Every Bird Matters
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Posts Tagged ‘oil spill’

November 22, 2011

First Penguins Released After New Zealand Oil Spill

49 Little Blue Penguins oiled in the spill from the grounded cargo ship Rena were released today in New Zealand, after rescue and rehabilitation by emergency response teams, including International Bird Rescue, organized through Massey University’s New Zealand Wildlife Health Centre.

In preparation for the release we set up three aviaries with a salt water system and gradually raised the salinity to that of seawater. We sorted the penguins into “tribes” according to their location of capture, their state of waterproofing and their estimated time until molt. We are relieved to be getting most of them out before molt. Ecologist and Dotterel expert John Dowding also performed a final evaluation of habitat to start releasing some of the Dotterels who were captured to the south. Hopefully by the time Dr Brett Gartrell, the Wildlife Centre Manager, returns in a week, we will be down to 225-250 birds in care.

Christmas is already in the air down here. Since New Zealanders don’t celebrate Thanksgiving there is nothing to stop Christmas creep. There is already talk of our Facilities Manager Bill Dwyer’s annual staff Christmas party and we are even seeing a number of posters for New Year’s events.

It’s a bit hard to get into the Christmas spirit for those of us not used to worrying about sunburn in November, but it is starting to look like we may make it home with some time left to do our Christmas shopping.

Happy Thanksgiving,

Curt Clumpner
Preparedness Director
International Bird Rescue

March 22, 2011

Catastrophic South Atlantic Oil Spill Threatens Endangered Rockhopper Penguins

Hello everyone,

There has been a catastrophic oil spill on a remote island in the mid-South Atlantic Ocean that is threatening an entire colony of endangered Northern Rockhopper Penguins.

The MS Oliva ran aground on Nightingale Island, one of three islands of the Tristan da Cunha group, on March 16, 2011. All 22 crew were rescued before the ship broke up and leaked oil into the sea. The freighter was shipping soya beans from Rio de Janeiro to Singapore. It is said to be also carrying 1,650 tons of heavy crude oil.

Nightingale Island is regarded as one of the world’s most important wildlife habitats. The island is home to 40% of the world’s population of Northern Rockhopper Penguins (photo, above), and about 20,000 have already been confirmed oiled.

There are species of albatross, petrels and shearwaters that nest on these islands. However, all of the reports of oiled birds have been about the penguins. The likely reason for this is that many of the flighted bird species fly out to sea before landing on water, thereby avoiding the oil along the coastline. Since the penguins are not flighted, they have to swim through it to get to the islands, making them the most vulnerable and highly impacted.

IBRRC’s colleagues at The Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) are leading bird rescue and rehabilitation efforts and will soon be en-route. You may remember that IBRRC has worked with SANCCOB in four different oil spills in Cape Town, South Africa. Most notably, in the Apollo Sea oil spill in 1995 we helped care for 10,000 oiled African Penguins, and during the 2000 Treasure oil spill we helped manage the rehabilitation of another 20,000.


View Larger Map

According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the current Northern Rockhopper Penguin population in the Tristan da Cunha island group is estimated 18-27,000 at Inaccessible Island, 3,200-4,500 at Tristan. Nightingale and Middle Islands were estimated to support 125,000 pairs in the 1970s, but recent observations suggest that the main colony on Nightingale has decreased in size.

Logistics are difficult at best. An old fishing factory will be used as a rehab center. There is limited water, and no airport, so supplies are either air-dropped there or are brought by ship every few months or so. All people must arrive by ship, and it takes 4 days to get there from Cape Town, South Africa. Many of the birds have been oiled for over a week, which limits their chances of survival. The birds cannot be removed from the islands and brought to the mainland due to disease transmission concerns.

IBRRC has been in touch with SANCCOB and, along with other leading international wildlife groups, is providing support by phone as their team prepares to mobilize. SANCCOB’s team will be arriving at the islands on Sunday, March 27th, and has asked IBRRC’s trained and experienced team to be prepared to offer support. There are 300 people living on Tristan Island, and 100 of them are available to help with the penguins.

This is a truly grave situation for the Rockhopper Penguin colony and the ultimate challenge for wildlife rehabilitators. SANCCOB is the most experienced penguin rehabilitation organization in the world and we have full confidence in their ability to set up the best possible program for these birds. IBRRC’s team is coming together, and will send help when asked, and continue to support the SANCCOB team as needed. We will keep you updated as we receive information.

Jay Holcomb

Director Emeritus
International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC)

More information:

Atlantic oil spill threatens endangered penguins:
Seattle Times

Locals helping roundup penguins on Nightingale Island

Tristan da Cunha, the Loneliest Island on Earth

Photo: Northern Rockhopper Penguin at Berlin Zoological Garden, Germany, used by via Creative Commons

January 18, 2011

Remembering the 1971 San Francisco Bay oil spill

Hello everyone,

Today marks the 40th anniversary of the Oregon Standard Oil Spill, the massive 800,000 gallon spill that occurred in San Francisco Bay in 1971. The concept of International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC) was born in the midst of the spill because it was clear way back in 1971 that oil spills were becoming a part of our reality, and after a quick review it was evident that no organization had developed effective techniques to care for oiled birds. IBRRC was created to do just that – develop techniques and protocols to humanely treat and rehabilitate oiled birds.

IBRRC’s Founder Alice Berkner, and a handful of others, came up with the concept of IBRRC while trying to help the more than 7,000 birds that filled warehouses around the Bay Area. Most of those birds died, but their deaths were not in vain. The demise of these birds only encouraged people to try harder, and by April of 1971 IBRRC was incorporated as a non-profit organization.

This year we proudly celebrate IBRRC’s 40th anniversary, and throughout the year we will provide more information, interviews and celebrate our accomplishments. In the meantime, let’s take a moment of silence to remember the animals that lost their lives 40 years ago.

Since then, tens of thousands of animals have been recovered and given a second chance thanks to IBRRC and because of one person’s vision and focus. On behalf of all of us who have followed in your path, thank you Alice for your passion and vision, and for creating IBRRC.

Jay Holcomb
Director Emeritus
International Bird Rescue Research Center

September 22, 2010

Five months later: Gulf Oil Spill response update

Dear Friends and Supporters,

After nearly five months working at the Gulf Oil Spill I just returned to California and want to give you an update on IBRRC’s efforts at the largest oil spill in U.S. history.

The demobilization of all four rehabilitation centers and the remaining two stabilization centers should be completed in the next few weeks as they are no longer receiving oiled birds. We still have five IBRRC response team members in the gulf helping Tri-State Bird Rescue get the last of the birds released.

In terms of the rehabilitation of impacted birds, many of them did well considering the logistical and political challenges that were a part of this spill. Approximately 2,000 live oiled birds have been admitted to the rescue centers since late April.. To date we have released over 1,200 birds and still have another 150 or so in care. The final numbers will be posted at the official end of the rehabilitation program. See also: Deepwater Horizon Gulf Oil Spill detailed wildlife reports

This was an unprecedented event in our nation’s and IBRRC’s history. Our organization mobilized over 88 response team members, and completed well over 400 media interviews from CNN to documentary film crews. We also provided our expertise to the U.S. government and various organizations and agencies involved in the spill. In addition, we cared for many new species of birds and provided invaluable experience to new and existing staff and response team members.

New limited edition Oil Spill response t-shirt available > > >

During this large-scale effort, while up to our elbows in oiled pelicans and chaos, we received an outpouring of good will and encouragement from our supporters, members and others who repeatedly relayed to us that our efforts gave them hope during what seemed like a hopeless situation. This was an unexpected surprise and meant a great deal to all of us who worked long hours to ensure that each bird received expert care.

The specific details and stories, as well as more pictures and video of our spill response and experiences will be forthcoming in the next few months. To commemorate this historic event, we have also created a limited edition t-shirt that honors and displays the birds that were the true stars of the oil spill and deserve the most recognition. It is available for purchase at IBRRC’s online store.

On behalf of all of our staff, volunteers and response team, I want to thank you for your support during the spill. We look forward to seeing you and talking to you in the future.

Sincerely,

Jay Holcomb, Executive Director
International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC)

July 22, 2010

Louisiana Bird Rescue moving up to Hammond

The new Louisiana bird rescue center is coming along nicely. It’s located in the town of Hammond which is about 60 miles north of New Orleans above Lake Pontchartrain. The new site is out of the hurricane ‘evacuation zone’.

Since the beginning of the BP Gulf oil spill in April, the main animal rehabilitation center has been located in Buras, LA. It is only several feet above sea level.

Initially, the Hammond Bird Rehabilitation Facility will be capable of handling approximately 1,000 birds, and capacity could be increased to house as many as 2,000 to 3,000 birds.

It’s situated on the grounds of what was once a very large lumber yard with multiple empty warehouses and plenty of room for large outdoor enclosures. We will be posting pictures soon.


View Larger Map

We are all looking forward to the move, which may be as soon as this weekend. While we are busily organizing and planning for the big move we are still receiving small numbers of oiled birds daily.

With this in mind, oiled animals that continue to come in through Venice and Port Sulphur will receive first aid at a stabilization site nearby before being transferred to us in Hammond. Since we do not wash oiled birds right away this will not delay their treatment.

Over the weekend a small water spout developed nearby. It reminded us of how the weather here, especially this time of year, can change so rapidly. While we will miss living where the Mississippi River meets the Gulf of Mexico, in the end, the move will make it safer for the birds and the people that care for them.

More information

Louisiana Bird Rehabilitation Facility’s Move to Hammond

July 20, 2010

New report slams BP’s Gulf bird habitat efforts

A new report released by the prestigious American Bird Conservancy this week is asking serious questions about BP’s oil spill cleanup efforts and how they may be causing more harm than good to birds and to their habitats.

The 12 page report released July 19, 2010, is entitled Gulf Oil Spill: Field Survey Report and Recommendations, provides a series of five key recommendations for birds – ranging from the use of boom to habitat restoration – related to cleanup efforts surrounding the three-month-old Deepwater Horizon oil spill response.

According to the press release, observations are based on a just-completed week-long field assessment by ABC staff, who observed oil impacts and cleaning operations from Louisiana through Mississippi to Dauphin Island, Alabama. As part of the overview, ABC staff toured affected areas by boat with local and federal officials and charter boat captains. With Coast Guard officials, they also undertook an aerial over-flight of the spill area and points northwest of that location.

Five main recommendations contained in the report:

• The use of more effective boom to protect bird colonies. Numerous instances were observed where boom was in complete disarray, including being washed up on shore.

• The employment of better fencing and other measures to protect sensitive beach nesting areas and to reduce disturbance to birds. Clean-up crews were clearly unaware in several instances of the negative impacts they were causing to birds and their habitat.

• The deployment of adequately sized and equipped oil skimmers close to the coast with improved real-time oil reports to eliminate oil before it reaches the beaches and marshlands. ABC observed an instance of a substantial heavy oil slick about half a mile offshore while cleanup vessels were operating in very mildly oiled waters about one mile away – apparently unaware.

• The creation of a staging and recovery area for heavily oiled birds close to the coast. With the moving of the existing facility to a location about 70 miles away, some sort of near-shore facility is needed.

• The restoration of eroded island habitat for nesting birds. Breton Island, for example, is a fraction of its original size, is an important bird habitat and is in desperate need of rebuilding.

ABC’s Vice President and the report author Mike Parr, gave kudos to one area in particular: The joint IBRRC/Tri-State Bird rescue efforts at Fort Jackson, Louisiana.

“Without question, I think the unqualified bright spot of the cleanup effort was the bird cleaning center in Fort Jackson. It was gratifying to see that part of the cleanup is being carried out very effectively. The staff of the International Bird Rescue Research Center seemed totally committed, but most importantly, birds are being saved,” said Parr.

“During one of our boat surveys with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials, our vessel captured a clearly sick and oiled juvenile Roseate Spoonbill, and had it sent to the Center for treatment. Two days later, they brought out the bird for us to see and it looked clean and alert – much improved from the feeble state that allowed it to be simply picked up by hand off an oil boom 48 hours earlier,” Parr added.

To view the full report: www.abcbirds.org/newsandreports/ABC_Gulf_Oil_Spill_Report.pdf

July 1, 2010

Oiled Pelicans still fighting for survival in Gulf

The the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has a nicely done video report (above) capturing the sights and sounds of the capture of oiled Brown Pelicans and oil-cleaning process at the Fort Jackson Bird Rehabilitation Center in Buras, Louisiana.

The iconic brown pelican have been swamped by oil from the BP well blow out in the Gulf of Mexico that started on April 20, 2010. So far, nearly 50,000 square miles of the fragile Gulf waters have been stained by the largest oil disaster in United States history.

As of June 29th, officially more than 2,000 birds have been affected by the spill. 858 have been captured alive. Many of the birds have been pelicans, but also Gannets, Gulls, Herons, Dunlins and other shorebirds.

At least 250 cleaned birds have been released to coastal areas in Florida, Texas and now Georgia.

More info on NRDC’s website: OnEarth: Gulf Coast Pelicans Fight for Survival

June 17, 2010

CNN report: Cleaning oiled birds in Louisiana


Duane Titus talks to CNN’s Anderson Cooper on his visit today to see the ongoing oiled bird care at the Fort Jackson Wildlife Center in Buras, Louisiana.

As of noon today, 634 oiled birds have been captured, 783 dead birds collected and 42 have been released – mainly in Florida. Official wildlife numbers available each day around Noon CDT.

June 8, 2010

Heavily oiled birds and response "blame game"

With more oiled birds coming into Gulf Oiled Wildlife Centers each day, Executive Director, Jay Holcomb, takes time to update and explain the spill response from IBRRC’s perspective:

As you can see we have had a significant spike in the number of birds that we are receiving in the Ft. Jackson center here in Louisiana. (See: Updated bird numbers) This is because a section of the oil slick has come to shore near Grand Isle and birds living in that area are now being impacted. Many of the birds that you have seen on the news are birds that are currently here at the center. I know that it is heartbreaking to see these pictures, but they are an accurate and true depiction of what is going on here. Nothing is worse than an innocent animal covered in oil helplessly struggling to survive. Heavily oiled birds always become the symbol of any oil spill when images are taken and that is appropriate as they clearly show what can happen in a massive spill. 

We have been busy here working with the birds and putting in long hours so I do not always get the time to write on the blog but there are a few things I wanted to share with our readers.

First, the pelicans that are here are in good health but very heavily oiled. I tell the media that they look like they are fondued – more or less dipped in the oil. That is because the fish they eat often swim and hide below floating surface oil and when the pelicans plunge into the water to catch them, they become oiled. A few of our field teams have witnessed this and actually seen fish jumping onto the oil and then watch as a gull or pelican goes after it and then becomes oiled. The ocean here is teaming with fish so it stands to reason that this would happen. The things that are working in our favor are that these are healthy and strong birds and the oil is aged enough so that it does not have much smell to it or volatile aromatics. That is the better part of this but what is a problem for the birds and us is that the oil is very gooey and thick. It is taking about 45 minutes to an hour to wash each bird as we have to pre-treat the birds with a warmer light oil to loosen the crude oil up and then wash the bird using DAWN dishwashing liquid. Lots of it! We are getting it off but it takes some scrubbing.

Another thing in the birds favor is that it is very warm this time of year and the birds are able to survive longer than birds in colder climates. This is in the birds favor but is debilitating for the people working on the birds. We have to shift our people and it’s a difficult situation for us in that respect. The other birds such as gulls and herons have a more difficult time with being this oiled. A few have died so far but many are making it also. They require a lot of supportive care.

I also want to mention the great people that are here helping to care for the birds. There are the response team members of Tri-state Bird Rescue Research Inc. and our team from IBRRC but also many individuals that are part of the Louisiana State Animal Rescue Team (LSART). The LSART helps us by bringing in people from all backgrounds including wildlife rehabilitators and veterinarians that are all based in Louisiana. They are making up a large part of the work force and are really great. I need to mention that it is very important to give these people the opportunity to contribute first to helping offset the impact of the spill by helping us. They survived Hurricane Katrina and are now dealing with this situation. So, in that sense it’s appropriate that we use local resources first to fill in the ranks of our expanded rehab teams. As I have mentioned before, there are literally thousands of people who have been wait-listed who want to help. They will be called in as needed but so far they are not. It’s as simple as that.

I also feel the need to mention the “blame game” that I am not a stranger to. As you may have seen, I play a few key roles here at the Ft. Jackson Oiled Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. First, I provide oversight for the rehabilitation program as I have had many years of experience in managing large scale oiled wildlife rehabilitation efforts and can use that experience to our advantage. Secondly, I took on the role of External Affairs person because I knew that this would be an explosive and political situation when I first heard of this incident and therefore I felt that I was best suited to act as the voice for our efforts to rehabilitate these birds. So, I manage the intense media attention that has been put on the rehabilitation program. I like the media and I can speak to them from a historical perspective, a wildlife rehabilitation perspective and from a place of transparency as I agree that the world needs to see what is happening in this situation here in the gulf.

We have been allowing the media into the center every day from 1 to 2pm, usually longer, in the afternoon to do interviews, see the birds and get the stories. Now that we are getting very busy we are changing that to 3 times a week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 1 to 3pm just so we can focus on the birds as giving the media their fair time takes a lot of attention away from our work. I request that everyone understand that this has been put into place for the sake of the animals and respect our new schedule.

Lets talk about the blame game real quick before I hit the sack. One of the questions I get every day from reporters is, “How does this spill compare to the Exxon Valdez oil spill?” well, there are many similarities and differences. Most notably the environment, weather and species impacted are vastly different but what is similar are the politics. This a big spill with a large oil company, a lot of scrutiny and a lot of people blaming each other. That is what it is but it was just a matter of time until the wildlife rehabilitators got blamed also. I knew this going into it. IBRRC and Tri-State are contracted by BP to manage the rehabilitation of the birds that are oiled in this spill so some think that we have signed over our rights as independent organizations. Nothing is farther from the truth. We have worked with the oil industry or whoever is the responsible party since 1971 to provide our unique, proven and qualified services of rehabilitating oiled birds and other wildlife. Collectively our organizations have responded to about 400 oil spills ranging from tens of thousands of birds to just a few and may I humbly state that we are the most qualified groups in the world to manage a program such as this one. We work very well together and become one large team in large-scale events such as this oil spill.

Our amazing founder, Alice Berkner, always said to me that the reason that she got involved in this work was because she felt somewhat responsible as a credit card holder of the company who was responsible for the spill in 1971 that initiate the founding of IBRRC. (See: Founders Perspective) I have always felt that way also. Her bottom line was that we all use oil products but are quick to pass the buck when oil is spilled and that seemed irresponsible. She was transparent in her initial approach to the petroleum industry. Alice wanted to help the birds with protocols based in sound science and manage oiled wildlife rehab programs with proven crisis management systems, so she created IBRRC to do just that. Instead of attacking the oil industry for the spills, which everyone else was doing, she gave them a solution and that was to use IBRRC to help offset some of the damage that oil spills do to the environment as no one was doing that back then. That began a steep learning curve that is still going on today and we have managed to improve the care we give to the birds immensely over the years.

So, here we are, almost 40 years on with a lot of experience and expertise under our belts and something we can offer to once again help in the clean up of the spill by helping these animals that really are our collective responsibility to care for. They belong to us, they are precious and they need our help. Here in Louisiana we are caring for them as best we know how right now in 2010. We will be blamed for our association with the oil industry, accused of selling out etc. We already have been. It’s nothing new to us. So, for the blamers out there please keep in mind that as you drive your car or are reading this on your computer that your life was made a hell of a lot easier because of oil and we all have benefited greatly from it. So who is to blame? No one! BP is accountable for their accident here in the gulf and they are being held accountable, as they should be. But we the people are also accountable as consumers of the products the petroleum industry provides us and maybe the silver lining in this horrific and catastrophic event is that people will wake up and ask themselves this question. “Is the cost of exploring for, using and transporting fossil fuels and their byproducts worth the risk?” Look at that iconic picture of the gull covered in oil from this spill. If you can live with that, drive your car, discard your plastic water bottles and tell your kids that it is all OK then go for it. If not then change the future through taking some level of responsibility about what has happened, use your brain, your intent and your desire to change the future of how we fuel our world. Stop blaming everyone for what you had a hand in creating. No one is right or wrong here. We are all in this together. It’s just about the choices we make, individually and collectively, and maybe its time to evaluate those choices. Everything is an opportunity and maybe that is the opportunity that this spill is providing for us.– a chance to reevaluate how we move into the future and protect our earth while enjoying our lives. Think about it.

Its 4 am and I am going to get a tiny bit of shut eye.

Later! – Jay, from Fort Jackson, Louisiana

International Bird Rescue is working with the main responder, Tri-State Bird Rescue of Delaware. IBRRC more than 20 response team members on the ground including veterinarians, wildlife rehabilitation managers and facilities and capture specialists.

The oil spill involves a ruptured drilling platform approximately 50 miles off the Louisiana coast. The drilling rig, the Deepwater Horizon, exploded on April 20, 2010 and sank in 5,000 feet of water. More than 100 workers scrambled off the burning rig in lifeboats. 11 workers died.

At least 40 million gallons of crude has been dumped into the Gulf of Mexico and harmed fragile breeding grounds for Brown Pelicans and other shorebirds. Six weeks after the blow out, BP has yet to significantly stem the flow in the nation’s worst oil disaster.

June 4, 2010

Update from the center of Gulf oiled bird care

The numbers of severely oiled birds jumped yesterday and Jay Holcomb returns with his updates from the BP Gulf Oil Spill wildlife response:

Well, I am sure by now you have all seen the pictures of the oiled birds that were captured in Grand Isle, Louisiana. We are busy today with those birds and I have been delinquent in writing current blog postings. I will begin again tonight and keep you all updated. 

Please know that we are all doing well here, unhappy like you that this is happening, but we have a great master plan to offset as much damage to the birds as we can. For those of you who are asking about ways that you can either support us or donate to us, I thank you for your generosity. I also want you all to understand that this entire oiled bird rehabilitation effort is being paid for by BP. This is appropriate as they are the Responsible Party for this spill.

If you would like to send donations then please keep in mind that your local wildlife rehabilitation organization really needs your help also. They care for the same wild animals that are being impacted by the spill. A pelican is a pelican whether is it tangled in fishing tackle or oiled! Please send support to your local wildlife rehabilitation organizations. You can also support IBRRC and Tri-State’s ongoing bird rehabilitation efforts if you like and that information is available on our web sites.

Talk to you very soon,

– Jay Holcomb, IBRRC Executive Director from Fort Jackson, Louisiana

International Bird Rescue is working with the main responder, Tri-State Bird Rescue of Delaware. IBRRC more than 20 response team members on the ground including veterinarians, wildlife rehabilitation managers and facilities and capture specialists.

The oil spill involves a ruptured drilling platform approximately 50 miles off the Louisiana coast. The drilling rig, the Deepwater Horizon, exploded on April 20, 2010 and sank in 5,000 feet of water. More than 100 workers scrambled off the burning rig in lifeboats. 11 workers died.

At least 40 million gallons of crude has been dumped into the Gulf of Mexico and harmed fragile breeding grounds for Brown Pelicans and other shorebirds. Six weeks after the blow out, BP has yet to significantly stem the flow in the nation’s worst oil disaster.

May 22, 2010

New Gulf update: Oiled bird numbers increase


On the one month anniversary of the Gulf Oil Leak here’s the latest wildlife update from IBRRC’s Jay Holcomb:

Yesterday we received 3 more oiled birds at the Fort Jackson oiled bird rehabilitation facility. The included: One Brown Pelican, one Ruddy Turnstone and Semipalmated Sandpiper. No other birds were received at any of the other facilities. (Photo above, oiled Brown Pelican intake in Louisiana)

On Wednesday of this week we received another three oiled Northern Gannets in Fort Jackson and we continued washing and rehabilitating birds in Louisiana.

Our search and collection teams, working under the direction of the US Fish & Wildlife Service, continued patrolling impacted and other areas in the outer regions of the Mississippi River Delta region. Many healthy looking clean birds were sighted in the areas they covered and a few partially oiled birds were sighted here and there but were unable to be captured.

One oiled Brown Pelican came into the Pensacola, Florida bird rehabilitation center and one oiled Gannet came into the Theodore, Alabama rehabilitation center.

The complete list of birds received and under care are listed on our website A total of 27 live oiled birds have received in to Gulf wildlife care centers.

As always, we appreciate your concern,

– Jay Holcomb, IBRRC Executive Director

International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC) is working with the main responder, Tri-State Bird Rescue of Delaware. IBRRC has about 20 response team members on the ground including veterinarians, wildlife rehabilitation managers and facilities and capture specialists.

May 19, 2010

Day 17: Making strides on oiled bird capture

A quick update follows on the Gulf Oil Leak wildlife response from IBRRC’s Jay Holcomb:

Tuesday was a good day for the capture teams on the water as the weather allowed our teams, who are working as part of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) bird capture program, to cover a large area of water. Over 6,000 birds were sighted and most of them were clean. Oiled birds were found here and there and a total of 4 oiled birds were brought into the Fort Jackson bird rehabilitation facility in Louisiana – a brown pelican, least tern, northern gannet and a laughing gull. 

One oiled brown pelican was captured and brought into the Alabama facility on Tuesday also.

Search and collection efforts and the rehabilitation of the birds at these facilities are continuing.

Thanks for your interest,

– Jay Holcomb, IBRRC Executive Director

International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC) is working with the main responder, Tri-State Bird Rescue of Delaware. IBRRC has about 20 response team members on the ground including veterinarians, wildlife rehabilitation managers and facilities and capture specialists.

The oil spill involves a ruptured drilling platform approximately 50 miles off the Louisiana coast. The drilling rig, the Deepwater Horizon, exploded on April 20, 2010 and sank in 5,000 feet of water.

The leak continues to spill oil into Gulf waters and BP has made some progress in plugging the gush of crude from the ocean floor. So far, experts believe the amount of oil in the water has surpassed the 11 million gallons spilled during the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster.

May 18, 2010

Day 16: Search continues for oiled Gulf birds

Here’s the latest Gulf Oil Leak update from Jay Holcomb:

Yesterday was a hot but clear day in the Gulf of Mexico and it was a good day for the teams to get out in the field in all areas. In Louisiana the teams spotted many oiled terns and gulls that are still able to fly and will be working with teams from the USDA and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) to see if it is possible to capture them with net guns. They also saw a lot of oil impacting the shore in the South Pass area of the Mississippi River basin. The crews witnessed a large fish kill and unusual floating blobs of oil below the surface of the water. It is assumed that it is oil mixed with dispersant but not confirmed. The situation is disturbing to all of us but we are working within the current structure to provide the best services that we can to help capture and rehabilitate oiled birds. 

In Louisiana we received another Northern Gannet that workmen plucked out of the water in one of the oiled areas. We also received an oiled Laughing Gull and an Oiled Starling. Although all the centers are receiving rehab birds, birds with other injuries but not oiled, no other oiled birds from this spill were captured.

I have been asked to compare this spill with the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill many times by the media. The obvious similarities are that large amounts of oil have leaked into a marine environment and therefore the ecosystem is as risk. A few of the differences are:

1. Alaska has hundreds of thousands of surface rafting (resting), diving and feeding birds, (Puffins, Murres, Auklets, Cormorants, Loons etc.) The Gulf of Mexico has fewer surface rafting birds but more plunge feeding birds (pelicans, gannets, terns) but the pelicans and terns spend a lot of time roosting on the outer islands and not on the water. So, impact of large rafts of these birds is unlikely. It’s more a case of individual birds plunging into oily water which is why we are getting gannets and pelicans.

2. The warm weather here allows oiled birds that are still flighted to stay warm for longer periods of time whereas even the smallest amounts of oil that penetrate to the skin of birds in cold climates puts them at immediate vulnerability to hypothermia and therefore death.

3. In Alaska there were many predators such as bald eagles and bears who took many of the oiled birds before we could get to them. In the gulf we do not have those predators on the outer islands but there are coyotes and raccoons on some of the islands.

We now have received 15 oiled birds since this incident began.

Thanks for your interest in our efforts,

– Jay Holcomb, IBRRC Executive Director

International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC) is working with the main responder, Tri-State Bird Rescue of Delaware. IBRRC has about 20 response team members on the ground including veterinarians, wildlife rehabilitation managers and facilities and capture specialists.

The oil spill involves a ruptured drilling platform approximately 50 miles off the Louisiana coast. The drilling rig, the Deepwater Horizon, exploded on April 20, 2010 and sank in 5,000 feet of water.

The leak continues to spill oil into Gulf waters and BP has made some progress in plugging the gush of crude from the ocean floor. So far, experts believe the amount of oil in the water has surpassed the 11 million gallons spilled during the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster.

May 17, 2010

Day 15: From the center of Gulf oiled bird care

After a very small break this weekend in Louisiana, Jay Holcomb is back with his daily updates from the BP Deepwater Horizon Gulf Oil Spill response:

Louisiana – On Saturday we had a visit from Ken Salazar, the Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior. Rebecca Dunne from Tri-State Bird Rescue and I gave him a tour through the Fort Jackson Center and allowed him to get a close up view of our team washing the latest oiled Brown Pelican that we received. The female pelican is a two year old that is a very sweet bird found in Grand Isle to the west of us. She is now outside with the other pelican and doing well, both are eating a lot of fish. 

For the last two days our capture teams in Louisiana were mostly grounded due to intense thunderstorms and lightning strikes on the water. Not safe! We took this time to check out land based pelican and tern roosting areas but no oiled birds were spotted.


The reports we are getting now are about birds out in the deep water oiled areas and on some of the islands but you have to have safe access to those areas. We are wading through politics and weather to get to those places to assess and capture oiled birds.

Yesterday afternoon we did receive an oiled Gannet that was luckily plucked out of the water by a fishing boat that was coming back to the harbor. Its an adult Northern Gannet, heavily oiled and will be washed today. (Photo, above, oiled Northern Gannet)

Alabama – Our oiled bird rehabilitation center in Alabama received 7 sick non-oiled, lethargic brown pelicans and 1 laughing gull from that area. They were discovered soon after a fish die off in the area and there are concerns that they may have botulism and it may be connected to the fish die off. 5 pelicans and the gull are still alive and they are temporarily being cared for at that facility until plans for their transfer to a rehab facility are completed.

Mississippi
– Our center in Gulfport received an oiled Gannet on Saturday and it is doing well. The bird will be washed soon. The center development and problem solving is coming along well.

Florida – Our center in Pensacola received an oiled gannet on Saturday also and it is doing well. The bird will also be washed soon.

Back at Home at our California Bird Rescue centers– It has taken a few weeks for us to get the wildlife centers on line here in the Gulf states and get a handle on this program and to understand and infiltrate ourselves into how its all working in this spill. In the mean time our centers at the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas are in spring mode and getting busier by the day. In that sense this spill could not have come at a worse time.

In order to support our staff and volunteers back at home in Cordelia (Northern California) and San Pedro (Southern California) we are hiring on extra summer help at both centers to make sure that the clinics are supported and run as smoothly as possible.

Also, we will probably be shifting our main clinic rehabilitation staff out to give each of them opportunities to work in the Gulf. We will be evaluating and are developing this plan daily as things progress here in the Gulf and we gain a better idea as to how long we may be staying. I will post more on how we are managing the spill, the centers back home as I have something to more to report.

Thanks for your continued support and words of encouragement,

– Jay Holcomb, IBRRC Executive Director

International Bird Rescue is working with the main responder, Tri-State Bird Rescue of Delaware. IBRRC has about 20 response team members on the ground including veterinarians, wildlife rehabilitation managers and facilities and capture specialists.

The oil spill involves a ruptured drilling platform approximately 50 miles off the Louisiana coast. The drilling rig, the Deepwater Horizon, exploded on April 20, 2010 and sank in 5,000 feet of water. More than 100 workers scrambled off the burning rig in lifeboats. 11 workers are missing and presumed dead.

May 17, 2010

AP video: Cleaning Oiled Pelican in Louisiana

Response Team members, including IBRRC’s Heather Nevill, clean an oiled Brown Pelican Saturday at Fort Jackson, Louisiana Oiled Wildlife Center after being rescued at the BP-Deepwater Horizon oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico.

U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar (baackground in video) visited the center over the weekend to see first hand how one of four rescue centers are setup to handle oiled wildlife. The Fort Jackson can handle 120 oiled birds. Other wildlife centers are up and staffed in Theodore, Alabama. Gulfport. Mississippi and Pensacola, Florida.

Note: Our Executive Director Jay Holcomb provides background narration in this AP Video Report.