Every Bird Matters
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Archive for January 2013

January 7, 2013

Kulluk update: Drilling vessel refloated

Nearly a week after it ran aground on Alaska’s Sitkalidak Island, the Kulluk drilling vessel was refloated last night by a recovery crew, and as of latest reports is being towed by the Aiviq tug. Crew on another vessel using infrared equipment reported no signs of oil discharge.

The recovery team plans to tow the Kulluk to safe harbor at Kiliuda Bay, 30 miles away (watch the video below for planned tow route), according to updates from the incident’s Unified Command.

Three additional tugs are in the area on standby, as well as two oil spill response vessels.

International Bird Rescue’s oil spill response team has been a part of a team of more than 730 people and has prepared a comprehensive wildlife plan. Click here for more info on our historic response efforts around the world.

January 7, 2013

Patient rounds


Photo by Cheryl Reynolds (inset photo of grebe being treated for fish hook injuries by Isabel Luevano)

A few weeks ago, we posted about a Western Grebe brought to our San Francisco Bay Area wildlife center with hook injuries in her back, leg and mouth. As you can see from the photo above, we’re happy to report this beautiful bird is doing much better!

Also, this oiled Brant Goose (left) is being treated for bilateral injuries at our Los Angeles wildlife care center, while this Red-necked Grebe (right), found injured and grounded in Penngrove, Calif., was released back to the wild Saturday.

Check out our latest count of birds in care here.


Brant Goose (left) photo by Dr. Rebecca Duerr; Red-necked Grebe photo by Cheryl Reynolds

January 6, 2013

Blue-Banded Pelican Contest: We have a winner!

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Adult Contest Winner: Bernardo Alps

Our first Blue-Banded Pelican Sighting Contest has come to a close. Thanks to everyone who participated and helped us gather more information by reporting a Blue-Banded Pelican. International Bird Rescue is one of the few wildlife rehabilitation organizations that incorporates post-release evaluation as part of our rehabilitation program. To better track Brown Pelicans and gather more information about them after release, we began placing highly visible plastic blue bands on their legs in 2009.

Our contest began on November 2, 2012 and ended on January 2, 2013. During this time 116 Blue Banded Pelicans were seen in the wild and reported. Since the program began, approximately 1,050 rehabilitated brown pelicans have received blue bands and to date, 403 individual sightings have been reported.

Our contest was a great success! The adult category winner — the individual who has spotted the most blue-banded Brown Pelicans, has won a pair of Eagle Optics 8X42 Ranger ED Binoculars generously donated by Eagle Optics and will also receive an honorary International Bird Rescue Pelican Partnership, which includes a tour of one of our California wildlife care centers and a pelican release experience.

Our adult category winner is…Bernardo Alps! Bernardo Alps’ passion for marine mammals and seabirds takes him on or near the ocean at every opportunity. He is a Seabird Field Technician for PRBO Conservation Science, conducting seabird and marine mammal foraging studies along the Palos Verdes Peninsula, and a Research Associate with the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, conducting bird surveys at Cabrillo Beach. He lives in San Pedro with his wife Diane, their pets.

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Youth Contest Winner: Kaia Barth

Bernardo is an avid wildlife photographer and writer and social media consultant. Some of his work can be seen at photocetus.com. He loves to share his passion for the environment and does so as a volunteer naturalist with the Cabrillo Whalewatch program and on various whale watching and birding trips. He also volunteers with animal care at the Marine Mammal Care Center at Fort MacArthur.

Bernardo likes to contribute opportunistic wildlife sighting data. He is an avid user of eBird, contributes ID photos of cetaceans to various catalogs and reports tagged and banded birds whenever possible. He also often delivers many oiled and injured birds to International Bird Rescue and other rescue facilities. Bernardo’s favorite bird is the Brown Pelican.

The youth winner (18 and under) who has spotted the most banded Brown Pelicans wins a pair of Eagle Optics 8X42 Shrike Binoculars also donated by Eagle Optics. This individual and their family also become honorary Pelican Partners and get a private tour and release of their banded pelican.

Our youth contest winner is … Kaia Barth! Kaia and her mother, Deanna, have spotted many pelicans and rescued many in need of care. International Bird Rescue is very grateful for their efforts. Kaia has helped her mom pick up fishing line and trash at local beaches and has gone on several rescues with her. Kaia was recently presented with a Certificate of Recognition by WildRescue.

Congratulations to both of our contest winners!

The top three Blue-Banded Pelican photo submissions for 2012 have also been determined. The first, second and third place prize winners will each receive an International Bird Rescue T-shirt and a copy of the award-winning HBO documentary Saving Pelican 895, which chronicled our work in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Winning photographs are posted on our website and will be included in our online pelican yearbook that will be launched this year.

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Photo Contest 1st Place Winner: Deanna Barth

First Placeis awarded to Deanna Barth for her photo of Pelican C84

Second Place is awarded to Dave Weeshoff for his photo of Pelican S11

Third Place is awarded to Julie Matsuura for her photo of Pelican T36

See all the winning photos here

Congratulations to all our photo contest winners and contributors!

While this contest has ended, reporting and compiling data on these incredible birds is ongoing at International Bird Rescue. Keep your eyes open for a pelican with a blue band on its leg and let us know when and where you see one! Also, please check our website, blog, Twitter, and Facebook pages often for updates on sightings, current information and upcoming details for our next contest.

January 5, 2013

Kulluk update, Jan. 5


Photo by Judy Patrick via kullukresponse.com

The Kulluk Tow Incident’s Unified Command released the following statement Saturday on preparations to move the drilling vessel, which ran aground off Alaska’s Sitkalidak Island on Dec. 31:

ANCHORAGE, AK – Unified Command (UC) today plans to hook a main tow line to the Kulluk to test capabilities in preparation for recovery operations of the drilling unit. This plan will depend heavily on weather and tidal considerations.

The UC also plans to deploy boom, as a precautionary measure, to Kodiak Island, with special attention being paid to salmon streams connecting to Ocean Bay.

Unified Command has developed a wildlife protection plan to be used in the event that wildlife in the area is impacted during the recovery. They have activated International Bird Rescue to assist in bird rescue programs should their expertise be required. In addition, Protected Species Observers are being deployed on-scene.

As previously stated, all plans rely on weather and tidal conditions.

The Kulluk remains upright and stable with no reports of sheen in the vicinity. Salvage teams conducted an additional survey confirming all fuel tanks remain intact. Throughout all operations the safety of the responders will continue to be the top priority.

Visit www.KullukResponse.com for more information.

Unified Command also released a map of vessels in the vicinity of Kulluk (click here for the full-size map).

January 3, 2013

Report from Alaska: Director’s update on Kulluk response

Jay Holcomb, International Bird Rescue’s director and a senior response team member currently mobilized in the Kulluk Tow Incident near Kodiak Island, writes this update from Anchorage:

The situation with the oil rig grounded off Kodiak is a bit unusual, as it’s a “get ready and wait” kind of situation.

But we’ve done this many times before. The good news is that Shell is being very proactive by activating a core team of International Bird Rescue staff to make all the preparations required to actually respond in Kodiak, and to rehabilitate any impacted birds should a spill should occur.

Some people may not know that International Bird Rescue operates the Alaska Wildlife Response Center (AWRC) right here in Anchorage. It’s a large warehouse ready to accept up to 250 oiled birds and has the capacity to expand if necessary. Established after the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the AWRC is centrally located in Anchorage so that the state has all the resources needed in order to rehabilitate large numbers of oiled birds.

In the Kulluk Tow Incident, part of our initial planning process was to develop a wildlife plan that outlines how to approach this situation given the most current information from the field. Our plan contains specifics on our field set-up, which includes:

— specific capture and assessment teams based in the field
— a stabilization site in the field (usually on a boat)
— a stabilization site in Kodiak, where birds would receive initial care prior to transport

When they are determined to be stable enough for transport, the birds would then be flown to Anchorage for rehabilitation at the AWRC. After rehabilitation, the birds would be either flown back to Kodiak or released along the coast of Alaska at sites determined by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

Moving animal cages at the Alaska Wildlife Response Center. Photo by International Bird Rescue response team member Wendy Massey.

Our plan also consists of prepping the AWRC for a possible influx of oiled birds. The center is already set up for oiled bird rehab, but equipment and supplies are being double-checked and brought to full capacity. This includes the removing of non-oiled birds currently in care at this facility by the Bird Learning and Treatment Center, or Bird TLC, the local non-profit that uses our center when it’s not in use for an oil spill. Bald Eagles, Hawk Owls and ravens are a few of the species currently in residence at the AWRC, and are being moved to other facilities for temporary housing to make room for oiled birds in the event that we should receive any. Bird TLC has been our tenant for over 20 years while they move ahead with planning and funding their own center. They have rehabilitated thousands of Alaskan birds at the AWRC.

So, in situations like this, we prepare for a possible spill and hope that none occurs. The Unified Command is working at top capacity to prevent any environmental damage.

January 3, 2013

Kulluk update, Jan. 3


A Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter delivers an emergency towing system to the salvage team on the deck of the conical drilling unit Kulluk. U.S. Coast Guard video by Petty Officer 1st Class Travis Marsh.

ANCHORAGE — An International Bird Rescue response team has been on the ground in Alaska for several days now as part of the Kulluk Tow Incident response. The Kulluk, a conical drilling vessel operated by Royal Dutch Shell, ran aground off Sitkalidak Island late Monday night in high seas after unsuccessful attempts to secure the rig with multiple tows. Shell had activated our team prior to the vessel grounding.

The Kulluk has 143,000 gallons of diesel fuel and 12,000 gallons of other petroleum products onboard; there is no sign of oil sheen around the vessel according to latest reports.

More info via Incident Unified Command from late Wednesday regarding salvage operations and structural assessment:

A team of five salvage experts boarded the grounded drilling unit Kulluk earlier today to conduct a structural assessment to be used to finalize salvage plans, currently being developed by the Kulluk Tow Incident Unified Command.

The five-member team was lowered to the Kulluk by a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter at about 10:30 this morning. The assessment lasted about three hours. A helicopter safely hoisted the team from the drilling unit at about 1:30 p.m. The Coast Guard helicopter and crew also delivered a state-owned emergency towing system to the Kulluk, which will be used during salvage operations.

Efforts to place a team on-board the rig to conduct the assessment were put on hold due to severe weather conditions over the past several days. Calmer conditions this morning created a window that enabled the assessment to take place.

Command officials have launched a Flickr page for photos, view here.

We’ll keep you posted with further updates today from our team. Click here for more information on our response and preparedness capabilities.

January 2, 2013

International Bird Rescue’s global history of oil spill response

Estonia, Tasmania, South Africa, Argentina: It’s hard to keep track of the 200+ oil spill response efforts we’ve been a part of over the past four decades. So we’ve put it in geographic form.

Click on the push pins below for info on some of the spills we’ve responded to in the past, including major events such as the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the 2000 Treasure spill in South Africa and the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska.

We’ll continue to keep you posted on Kulluk Tow Incident in Alaska. Read recent updates below on this blog, as well as links to Twitter coverage.
View International Bird Rescue — Global Spill Response Efforts in a larger map

January 2, 2013

Updates on Kulluk Tow Incident


U.S. Coast Guard flyover video via Anchorage Daily News

ANCHORAGE — International Bird Rescue’s senior response team remains mobilized as part of a nearly 600-person team after the conical drilling unit Kulluk ran aground on Sitkalidak Island on Dec. 31.

Flyovers by the U.S. Coast Guard Tuesday showed no signs of oil sheen surrounding the Shell-operated vessel, which is carrying 143,000 gallons of diesel fuel (there is no crude oil on the vessel).

In news briefings on Tuesday afternoon, Unified Command officials said the Kulluk is grounded but stable just off Sitkalidak. Unified Command comprises the U.S. Coast Guard, Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, Noble Drilling (owner of the Kulluk), and Shell.

Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska visited Unified Command center Tuesday and was briefed on the incident. “The senator’s visit to the command post is encouraging to response personnel and our efforts to resolve this incident,” Steve Russell, state on-scene coordinator with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, said in a statement. “With the Kulluk grounding within State waters, we will closely monitor the recovery of the rig with the goal of little to no environmental impact.”

We’ll keep you posted on updates as they happen today. You can also stay up-to-date via Twitter @intbirdrescue. The official Twitter account for the Kulluk Tow Response is @kullukresponse.

Update @ 10:30 a.m. PST: Unified Command released the following information regarding additional flyovers of Kulluk:

The Unified Command plans multiple flyovers today to assess the condition of the Conical Drill Unit (CDU) Kulluk that remains grounded but stable near Sitkalidak Island located on the north edge of Ocean Bay.

Once conditions are deemed safe, Unified Command intends to place an assessment team on the Kulluk to further evaluate the vessel’s condition.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) instituted a Temporary Flight Restriction, and the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Alex Haley is maintaining a safety zone of one nautical mile around the Kulluk this morning. Both restrictions were put in place to ensure the safety of response personnel, as well as local mariners and aviation pilots in the area.

The Kulluk is upright and stable, and the Coast Guard flight crew’s aerial assessment Jan. 1, 2013 found no signs of environmental impact.


Map credit: Unified Command

January 1, 2013

Kulluk runs aground in Alaska: International Bird Rescue part of 250+ person response team

ANCHORAGE — International Bird Rescue is working with a response team of more than 250 people after the Shell Oil drilling vessel Kulluk grounded late Monday in high seas near Alaska’s Kodiak Island.

Here are the latest updates from the incident’s Unified Command:

The Unified Command reports that Kulluk grounded at approximately 9 p.m., Alaska time on the southeast side of Sitkalidak Island. The crew of the tug Alert was ordered to separate from the Kulluk at 8:15 p.m. to maintain the safety of the nine crewmembers aboard the vessel.

“The extreme weather conditions and high seas continue to be a challenge. We have more than 250 people actively involved in the response efforts,” said Susan Childs, Incident Commander, Shell. “Our priority right now is maintaining the safety of our response personnel and evaluating next steps.” …

There is reportedly up to 150,000 gallons of ultra-low sulpher diesel on board the Kulluk and roughly 12,000 gallons of combined lube oil and hydraulic fluid. The condition of the vessel has not yet been confirmed and overflights are scheduled pending weather conditions. Unified Command, using a U.S. Coast Guard aircraft, plans to conduct a survey to assess the situation at first light. A response team will be deployed when it is safe to do so.

The Unified Command further reported early Tuesday:

  • The U.S. Coast Guard helicopter overflight detected no visible sheen.
  • There are no residents on Sitkalidak Island. The nearest town is Old Harbor, which is located on Kodiak Island.
  • More than 250 people are actively involved in the response efforts.
  • There have been three minor injuries associated with the incident. All personnel have returned to duty.

As we reported Sunday on this blog, a four-person senior spill response team from International Bird Rescue had earlier been activated to work with Unified Command officials on a wildlife plan in the event of a spill. “We are very pleased that Shell is being proactive about any potential impacts to wildlife by having us on site to plan and prepare,” International Bird Rescue director Jay Holcomb said.

We will post updates to this blog as they come in.

Update @ 1pm PST: Unified Command for the Kulluk Tow Incident will hold a news briefing at 3 p.m. Pacific Time with updates on the situation.

Update @ 4:45 PST: KTUU will stream live the news briefing here.

Unified Command has set up a new Twitter account with updates @kullukresponse.


The Kulluk vessel on the shore of Sitkalidak Island below (photo credit: Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Klingenberg — U.S. Coast Guard)

International Bird Rescue has extensive oil spill response experience in Alaska, including the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill, where staff spent six months managing three bird centers and two search-and-collection programs. In October, International Bird Rescue responded to oiled wildlife found on Alaska’s St. Lawrence Island and rehabilitated at our Alaska Wildlife Response Center in Anchorage.

During the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico, International Bird Rescue co-managed oiled bird rehabilitation centers in four states as part of a large-scale response to the incident that involved federal and state agencies, industry and non-governmental organizations.

Click on the map pins below for more information on International Bird Rescue spill response efforts in Alaska from 1989-present:


View International Bird Rescue: Historical spill response efforts in Alaska in a larger map