Every Bird Matters
news and views from international bird rescue

Archive for November 2007

November 14, 2007

Donating t-shirts and imprinting

Anybody willing to help us find a good place to design and imprint t-shirts to be given away to the hundreds of volunteers on this spill response?

If you’re an artist, send us your ideas. If you’re project manager who has time to see this through, please send an e-mail to russ@ibrrc.org.

In the past we’ve had staff handle this project, but considering the spill, we’re all just a little too busy to take this on ourselves

You can check our other donation needs here.

Also, if you know someone willing to donate a good working order Xerox copier, please contact us as well.

As always, we appreciate all your generous help.

November 14, 2007

David Helvarg: It smells like a gas station

David Helvarg: Death by the Bay, Opinion page, Los Angeles Times:

“…I’m sitting by the dock of the Bay — that’s what Otis Redding called the Berkeley Municipal Pier in his famous song. Only now it smells like a gas station. On the rock pile below me, a surf scoter — a diving duck — is using the bottom of its red bill to preen its oil-blackened feathers. It shakes its head and carefully repeats the process for the half an hour I’m there. When I make too sudden a move, it flaps its wings like it’s going to flee into the water, where it would likely die of hypothermia, its natural insulation ruined by the oil. I’ll see dozens more oiled birds this day: scoters, grebes, gulls, a rudy duck and cormorants.

The Berkeley marina behind me is one big, oily sheen. “Rainbows of oil” is a misnomer. Gasoline leaves rainbow sheens. Bunker fuel leaves green-and-brown streaks and smudges like marbled meat gone bad. It leaves floating tar balls and disks and globular curly-cue pieces, and concentrations of hard, asphalt-like toxic chips…”

See the full piece from the November 13, 2007 issue

November 14, 2007

What others are saying and seeing

Contra Costa Times video report

Gary Bogue’s blog on IBRRC’s efforts

Green clean: SF Chronicle

Accidents happen: CW Nevius

November 14, 2007

Being grateful for what we have in California

From Jay Holcomb, International Bird Rescue’s Executive Director:

I am resting for a minute so I thought I would write a very short update for the blog. First, thank you all for your well wishes and support. We are so grateful to the people who have contributed their time or money to this effort and to IBRRC’s other programs.

New Video report by Contra Costa Times

Secondly, although this is another horrible oil spill impacting the birds we all love to see in our wonderful bay, I want to say to you that we have something unique in this state that no one else has and that we should all be grateful for. I am and maybe that is because I have been through the horror of trying to care for oiled birds in funky disgusting old buildings that were called “emergency bird treatment facilities”. They never worked!

Since 1990 we now have a state mandated program, the Oiled Wildlife Care Network, OWCN, that allows us to provide the “best achievable care” for oiled birds in Califonia. IBRRC is a member participant of the OWCN and we manage two large oiled birds facilities in the state for the network. The center we are working in during this spill is our headquarters based in Cordelia, CA. The other facility is in San Pedro, CA, near Long Beach. We love both facilities and after years of working out of warehouses and horrible make-shift emergency centers that very much limited our ability to care for oiled birds, a day does not go by that I am not grateful for what we have in this state.

IBRRC was one of the first groups in the world to even try to rehabilitate oiled birds way back in 1971 when two oil tankers collided in the fog in San Francisco Bay. And now we’re veterans of over 200 oil spills. Can you believe it?

It is hard to imagine we have been all over the world and managed the oiled bird rescue and rehabilitation programs at the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the Treasure oil spill in Cape Town, South Africa where the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and IBRRC jointly worked with local groups to save over 21,000 oiled penguins. Yes, 21,000 penguins and we had remarkable 95% release rate in that spill.

But no where else in all these spills and all these countries do they have a program that coordinates concerned and trained people like our response team and builds and helps maintain state of the art oiled bird rehabilitation facilities. It is only here in California that this is ready and available for use in these tragic spills.

So even though we are ALL fed up with politics and bureaucracy, I just want to point out that at least we have this great program for the birds that live or fly through our state.

That is if for now. We are posting pictures so that you can see the birds we are caring for and we will keep people updated as this spill progresses.

Thanks again for all your support,

Jay Holcomb, IBRRC

November 14, 2007

When humans don’t help: Dog walkers

Notes from field:

One of the big problems we’re seeing in this tragic oil spill in San Francisco Bay is the HUMAN element. Many of our wildlife rescue members have reported running into many people ignoring “closed beach” signs. These thoughtless folks continue to run and walk dogs (on and off leash) along stretches that should be off limits.

Oiled birds are super STRESSED, cold and often starving. The last thing they need is the extra visual stimuli that comes from joggers and dog walkers. They view any intruder into their space as predators and will use the last bit of energy to escape back into the water.

At Pt. Richmond, numerous dog walkers continue to have dogs off leash in sensitive areas. In one account, a dog owner had his dog swimming in the bay and managed to scare off at least 50 oiled birds. This careless act kept birds in need of care out reach of wildlife rescue personnel.

We had another report from a crew member who was shocked beyond belief. He watched as a dog owner ran his big dogs on an oil covered beach near Golden Gate Fields in Albany. The owner then pulled out a ball and began throwing it into the oily bay for the dogs to fetch. When asked to keep dogs off the beach, the owner responded in a very unpleasant fashion.

Please! For the sake of these oiled animals and others, keep your dogs away from sensitive areas on the bay and beaches. LEASH YOUR DOGS at all times around the affected areas, including jetties, boat docks and low tide areas.

Let our crews capture these frightened birds before they succumb to hyperthermia and eventual death.

November 13, 2007

Total birds in care: 715; 183 washed

Freshly washed of oil, Clarks and Western Grebes, float in a cold water pool at the oiled wildlife care center in Cordelia, CA.

Updated numbers on the oiled birds response:

715 live birds
183 washed of oil
511 dead

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 that happened nearly a week ago.

Updated numbers: Tuesday 8:00 AM, November 13, 2007.

November 12, 2007

652 birds in care; 126 washed of oil

New numbers on oiled birds in care:

652 live birds
126 washed of oil
485 dead

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

Updated numbers: Monday 4:00 PM, November 12, 2007.

November 12, 2007

Donated items needed

So many folks keep asking what they can do to help on the spill. Besides volunteering, please think about donating items that may be helpful to the response. Check our list

Basic needs include:

Old sheets
Paper towels
Toilet paper
Freshly brewed coffee (hello, Peet’s or Starbucks)
Bottled water

Long term needs:

T-shirts and imprinting with design help

Newer Macintosh computers for record keeping

In all, anything you can help with goes a long way. Before dropping off a pallet of paper towels, please let us know. See the computer need list

Thanks for all your help and words of encouragement.

November 12, 2007

2007 – Cosco Busan, San Francisco, CA

A rescued oiled Surf Scoter from Cosco Busan spill is examined at the San Francisco Bay Center.

Dark days on San Francisco Bay

Map from California’s Fish & Wildlife, Office of Spill Response: Report of Cosco Busan Oil Spill

More than a 1,000 oiled birds were treated at International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay-Delta center after the deadly Cosco Busan oil spill. A container ship’s collision with the San Francisco Bay Bridge on November 7, 2007 caused a large spill of 54,000 gallons of bunker fuel oil that coated birds and other wildlife.

By January 2008, 1,084 oiled birds arrived at the Bird Rescue’s center in Cordelia. At least 424 cleaned birds have been released back in the wild. Birds are being set free at Heart’s Desire Beach in Tomales Bay. This at the Point Reyes National Seashore area about 40 miles north of San Francisco and at Pilar Point Harbor in Half Moon Bay, 25 miles south of San Francisco. Some birds are being released at Crissy Field near the Golden Gate Bridge. Read: San Francisco Chronicle story

More than 2,500 birds died in the spill. Wildlife biologists fear that more than 20,000 birds may ultimately perish from the disaster. They believe thousands of birds landed in the oily bay and then left the area to die elsewhere. Some also may have been eaten by predators.

  • Birds arrived: 1,084
  • Found dead in the field: 1,858
  • Died/Euthanized: 653
  • Released: 421
  • FDIF birds: 939 visibly oiled, 854 un-oiled and 25 unassessed. (As of 1/15/08)

Download the Bird Injury Factsheet (360 KB)

Following the spill many oiled birds were collected on the bay and on beaches stretching north up to Marin County and south along Ocean Beach in San Francisco. Surf Scoters, Scaups and Grebes seem to be the most affected by this spill. Also, two raccoons were found dead.

During the spill, the Coast Guard closed 30 beaches: Ocean Beach, Angel Island, Crissy Field, Kirby Cove, Black Sand Beach, Rodeo Beach, Fort Point, Muir Beach, Fort Baker and China Beach, Tennessee Valley, Keller Beach, Point Isabel, Ferry Point, Cesar Chavez Beach, Middle Harbor and Shimada Park. Some beaches may have been reopened.

Bunker fuel spills are extremely toxic to marine life, especially birds that float and feed through a spill. The oil inhibits the birds ability to thermo-regulate and they become cold as their natural insulation in their feathers break down. The birds spend most of their time trying to preen the oil out of feathers and thus ingesting the oil. Weakened, they will often beach themselves and fall prey to predators or die from the toxic effects of oil. See: How Oil Affects Birds

Bird Rescue was activated immediately to search and rescue birds affected by the spill. The Bay Area based non-profit has a long history of helping oiled wildlife. The organization began in 1971 when two tankers collided in SF Bay spilling 900,000 gallons of oil. Since then the organization has become an expert in the field of wildlife search and collection, stabilization and the washing of oil from affected animals. IBRRC has worked on 150+ spills worldwide partnering with other groups to to train responders in Africa, Europe, Asia and South America.

Locally Bird Rescue is part of California’s Oiled Wildlife Care Network. Any oiled animals will be brought to the OWCN’s San Francisco Bay Area wildlife center for treatment. The center is managed in partnership with International Bird Rescue. It’s located near the junction of highways 80 and 680 in the Cordelia/Fairfield area.


On Wednesday November 7, 2007 the Cosco Busan container ship side swiped one of the western anchorages of the San Francisco Bay Bridge. The ship leaked bunker fuel oil after a gash was discovered in its port side. The 810-foot vessel was headed out of Oakland and bound for South Korea when it hit the bridge in heavy fog around 8:30 AM. The bridge did not suffer significant damage and traffic continued to flow on the span.

This is this worst spill in the area since 1996 when the Cape Mohican spilled 40,000 gallons of fuel oil into San Francisco Bay near Pier 70. The most severe spill inside the San Francisco Bay occurred in 1971 when 900,000 gallons of oil spilled after two oil tankers collided in the fog near the Golden Gate Bridge. See: IBR history

The largest spill in area waters happened in 1984 when the Puerto Rican, spilled 1.5 million gallons of oil in the open ocean off the Golden Gate in 1984. In contrast the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska spilled 11 million gallons of oil. Some members of the IBRRC response team spent six months helping save wildlife in that spill.

Please remember: Do not attempt to wash, feed or house oiled birds and other animals! Spilled oil is extremely toxic. The use of proper gloves and protocols must be followed to insure the safety of the public AND the animals.


Oil Spill Spreads in San Francisco Bay: New York Times
PBS News Hour report: Podcast 11/21/07
Spill’s effect on birds: San Francisco Chronicle
Oil spill’s environmental impact studied: Mercury News

International Bird Rescue is a proud founding member of the Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN) a legislatively mandated program within The California Fish and Game, Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR) which strives to ensure that wildlife exposed to petroleum products in the environment receive the best achievable treatment by providing access to permanent wildlife rehabilitation facilities and trained personnel for oil spill response within California.

November 12, 2007

Trying to make things right

The spill is 5 days old and the wash rooms have been humming at the San Francisco Bay Oiled Wildlife Care and Education Center in Cordelia.

Everywhere you look it’s white: Staff and volunteers wear Tyvek suits to protect them from the gooey substance that turns beautiful bird feathers into a sticky, matte black.

Pet carrier boxes fill the intake area as birds are lined up for care. It’s triage for the avian species.

It’ the best of humankind’s care trying to make it right for birds caught up in a spill that threatens their lives across the San Francisco Bay.

It’s trying to make things right when humankind gets it wrong.

November 11, 2007

Reporting oiled birds: New phone numbers

After frustration with the state’s oiled bird reporting phone system, new numbers were released Sunday morning:

In San Francisco: 311. Outside SF: (415) 701-2311

Also, IBRRC setup an online reporting form last night to submit oiled bird sightings. This is a public service to insure all oiled wildlife field sightings get reported.

We’ll do our best to alert the state organized search teams.

Thanks again for all the public’s support during this critical juncture.

November 11, 2007

Birds always come first

From Jay Holcomb, IBRRC’s Executive Director:

Many of you are asking, “What can I do to help during the oils spill and beyond?” We hope you will read this and that it will help answer some of your questions. We have a very small staff and we are attending to our patients, so the phone at our clinic may go unanswered. At IBRRC, the birds come first.

Here is some concise information about what is going on behind the scenes:

The spill is managed by the California Department of Fish & Game’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR) and the Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN). href=”http://www.ibrrc.org” target=”_blank”>IBRRC, a key participating member of the OWCN, manages the two large regional oiled bird rehabilitation centers in the state based in Cordelia, The San Francisco Bay Oiled Wildlife Care Center and San Pedro, The Los Angeles Oiled Bird Care and Education Center.

State and Federal Park wardens and employees are also assisting in the effort. Members of IBRRC’s oil spill response team are a key part of OWCN’s efforts to rescue and care of oil spill victims. Our response team includes wildlife rescue professionals who have trained and responded throughout the world.

As of Thursday evening, November 15th, 951 live birds are in care at The San Francisco Bay Oiled Wildlife Care Center in Cordelia. Members of our team are working extremely hard to find and save as many avian victims as humanely possible. We’ve been able to wash nearly 400 birds of oil.

Although it is heartbreaking to have an oil spill happen in our own backyard, there is one good factor and that is that animals affected by this spill, including marine mammals, are being cared for by people who are the leading experts in the field of oiled wildlife rehabilitation. We are passionate and dedicated to helping aquatic birds and waterfowl. It’s what we do and if you can’t do the work, then support the people who do. That’s really what matters.

Oiled birds are covered in a thick heavy petroleum substance. They are hypothermic. They beach themselves because they are cold Water birds stay warm because their feathers act as insulation. When oil gets on their feathers and sticks to their body, it is like a rip in a diver’s wetsuit. They attempt to preen the oil off instead of feeding and eventually they become cold (hypothermic) and attempt to get out of the water. Some birds cannot walk on land due to the placement of their legs. Rescuers are viewed as predators, so the birds become even more stressed when rescue attempts are made. The oil may also cause skin and eye irritation.

It’s been documented that even a small spot of oil on the bird’s feathers can kill a seabird. Please read: How oil affects birds.

The first thing wildlife professionals do is warm the birds and give them fluids because they are assumed dehydrated, and keep them in a dark quiet box that has ventilation. Here’s our procedures in detail. Here’s our procedures in detail.

When they are stable enough for transport, they are driven to IBRRC which is located in the San Francisco Bay Oiled Wildlife Care and Education Center at 4369 Cordelia Road in Cordelia, CA.

Upon intake, the birds undergo specific procedures required for oil spill victims, including being numbered and photographed. Blood work is done to determine their internal condition. They are weighed, tube fed fluids and put into warm boxes in an area separate from non-oiled birds.

The birds are not washed until they meet specific criteria established for spill victims of their species. This includes determination through blood work, weight and observation of the bird’s behavior to determine if the bird is strong enough to endure washing, a stressful experience that can take up to half an hour. Read Frequently Asked Questions

Birds are washed with Dawn dishwashing liquid using special nozzles, toothbrushes and Waterpiks. Dawn is used because it works the best and fastest removing oil from feathers while being safe for the birds and people washing them. Proctor and Gamble the makers of Dawn donate many of their products to IBRRC and have for many years. See story

After rinsing, they are placed in quiet covered boxes with warm air dryers. They begin to preen their feathers back into place and rest. They are checked continually to make sure all the oil has been removed. They then go into warm water therapy pools to continue preening and realigning their feathers. When deemed strong and waterproof, they will be placed in the cold water pools to self feed and rehabilitate. When release criteria are met, they are banded and released into non-spill affected areas.

This labor of love is backbreaking work, but we love what we do. If you want to help us here are some things you can do now:

DONATE YOUR TIME: There is nothing more valuable than your time. Please fill out our online volunteer application. If you have special skills please note them. If we need you, we will call you. Be patient, we have a large number of volunteers helping already, but we may need more. This depends on how long the spill lasts and the number of birds we get in.

DONATE MONEY:Consider contributing as an annual donor to a non-profit wildlife rehabilitation organizations like The International Bird Rescue Research Center, IBRRC. For a full list of participating members of the Oiled Wildlife Care Network, OWCN,, go to the OWCN website list. See also the full list of wildlife rehabilitation organizations that help all of California’s wildlife, you can find it on the website for California Council for Wildlife Rehabilitators (CCWR).

DONATE ITEMS: We often need supplies, towels, tools, services and labor. Please fill out what you can provide on the volunteer form. If you’re a massage therapist or you’re good at organizing coffee and food donations or you have other practical skills to help the army of volunteers get through this spill, please offer to help.

WINGS ON WHEELS and other IBRRC ongoing efforts to care for California’s wildlife: :
We are desperate for help in this program! Please visit our webpage and determine if you can help transport birds from other centers to our center in Cordelia. Driver’s needed

On behalf of our staff, the hundreds of volunteers helping during this spill, thank you!

– Jay Holcomb, IBRRC Executive Director

[Editor’s note: Jay Holcomb has 35 years of oil spill experience and leads bird rescue’s highly experienced wildlife responders.]

The Oiled Wildlife Care Network is a legislatively mandated program within The California Fish and Game, Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR) which strives to ensure that wildlife exposed to petroleum products in the environment receive the best achievable treatment by providing access to permanent wildlife rehabilitation facilities and trained personnel for oil spill response within California. California’s two key centers, located in Cordelia and San Pedro, California are managed by International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC) under the direction of Jay Holcomb. The OWCN is managed statewide by the UC Davis Wildlife Health Center, a unit of the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine under the direction of Dr. Mike Ziccardi.

November 11, 2007

Map of SF Bay oil spill

Google has a helpful map that shows areas and beaches affected by the 58,000 gallons of bunker fuel that spilled into the bay after a container ship side swiped the Bay Bridge on Wednesday morning, November 7, 2007.
See the map

November 10, 2007

Sea of good will

From all over California the offers to help keep rolling in:

“If this is as big as they say, every person in the Bay Area that wants to help, should be used to help. Please give the Bay Area community the opportunity & instructions to help resolve this disaster in our own backyard. I have 2 good hands, 2 good feet & 2 days off work. Please don’t let that go to waste…” – J.C.

“If there is anything I can do to help with this horrendous tragedy, please contact me, thank you.” – L.B.

“I live in Santa Barbara and I am willing to travel to the Bay Area to volunteer, or to bring supplies from San Pedro to San Francisco.” – E.C.

“I’m available this week and maybe longer to help with the current oil spill. I understand that you might not be ready to accept volunteers. If so, just ignore this message. I’ll keep on checking the website. Thanks for your work.” – C.C.

“…Please find a use for me!” – T.O.

“I have no training, but am willing to learn, I am 55 years old with free time, thank you.” – G.H.

“Hello, I read through your web site and realized they are not many opportunities to help without training. However if there are any ways I can help with my time, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I take directions well and am a true nature and animal lover. I’d rather do something than feel powerless…” – C.P.

Note: I gathered some of these comments from hundreds of volunteer application submissions off IBRRC’s website. We’ve forwarded all these offers of help to the state’s volunteer coordinator. The OWCN site gives more updated info.

Please know, your good words and deeds will somehow be utilized. Thank you!

November 10, 2007

Frustration spilling over

This is a large oil spill response for IBRRC. Not it terms of the gallons spilled but the amount of oiled birds being seen by the public and our response team members.

There is great frustration when we can not get to each bird we see oiled. Some of them are hard to catch; others can difficult to reach in spots where mud, currents and obstructions prevent us from safely approaching.

There’s also been a number of dedicated but frustrated folks who have spotted oiled birds in the field. When they called the original 877-823-6926 number to report their findings, the number was busy or not operating. I can tell you I’ve tried the number a couple times and it kicks over to voice mail.

Note: The new new number to report oil birds is (415) 701-2311

Honestly, the system isn’t perfect but if I know our partner, Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN), its working quickly to solve this problem. With the governor’s state of emergency declaration Friday, maybe the solutions will be here sooner.

Let’s hope.