Every Bird Matters
news and views from international bird rescue

Archive for June 2020

June 23, 2020

Patient of the Month: Western Gull

Western Gull seabird caught in fishing line

After swallowing a fishing hook a Western Gull awaits rescue at the harbor jetty in Half Moon Bay. Photo courtesy Bart Selby

A severely injured Western Gull, that was originally entangled and trapped by discarded fishing line and tackle, is back in the wild after heroic surgery and treatment by International Bird Rescue.

X-ray showing fish hook stuck in the Western Gull esophagus, right near the bird’s heart

X-ray shows fish hook stuck in Western Gull’s esophagus, right near the bird’s heart.

The Western Gull was spotted May 18, 2020 on the breakwater in Half Moon Bay, ensnared by fishing gear. Luckily, a local kayaker, Bart Selby, spotted the helpless bird on his way out to do a Brown Pelican survey around Pillar Point Harbor. He immediately took action and enlisted the help of nearby wardens from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to rescue the injured bird. It was critical the bird was captured quickly because in its entangled state, it was doomed to drown when the tide came in. From his kayak, Mr. Selby coached the warden, who was gingerly standing on the slippery rocks, as they carefully secured the gull with a towel and cut the fishing line that had been tethering the bird to the rocks. Were it not for the intervention of these valiant rescuers, the gull would certainly have died.

The gull was transported to the Peninsula Humane Society Wildlife Center for stabilization before being transferred to International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay-Delta Wildlife Center in Fairfield, CA for surgery to remove the hook that was lodged deep inside the bird.

Our team found that the hook was lodged in one of the worst spots in the esophagus, right near the bird’s heart (see radiograph). When a fish hook pokes through the wall of the esophagus at this area, it very often skewers the aorta or even the heart itself and the bird can bleed to death from the tip of the hook lacerating these irreplaceable structures.

The gull’s neck was opened to get to the hook wedged in the esophagus. Photo: Dr. Rebecca Duerr – International Bird Rescue

Unfortunately, the line had been swallowed, which meant the hook couldn’t be retrieved without surgery. So, on May 20, Dr. Rebecca Duerr, Director of Research & Veterinary Science, did just that, choosing the least invasive approach for extraction. She cut into the esophagus at the base of the neck. According to Dr Duerr, the surgery was quite nerve-wracking as the bird had an extremely abnormal heart rhythm as soon as she began to gently manipulate the hook. In addition, none of the instruments were quite long enough to both secure the hook and allow it to be moved out of the stretchy esophagus wall. Nevertheless, our wildlife clinic team was able to pull the bird through this tough procedure and successfully remove the hook, leaving the bird with just a small incision to heal in his neck.

The male gull healed fabulously and fast, and flew perfectly as soon as we put him into the center’s large outdoor aviary. Our team wanted to get him back to his mate as soon as possible. So, as soon as his skin incision healed, we arranged for release back at Half Moon Bay on June 5th. We hope he was reunited with his mate and may be working on producing the next generation of Western Gulls, and we hope he stays away from fishing gear!

Note: a high percentage of the rescued water birds that come into our clinics have been injured by fishing line and tackle injuries. The high cost of repairing these serious injuries is borne by Bird Rescue. Your generosity gives these wild birds a second chance. Please Donate now.

Whenever you’re near the water, please pick up and remove any stray fishing line and tackle from the environment to eliminate this menace for wildlife. Encourage fishermen to avoid casting into areas with birds visible in the water.

After life-saving surgery to remove a fishing hook, the Western Gull was released at Pillar Point Harbor. Photo: Cheryl Reynolds – International Bird Rescue

June 19, 2020

On Standby: Major Diesel Spill In Siberia

Site of the Norilsk Nickel power plant fuel leak. See larger map

Nearly 50 years ago, International Bird Rescue was created to respond to oil spills. Our supporters have come to expect that when there is a sizable spill, we will be there to offer our expertise in crisis management and aquatic bird care. Unfortunately, that is not always possible and it is difficult for us to stand on the sidelines when wildlife is in danger.

On June 4, 2020, a massive fuel spill occurred in a remote area of Russia, as a diesel oil storage tank collapsed at the Norilsk Nickel power plant sending diesel into a river. It is believed that a prolonged heat wave melted permafrost beneath the storage tank’s footings. At least 21,000 metric tons of diesel fuel has stained the Ambanaya watershed in the Siberian Arctic ecosystem.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has declared a State of Emergency as that area is part of a watershed linked to the Arctic Ocean, but he has not thus far reached out for international support. See map

Emergency response of this scale is only possible with the invitation and cooperation of the government and a responsible party being willing to cover the costs.

Further, human safety is of utmost importance, and the needed resources to stand up a full-scale wildlife response can be next to impossible in a very remote location like this one.

While we have been in touch with our international partners, none has yet been asked to participate. This group includes leading experts trying to solve the challenges of oiled wildlife outside of currently covered geographies. Russia’s far north is a perfect example of an uncovered geography which the group was created to cover. At this point, reports suggest that workers are focused on containing and removing the fuel in a very remote area with few roads – more than 1200 miles NE of Moscow. We will remain on standby in case we are needed.

The kind of fuel that was spilled – diesel – is lighter and less easily corralled than heavier forms like crude oil (as was the case in the Deepwater Horizon Spill in 2010). Making things worse, diesel evaporates more slowly at cooler temperatures. This means both that initial harm to nearby wildlife would have been severe and, as with any petroleum product, animal welfare would continue to be a concern.

Going forward we continue to strive to work collaboratively on preparedness and planning along with petroleum companies, government entities, and other NGO partners to ensure wildlife emergency response efforts can save animals in harm’s way.

June 12, 2020

49 Bird-inspired Recipes To Sweeten Stay At Home Days

Do you love birds and want to support their care? Love to bake, too? You’ve come to the right place! We’ve got a whole volume of bird-inspired recipes to help sweeten these social distancing months for you and your loved ones!

Become a Bird Rescue Member now at the $49 level and we will send you a digital version of our “Sweet Tweets: 49 recipes for 49 years”. Your membership fee supports our work year-round saving water birds. And with the cookbook, you can bake up scrumptious treats to celebrate our 49th Anniversary with us, no matter where you are.

You’ll find recipes for how to make a flock of delicious goodies: from Pied-billed Grebe Apple Pie to Surf Scoter Scones to Sand Hill Crane Sugar Cookies. Order now

The recipe book was created by the Bird Boosters – a dedicated group of volunteers bonded by their love and admiration for International Bird Rescue. The boosters work collaboratively on special projects that help raise funds and highlight the great accomplishments of this 49-year-old organization.