Every Bird Matters
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Bird Photography

September 12, 2014

Dispatches from the International Sea Duck Conference in Iceland

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Harlequin Duck, photo by Andrew A Reding/Flickr Creative Commons

Over the past week, Reykjavik, Iceland has be the site of the 5th International Sea Duck Conference. More than 140 people from nearly 30 image_largecountries have listened, questioned and discussed a wide variety of issues important to understanding sea ducks, their biology, habitat, threats and survival. Unlike most conferences, we have also gotten daily volcano updates and had the opportunity to see eider ducks feeding at the shore. Iceland and Reykjavik are much as what you might expect, very modern surrounded by beautiful isolation.

The program has been both interesting and valuable for me and the work we do at International Bird Rescue. The papers have addressed effects of climate change, body condition measurement techniques, emerging diseases, developments in radio telemetry techniques, and sea duck monitoring and modeling. The primary species studied and discussed are the Long-tailed Duck, Common Scoter, Harlequin Ducks, and Common, King and Spectacled Eiders — all species that we have worked with in many responses going back to our founding in the 1970s. Nearly every presentation contains nuggets of information that can be applied to preparedness and response including rehabilitation. Being here provides an opportunity to find these nuggets as well as to network with the scientists who can be key in getting accurate information about local species at risk if a spill occurs.

While I have been surprised by how many of the participants I have met over the years, most of them are not regular participants in the Sea Duck Conference1-1rehabilitation or oil industry conferences we regularly attend. Their perspective is one that we less regularly hear, and that makes it even more valuable to hear their ideas. Responding to oil spills all over the world presents a number of different challenges, but one of the biggest problems is that we almost always lack local knowledge. We rely heavily on local people and local biologists working with the species affected by an oil spill to mount the best possible emergency response and to achieve the best possible care. Having a familiar face makes it that much easier to develop trust and understanding and get down to the emergency at hand.

One of the most interesting presentations for me was Dr. James Lovvorn’s talk on Designating Critical Habitat in a Climatically Changing Arctic: Eiders, Sea Ice and Food Webs, as one of my current projects is working on planning and preparedness on the remote Northwest Alaska coast of the Chukchi Sea. Although not as immediately of obvious value but very thought provoking were a number of papers on personalities, stress and brain size — all of which I hope to learn more about to further our rehabilitation success.

team_curt_cAll in all, it has been great experience, leaving me eager to apply what I have learned and also eager to learn more from some newly discovered colleagues.

Curt Clumpner

Preparedness Director

Map: Seabirds of Iceland via European Environment Agency

August 12, 2014

Our cottonball-sized patient of the week: Black Rail chick

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Photo by Isabel Luevano

Dear friends,

In a cozy, leafy incubator within International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay center, you’ll find the smallest aquatic bird patient we’ve ever cared for.

This is an orphaned baby Black Rail, an elusive bird and a threatened species in California due to habitat loss. The cottonball-sized chick was found at Shollenberger Park in Petaluma, CA, and recently was transferred to International Bird Rescue from our friends and partners at WildCare in San Rafael.

BLRAIt’s our first baby Black Rail, and though we limit human interaction with our avian patients whenever possible, we’re all awestruck by just how tiny and precious this bird is.

For a bird so rarely seen, Black Rails have become increasingly common patients. Several adult Black Rails we’ve cared for this year have been rescued after being disturbed and attacked by pets. To help build scientific knowledge of this little-understood animal, we work with the Black Rail Project at the University of California-Berkeley to band these birds, which aids in post-release research.

International Bird Rescue’s team of experts is well equipped to care for sensitive species – endangered, threatened or near threatened. These include the Marbled Murrelet, Ashy Storm Petrel, Snowy Plover and Piping Plover.

Whether it’s a rare Black Rail or a plucky Mallard duckling, we need your help to keep our wildlife centers running year-round for thousands of animals brought to us each year. Please make a donation today. Your contribution will provide much-needed support for wild birds we all love.

Sincerely,

Barbara Signature

Barbara Callahan
Interim Executive Director

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Update: The San Francisco Chronicle is on the story …

August 9, 2014

Photographers in Focus: Karen Schuenemann

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Black-crowned Night Heron, all images © Karen Schuenemann, KarenSchuenemann.com

Karen-S-Photographer-in-FocusOf all the images we’ve seen of the Black-crowned Night Heron this summer — and there have been many — this photo of a solitary juvenile bird by photographer Karen Schuenemann is one of our favorites.

Our latest featured photographer, Schuenemann is an avid birder and photographer in the Los Angeles area, where she lives and works as a retail manager.

Her off-duty pursuits? “My personal mission is capturing the urban wildlife in Southern California,” Schuenemann says. “It often amazes me how wildlife survives squeezed in between construction, roads and people. I have spent many hours watching Peregrine Falcons nest on the cliffs of San Pedro. I’ve had the opportunity to watch the parents catch their food and return to feed the youngsters. To observe the youngsters grow and take their first flight has been truly breathtaking.”

To celebrate one of the nation’s most biodiverse regions for birds (L.A. – who knew?) we asked Schuenemann to share some of her favorite shots.

Great Blue Heron, Karen Schuenemann
Schuenemann: This is a landscape on a misty morning at Bolsa Chica Wetlands in Huntington Beach, CA. Photographed: Great Blue Heron.

Black Skimmers,  Karen Schuenemann
These Black Skimmers were foraging in the early evening at Bolsa Chica Wetlands. The calm waters allow prey to rise towards the surface and the Skimmers’ long lower mandibles allow them to locate the fish by touch and quickly shut their mouths and have their meal.

Burrowing Owl, Karen Schuenemann
Photographed near Chino, CA: I recently encountered several Burrowing Owls that live right next to the road in a dirt patch separating a power plant and a park!

Snowy Egret, Karen Schuenemann
Taken at Bolsa Chica Wetlands, this Great Egret was captured at sunrise.
Reddish Egret, Karen Schuenemann
An uncommon sighting at Bolsa Chica Wetlands, I watched this Reddish Egret perform its unusual feeding behavior before it flew over the pond.

Peregrine Falcon, Karen Schuenemann
Taken on the cliffs of the Palos Verdes peninsula, this young Peregrine Falcon had just fledged and was practicing its flying skills.
Forsters Terns, Karen Schuenemann
Upon return of the female, these juvenile Forster’s Terns rejoiced with loud calls and jumping towards the mother at Bolsa Chica, attempting to get the meal that she brought back.

Tree Swallows, Karen Schuenemann
Bird boxes set up at San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary allow Tree Swallows to build their nests. Many possible nesting sites are destroyed in the forestry process of removing dead trees. Tree Swallows are common in open fields as well as marshes.

Double-crested Cormorant, Karen Schuenemann
Double-crested Cormorant: Taken at El Dorado Regional Park in Long Beach, CA, this cormorant emerged suddenly with its catch of the day.

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This Brown Pelican was plunge diving and I captured the image before it brought its pouch out of the water. 

Snowy Egret 2, Karen Schuenemann
Great Egret at Bolsa Chica Wetlands, I entitled this image “Circle of Life.”  Since the population was decimated in the late 1800s and subsequently protected, the species is increasing. However, without habitats such as the Bolsa Chica Wetlands restoration, we wouldn’t have the population on the rise.

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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 us with your submission.

And check out some of our previous featured photographers, including Jackie Wollner of Los Angeles, Yeray Seminario of Spain,  Graham McGeorge of Florida and Christopher Taylor of Venice, Calif.

August 7, 2014

Update: American Avocet at our Los Angeles center

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AMAVPhoto by Bill Steinkamp

Norman Bates was right: The old “You eat like a bird” adage isn’t true — birds really do eat a tremendous lot!

The American Avocet orphan we recently profiled on this blog is growing up fast, thanks to a shorebird smorgasboard which includes live food.

Our volunteer staff photographer Bill Steinkamp took a few photographs of this patient during a recent visit.

Like all shorebirds, avocets are affected by coastal development and human disturbance, as was the case with this animal. Your support of International Bird Rescue directly benefits wonderful birds such as this little one!

July 23, 2014

Taking flight with Richmond youth!

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All photos © International Bird Rescue-Cheryl ReynoldsSNEG

With the help of some eager young bird watchers, a group of herons and egrets has a new lease on life!

On July 23, we teamed up with the Richmond Police Activities League (or “RPAL”) youth group to set free five Snowy Egrets and three Black-crowned Night Herons at Pt. Pinole Regional Park with a jaw-dropping view of the San Francisco Bay.

Snowy Egrets have long been a bird of special interest — they were hunted to near extinction in the early 20th century for their plumes and have rebounded thanks to the grit and determination of conservationists.

But prior to this summer, many Bay Area residents may have never heard of a Black-crowned Night Heron – that is, until a May tree-trimming incident in Oakland resulted in several orphaned herons falling from their nests. Local and national media descended on this story as five young patients were brought to our San Francisco Bay center with broken bones and scrapes. All were also too young to survive on their own, and were released in early June after several weeks in care.

This year, we’ve raised over 250 young Black-crowned Night Herons and over 130 Snowy Egrets at the San BCNHFrancisco Bay center — far above our usual levels.

So we were very excited this week to team up with Chevron Richmond and the East Bay Regional Parks District to host a release event with RPAL kids on a field trip to Pt. Pinole. After their carriers were carefully carried and opened by team RPAL, the birds flew up into a nearby eucalyptus tree or to some tall grass nearby for cover.

As part of our Snowy Egret project, the egrets released all have red leg bands with a unique identification number. These birds are numbered C44, C45, C46, C47 and C48. If you see these birds in the wild, please report your sighting by emailing us.

International Bird Rescue’s team loves to share our passion for animals with local youth. If you are a local youth group in the Los Angeles or San Francisco Bay Area and you’d like more information on a release outing, please email us!

Chevron U.S.A. Inc. is a longtime supporter of International Bird Rescue’s local and global efforts to save seabirds, and will sponsor the community release of these herons. “We are honored to be a part of the release of these herons and provide RPAL youth with the opportunity to learn more about our environment,” said Kory Judd, Refinery General Manager. “Partnerships with organizations such as the International Bird Rescue are an integral part of our commitment to protecting and preserving the environment.”

Preservation plans for the release site at Breuner Marsh, located within the Point Pinole Regional Shoreline, include restoring wetlands and coastline prairie, as well as providing improved public access to the shoreline and a 1.5-mile extension of the San Francisco Bay Trail.

Thanks for being our release pals today, RPAL!

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June 9, 2014

Black-crowned Night Herons released in Oakland marsh

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Four of five juvenile Black-crowned Night Herons released at MLK Jr. Shoreline Regional Park in Oakland. Photos by Cheryl Reynolds

We think it’s safe to say that most citizens of the Bay Area now know what a Black-crowned Night Heron BCNHis….

The subject of extensive media attention in the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, local TV news and NBC’s The Today Show, five baby Black-crowned Night Herons — a federally protected species — were injured in early May after falling from their nests during a tree-trimming incident at a U.S. Post Office location.

All herons were brought to WildCare in Marin County for initial treatment before transfer to International Bird Rescue San Francisco Bay center, which specializes in herons and other aquatic species.

The injured herons have been treated for injuries sustained from the fall, with one baby heron suffering a fractured mandible that required surgery and healed remarkably. Ernesto Pulido, the proprietor of the tree-trimming business, immediately stepped forward to pay for the care of these animals.

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Yassira Murphy, a young birder from Oakland Tech High School, releases a juvenile heron. Photo by Rick Lewis via Golden Gate Audubon

Fast-forward to this past Saturday, where we were proud to work with Golden Gate Audubon Society on a release event at Martin Luther King Jr. Shoreline Park in Oakland. Four of the five herons from this incident were successfully released; the fifth is still in care but doing well (a fifth bird ready for release joined the other four at MLK Shoreline’s New Marsh). Thank you to Mr. Pulido as well for stopping by!

These are some of the dozens of herons we’ve cared for this season. You can support their ongoing care here.

Other good news: Our friends at Golden Gate Audubon have put together a wonderful pamphlet on tree-trimming and baby birds season that you can download here. A Spanish-language version will be released soon.

And thank you to all the birders who came out to see our patients off! We were happy to see these young herons start hunting for prey at the marsh within a half hour of release.

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June 9, 2014

Black Rail, banded and released

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Photo by Isabel Luevano

An elusive bird that hides in thick marsh vegetation, the Black Rail is listed as a near-threatened species (and formally listed as a threatened species by the State of California).BLRA

The rail’s wetland habitat, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) notes, “is threatened by pollution, drought, wildfires, groundwater removal, changing water levels, grazing and agricultural expansion.”

This spring, our San Francisco Bay center cared for a baby Black Rail, a victim of cat predation that suffered a broken mandible. Researchers with the Black Rail Project at the University of California-Berkeley banded the bird once its injuries had healed and it was old enough to be released.

We’re happy to report this bird was released at Petaluma Marsh, where it was originally found!

June 1, 2014

Weekend muses: An egret family

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Photo © Silvermans Photography

If only all of our family portraits could be this perfect …

A banded Snowy Egret cared for by our SF Bay center team, now in the wild and with chicks.

Check out photographers Susan and Neil Silverman’s work at silvermansphotography.com.

April 29, 2014

Close call for a mother duck and her ducklings

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Photos by Cheryl Reynolds

How many baby birds do we have in care right now? A lot.

For instance: By last count at International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay center, our team was caring for over 70 Mallard Ducklings, as well as baby Black-crowned Night Herons, Green Herons and mergansers. And the numbers continue to climb as orphaned birds are brought to our center from all over Northern California.

All of these baby birds have a story to tell. Here’s just one of them, via rehabilitation technician Isabel Luevano:

On Saturday, we received a phone call about a mother Mallard Duck and her eight ducklings, found in downtown Fairfield, CA at a local Sears Auto Shop. The workers there were concerned to see mom and her clutch journeying straight across a busy four-lane boulevard. We’ve seen this scenario before, and it’s always heart-stopping (take, for instance, this now-famous video of a mother and clutch crossing a freeway via CNN).

Animal Control officers jumped in to help along with one of our local volunteers, who had stopped by that area. Together they were able to catch the mother duck and her ducklings.

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As it happens, this mother Mallard has a federal band on her leg, which we found was put on the bird last year — with the exact same rescue and story. She had tried to take on the busy traffic with her ducklings and was ultimately rescued and relocated then, too. She survived yet another year, only to find herself in the same situation, stuck in the middle of an urban area with ducklings in tow.

Thankfully, the birds were all healthy and relocated to a rural area to complete their journey. Below, a parting shot of their release.

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April 28, 2014

An update on “Pink” the pelican

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Dr. Rebecca Duerr with “Pink” during the animal’s first surgery, photos by Bill Steinkamp.

After a week filled with heartbreaking images of our latest animal cruelty patient, we’re pleased to give you some good news today: BRPE

The adult California Brown Pelican mutilated by an unknown suspect has completed a successful first surgery to repair an extensive pouch laceration, one consistent with human-caused injury.

Click here for the backstory on this bird, nicknamed “Pink” for the colored leg band we assigned the animal upon arrival at our Los Angeles center.

On Sunday afternoon, IBR veterinarian Dr. Rebecca Duerr performed the three-hour procedure assisted by Los Angeles center rehabilitation staff. We are hopeful for this bird’s recovery, though multiple surgeries and extensive rehabilitative care are needed.

Another bit of good news: the Animal Legal Defense Fund announced today that it has doubled its commitment to a reward in this case, which now totals $10,000 and includes the support of concerned citizens in the Los Angeles area.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) currently is seeking information on this federal crime, which is punishable by a fine of up to $15,000 and a jail sentence of up to six months. Anyone with information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the mutilation of this bird should contact USFWS at 310-328-1516. Tips may be given anonymously.

“In my 40-plus years as a wildlife rehabilitator, I’ve seen too many of these horrible attacks against innocent animals,” said Slashed-pelican-fundInternational Bird Rescue executive director Jay Holcomb. “The public is sick of it too, and we hear their frustration. We as a society cannot and should not tolerate these crimes any longer.”

IBR depends on the support of the public to care for animals injured in cruelty incidents, as well as those harmed by fishing wound and other human-caused injuries. To make a donation, please click on the “Slashed Pelican Fund” image to the right. Thank you so much.

Previous coverage:

“Pink” the pelican, animal cruelty victim

Reward offered: Brown Pelican with severe laceration, suspect sought

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