Every Bird Matters
news and views from international bird rescue

Archive for October 2009

October 31, 2009

Massive oil leak in Timor Sea off Australia

Half way around the world from the San Francisco Bay oil spill, a massive oil leak in Timor Sea, may turn into an ecological disaster if scientists’ warnings are correct.

Gilly Llewellyn, a World Wildlife Federation (WWF) biologist who led a survey team of the spill, is quoted in The Indepedent saying “If the oil were washing up on beaches, there’d be national outrage.”

Since Aug. 21, 2009, an estimated 400 barrels of oil a day have been spilling out of a ruptured drilling rig in a remote area some 155 miles off Western Australian. The company that owns it, PTTEP Australasia, a branch of Thai-owned PTT Exploration and Production Co. Ltd., hasn’t been able to cap the leak. News story

“Oil can be a slow and silent killer … so we can expect this environmental disaster will continue to unfold for years to come,” added Llewellyn. “This is going to have a huge footprint on an amazing part of our marine world, but it may take several years for us to detect.”

Already dead fish drifting have been spotted in Indonesia waters. Several dead birds and sea snakes have been found in oil and may have been killed by the slick, although official tests have yet to determine the deaths.


View Oil leak site in a larger map

October 31, 2009

Good deeds, words of encouragement gave us strength

After a crazy busy week helping birds from the Pacific Northwest sea algae slime event, this is where we at IBRRC stop and say thanks – thanks to all the wonderful volunteers, organizations and donors that have opened their hearts and pocketbooks to help.

The assistance came from all over. People from all walks of life: Fellow wildlife centers, businesses in the area and the U.S. Coast Guard. See our thank you list

The words of encouragement gave us all strength:

“Keep up the great work! Without you, we wouldn’t have these beautiful creatures to enjoy in the Bay Area.” – Jennifer, Richmond, California

“May the birds be with us! IBRRC rocks!” – Darren & Tom, Sonoma, CA

“…We live and boat on the Maumee River and Great Lakes. Nothing feeds my soul like an early morning kayak trip to watch the birds and wildlife. Thank you for all you do to protect them…” – Christine, Toledo, Ohio

Save some birds!! You guys are FANTASTIC! – Julie, Vancouver, Washington

Thanks for all your help. IBRRC (and the birds) appreciate your support!

October 31, 2009

Bunker oil spill hits San Francisco Bay

Update: Oil spill prompts fishing ban

A new oil spill on San Francisco Bay this morning has put wildlife spill response teams on high alert. A two-mile-long slick of bunker fuel now stretches across part of San Francisco Bay after a refueling mishap at 6:48 AM Friday between a tanker and a barge.

The Panamanian tanker, Dubai Star, spilled 400 to 800 gallons of heavy bunker fuel about 2 1/2 miles south of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. No birds have been rescued as yet and crews from OWCN/IBRRC have been mobilized to do search and collection of possible oiled birds and other wildlife. IBRRC is a long-time member of OWCN and helps manage two wildlife rescue centers in Northern and Southern California.

The last oil spill on San Francisco Bay in November 2007 resulted in thousands of bird deaths from the 50,000 gallon spill that spread throughout the bay with help of strong tides and winds. Beaches were closed in San Francisco and Marin Counties after the Cosco Busan container ship side-swipped the Bay Bridge in heavy fog.

The San Francisco Dept of Environment and Dept of Public Health have issued the following precautionary recommendations to the public:

- Avoid Bay water contact and beaches until further notice.

- Do not swim in the Bay.

- For Treasure Island Marina, slipholders are asked to keep their vessels in the marina over the weekend.

- Fishing around Treasure Island, Yerba Buena Island and from the east side of San Francisco Pier 39 to Candlestick Point is not advisable.

- As of 5:00 pm Friday, October 30, 2009, oil has not arrived on SF’s shores. If members of the public see oiled wildlife, they should contact the Oiled Wildlife Care Network at 1-877-823-6926 or www.owcn.org.

- Members of the public should not attempt to handle or clean-up any oil on their own.

- Should any volunteer opportunities to assist with clean-up arise, the public can contact the Department of Fish and Game Volunteer Hotline at 1-800-228-4544.

San Francisco Chronicle story

October 31, 2009

Coast Guard plane crash same used in bird flight

We have some really sad news to report tonight. The U.S. Coast Guard C-130 that crashed in waters off San Diego Thursday evening is the same aircraft that was used in the mission earlier this week to transport 305 slimed birds from Oregon bound to IBRRC’s Northern California rescue center.

According to a KCRA-TV media report, one of the Sacramento-based Coast Guard crewmembers that helped in the Monday rescue effort was involved in Thursday’s 7 PM crash. The C-130 collided with a Marine Corps helicopter while both searching for a lost boater about 50 miles off the San Diego County coast and 15 miles east of San Clemente Island.

As of tonight no survivors have been found. Seven Coast Guard crewmembers were on the C-130 and two were in the AH-1 Cobra helicopter.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the crewmembers families and their fellow Guardians.

Read the KCRA story

October 27, 2009

Your help needed to save algae slimed seabirds

Dear friends,

I am contacting you to ask for your urgent help. Thousands of seabirds are dying along the coast of Oregon and Washington state, soiled by an unusual sea slime caused by algal blooming. Hundreds more birds, still fighting for their lives, have washed up on nearby beaches.

International Bird Rescue (IBRRC) is in a race against time to save Red-throated Loons and other sensitive migratory birds from this catastrophe and to relieve overwhelmed local wildlife groups. Nearly two hundred seabirds have already been transported to California where our experienced team has the best chance of saving them. Thanks to the U.S. Coast Guard, 305 more arrived today. See update

Because of the shear number of casualties, International Bird Rescue is treating this emergency as an oil spill, with one significant difference – there is no oil. This means that there is no responsible party and therefore no financial support for our rescue effort. Donate online now

We have mobilized our experienced team but we need your help to save these beautiful birds. We need to find $50,000 to pay for their care – medication, food for the birds and other supplies and equipment. We can only do this with your help. View photos

Please donate online now or send a check and help us reach this financial goal. Your generosity will truly make a world of difference.

With heartfelt thanks,

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

Photo of beached loon: P. CHILTON/Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team

Photo of unloading of birds: Paul Kelway/IBRRC

October 27, 2009

Coast Guard life flight for birds from Oregon


Thanks to the U.S. Coast Guard for heeding our call for help in the transport of 305 seabirds from Oregon to California today. The birds were caught up in the toxic algae foam that has hit Oregon and Washington coasts causing widespread beaching of sick and dying seabirds.

Using a C-130 the Coast Guard crew flew the birds from Astoria, Oregon to McClellan Air Force Base in Sacramento, CA. The video report (above) video by ABC 7 News in San Francisco captures the work done in the air and on the ground. Full report

October 23, 2009

Oil spill survivor: Pelican found alive 19 yrs later

Dear friends and supporters,

We want to share with you some exciting news about a pelican that was spotted last month in Southern California. The Brown Pelican was one of many that IBRRC rehabilitated in 1990 during the American Trader oil spill in Long Beach, CA. This rare and invaluable band encounter and live bird sighting was observed September 27th, 2009 in Long Beach.

What was also significant was that this was an adult pelican when we originally received it for washing and rehabilitation which means that the bird was at least 4 years old at the time. This means that the bird is now over 23 years old and one of the oldest rehabilitated oiled birds on record. It was also one of the birds that was used in a post release study done during that oil spill where 31 of the rehabilitated brown pelicans were fitted with radio transmitters on their backs.

Below are excerpts from an email sent to us by brown pelican biologist and authority, Dan Anderson, regarding this exciting sighting:

Well folks, the pelican 609-11405 was indeed a REHABILITATED individual released with one of our radios on it, released by IBRRC at Terminal Island on 26 February 1990. Thus, it was a 19-year survivor from getting oiled and then cleaned by IBRRC, and at least 23 years old when Robb picked up on it (likely older). Congratulations Jay on
the REHAB success! It was a full adult when oiled (therefore at least 4+ years old) and at the time of banding and likely a medium-sized male, but in very good condition at release (4.8 kg = “huge” and fat), 35.5 cm culmen. Its IBRRC number was R-318. Overall results were reported in our 1996 paper and this bird was considered still-
alive at the end of the study. Obviously, it went on to become quite successful, at least in surviving.

On longevity, this is an oldie, although Frank and I have an unpublished account of an Anacapa individual that survived more than 40 years. It’s a complex story, however, and we haven’t written anything up yet. I also collected an 18+ year old on one of the
colonies (San Lorenzo Sur) in the early-1980s that had been one of three birds caught one night at the Farallon Islands in CA. Given the something like 20,000 BRPE banded by Frank Gress and I over the years,we will start looking at BRPE demographics in the future. I think we have been at it long enough now to be able to develop some life-tables (also working on some alternative techniques to compare to banding
studies). Lots to do and so little time.

– Dan Anderson, Professor Emeritus, Wildlife Biologist, UC Davis 10/20/09

For many years IBRRC and our colleagues in the field of oiled wildlife rehabilitation and response have studied the post survival of oiled birds that have been rehabilitated. More and more studies are being done now but one of the ways that we have consistently, although sporadically, received information about released oiled birds is when we receive leg band encounters. All oiled, rehabilitated birds are federally banded upon release.

Found a banded Pelican? Report it through the IBRRC website

Thanks for your continued support,

Jay Holcomb, Executive Director, IBRRC

October 22, 2009

Watershed of hope & renewal: "A Simple Question"

Terrific world premiere tonight in San Francisco of A Simple Question: The Story of STRAW the inspiring and moving film about students and teachers restoring a Sonoma, CA watershed. The video captures a 4th grade class project in 1992 that grows into bigger program that has restored over 20 miles of local riparian habitat.

STRAW stands for “Students and Teachers Restoring A Watershed” and is run through the The Bay Institute based in Novato, CA. The group provides teachers and students with scientific, educational and technical resources to help them do hands-on, outdoor watershed studies and restoration.

For the past 17 years, STRAW has helped 16,000 students plant over 33,000 native plants along urban and rural creeks to help restore these fragile ecosystems in Marin, Sonoma, Napa and Solano Counties. It started out as 4th grade project dubbed “The Shrimp Club” with a plan to save the California freshwater shrimp or Syncaris pacifica.

San Francisco filmmakers, Kevin White and David Donnefield used archive and recent footage in this 35 minute film, capturing the beauty of kids connecting with the natural environment. You can really see the changes as the trees and shrubs planted take shape. The projects has also been instrumental in helping attract more birds to these riparian ecosystems.

One of the beauties of the film is the teachers refueled by passion for environmental education with hands on science activities with their students.

Note: The film has been chosen to screen at the 8th Annual Wild and Scenic Environmental Film Festival held in Nevada City, CA. Tickets and information are available at www.wildandscenicfilmfestival.org/

More info on A Simple Question and The STRAW Project

October 10, 2009

Update: Effects of Oil on Wildlife (EOW) conference

At this week’s 10th International Effects of Oil on Wildlife (EOW) conference in Tallin, Estonia, Tri-state Bird Rescue Research Inc. and the International Bird Rescue Research Center were both honored for their leadership and vision in maintaining this important conference.

Pictured: Heidi Stout, Tri-state (right) and Jay Holcomb, IBRRC each accepted a beautiful statue acknowledging their leadership in the field. The statue has a bronze statue of Vana Toomas, the symbol of Tallin, Estonia.

The Effects of Oil on Wildlife Conference (EOW) is jointly managed by Tri-State and IBRRC. Since the first conference in 1982 the conference has since gained international recognition as the premier and only oiled wildlife response conference who’s purpose is to encourage collaborative efforts focused on the care and conservation of oiled wildlife and their habitats.

There is now a worldwide understanding and recognition of the problems connected to the oiling of wildlife and increasingly governments and responsible industries have included oiled wildlife response as a fully integrated activity in their oil spill contingency plans. In addition, a truly global community of oiled wildlife responders has come forth from this series of conferences and have developed a shared understanding of standards of good practice which are increasingly recognized and applied all over the world.

Many of the participants attending the conference were also international interns who have spent time at IBRRC’s California centers learning first hand techniques and building support that can help them work with oiled animals anywhere on the globe.

The talks given are summarized on this EOW Abstracts page

October 5, 2009

Along for the ride: Kingbird scares off a hawk

Sometimes smaller birds can be downright agressive. Take this Kingbird photographed defending its space in Colorado.

A birder captured the brilliant photo of the Kingbird hitching a ride on the Hawk as it flew through its territory.

Full story in the Denver Post

October 1, 2009

Ocean plastics: Bringing attention by "Thriller" dance

Want to show the world that plastic debris is choking our oceans? Get your zombie dancing shoes on for the October 24th Thriller dance-a-thon to bring more attention to ocean trash. In the South Bay of Los Angeles it starts at 3 PM in Rolling Hills Estates. More info

It is overwhelming to realize that so much plastic trash ended up in the ocean instead of recycle centers or landfills. The last several years, I have had opportunities to help rescue marine animals along the coast of Los Angeles. Just recently, when I saw a sea lion in LA Harbor, with gillnet cutting into neck, I just couldn’t stop thinking there must be a way to raise awareness by demonstrating this issue. What if I become a zombie who was killed by marine debris (or plastic trash)….? Yes. That’s how the whole thing started!

– Akiko Kanna Jones, Thrill The World – South Bay

Thrill the World is an annual worldwide simultaneous “Thriller” dance for charity. It’s also a tribute to Michael Jackson.