Every Bird Matters
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Archive for February 2013

February 28, 2013

The Pelican Aviary Project — We’ve met our target! What’s next?

Our heartfelt thanks to the more than 150 donors who have supported our Pelican Aviary Project on Indiegogo. Today, we met our target goal of $15,000.

Here, the San Francisco Bay center team gives us a video update on why this project is so needed. Special thanks to Cheryl Reynolds, Suzie Kosina, Martha Grimson and Kat Schecter for filming this video in the aviary.

What’s next, you might ask?

We’ll be in touch in the near future to give you the very latest on our renovations of the pelican aviary that you have helped to build. And you can always follow allfillthebill2news and views from International Bird Rescue at birdrescue.org.

Our Indiegogo fundraiser met its goal only halfway into the 45-day campaign. Technically, there are three weeks still left in this fundraiser. And in fact, many highly successful Indiegogo campaigns continue to raise funds.

For the remainder of the time that International Bird Rescue is featured on Indiegogo, we’re going to graduate to a “Fill the Bill” campaign to raise money for the astronomical fish bills we receive when the center is full of pelicans. The average pelican eats about $10 in fish per day as it recovers at our center.

If you’ve already donated, you’ve done your job, so take a bow! But if you haven’t yet gotten the chance to do so, or if you’d like to pass this campaign on to other bird lovers, we of course welcome your support. Every single donation from here on out will help us feed those ravenous pelicans that are sure to fill our centers this summer.

Best of all, we still have plenty of premium gifts to give out for Fill the Bill donations.

With deepest gratitude,

Team International Bird Rescue

PS-For those who chose thank-you gifts with their donations, we’re sending those out full steam! Keep an eye on your mailbox.

Pelican watercolor by David Scheirer


February 26, 2013

News roundup, February 26

Photo: Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images

What’s new?

—Israel works to restore wetlands in the Hula Valley, an important migratory spot for cranes (as shown above) and other birds. [National Public Radio]

—The New York Times delves into the world of Blakiston’s Fish Owls and winter raptor birding excursions. [New York Times]

—Native flowers in Australia have evolved to favor pollination by birds such as this Rainbow Lorikeet rather than insects, according to Peter_Waters_Lorikeet_shutterstockstudy published in New Phytologist. (Photo by Peter Waters/Shutterstock) [ScienceAlert]

—Audubon Magazine interviews Jonathan Franzen on his love for birding and obsession with one particular species: the Masafuera Rayadito, found only on a tiny island in the Juan Fernandez archipelago off the Chilean coast. [Audubon]

—Pasadena NPR affiliate KPCC takes a look at the latest in the saga of the Army Corps of Engineers’ decision to raze acres of wildlife habitat at the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve. [KPCC]

Guilty pleasure via Huffington Post Green: The world’s largest bird nests by the Social Weaver, photographed in South Africa by Dillon Marsh (photo below). HuffPo’s Dominique Mosbergen reports:

Dillon Marsh, from Cape Town, spent three days wandering in the Kalahari Desert near the South African town of Upington to photograph the huge, avian-built homes. According to a photo caption provided to The Huffington Post by British photographic press agency Rex Features, the pictures were taken earlier in February.

“I had seen these nests as a child while on a holiday with my family and their impressive size had mesmerized me,” Marsh told the Daily Mirror.”I had started to develop an interest in the relationship between people and the environment, and these nests struck me as the perfect subject matter.”

According to earlier research, the nests of social weaver birds (also known as sociable weavers) are believed to be the largest birds’ nests in the world. Reminiscent of giant haystacks, each nest — some of which can grow to over 20 feet wide and about 10 feet tall — can be occupied by hundreds of sociable weavers at a time. [Huffington Post Green]


February 25, 2013

The Release Files: A cormorant found hanging in a tree net returns home

Double-crested Cormorant photo by IBR intern Sean MacDonald; inset photo © P. Wallerstein, MAR/Friends of Animals.

Good news!

International Bird Rescue’s Los Angeles center recently received into care this Double-crested Cormorant, found hanging in a tree net in Marina del Rey and rescued by L.A. County Fire Department Station 110.

The bird had a drooping wing upon intake, but we’re very pleased to report it responded extremely well to care and was recently released in San Pedro by our intern and volunteer team.

Also released: this Brant Goose (shown below), which came to our L.A. center oiled and suffering from bilateral injuries; and several Western Grebes — all eager to return to the open water.

Nice work, team!

Brant Goose release by Sean MacDonald. Inset photo of Brant Goose in IBR’s care.

Double-crested Cormorant after release!

Western Grebe release

Western Grebe releases

Western Grebe release

Release photos courtesy Sean MacDonald

February 19, 2013

Update: Current number of birds in care at our Los Angeles center

IMG_9412-LCommon Murres recovering in a pelagic pool, post-wash. Photos by Bill Steinkamp.

Rehabilitation technician and volunteer coordinator Neil Uelman shares the latest count of birds in care at our Los Angeles center:

50 Common Murres
9 Brown Pelicans
4 Western Gulls
4 California Gulls
3 Western Grebes
3 Black-crowned Night Herons
1 Bufflehead
1 Black-necked Stilt
1 Long-billed Dowitcher

Bufflehead, Male 01-LBufflehead

Long-Billed Dowitcher 02-L
Long-billed Dowitcher

February 19, 2013

Southern California media reports on oiled seabirds at International Bird Rescue

NBC4’s Hetty Chang reports on oiled Common Murres at International Bird Rescue in San Pedro

Yesterday was an extremely busy day for our Los Angeles center staff, which handled dozens of oiled Common Murres and gave interviews with many media crews interested in the recent influx. Since February 1, we’ve received 77 Common Murres — diving birds that spend most of their lives on the open water — from natural oil seepage off the Southern California coast.

Thank you to all the reporters, producers and photographers who broadcasted this important story to the people of Southern California.

ABC7’s Amy Powell reports:

CBS2 Los Angeles: Wildlife activists blame natural spill for influx of oil-coated birds (Video, February 18, 2013)

KEYT3 Santa Barbara: Sick birds may have been in Santa Barbara oil slick (Video, February 18, 2013)

Daily Breeze/ LA Daily News: San Pedro rescue center workers treat dozens of birds affected by natural oil seepage (February 18, 2013)

SoCalWild: Oiled murres overwhelming International Bird Rescue (February 18, 2013)

Malibu Patch: Beached seabirds oiled from natural seep off Santa Barbara coast (February 18, 2013)

How can you help?

If you see an oiled bird in distress that needs rescue, please call (866) WILD-911 for help. To report oiled wildlife sightings, please call (877) UCD-OWCN.

Some of International Bird Rescue’s costs for natural seep events are offset by support from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. But we have significant expenses in rehabilitating these birds, and we’re asking for your support. If you’d like to help, click here to donate.

Important note: Caring for oiled wildlife requires comprehensive training on appropriate protocols. If you are interested in volunteering for International Bird Rescue, please visit our volunteer page for more information.

February 17, 2013

Oiled Common Murres fill International Bird Rescue’s Los Angeles center


Important note: Caring for oiled wildlife requires comprehensive training on appropriate protocols. If you are interested in volunteering for International Bird Rescue, please visit our volunteer page for more information.

Press Contact: Andrew Harmon
cell: 917-993-0955

LOS ANGELES (February 17, 2013) — International Bird Rescue’s (IBR) Los Angeles center is working overtime to wash and rehabilitate dozens of oiled seabirds found beached and coated with crude oil and tar. The birds are imperiled due to known natural seeps deep in the ocean off Southern California’s coast.

Since February 1, IBR’s center, located in San Pedro, has received 77 oiled birds, mostly Common Murres — diving birds that nest on high cliffs and spend most of their lives on the open water. Western Grebes and Loons have also been affected by the natural seepage, and have been found emaciated and suffering from hypothermia on beaches from Malibu to Newport Beach.

“Since this isn’t an official oil spill, there isn’t an organized effort to capture these birds,” said IBR executive director Jay Holcomb. “They are found by the public one at a time and brought to our center for care. We estimate there are more birds out there that are not being picked up.”

Because these oiled birds are affected by natural seepage rather than a human-caused oil spill, the high cost of rehabilitating these animals falls largely on IBR and other area wildlife groups.

“Our staff and volunteers are in the midst of an oil spill with many birds needing daily care at our center,” Holcomb said. “Little attention is paid to these natural events because there is no responsible party, such as an oil company, to pay the costs. The responsible party in this case is Mother Nature, and she does not come with a credit card.”

Natural oil seepage occurs in many places along the Southern California coast. Coal Oil Point in the Santa Barbara Channel, for example, is the world’s largest natural seep, emitting thousands of gallons of oil every day.

How Can You help?

If you see an oiled bird in distress that needs rescue, please call (866) WILD-911 for help. To report oiled wildlife sightings, please call (877) UCD-OWCN.

Some of IBR’s costs for natural seep events are offset by support from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. But the nonprofit has significant expenses in rehabilitating these bids and is asking for donations. If you’d like to help, click here to donate.

Photos and video by Bill Steinkamp

February 17, 2013

Brownies and Birds!

Danielle von Ting (left) and Nicole von Ting, both age 7, representing Brownie Troop #20113.

What do Thin Mints, Samoas and pelicans have in common? Northern California Girl Scout Brownie Troop #20113 of Vacaville, Calif. and Travis Air Force Base!

These industrious and generous girls have selected International Bird Rescue as the beneficiary of a portion of the proceeds from their Girl Scout cookie sales this year. The girls’ goal is to sell enough cookies to become a Pelican Partner and participate in the release of a rehabilitated pelican at International Bird Rescue.

Cookies are available now to March 17, and the Brownie Troop will have a booth set up in various locations in Vacaville. Cookies may also be donated through the Girl Scouts’ Gift of Caring Program to either the military or to a local food bank. The Girl Scout Cookie Program is the leading girl entrepreneurship program, which provides fun learning experiences to the girls that participate.

The Cookie Program teaches girls five key skills: Goal Setting, Decision Making, Money Management, People Skills, and Business Ethics. While having fun they are also developing a strong sense of self-confidence and team-building skills. Funds from the sale are used to provide Girl Scouting to girls from all backgrounds to maintain camps and other properties, and to deliver high quality training to Girl Scout troop leaders and other volunteers. If you are interested in helping these fantastic young girls achieve their goals, please contact Tisha von Ting at 707-508-7281, or e-mail us.

February 15, 2013

The Pelican Aviary Project: We’re more than halfway there!

Dear friend,

A week ago, we launched our first-ever online crowdfunding campaign with Indiegogo. Our mission? To rebuild International Bird Rescue’s pelican aviary at our San Francisco Bay wildlife care center.

We knew this was a crucial project — but we didn’t know just how many of you knew how worthy the goal was well! From $5 shout-outs to $1,000 gifts, more than 100 bird lovers have stepped forward to bring us past the halfway mark of this $15,000 campaign in just 7 days.

Thank you so much for your support. We appreciate each and every one of our supporters on this campaign.

If you haven’t checked out the campaign yet, please do — you can find it here. The video itself is worth a visit!

And if you’ve already joined our project and want to help out more, please consider sending the campaign link to all your fellow wildlife-minded friends. You can also post to your Facebook or tweet it out to the world.


With deepest gratitude,

Team International Bird Rescue


February 12, 2013

Bird Rescue Partner Shout-Out: BirdProject


International Bird Rescue is lucky to have some truly amazing sponsors. In this regular feature, we highlight the work of some of our key supporters. This week’s spotlight belongs to BirdProject soaps by Matter Inc!

Of all the brilliant sketches on IFC’s Portlandia, perhaps the most famous (or infamous) is Season One’s “Put a Bird On It,” where a hapless design duo tt_at_propeller_galatakes over a tasteful gift shop to put their avian touch on every item imaginable.

Indeed, gift stores across the country seem to be ever-increasingly filled to the rafters with bird-related merchandise. We often wonder: Do these companies give back to the animals that they put on their products?

Answer: Some of them do. In fact, one of the coolest bird-inspired products has given over $9,000 to International Bird Rescue since 2010. We’re talking about BirdProject soaps by Matter Inc.

The soap is the brainchild of Tippy Tippens (pictured right), who was living in Brooklyn when the Gulf Oil Spill unfolded into the worst ecological disaster in American history. International Bird Rescue was on the ground throughout, co-managing oiled bird care in four states.

“I was really obsessed with the oil spill, and couldn’t believe how long it was taking to stop it,” Tippens says. “My background is in product design, and I wanted to do something to help. So I came to New Orleans and had the idea for the soaps.”

Tippens, an alumna of Propeller’s Fellowship & New Ventures Accelerator, launched the project via Kickstarter. The rest is artisanal soap history.

So why do we like BirdProject? What’s not to like…

lovebirds_birdproject_sq_large—It’s made of biodiesel glycerin, aloe, fair trade olive oil and activated black charcoal (great for the skin)

—The cypress scent is irresistible

—It’s produced in the Big Easy

—50% of profits go to the Gulf Restoration Network and International Bird Rescue.

And, the pièce de résistance: At the center of each soap is a work of art: a white ceramic bird fashioned from Louisiana clay that can be used as a decorative accent in the bathroom or elsewhere in your home.

Check out BirdSoap’s special LoveBirds Edition here, and a Valentine’s Day sale on select items here.

Thank you, Tippy and everyone at Matters Inc!

February 11, 2013

In Los Angeles, an influx of oiled murres from natural seepage

COMU2-Bill Steinkamp-XL
Photo by Bill Steinkamp

Every year between November and May, we receive an influx of oiled birds at our Los Angeles facility — this the result of natural oil seepage from the bottom of the ocean (read Tony Barboza’s 2012 report on this problem in the LA Times here).

Since November, we’ve received a trickle of oiled birds, and we were hoping this would be a light year. But last week, we began receiving them in larger numbers. Since February 1, we have received 51 oiled birds, mostly Common Murres, at our L.A. center, located in San Pedro. Yesterday, 12 of those birds were washed by staff and volunteers and are in the process of being waterproofed and rehabilitated. Others are awaiting their turn until they are stable enough to withstand the washing process.

Most of these natural-seep oiled birds are being found on beaches from Santa Barbara to Newport Beach. In the past, Western and Clark’s Grebes were the birds most commonly oiled along our coast, but that trend changed two years ago. Now, we see mostly juvenile Common Murres with a spattering of grebes and loons.

February 8, 2013

Birds in care: Common Goldeneye


Among the birds currently or recently in care is this Common Goldeneye at our San Francisco Bay wildlife care center. Photo by Cheryl Reynolds.

And the bird photo-bombing the shot in the background? It’s a male Bufflehead.

Check out our most recent bird count at our centers here. We’ve had a few oiled birds come in since and will update our numbers soon.

February 8, 2013

An online “aviary-raising” for pelicans. Join us and build it!

Dear friend,

We’re beyond excited to launch our first-ever online crowdfunding campaign—and for a very worthy project!

We’ve recently teamed up with San Francisco-based crowdfunding site Indiegogo to spread the word about an “old-fashioned aviary raising.”

What’s that, you might ask? Here’s the story: Several years ago, we built a large aviary for rehabilitating injured species such as Brown Pelicans at our San Francisco Bay Area wildlife care center.

The enclosure was constructed to the highest standards possible with the funding we had at the time. But with the ever-increasing number of sick and injured pelicans coming to us from across California, we need to do some major renovations, and fast!

So far, we’ve secured state and local government grants to help us cover some of the costs of these renovations, which total more than $41,000. This generosity comprises more than $16,000 from the Solano County Fish and Wildlife Propagation Fund and an additional grant of $10,000 from the Oiled Wildlife Care Network.

To reach our goal, we’re asking you to help us raise the final $15,000 for the project.

How you can help

Visit our awesome campaign at Indiegogo to find out more about this project, as well as the amazing perks we’re offering, including limited-edition jewelry, seabird watercolor prints, International Bird Rescue merchandise, VIP tours and — drum roll — a chance to have your name engraved on a Pelican Patron plaque at the entrance of this new-and-improved aviary.

So check out the campaign, watch the video and share it with other bird lovers in your life!

Sending you pelican love, hope and joy,

Team International Bird Rescue




February 6, 2013

Birds getting caught in Marina del Rey tree nets

L.A. County Fire Department Station 110 rescues a Double-crested Cormorant caught in tree netting. Photo © Peter Wallerstein of Marine Animal Rescue/Friends of Animals.

Recently, International Bird Rescue staff received reports from the public of birds getting caught in a giant net placed over trees in Marina del Rey that are popular nesting sites for Black-crowned Night Herons and Double-crested Cormorants — two common species treated at our centers. The netting was placed on the trees, located near the Marina Harbor Apartments, to prevent nesting and the droppings that inevitably end up on the cars below.

We referred these callers to Peter Wallerstein of Marine Animal Rescue. On Sunday, Wallerstein shot this image of of a firefighter from station #110 rescuing a Double-crested Cormorant hanging in the net high above.

DCCO-Julie Skoglund
The Double-crested Cormorant in care at International Bird Rescue in San Pedro

The bird has since been transferred into our care with a drooping wing. It’s doing well in care, though we don’t know if it will recover.

February 5, 2013

Vet students visit International Bird Rescue


This past Saturday, International Bird Rescue’s veterinarian, Dr. Rebecca Duerr, and L.A. Wildlife Center Manager Julie Skoglund hosted 17 veterinary students interested in wildlife pathology from Western University for an all-day event. Dr. Duerr gave the students lectures on anatomy and necropsy techniques that focused on points of difference between wild bird species and domestic species such as chickens or parrots.

The students then performed necropsies (animal autopsies) on Western Grebes, Common Murres and Brown Pelicans, collecting data and samples for ongoing research projects regarding assessment of body condition in oiled birds and the role of taurine in fish-eating birds. IBR would like to thank the students for a mutually beneficial day of learning!


February 4, 2013

Photographers in Focus: Jackie Wollner

Flamulated Owl 7816 A01
Flammulated Owl nestling, all images © Jackie Wollner. jackiewollner.com

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A self-portrait of Wollner with a piglet

On International Bird Rescue’s Facebook page, there are some photos we post to our loyal following that become instant viral hits, viewed and shared by thousands. The images that resonate are usually either of young and delicate birds (orphaned Pied-billed Grebe chicks, for instance) or of a species looking the camera squarely in the eye with haunting eyes (a Laysan Albatross recently released by our Los Angeles team off the Pacific Coast).

The latest such image to strike a chord meets both criteria: a Flammulated Owl nestling, photographed by Jackie Wollner of Los Angeles. Even at full size, this owl, which lives in old-growth forests of the West, weighs little more than a golf ball. “This is why I miss wildlife rehabilitation… I loved that job,” one Facebook commenter wrote upon seeing the nestling.

Wollner has volunteered as wildlife rehabber (she was trained by our own Dr. Rebecca Duerr) and is an avid photographer of many species International Bird Rescue cares for year round. Here are some of her favorite shots and the stories behind them.

BC Night Heron_N6T7970-2
Black-crowned Night Heron, Morro Bay, Calif. Wollner: This shot was taken in heavy mist and low light. I don’t think it would have been as interesting in bright sunlight.

Photographic orgins

Wollner: I got started with birds as a child because my mother is an animal lover. We spent a lot of time observing the creatures that surrounded us where I grew up in rural Pennsylvania. Some years ago I helped rescue a House Sparrow, and I was hooked. Eventually I volunteered as a wildlife rehabber and was trained by International Bird Rescue’s own Dr. Rebecca Duerr when she was animal care director at another facility that cared for a lot of songbirds.

Regarding photography, I should point out that if it isn’t already clear from my shots, I am an amateur photographer. But I have always appreciated photography. I tell my friends, “I want to see all your vacation snaps” and I mean it. I first started playing around with film photography in college. When digital cameras became available, I really dove in. I grew exponentially as a photographer when I could shoot without the care of wasting film, chemicals or money. Plus the feedback was instant.

So: Birds + Photography = Happy Happy Joy Joy

Black Oystercatcher 2616 A02
Black Oystercatcher, Marina Del Rey, Calif.

Crow 0056 A01
American Crow in rehab care. Adult crows appear to have almost black eyes. This photo was taken in front of a window. The bright light coming over the bird’s shoulder illuminated its eye in an unusual way.

Camera of choice

I have a Canon 1D Mark IIn. It’s big and heavy and never fails to prompt observations from (non-photographer) strangers that my camera is big and heavy. Even the name is big and heavy. Canon really ought to give some thought to its nomenclature.

When shooting birds in the field, I most commonly use the 100-400mm zoom. I’d love to have the 500 or 600 prime, but then I’d have to sell my car.

But what I really want to say about camera choice is that it doesn’t matter a lot. I have no opinion about Canon vs. Nikon. Both are awesome. I’ve seen excellent photos taken with point-and-shoots and even camera phones. It’s kind of a running joke among photographers that people say “That’s a great photo … What camera do you have?” The key is to have a good working knowledge of the equipment you do have, its possibilities and limitations. Also, you need a connection with the subject and an ability to edit your own shots. Editing is the most underrated, under-discussed topic in photography, in my opinion. When I say editing, I don’t mean photoshopping, I mean the ability, and moreover the willingness, to look at the 150 shots you took of an oystercatcher and pick just one or two to show people. It’s while I’m editing that I may refer photography as my “onerous hobby,” but I can’t overstate the importance of it.

When I edit, I first throw out everything with technical flaws, i.e. exposure, focus, etc. Sadly, this is still a lot of shots in my case. Then I look for the shot that communicates the most. Does it tell a story? Above all, is it emotional in some way? I have an engineering/science background, and I know the problems of anthropomorphizing. But as someone who is passionate about conservation, getting the public to care is the first step. People have to feel something before they act to preserve it.

Finch Hatchling 6762 A01
Hatchling House Finch in rehab care

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Galapagos Hawk, juvenile. Espanola Island

Two memorable shots

Like all the creatures in the Galapagos, this hawk had no fear of humans. It was perched on a pole near a beach on Espanola Island. The light was incredible — a bright, soft overcast. And that bird kept staring right at me, or at my camera, which was even better. Then it started stretching. The result was an unusual asymmetrical pose with that fantastic, direct eye contact. I took that shot with an early point-and-shoot camera, by the way. It was 2001 and digital SLRs didn’t exist yet.

Another favorite is the shot of the nestling House Finch stretching to its fullest and begging for food (above). It’s a favorite because I have cared for a lot of baby finches and my heart always leaps a little when I look at it. That was taken with a more current point-and-shoot camera.

House Finch_9915 A01
House Finch fledgling in my front yard. I love the way it is looking up at the sky. It fledged the next morning.

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Sanderlings at Malibu Lagoon State Beach, Calif. Sanderlings are usually running in and out of the surf. But every now and then they pause for very brief “micro naps.”

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Snowy Egret with catch, Malibu Lagoon State Beach, Calif. White birds in bright sunlight are challenging to expose properly. I usually set exposure compensation to -2/3 stop or thereabouts. Newer cameras with smarter sensors may do a better job without adjustment.

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Snowy Plover, Malibu State Beach, Calif. This was taken on an overcast misty morning. It’s challenging to shoot fast moving subjects in lower light. But I actually prefer soft overcast like this to bright sunlight.

Snowy Plover_N6T1351 A02
Another Snowy Plover at Malibu State Beach. These birds are listed as threatened. I find them so delicate and charming. The deep tire tracks illustrate the challenge they face from loss of habitat.

Species of note

I have a particular fondness for corvids, especially crows and ravens. I’m not goth, or into Brandon Lee, or a witch, or anything like that. I just think they are the smartest, coolest creatures on two wings. I’ve worked with them in rehab settings, and I think every corvid rehabber will tell you this — when you look at them, there is definitely some “one” looking back. It doesn’t surprise me at all that they figure so prominently in mythology.

In the field, if I’m surrounded by a variety of shorebirds, I usually find myself photo-stalking the oystercatchers. Those eyes are like egg yolks! They have those big garish red-orange bills. And their legs are the pale pink color of the tights I wore in ballet class as a child. Snowy Plovers are also a favorite photo subject. There is something so gentle and fragile about them.

Ultimately I love all birds. I get all mushy emotional just thinking about all the birdy lives I’ve lost and saved. For me, bird rehab is a crushing and extraordinarily rewarding avocation.

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Whimbrel, Malibu State Beach, Calif. This shot was taken in late afternoon “golden hour” light. It was low tide which is a double bonus. Shorebirds are active at low tide and the exposed rock and algae bring a lot of rich color to the shot.


If you would like to be considered as a featured wildlife photographer for International Bird Rescue, or would like to recommend a photographer for this regular feature, please e-mail Andrew Harmon at Andrew.Harmon@Bird-Rescue.org.

And check out some of our previous featured photographers, including Matt Bryant of Florida, Robyn Carter of New Zealand and Christopher Taylor of Venice, Calif.