Every Bird Matters
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Posts Tagged ‘natural seepage’

March 7, 2011

Natural Seep Oiled Birds Continue to Flood IBRRC

At the end of January, International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC) reported that nearly 50 oiled birds had been brought in for care after being coated with oil in a natural seep event along the Southern California coast. Since then, more than 64 new birds severely impacted by this heavy, sticky oil have arrived in our Los Angeles area rehabilitation clinic – 41 of them since February 22.

Species include many Western and Clark’s Grebes, Common Murres, Pacific Loons, California Gulls, Western Gulls, Red-throated Loons, a Northern Fulmar and a Common Loon.

Oil seeps occur naturally all along the coast of California, notably in the Santa Barbara Channel near Coal Oil Point. This area emits about 5,280 to 6,600 gallons of oil per day. Oil can be lethally harmful to seabirds—particularly to diving birds that spend a great deal of time on the surface of the water where the oil sits. It interferes with the birds’ ability to maintain their body temperature by impairing the natural insulation and waterproofing properties of their feathers, which can result in hypothermia, as their metabolisms try to combat the cold. Oiled birds often beach themselves in this weakened state, and become easy prey for other animals.

Preparing for Natural Seep Oiled Birds

IBRRC knows, from 40 years of experience, to anticipate these birds every year, with the largest number coming in during the winter months. This year, however, has been a particularly challenging one, as severe storms move seep oil around at a time when large numbers of migratory birds are utilizing offshore areas as their feeding grounds.

Who pays for their care?

In the case of a natural event, there is no responsible party to cover the costs of caring for oiled wildlife, and IBRRC and other rehabilitation organizations rely heavily on the public’s help. California’s Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN) has generously provided some funding, yet the remaining costs to treat and care for these birds continues to grow as more oil disperses along the coast.

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January 25, 2011

Natural Oil Seep Prompts Bird Rescue in Calif.

Nearly 50 oiled birds have been in care this month at International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC) after being coated with oil in a natural seep event along the Southern California coast.

Since January 6, 2011, IBRRC has received 28 Western Grebes, 18 Common Murres, a Common Loon, a Pacific Loon and a Clark’s Grebe.

IBRRC receives many birds that are contaminated with natural seep oil in our rehabilitation clinics year round. Birds are often severely impacted by this heavy, sticky oil, and it presents numerous challenges to our rehabilitation staff.

Oil seeps occur naturally all along the coast of California, notably in the Santa Barbara Channel near Coal Oil Point. This area emits about 5,280 to 6,600 gallons of oil per day. Natural seeps have been active for hundreds to thousands of years and have been documented by early explorers and by coast-dwelling Chumash Indians who used the oil in many ways including waterproofing baskets and constructing wooden canoes.

Impact to Birds

Oil can be lethally harmful to seabirds—particularly to diving birds that spend a great deal of time on the surface of the water where the oil sits. It interferes with the birds’ ability to maintain their body temperature by impairing the natural insulation and waterproofing properties of their feathers, which can result in loss of body weight, as their metabolisms try to combat the cold, and death from hypothermia. Oiled birds often beach themselves in this weakened state, and consequently become easy prey for other animals.

Preparing for Natural Seep Oiled Birds

Each bird that is impacted by natural seep oil is part of a larger population, but we know that every one is important in its own right and deserves the best possible care. We also know, from 40 years of experience, to anticipate these birds every year, with the largest number of birds coming in during the winter months. At this time of year, storms tend to move seep oil around while large numbers of migratory birds are utilizing offshore areas as their feeding grounds. Since their arrival at our rehabilitation clinics is predictable, we have endeavored to schedule our international interns around the birds’ arrival so that our trainees can be immersed in the complexities of oiled bird rehabilitation. The interns get invaluable, one-of-a-kind experience and the birds get the highest quality care.

Who pays for their care?

IBRRC has received natural seep oiled birds since our inception in 1971. As this is considered a “natural” event, with no responsible party, IBRRC and other wildlife rehabilitation organizations rely on the public to help cover the costs of caring for these birds. In recent years California’s Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN) has generously provided some funding, however, the remaining cost is substantial in stormy years like this one when more natural seep oil is dispersed along the coast.

May 17, 2009

Studying natural oil seepage in Santa Barbara area

There’s an excellent report on the Santa Barbara natural oil seepage from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. The study documents the 5,280 to 6,600 gallons (nearly 20 to 25 tons) of oil per day that seeps into the area waters and has been active for hundreds to thousands of years. In earlier days local Native Americans used the oil to waterproof their boats.

From the online report:

The water was calm and flat—dampened by a widespread, iridescent film of oil on the surface. Big oil patties floated about. The air smelled like diesel fuel.

By any definition, it was a classic oil spill. But we were the only boat in the area—no Coast Guard, no oil booms, no throngs of cleanup crews in white Tyvek suits, no helicopters, no media, and no shipwreck.

Why? Because this oil spill was entirely natural. The oil had seeped from reservoirs below the seafloor, leaked through cracks in the crust about 150 feet (45 meters) under water. Lighter than seawater, the escaped oil floated to the ocean surface.

Read more & view photos: While Oil Gently Seeps from the Seafloor

January 31, 2008

Authorities: Oil on the beach "natural seepage"

The oily mess of tarballs that washed up on Northern California beaches earlier this week is “natural seepage” from the ocean floor and not remnants from the Cosco Busan oil spill, the Coast Guard said Wednesday.

When oil started showing up on beaches from Pacifica to Monterey on Monday, speculation was it might be uncollected oil from the November 7, 2007 spill in San Francisco Bay. Only about 40% of the 53,000 of the bunker fuel oil that spilled has been recovered.

Full story in the San Francisco Chronicle