Every Bird Matters
news and views from international bird rescue

Archive for January 2016

January 28, 2016

Record Year of Bird Patients in 2015

Surf-Scoters-Pool-C-mystery-2015 copy

Clean Surf Scoters, contaminated by Mystery Goo, were among the record number of birds cared for in 2015 . Photo by Cheryl Reynolds

2015 was an unusually big year for International Bird Rescue. We received a record number of injured and sick aquatic birds during all seasons and there was no “slow season” as we have had in previous years.

More than 6,000 birds – including those from a mystery goo event, a Santa Barbara oil spill, and a mass stranding of Common Murres – are included in the extraordinary increase in patient numbers at our two California wildlife centers, run in conjunction with the Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN) at UC Davis on behalf of the Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR) at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW).

“These increased numbers of birds, especially in Northern California, are concerning,” said JD Bergeron, Bird Rescue’s Executive Director, “and suggest that we may need to develop even more robust funding solutions to be able to keep up with the food and medication needs of these patients. We are concerned that aquatic birds may be facing graver challenges due to the longstanding drought, warming sea waters, violent El Niño storms, reduced habitat, and increased competition for food.

Oiled Brown Pelican treated during May 2015 Refugio Pipeline Spill.

Oiled Brown Pelican treated during May 2015 Refugio Pipeline Spill.

“On the bright side, our team of deeply dedicated staff and volunteers have been tireless in sustaining this ‘alert’ level of effort, coming in extra days and staying later in the evening to ensure that all our patients get the needed care. Further, we are immensely grateful to the thousands of individual, corporate, and foundation supporters who keep showing up to help fund our work. Every dollar helps us to help more birds. Together, we will continue to pursue our mission to mitigate the human impact on seabirds and other aquatic bird species.”

Of the total 6,083 patients, the San Francisco Bay Center had the highest number of birds: 4,372. Some of this can be attributed to the 300+ mystery goo birds (mainly Surf Scoters and assorted grebes) that were treated in January of last year and the more than 500 hungry and stranded Common Murres that flooded the center in Fairfield. Also 40 oiled seabirds were treated and washed in 2015.

At the Los Angeles Center the numbers totaled 1,554 for the year. Of those, 57 birds came in oiled from the Refugio oil pipeline break in May near Santa Barbara and ongoing natural oil seep along the Southern California coast.

January 24, 2016

Patients of the Week: Common Murres, once oiled now cleaned

COMU-four-after-cleaning

Cleaned of oil, Common Murres spend time in pelagic pools before being released from our San Francisco Bay center.

This week our patients of the week are oiled Common Murres. A handful of these seabirds from the Monterey/Santa Cruz area have been rescued and transported to the San Francisco Bay Center in Fairfield.

The birds are coming with light to heavy oiling on their undersides. The petroleum source has yet to be identified.

Oiled-Murre-intake-web

Common Murre during intake is photographed to document oiling. Photos by Cheryl Reynolds

To clean the murres, our center staff and volunteers use a combination of methyl soyate (a methyl ester derived from soybean oil), DAWN dishwashing liquid, and high pressure shower wash to remove the oil from their feathers. After spending time regaining their natural water-proofing, the healthy murres are usually released into San Francisco Bay at Fort Baker near the Golden Gate Bridge.

Common Murres are diving birds that nest on high cliffs and spend most of their lives on the open water. The public will often spot these oiled birds along beaches at the tide line. At this point these birds are cold, hungry and tired from trying to preen the oil out of their feathers.

This species is has a hard time in past years with chronic oiling along the California coast from Santa Barbara to Northern California. Also a murre stranding was documented earlier this year from the central coast to Alaska. Thousands of birds are being affected and many ended up at our center in the fall of 2015.

January 19, 2016

45th Anniversary of Oil Spill That Led to Creation of International Bird Rescue

Photo of Oiled Surf Scoter from 1971 SF Bay spill

Oiled Surf Scoter found near Land’s End in 1971 San Francisco Bay Oil Spill (Golden Gate Bridge in background). IBR photo

Today marks the 45th anniversary of the oil spill that led directly to the creation of International Bird Rescue. On the early morning of January 19, 1971, two Standard Oil tankers, the Arizona Standard and the Oregon Standard, collided in foggy conditions near the Golden Gate Bridge. The ruptured tankers spilled at least 800,000 gallons of crude.

Among other terrible outcomes, the spill affected 7,000 birds. Volunteers collected nearly 4,300 of them, mainly Western Grebes and Surf Scoters, and brought them to makeshift rehabilitation centers.

Alice Berkner, the founder of Bird Rescue, remembers: “Here were about 16 different treatment centers scattered around the Bay Area. A friend of mine, who happened to be a veterinarian, asked me if I wanted to go to the hastily established Richmond Bird Center and help out.”

Only about 300 birds were successfully rehabilitated and released—in part given the lack of established rehabilitation practices for oiled birds at the time.

Jay Holcomb, Bird Rescue’s long-time director—who passed away in 2014—told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2012, “There were dying birds everywhere and no one knew what to do. It was as horrible as you can imagine,” said Holcomb. “It was then that we realized there needs to be an organized attempt for their care.”

Oregon-standard-San-Francisco-Bay-1971-spill

1971 collision of two Standard Oil tankers spilled at least 800,000 gallons of crude into San Francisco Bay

“As long as I live I will never forget the odor that assaulted me as I walked through the doors of the Center,” said Berkner. “It was a horrendous mix of rotting fish, bird droppings, oil, and, strangely enough, Vitamin B.”

International Bird Rescue Research Center (now “International Bird Rescue” was hatched in April of 1971 in the “little red house” at Berkeley’s Aquatic Park. Since then, it has led oiled bird rescue efforts in over 220 oil spills in more than a dozen countries.
 In the 1990s, Bird Rescue became a founding partner in California’s Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN).

Today, Bird Rescue runs two full-time bird rehabilitation centers in partnership with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR) and OWCN, located in Fairfield and San Pedro, as well as an as-needed oiled wildlife response facility in Anchorage, Alaska.

“From an environmental tragedy 45 years ago, Bird Rescue was born to deliver on the promise of mitigating the human impact on seabirds and other aquatic species through response, rehabilitation, and research,” said current Executive Director JD Bergeron. “And our 45th year promises to bring continued excellence in response and rehabilitation, as well as renewed focus on research, education, and outreach, especially to children, the next generation of wildlife and nature stewards.”

January 14, 2016

One Year Later: Webinar Explores What We Learned From Mystery Goo Event

Horned Grebe covered in "Mystery Goo" before cleaning, left, and after cleaning. Affectionally named "Gummy Bear" the birdwas returned to the wild. Photos by Cheryl Reynolds

Horned Grebe covered in “Mystery Goo” before cleaning, left, and after cleaning. Affectionately named “Gummy Bear” the bird was returned to the wild. Photos by Cheryl Reynolds

One year ago on January 16, 2015, we received reports of a spill of a mysterious sticky substance along the eastern shore of San Francisco Bay that no one could identify! A large number of water birds was affected by this unknown substance. Many of the birds – which included Surf Scoters, Horned Grebes, Buffleheads and others – were covered in slime, dirt, and rocks, destroying their waterproofing and ability to maintain body temperature.

All the affected birds required intensive care and Bird Rescue had to develop a whole new cleaning process for this substance. This “Mystery Goo” turned out not to be a petroleum product, which meant there was no protocol for who should take responsibility for the birds and how they would be treated and cared for. Putting our own resources on the line, Bird Rescue stepped into that void and accepted more than 320 birds. Our supporters generously stepped up to help us fund this unusual event.

A year later, we would like to share what we learned.

Join us for a free online webinar on Thursday, January 21, 2016 at 7:00 PM.

Please register here: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/4367155004328262402