Every Bird Matters
news and views from international bird rescue

Archive for November 2019

November 27, 2019

Patient of the Month: Laysan Albatross

A Laysan Albatross that arrived into care at our San Francisco Bay-Delta Wildlife Center is our patient of the month. The bird was originally found at Marina State Beach and transferred to us by our friends at Monterey Bay SPCA.

After stabilization, the Laysan Albatross had its dirty feathers washed. Photos and video by Cheryl Reynolds – International Bird Rescue

On arrival, the albatross was alarmingly underweight, very anemic, weak, and dehydrated. The intake exam found multiple wounds and swelling on the birds feet and that the patient was unable to stand. The bird is very small in stature for a Laysan Albatross, so is likely a female. She had two discrete abscesses at the bottom of her painful foot, hence we started her on antibiotics and pain medications. After several days of intensive care, the bird was strong enough for us to treat her foot abscesses and take radiographs to check for skeletal or internal abnormalities. Our veterinarian, Dr. Rebecca Duerr, reviewed the radiographs and had a few important findings: the abscesses thankfully did not appear to involve the bones of the foot joint, plus she had two fractures, one of the tibiotarsus (the longest of the 3 leg bone in birds) literally at the knee and another fracture of the fibula. Bloodwork showed her to have substantial muscle damage and an elevated white blood cell count.

In the last few weeks she has made remarkable progress, going from 1359 grams to ~2000 grams. Her leg is still weak and the fractures have been slow to heal, but the foot abscesses have resolved. The anemia has largely resolved, and she has transitioned to living in a large outdoor pool during the day, and indoors at night in a beach-like sand-bottom pen. In the pool, our staff created a submerged “island” for this special patient, giving her a place to float with the weight off her leg while being able to stand in a semi-supported way. At night she can rest on sand like she would if she were on an island.

The albatross’ improvement these past few weeks has been amazing to see, and has been driven by our staff’s constant communication and shifting care decisions that keep her moving in the right direction towards recovery. Although she is not out of the woods yet and our vet has concerns about her ability to eventually walk comfortably considering the nature of the knee injury, her improvement so far has been remarkable. We hope this beautiful bird continues to heal and will soon be able to return to her natural home in the wild!

If you would like to support this bird’s care, please consider a donation to Bird Rescue.

 

November 14, 2019

Barbara Callahan Honored With Oil Spill Task Force’s 2019 Legacy Award

Barbara Callahan in action – leading a wildlife response training. Photo by Ken Wilson, APSC

Barbara Callahan of International Bird Rescue was honored this week with a 2019 Legacy Award by the Pacific States/British Columbia Oil Spill Task Force. Barbara is Bird Rescue’s Senior Director of Response Services. She was recognized for her sustained excellence in devoting more than 25 years of her life to oiled wildlife response and for her leadership role at many of the major oil spills throughout the world.

The Legacy Awards honor individuals and organizations that successfully implement exemplary oil spill prevention, preparedness, or response projects. We define such exemplary projects as successful efforts that go beyond regulatory requirements to prevent, prepare for, or respond to oil spills.

The award was presented at the Oil Spill Task Force‘s annual meeting on November 13, 2019 in Bellingham, Washington.

Barbara Callahan has spent more than 25 years as a leader in wildlife oil spill response.

Barbara has a wealth of international experience working in the emergency wildlife response and management. She received her B. S. in Biological Science from the University of Alaska. She has worked in oiled wildlife response, response management and rehabilitation of aquatic animals over the course of 20 years and is certified in Federal Emergency Management.

Since 1997 she has been the Response Services Director at Bird Rescue and has held the position of Bird Unit Deputy Leader in the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010; the Incident Command Wildlife Coordinator for the Rena Spill in New Zealand in 2011; and has been the on-scene coordinator in numerous other national and international spill events.

Barbara has authored multiple papers on seabird rehabilitation and oil spill response. She has also nationally and internationally presented at wildlife and other conferences.

Barbara Callahan working during the 2000 Treasure Oil Spill response in South Africa. Photo by Jon Hrusa – IFAW

November 12, 2019

People Who Care

In this new video meet some of International Bird Rescue’s dedicated wildlife rehabilitation staff and volunteers who act every day on behalf of sick, injured and orphaned wild animals.

Our mission is to inspire people to act toward balance with the natural world by rescuing waterbirds in crisis.

We dream of a world in which every person, every day, takes action to protect the natural home of wildlife and ourselves.

It all began in 1971 after 800,000 gallons of crude oil spilled into the bay, concerned individuals led by a registered nurse named Alice Berkner jumped into action, bringing International Bird Rescue (“Bird Rescue”) to life. We have always had to pave a road where there is none. Staff and volunteers work with tenacity alongside clients, partners, and the public to find solutions.

Today, we research best practices at our crisis response hospitals in California and Alaska and share them worldwide.

 

November 8, 2019

A Bird Lovers Night Of Generosity & Masquerade Fun

Attendees strike a pose with their Night-Heron Masquerade masks at a Bird Rescue fundraising event in San Francisco. Photo by Gary Wagner

Shirl Simpson, left, the Branch Manager of the U.S. Post Office in downtown Oakland, CA with JD Bergeron, International Bird Rescue’s Executive Director. Photo by Gary Wagner

The Night Heron Masquerade was a huge success and we are proud to announce that event raised over $80,000! The October 26, 2019 event was filled to capacity as 150 attendees cam to support International Bird Rescue’s ongoing wildlife programs.

Thank you so much to all of those who attended and who donated, and a special thank you to our event sponsors and silent auction donors. We had a fantastic time celebrating with such a fun group of supporters, staff and volunteers. Each attendee took home a bird mask of their choice and a poster from the event in San Francisco.

Shirl Simpson, the Branch Manager, of the U.S. Post Office in downtown Oakland, CA was given special recognition for her efforts in helping support the Oakland Heronry Rescue. Nearly a hundred birds, Black-crowned Night-Herons and Snowy Egrets were rescued after a tree snapped in front of the post office sending baby birds and their nests tumbling to the sidewalk.

A big thank you also to Gary Wagner Photography for the great attendee photos, to Tony Corman & Laura Klein for providing the live music, and to Michael Warner for creating the event artwork!

Executive Director JD Bergeron was master of ceremonies. Photo by Russ Curtis–International Bird Rescue

Handmade bird masks were handed out to each attendee. The masks were created by volunteer artists. Photo by Gary Wagner

November 5, 2019

Photographers in Focus: Rory Merry

Margo Pellegrino rescues a cormorant suffering from Domoic Acid poisoning at Asilomar State Beach in Pacific Grove, CA. Later the stricken bird was picked up by the Monterey SPCA and transferred to our San Francisco Bay-Delta Wildlife Center.

In this latest Photographers in Focus feature, we are delighted to highlight photographer Rory Merry from Pacific Grove, California. Rory’s work came to our attention after we saw his dramatic photo of a Margo Pellegrino, who was visiting the area from New Jersey, as she waded into the Monterey Bay surf to rescue a stricken cormorant.

Born in Ireland, Rory is a professional photographer and world traveler and has been capturing people, wildlife, and events for nearly 60 years. He is represented by the Zuma Press photo agency.

We hope you enjoy all his photographs of the extraordinary beauty of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and its wildlife inhabitants.

Question: The photo of the women rescuing the cormorant is pretty amazing. What’s the story behind that image?

Answer: I was taking my usual morning walk along the coast by Asilomar State Beach in Pacific Grove, when I noticed five or six people off of the path on a rock outcrop looking down at the rocks below. As I got closer, I saw a woman climbing over the rocks.

Margo Pellegrino waded into ocean at Asilomar State Beach to rescue a sick cormorant infected with Domoic Acid.

I thought to myself that it was another collector. “Oh no, not another collector.” Then I saw something splashing in the water some distance from the shore. I could not make out what was going on with the naked eye, so I looked through my camera’s 300mm lens. At first I thought it was a cormorant and a sea otter fighting it out.

In the meantime, this woman was climbing out over the rocks and then into the cold water up to her waist. She kept going out further and further until she finally reached the splashing. By then I realized that the woman (Margo Pellegrino) was on her way to rescue a cormorant that was in serious distress suffering from Domoic Acid poisoning.

She was pretty far out and well above her waist in the cold water of the Northern California Coast. She was wearing only a t-shirt and a pair of jeans. Meanwhile the cormorant was floundering around. She finally reached the cormorant, grabbed the bird and started to make her way back to shore. She chose a different route back to shore. It looked like to me like a passageway between rocks where I feared she would run into deep water. All the time I was taking images not in continuous sequential shooting mode, but one frame at a time as I saw the story unfold.

The cormorant was later transferred to Bird Rescue where it unfortunately had to be humanely euthanized because of its severe neurotoxin poisoning.

Suddenly she was in deeper water, hence the splash in the photo. I got it. Of course, she could not use her hands for balance because she was holding to the cormorant. She was actually hugging the bird for dear life. She never let go of the cormorant and finally reached shallower waters. The total sequence is made up of 59 frames. In frames 40 to 51, Margo is actually smiling. No doubt because she realizes she has actually saved the cormorant and herself included. Mind you, she is still up to her waist in water in frame 40.

See: Monterey Herald story: Woman saves cormorant with domoic acid poisoning at Asilomar State Beach

The images were shot with a Nikon D800E with 300mm AF 300mm f/4 ED. Sadly, it’s not a Vibration Reduction (VR) lens. I processed the RAW images in Nikon Capture NX2 with no manipulation and no color enhancement; just processing as per the World Press Photo Competition Rules.

Normally, I would shoot with a Nikon D4s and a Nikon 300 mm 2.8 VR. However, I had decided to sell my 2.8 to pay for my last photo adventure. I was not actually shooting anything that required a 300mm anyway. Due to being evicted from my apartment in Berkeley, I came to live in my house in Pacific Grove. Walking along the shoreline every day, I realized I really needed at least a 300mm to shoot wildlife. I found just such a lens on Ebay for $145. The seller said it had dust and fungus. It also had an aperture ring issue, which I repaired with dental floss.

Snowy Plovers (Charadrius nivosus) dance across the sand.

Q: How did you get your start in photography?

A: My father was a magazine publisher and thought all the photographers could not take a decent photograph, so he bought himself a Rolleiflex TLR Zeiss Tessar 1:3.5/75. This was in Ireland. I was ten years old. He bought me Kodak Brownie, which is a basic box camera made of thick, leatherette-covered cardboard introduced in 1911 by Eastman Kodak. The camera shot film 2 1/2 x 4 1/4 size negatives.

This was great as my father also bought me a photo printing set for my birthday. It was a simple set with a frame for holding the negative and photo paper to make a contact print the size of the negative. This is the same as the processes used today for printing digital negatives on photographic paper to make silver gelatin prints.

In 1958 when we went to Belgium to the Brussels World’s Fair where I photographed a model of the Sputnik space capsule in the Russian pavilion. I eventually got my father’s Rolleiflex and just kept on photographing. My first professional photo was published in 1969.

Short-billed Dowitcher’s (Limnodromus griseus) in flight.

Q: What’s are some of the challenges you face in your bird and nature photography in general?

A: I like to shoot without a tripod whether it is birds in nature, portraits or whatever, so holding the camera steady (or cellphone for that matter) is always an issue AND really the most important part of photographic technique. All camera manufacturers including Nikon, Sony, and Cannon have spent millions of dollars perfecting some form of Vibration Reduction (VR) technology to reduce camera shake. Nobody wants a blurred photograph, at least not too often.

I also shoot on manual mode, so forgetting to change my setting from one scene to the next is an issue.

Getting close to my subject without disturbing the creature in nature photography is always difficult. Whatever I do, I don’t want to disturb the creature or bird. It is fine if the bird is conscious of my presence, but that’s it. I shoot what is see as I come across the situation. I walk. I don’t sit in a blind hide out waiting for the shot. I go about my daily life and shoot whatever interests me. Obviously, I do cover situations where my presence is preplanned, but with birds or nature photography it is all up to the birds.

Q: We know great photography is more than big name brand equipment. But that being said, what lens could you not live without and why?

A: Well, that is a good question all right. The issue of being close enough to your subject is always critical no matter if it birds, bees or humans. You really need a minimum of a 300mm lens for bird or any nature photography. Sometimes I use a 1.7 Teleconverter with a 300mm lens this make the lens 510mm. However, a 1.7x teleconverter will lose 1 1⁄2 stops of light making the effective wide aperture f/4.5, which is not bad for a well-lit subject. To be honest, I have shot bees with a 105mm macro f2.8 and even a 14-24mm f2.8. I am always experimenting.

The eyes of a Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus).

Q: If you could give beginning nature photographers just one (or two) bit of advice, what would it be?

A: Don’t disturb the birds or animals you photograph. Since I shoot in the open, the birds do see me, but I keep my distance. A lot of my shots are action, so the birds will be flying by keeping an eye on me. Don’t be fooled. The wildlife has its eye on you.

Always carry your camera, keep the camera steady, the lens cap off and the lens hood on the correct way. One day you will get the shot of a lifetime.

Q: What bird photo projects are you working on in the future?

A: I am always trying to get shots of birds in flight, hence no tripod. I like nature in action. One shot I am after is from a boat. You know the way the pelicans and cormorants fly along just above the waves. The pelicans use the updraft from the waves to save their energy. Well, I want to be right there with them as they come towards me, pass by and glide away. The pelicans fly so close to the waves that their outer most feather sometimes touch the water. I got that shot once from the beach, but the image was not crystal sharp. If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.

Q: Who is one of your favorite photographers?

A: Richard Avedon

Q: How has working in nature enhanced your life?

A: When I walk along the Pacific Ocean in Monterey Bay during the mornings, I see the most beautiful sights on the planet. I see pelicans and cormorants flying in formation, vultures circling around waiting for breakfast, deer grazing, gulls fighting over pieces of food, Snowy Plovers dancing in unison in and out of the surf, rabbits hopping along, deer mice peeping out of their homes, egrets standing on kelp half a mile out in the ocean, Sea Otters lounging around in the kelp, and Sea Lions popping their heads out of the ocean for a quick look around and take a breath of fresh ocean air. I hear the sound of the waves crashing in the rocks.

Black Oystercatcher foraging for food.

When one looks at all this going on around you, all of one’s troubles go away. The images fill one’s mind like the feathers at the end of a pelicans’ wings for precise flying. Sea lions can see above and below water. Cormorants can see above and under water too. They can fly, swim and walk on land. Nature doing what nature does.

When I pick up my camera and put it to my eye, I only see the images in the viewfinder. No thoughts in my mind. I am in the present and experience a Zen clarity of mind. No mind. Just like nature itself.

When on live in the city, which I did for 40 years, one does not see nature. One is divorced from it.

I have always loved nature of that there is no doubt, but now that I see nature in the wild every day, I am adamant about preserving and protecting it.

I am featured here because of my photographs of a cormorant rescue. To be that close to a wild bird was an honor. When I process my images, I get to see them big and in detail on my computer screen in every detail: eyes, claws and individual feathers. When I see the creature again, all of sudden I am flying with the Pelicans gliding along with the flock up and over the waves, flapping my wings, zipping along at 35 miles per hour and skimming over the ocean with my friends, the cormorants. I talk to the sparrows as they fly around the sand dunes of Asilomar State Beach, “How are you this morning, Mr. Sparrow?” I am a part of nature.

Graceful beauty of two California Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) in flight.

California Brown Pelican skims the water in Monterey Bay.

Deer forage for food at water’s edge at Monterey Bay.

All photos © Rory Merry