil seep .

To ensure that we were dealing with natural oil seep, rather than an oil spill, the Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN) was notified and transport was arranged to bring the birds down to Bird Rescue for evidence collection and primary care. In total, Bird Rescue received 18 oiled over the course of three days.

When working with oiled wildlife, samples are collected from each bird for chemical “fingerprinting” by the Petroleum Chemistry Lab of the California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife; it was determined that the oil was in fact from a natural seep. Natural oil seep is common along the Southern California Coast and acts much like spilled oil.

Western Grebes spend the entirety of their lives in water, propelling themselves with their feet to hunt for fish. When a bird becomes oiled, it’s feather structure is compromised leaving them unable to remain waterproof, maintain internal temperature, or hunt for food. They also can sustain secondary injuries and burns as a result and will die unless rescued and the oil cleaned off by trained personnel.

When we received these birds, many of them were in poor body condition, extremely dehydrated, and heavily oiled. Medically stabilizing these birds before putting them through an extensive and stressful wash process is incredibly important. By giving the birds nutritional tube feedings and a warm environment, we were able to improve their condition quickly and wash the oil off within a few days of admittance. But that’s just the beginning…

The days after wash are spent tirelessly giving the birds access to water, assessing their waterproofing, and aiding the birds while drying any wet areas still remaining post wash. It’s a lot of work for the staff, but it’s even more work for the birds who need to preen their feathers all while living under the stress of an alien environment. These are wild animals that are affected by the stressors of human interaction, noise, and simply being out of water for several days.

After two weeks, we’re happy to report that most of the birds are already waterproof and living in one of our large pools! We will now be working on conditioning these birds for release back into the wild by improving their body condition and treating any injuries/wounds they may have acquired during the ordeal of becoming oiled.

Volunteer Mary Test helps intake nearly 20 oiled seabirds covered in natural oil seep from Ventura, CA.

Freshly washed of oil, Western Grebes are moved to the outdoor pelagic pools at the center located in San Pedro, CA.


March 6, 2018

Pelagic boating tours offer opportunities for sighting blue-banded Brown Pelicans



Bernardo Alps, Santa Monica Bay, Feb. 11, 2018

Editor’s Note: Thank you to our long time employee, Suzie Kosina, for preparing this piece. 

When we release our rehabilitated patients, we often wish them “good luck” on their way back to life in the wild.  While the superstitious might prefer “break a leg”, we know all too well the very real risk these birds face in suffering broken bones, especially in urbanized areas where they may be hit by cars, accidentally fly into glass windows or tumble onto hard pavement from a nest.  Unfortunately, many of our patients arrive to us in critical condition with fractured limbs, severe emaciation or gruesome lacerations from entanglement in fishing gear. Fortunately, we are able to treat many of these issues resulting in the successful release of hundreds of patients every year.  Each band sighting report that we receive is confirmation of the hard work we perform in the clinic to get our patients ready to confront the challenges of the world again.

Through a program with the US Geological Survey’s Bird Banding Lab, our organization bands all released birds with metal leg identification bands and for some species, we also use Blue, Red, and Black plastic leg bands.  In 2009, Brown Pelicans were selected for a special banding program using blue plastic bands with large white lettering on both sides. These bands have drastically increased the number of sightings in the wild that we receive as they are much easier to read than the tiny digits stamped on the metal bands.  As one can imagine, we are elated with every sighting report that we receive as it indicates one of our patients has successfully been migrating, foraging for food, and even breeding in Baja California, Mexico.  

While Brown Pelicans can frequently be seen from land roosting along the shore or soaring above the water, pelagic birding and whale watching tours offer great opportunities for spotting some of our previous patients further out in their natural habitats.

Roosting along rocky outcrops of the coastline or soaring above the water, pelagic birding and whale watching tours offer great opportunities for spotting some of our previous patients further out in their more natural habitats.

Credit: Byron & Joanna Chin

Over the past three years, we have received 12 reports from individuals on boating tours and 46 reports from tour guides.  Recently, on Feb 12, 2017, on a tour guided by Bernardo Alps (of American Cetacean Society – LA Chapter) and organized by the Pasadena Audubon Society, Ayla Qureshi got some fantastic photos of N09 in adult breeding plumage flying over the open ocean alongside an immature gull near Marina del Rey in Southern California.  N09 was treated at our LA Wildlife Center in 2015 when we removed three fishing hooks embedded his legs and wing; interestingly, this bird was found to have had an old but healed ulna fracture that it had recovered from! This sighting report was submitted to us through our online reporting form which can be found here.  All reports are responded to with case history information if requested.

Credit: Ayla Qureshi at Marina del Rey, CA on Feb 11, 2018


There are actually a few other organizations that use brightly colored plastic bands on Brown Pelicans as well.  On a recent tour this past fall on Alvaro’s Adventures, Dorian Anderson, a wildlife photographer, managed to photograph six color banded Brown Pelicans, including one red band from the chick banding program GECI in Baja, Mexico, one green band from the Refugio Spill cleanup managed by UC Davis [LINK] and one white band from another rehab center, The Wildlife Center of the North Coast in Oregon.  You can report red, white and green banded Brown Pelicans directly to the Bird Banding Lab.

Credit: Dorian Anderson at Pillar Point Harbor, CA on Sept. 14, 2017


As spring and summer roll around, Brown Pelicans typically start migrating north after breeding season and can commonly be found off the California, Oregon and Washington coasts in large numbers.  If you happen to catch any photos of a brown pelican roost site, such as this one captured by Byron and Joanna Chin on another of Alvaro’s tours, make sure you take a close look for those colored bands!  Hiding off to the right is H98, a former patient treated in 2011 at our SF Bay Wildlife Center for a large pouch laceration with exposed bone. These types of injuries typically require extensive surgical repair. Unfortunately, these are common injuries most often caused by fishing hooks and can be fatal without treatment.  Can you spot H98?

Credit: Byron & Joanna Chin at Pillar Point Harbor, CA on Sept. 17, 2017


As a general reminder, all wildlife should be viewed with as minimal disturbance as possible.  Many marine birds and mammals can present a serious hazard to humans and it is also in their best interest to be observed from a distance.  Should a bird decide to get up close and personal, as did K57 on a Sea & Sage Audubon Society pelagic birdwatching trip in 2015, do not attempt to touch the bird or feed it anything.  K57 was treated in 2012 as a juvenile for anemia, hypothermia, and emaciation – a common trio of ailments for younger Brown Pelicans on their first pass up north. Sightings like this allow us to know that our former down and out young patient has successfully become a beautiful healthy adult bird!


Credit: Robert McNab (photo license), off Newport Coast, CA on Jan. 10, 2015


A few pointers to keep in mind when looking for blue-banded Brown Pelicans:

  • Always respect the birds, their personal space, and privacy;
  • Observe using binoculars from a distance (never get closer to a bird than 10 yards);
  • Do not flush/disturb groups of roosting birds by moving directly towards them and minimize time stopped near roost locations;
  • Never chase or follow a bird trying to move away from you;
  • Reduce human-caused disturbance (loud noises, garbage, food waste, etc.)
  • Obey all laws and restricted area postings;
  • Take special precaution (extra distance, very quiet voices, etc) or avoid entirely animals performing sensitive behaviors (nesting, breeding, courtship, etc.).

Interested in taking a local whale watching or pelagic bird boating tour?  Check out the following for upcoming tours along the California coast. Also, consider checking your local Audubon chapter for hosted pelagic trips:

Shearwater Journeys (Monterey Bay, Half Moon Bay and Farallon Islands – California)

Alvaro’s Adventures, led by Alvaro Jaramillo, Avian Biologist with SF Bay Bird Observatory (Monterey Bay, Half Moon Bay, Bodega Bay, Farallon Islands – California and International)

San Diego Pelagics (San Diego area – California)

Catalina Explorer (Southern Channel Islands – California)

Sea and Sage Audubon Society (Dana Point – California)

Oceanic Society, whale watching focused (Half Moon Bay, Farallon Islands, SF Bay – California)


Please report injured birds to one of our Wildlife Centers.

March 6, 2018

Michelle Bellizzi: Bird Rescue Staff since 2000


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!

Ever wondered who’s responsible for deploying the troops when a spill arises? That would be our intrepid Response Services Team! Today’s Staff Spotlight features one of those team members, Michelle Bellizzi! Michelle is one of the primary points of contact in the event of an oil spill, both locally and internationally, and is the right hand of our Response Services Director, Barbara Callahan. She has been an integral part of the Bird Rescue team since 2000, and we are grateful to have her on board! Like any good responder, Michelle not only has a skill for multitasking and staying calm under pressure but in bringing levity and enthusiasm to any situation.

Michelle first started at Bird Rescue after a friend saw a posting on Craigslist about volunteering. Though she was employed in another field at the time, the self-proclaimed “non-volunteer type of person,” decided she would give it a shot. When she showed up to her first-day volunteering, the wildlife center was full to the brim with sick pelicans, which included the poop and vomit that accompanies them. As a newbie to the bird rehabilitation world, she was a little more than put off by smell and the mess that surrounded her. She wasn’t sure she would return –  that is until she got up close and personal with her first pelican. Michelle describes standing 5 feet away from the large and majestic bird, and at that moment she said, her heart melted, and she was hooked.

One day a weekend turned into two days a weekend, which turned into evenings after work, and eventually, Michelle found herself leaving her old career behind, and stepping happily into her new home. Starting as a technician, she has worn many hats over the years, including Center Manager and Volunteer Coordinator. While she misses the action of being in the clinic, Michelle appreciates her current role because of its ability to allow her to make an impact on a large number of birds at once.

When not at Bird Rescue, Michelle can be found snuggling with her parrot Gertie, spending time with her longtime partner Blake, or enjoying the many delights of the Bay Area. She loves California and enjoys exploring all of the beauty that it has to offer.

Thank you, Michelle, for all that you do! We are lucky to have such a funny, hardworking, and knowledgeable character on our team!

February 24, 2018

You Can Help Us Raise More Than 2,000 Baby Birds!


Dear Nature Enthusiast,

Did you know that March marks the beginning of Baby Bird Season at International Bird Rescue? As early as the end of February, our clinics will begin flooding with thousands of orphaned baby birds. Due to human-related impacts such as habitat destruction, predator attacks from free-roaming cats, and abandoned nests due to environmental disturbance, many young chicks will end up at our wildlife centers.

While this season ALWAYS brings uncertainty as to how many nestlings will need our help, we are ALWAYS committed to helping each and every one. To get an inside peek at what Baby Bird Season at Bird Rescue is all about, watch this short video!

Baby Bird Season is hectic and costly in staff time and financial resources. Unlike traditional veterinary clinics, our patients come to us with no funding and no one responsible for paying the bill. And what’s worse, the bills for these young birds are always high. Baby bird patients require round-the-clock care, capable hands, and lots of food and vitamins in order to be raised successfully and returned to the environment. By pledging your support today, YOU can help us raise more than 2,000 baby birds this season!

How will your support get put to use? As an example, DONATIONS LIKE YOURS can cover the cost to care for a Black-crowned Night-Heron:

  • $36 covers feeding and housing a heron for two days
  • $100 provides surgery to a heron with a broken wing
  • $126 feeds a heron for a week
  • $600 funds the month-long stay of a healthy baby heron until its release
  • $1800 pays for required surgery and extended stay of an injured baby heron until its release

Please give generously through our busiest time of year – Baby Bird Season – and thank you for answering this call-to-action for aquatic chicks! To donate now, click below.

THANKS TO YOUR HELP over 2,000 orphaned birds will receive critical care at International Bird Rescue this spring, as well as a bright new opportunity to return to the wild. From all of us at Bird Rescue, THANK YOU for giving them a fresh start!

With Gratitude,

JD Bergeron
Executive Director
International Bird Rescue

P.S. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to join in on a week-long journey that will look at the diversity of baby birds that come into our care, and ways that you can help!

February 22, 2018

Vet Files: Pelican Pouch Laceration


Large pouch laceration in this Brown Pelicans when she was admitted to our hospital.

On January 27, we received a female adult Brown Pelican with a very large pouch laceration affecting the entire right side of her pouch. She was captured by two awesome local fishermen who have rescued injured birds to bring to us before—they noticed the large hole in her pouch and realized she needed help. Pelicans with large injuries to their pouch are generally completely unable to eat since all the fish they catch fall out. The birds slowly starve while trying to eat.

When this lady came to us, she was very skinny and very hungry. Our staff used skin staples to temporarily close the hole in her pouch while she replenished herself on our menu. Once she was medically more stable, we prepared for a long surgical procedure.

Four hands! Drs. Duerr and Purdin team up to close the bird’s large pouch laceration from both ends simultaneously.

Our veterinarian Dr. Rebecca Duerr invited her husband (also a wildlife vet), Dr. Guthrum Purdin, to come stitch from the other end and meet in the middle, which worked out quite well! The wound had a badly damaged area that lead to the removal of a piece of the pouch and the surgeons taking a tuck, and a short section near the bill tip that was left open due to its closeness to the mandible. Despite being only about 1mm thick, pelican pouch heals fastest if it is sutured in two layers with fussy small stitches, which makes it time-consuming to repair but reduces the amount of time the bird has to stay in captivity. We are reasonably confident this wound was caused by a fish hook ripping the tissue.

Brown Pelican starting to wake up after a long surgery to repair a large pouch laceration. Note the wavy stripe area near the center–this is where a portion of the pouch had to be removed and a bit of tailoring was needed. Those darkly pigmented pouch stripes normally run parallel to the jaw.

At the bird’s checkup last week, the sutures were almost ready to come out and this now feisty lady was flying really well out in our aviary. We are happy to report that she is doing great and we expect to release her as soon as the incision has fully healed!

Gorgeous female Brown Pelican out in our aviary a few days after surgery. This is breeding season for Brown Pelicans, and our girl may have missed the action this year due to her injuries, but you can see a bit of her breeding colors in the bright red at the tip of her bill – Photo by Angie Trumbo

February 7, 2018

Bird of the Month: Diving Ducks


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


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


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


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


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


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


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.