Every Bird Matters
news and views from international bird rescue

Archive for November 2007

November 19, 2007

Richardson Bay Audubon’s spill response

There’s a great video report on the efforts to rescue oiled birds by th folks at Richardson Bay Audubon Center & Santuary. The video includes a first person account from Brooke Langston, who is the center’s director.

If you haven’t visited this area of San Francisco Bay, I recommend it. It’s an important feeding area for migratory birds. The Sanctuary’s 900 acres are closed to boating and other public use from Oct 1 – March 31. Birders get a first hand look at the amazing diversity up of birdlife up near Tiburon.

The tremendous damage to the San Francisco Bay from the November 7th oil spill will be with us for some time. But it’s comforting to know the group’s like this have been doing their part in search and collection and will continue to monitor the the fragile bay.

See the video report

See the Richardson Bay center’s website

November 18, 2007

Birds in care hits 1,023; 608 washed clean

Latest numbers on the SF Bay oiled bird response:

1,023 live birds in care
608 washed of oil
317 died/euthanized

38 Released birds

1,255 found dead in the field*

*Animals found dead include:
758 visibly oiled
295 unoiled
202 unassessed
2 raccoons

On Friday, November 16th, 38 birds – the first batch of cleaned birds – were released near Half Moon Bay. Report

Most of the birds treated include Scoters, Scaups, Grebes, Loons and Cormorants. A complete list of birds affected by the spill will be compiled at the end of the response.

Wildlife rescue crews comprised of IBRRC response team members, OWCN participants and wardens from California Fish & Game continue to comb the bay and beaches to collect oiled birds for treatment. Most of the avian victims are weak and in need of immediate attention.

All of the birds are being treated at the OWCN’s San Francisco Bay Oiled Wildlife Care and Education Center in Cordelia.

Miles of beaches still remain closed after the 810-foot container ship Cosco Busan struck the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge in heavy fog on Nov. 7, spilling 58,000 gallons of oil into the bay.

Full story on the oiled bird response

Updated numbers from OWCN: Saturday @ 9:00 PM, November 17, 2007.

Common Murre photo by Lisa Lazar

November 17, 2007

Birds don’t get a break this month

They say things come in threes and this month it’s proving catastrophically true for oiled birds worldwide.

On the heels of the San Francisco Bay spill, this week a major spill hit the Black Sea area of Russia. Up to 30,000 birds are reported to be dead after an oil tanker leaked 560,000 gallons of oil into the sea. The tanker broke in half after encountering stormy seas. CNN Video Report

Two team members from our joint IBRRC/IFAW Emergency Response team are already on their way to help. See the IBRRC report

Closer to home, a spill of suspicious origins along Santa Cruz County beaches is causing concern. Dubbed the “Moss Landing Mystery Spill,” this spill has left nearly 100 birds tainted with a clear oily substance of unknown origins.

IBRRC’s San Pedro Bird Center was activated to handle the first wave of oiled birds. Since then the Marine Wildlife Veterinary Care and Research Center in Santa Cruz has also started treating birds. See IBRRC update

November 17, 2007

A call for volunteers: A personal account


In wake of oil spill, bird rescuers work against clock, the odds:

“…A group of net-wielding bird rescuers in white Tyvek coveralls converged on the scoters from two sides. As the lead netter yelled, “Go, go, go, go, go!” they charged. The ducks, unaware that they were being rescued, fled for the water. Three got away; three were netted and transferred to towel-lined cardboard pet carriers. Then someone asked if we could take the scoters to the International Bird Rescue Research Center in Cordelia in Solano County for cleaning. Sure!…”

– Excerpt from San Francisco Chronicle’s “Diary of a Dirty Job” column by avid birders and extraordinary volunteers Joe Eaton and Ron Sullivan.

Read the full column

November 17, 2007

Washing birds of oil: Almost there

Note: This is Jay Holcomb’s latest update from inside the bird rehabilitation center in Cordelia:

We currently have about 970 Live birds at the center and over 200 of them have made it to the pools and are reconditioning their feathers, eating and resting. By no means are they home free but they are 75% through the rehabilitation process.

People think it’s all about washing the birds. Well, that clearly is an important part of the process but the care they get prior to wash and after the wash is equally as important. I wanted to explain why the pool time is so important to these birds. Here we go.

Aquatic birds have the amazing ability to live in very cold climates. This is because they have an insulating coat of feathers that protects them from the elements. When they get oiled, the feathers matt and the birds are exposed to the cold. Their aquatic environment, the one thing that provided safety, now becomes the main factor that plays into their demise. They are forced to get out of the water and become vulnerable to predators and weather conditions. Hopefully they are captured and cared for by groups like IBRRC who have experience in doing this work.

Fast forward to the wash

When we wash the birds we remove all the petroleum from their feathers and they are 100% clean. They go from the wash tub to the rinse station and there the soap, in our case Dawn dishwashing liquid, is rinsed thoroughly out of their feathers. The most amazing thing happens. As we rinse the soap out of their feathers with high pressure nozzles, their feathers actually become dry. So in essence we are drying their feathers with clean hot water. Its pretty cool and we are always amazed at their feathers natural ability to repel water.

When the rinsing process is complete and all of the soap out of the feathers, the bird goes immediately into a drying pen. There the bird is dried with warm air from pet dryers. The same dryers used in grooming dogs. After the bird is 100% dry it goes into a pool and begins to swim, eat, bathe and preen its feathers. Each feather has microscopic barbs and barbule hookelets that are woven together during the preening process creating a water tight barrier and since the feathers are naturally repelling water, they all work together to provide an overall insulative barrier on the birds body like shingles on a roof.

Here is the biggest misconception:
People think that we or the birds have to restore their natural oils. That is incorrect. Birds feathers are naturally waterproof as proven in the rinse. So, all the bird has to do is preen and get its feathers back in alignment and our job is to make sure the bird is clean and monitored while it is going through this process. The natural oils are really a conditioning agent that come from a gland at the base of the tail. Its called the uropygial gland and it aids in long term feather conditioning.

So, we move the birds in and out of the pools as they get their feathers aligned and become waterproof. Once they are waterproof and can stay in the pools then they are well on their way to release. They have to eat, rest. exercise, we need to monitor them for anemia, weight gain etc. but the waterproofing process is intense and I wanted to explain it as best I could so people understand a bit of the process.

Next time I will talk about the criteria we use for release of the birds.

Thanks everyone for your support and well wishes. We are grateful beyond words.

Jay Holcomb
Executive Director
International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC)

November 17, 2007

970 birds now in care; 496 washed of oil

Latest numbers on the oiled bird response:

970 live birds in care
496 washed of oil
268 died/euthanized

1,113 found dead in the field*

*Animals found dead include:
401 visibly oiled
217 unoiled
495 unassessed
2 raccoons

Most of the birds treated include Scoters, Scaups, Grebes, Loons and Cormorants. A complete list of birds affected by the spill will be compiled at the end of the response.

Wildlife rescue crews comprised of IBRRC response team members, OWCN participants and wardens from California Fish & Game continue to comb the bay and beaches to collect oiled birds for treatment. Most of the avian victims are weak and need of immediate attention.

All of the birds are being treated at the OWCN’s San Francisco Bay Oiled Wildlife Care and Education Center in Cordelia.

Miles of beaches remain closed after the 810-foot container ship Cosco Busan struck the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge in heavy fog on Nov. 7, spilling 58,000 gallons of oil into the bay.

Full story on the oiled bird response

Updated numbers from OWCN: Friday 10:30 PM, November 16, 2007.

November 17, 2007

First birds released back into the wild

The first batch of washed birds oiled in San Francisco Bay spill 10 days ago successfully returned to the wild Friday afternoon.
Great SF Chronicle video (QuickTime required)

38 birds were released into the Pillar Point Harbor just north of Half Moon Bay. The harbor is 25 miles south of San Francisco.

About of dozen volunteers brought the colorful boxes down to the shoreline. One by one the birds were gently carried into the the calm harbor waters. As on most of these releases, the media nearly outnumbered the birds, staff and volunteers.

Released birds included 25 Eared and Horned Grebes, seven Western and Clark’s Grebes, five Scaups and one Common Murre. The majority of the birds oiled in this spill appear to be Grebes, Scoters and Scaups.

See: San Francisco Chronicle story on first release

As of Friday evening, November 16, nearly 500 birds have been cleaned of oil at the IBRRC/OWCN facility located in the San Francisco Bay Oiled Wildlife Care and Education Center at 4369 Cordelia Road in Cordelia, CA.

A total of 970 birds are in care; 1,113 have been found dead in the field by wildlife rescue teams. Search teams ares still working to recover live and dead animals oiled in the spill.

The spill was caused by the Cosco Busan container ship striking the SF Bay Bridge on Nov 7, 2007. A gash on the side of the ship caused 58,000 gallons of bunker fuel oil to leak out of the 810-foot-long vessel. The U.S. Coast Guard admitted it was slow to report the severity of the spill.

Also see:

CBS 5 TV Report

Washing oiled birds: Almost there

Birds always come first

Ron Sullivan’s Flickr photos of the release

November 17, 2007

Oil spill coverage: SF Chronicle

The San Francisco Chronicle staff has done a remarkable job covering the SF Bay Spill.

I recommend checking out the online version of its printed paper. Remember those? They cost 50 cents and used to get ink smudges everywhere. Until they switched to soy based inks…but I digress.

Spill coverage

November 16, 2007

Despite worries, Dungeness crab season opens

The Dungeness crab season opened as scheduled Thursday amid health concerns by those who wanted all fishing banned as cleanup continues on last week’s oil spill.

The state announced that only the San Francisco Bay and three miles of Pacific coast, from Point Reyes to San Mateo County, would be off limits to commercial fishing.

It should be noted that a lot of crabbers and fishermen jumped in to help with the oil spill wildlife response: Hear Larry Collins talk about the group’s efforts, he’s a commercial fisherman and president of the San Francisco Crab Boat Owners.

In his own words: NPR report

November 16, 2007

More oiled birds washed; 951 now in care

Here’s the latest numbers on the oiled birds:

951 live birds in care
394 washed of oil
197 died/euthanized

884 found dead in the field*

*Birds found dead include:
225 visibly oiled
115 unoiled
544 unassessed

Most of the birds treated include Scoters, Scaups, Grebes, Loons and Cormorants. A complete list of birds affected by the spill will be compiled at the end of the response.

Full story on the spill

All of the birds are being treated at the OWCN’s San Francisco Bay Oiled Wildlife Care and Education Center in Cordelia.

California Fish & Game and IBRRC wildlife rescue teams continue to comb the bay and beaches to collect birds for treatment after the SF Bay spill on Wednesday morning, November 7, 2007.

Updated numbers from OWCN: Thursday 10:00 PM, November 15, 2007.

November 15, 2007

Oiled birds everywhere in SF Bay

Read Jane Kay’s excellent article in today’s San Francisco Chronicle

Nearly 1.6 million shorebirds and waterfowl come to San Francisco Bay each year, most staying for the winter, some stopping on their way south. Wildlife experts fear that oil washing onto sandy beaches and wetlands threatens bird’s survival. See map

What worries experts most is that migrating birds are stopping in the spill soaked bay as they head south for the winter along the Pacific Flyway. Even a quick stop over may kill the birds as they leave with feathers contaminated by the oil.

So far, about 1,500 birds have been picked up dead or alive, including Scaups, Scoters, Grebes, Loons, Cormorants and even Marbled Murrelets and Snowy Plovers. See update on www.ibrrc.org

Wildlife rescue crews are still finding oiled birds in every nook and cranny of the bay. See: Search for birds goes on

November 15, 2007

Still out searching for birds

A week has past since the foul stench of bunker crude left its mark on San Francisco Bay. The oil is being cleaned off beaches and the bay. And more importantly from a wildlife standpoint, birds are STILL being rescued.

Crews are working at this very moment trying to locate and catch any oiled bird in distress. They’re searching the rocky shores of Treasure Island, the muddy flats at low tide in Berkeley, the estuaries of Alameda and the Hoffman Marsh area in Richmond that may contain beached oiled birds. They use cat-like tactics, scouting out locations for night time pickups using beacons of light to sneak up on oiled, hyperthermic birds.

It’s not easy work. The birds are spooked easily and wary of anyone carrying a net. But this is the front lines of wildlife rescue and these dedicated crews from IBRRC/OWCN, Fish & Game and others are doing everything in their power to pickup every distressed bird possible.

Please, if you see a birds that need to be rescued, call 311 in San Francisco; outside the SF, please call (415) 701-2311 or if you can’t get through, submit an online sighting report.

Be patient. The crews have a lot of ground to cover. Some areas may be cordoned off in advance to calm skitish birds, allowing crews to capture the unaware avian victims.

Above all, keep unleashed dogs away from beaches and shorelines containing birds. Without your help, good will and continued public bird sightings, the search will surely drag on.

Check our website for more updates: http://www.ibrrc.org

November 14, 2007

Drop off donated items at Enterprise Rent-A-Car

The good folks at Enterprise Rent-A-Car have graciously offered to except donations for the oiled bird rescue at four distinct locations in the Bay Area.

If you paper towels, toilet paper, Pedialyte, Ensure or other items to donate, please drop them off at the following locations between 8 AM – 5 PM, Monday through Friday.

In the North Bay:

Enterprise Rent-A-Car
600 Rush Landing Road
Novato, CA 94945
Map

East Bay
Enterprise Rent-A-Car
1706 San Pablo Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94702
Map

San Francisco
Enterprise Rent-A-Car
312 8th Street (at Folsom)
San Francisco, CA 94103
Map

San Jose
Enterprise Rent-A-Car
3635 Pearl Avenue
San Jose, CA 95136.
Map

November 14, 2007

Donating to OWCN and network partners

From the Oiled Wildlife Care Network:

“We want to make it clear that the costs associated with this current response will be paid by the party responsible for spilling the oil.

If you would like to make a donation to the OWCN and its participating organizations for ongoing oiled wildlife care and rehabilitation activities, you can do so by sending a check to the Wildlife Health Center Foundation, P.O. Box 298, Davis, California, 95616. These donations will be used to prepare for oil spills in the western United States and internationally.”

OWCN online donation

Participating organizations in the OWCN also accept donations individually, including IBRRC. You can find more information about them these great organizations here.

November 14, 2007

Updated bird numbers: 804 in care

An oiled Scaup is cleaned at OWCN/IBRRC bird
rescue center in Cordelia, CA. Click on image to see larger

Here’s the updated numbers on the oiled bird response:

804 live birds in care
244 washed of oil
105 died/euthanized
590 found dead in the field*

* birds found dead include:
112 visibly oiled
62 unoiled
416 unassessed

Full story on the spill

All of the birds are being treated at the OWCN’s San Francisco Bay Oiled Wildlife Care and Education Center in Cordelia.

California Fish & Game and IBRRC wildlife rescue teams continue to comb the bay and beaches to collect birds for treatment after the SF Bay spill on Wednesday morning, November 7, 2007.

Updated numbers from OWCN: Tuesday 10:20 PM, November 13, 2007.

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Volunteers wash birds at the Cordelia wildlife center.