Every Bird Matters
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Posts Tagged ‘owcn’

October 30, 2008

One year later: OWCN reflects on spill response

A very good update from the leader of the Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN) on the upcoming anniversary of the Cosco Busan oil spill:

“Wildlife Experts Reflect on Anniversary of Big SF Bay Oil Spill”

One year after leading the second-largest rescue and rehabilitation of oiled seabirds in recent California history, UC Davis wildlife health experts are busy preparing for the next major oil spill.

“Our care for the wildlife affected by the Cosco Busan spill in San Francisco Bay demonstrated the excellence of the Oiled Wildlife Care Network as a whole,” said UC Davis wildlife veterinarian Michael Ziccardi, who directs the network. “It showed that a trained staff of dedicated professionals and volunteers, using research-based medicine in pre-established facilities, can save the lives of hundreds of animals that otherwise would have died.”

However, the rescue operation also revealed areas in the program that could be improved, Ziccardi said. “The infrastructure in place in California, following our four core tenets of readiness, response, research and reaching out, is truly not matched anywhere in the world. But our mission is to provide the best care possible to oiled wildlife, and with each spill, we learn how to make the ‘best care possible’ better.”

Ziccardi directed the care of birds of 31 species that were injured when more than 53,000 gallons of fuel oil spilled from the container ship Cosco Busan into San Francisco Bay on Nov. 7, 2007. Of 1,068 oiled birds collected alive, 418 birds (38.5 percent) were saved and later released back to the wild.

While lower than the typical 50 to 75 percent release rate that the network averages for California spills, Ziccardi said he considers this a success because “the spill occurred in the winter months (when birds are in poor condition), affected very stress-sensitive species, and affected a lot of birds — each of which makes it very difficult to repair the damage the oil causes.”

The injured birds were treated at the San Francisco Bay Oiled Wildlife Care and Education Center in Fairfield, a 12,000-square-foot, $2.7 million facility capable of caring for up to 1,000 sick birds. It is the major Northern California rescue center in the statewide Oiled Wildlife Care Network, which is made up of 12 facilities and 25 local organizations that stand ready to care for oiled wildlife on short notice.

Read the full OWCN report online

Note: IBRRC is a leading member of OWCN and co-manages two of its main oiled wildlife response centers in California: Fairfield and San Pedro. More info

November 22, 2007

Finding time to be thankful

If any oil spill can have a silver lining, it’s this: There’s an incredible amount of caring, dedicated people in California trying their best to look after the animals harmed during this tragedy.

Nearly EVERY organization in the 25 member Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN) sent staff and volunteers to work on this spill. They joined up with vets from UC Davis to access, wash, fortify, hydrate and care for the hundreds of birds that flowed into the International Bird Rescue and Research Center in Cordelia, CA. Other volunteers stepped up to transport oiled birds to the center and still more have been in the field to directing search and collection crews to more oiled avian victims.

The public has been moved to action with time, money and other donations. A resourceful fourth grader from Berkeley, Haley Gee, pleading for money to help the birds, captured people’s sentiment exactly: “Mother nature is sick. We need to help her. So do something!”

As volunteers and staff continue to work with determination this Thanksgiving Day. They’re readying birds for an upcoming release at Point Reyes. So far, over 120 birds have completed the rehabilitation cycle and have been set free; more are scheduled this week.

This is not easy work. Many oiled birds have died in the field and others have succumbed in treatment. It’s a race against time and circumstance and sometimes the outcome is less than desired. But most wildlife rescue folks don’t give up easily.

Government bureaucracies are not always on the side of helping slow spreading oil slicks or quickly helping endangered animals, but the clear fact is that we work with what we have and learn from mistakes made.

Pontificating politicians don’t provide much solace. But if the people of the Bay Area are any indication, this spill will galvanize spirit, resolve and resources to work on making sure the next time oil darkens these local waters, and it will, the response will be swifter and better thought out.

That’s a silver lining we should work toward and hopefully in the end, find greater thanks.

Listen to Podcast: PBS News Hour report

November 14, 2007

Donating to OWCN and network partners

From the Oiled Wildlife Care Network:

“We want to make it clear that the costs associated with this current response will be paid by the party responsible for spilling the oil.

If you would like to make a donation to the OWCN and its participating organizations for ongoing oiled wildlife care and rehabilitation activities, you can do so by sending a check to the Wildlife Health Center Foundation, P.O. Box 298, Davis, California, 95616. These donations will be used to prepare for oil spills in the western United States and internationally.”

OWCN online donation

Participating organizations in the OWCN also accept donations individually, including IBRRC. You can find more information about them these great organizations here.

November 14, 2007

What others are saying and seeing

Contra Costa Times video report

Gary Bogue’s blog on IBRRC’s efforts

Green clean: SF Chronicle

Accidents happen: CW Nevius

November 14, 2007

Being grateful for what we have in California

From Jay Holcomb, International Bird Rescue’s Executive Director:

I am resting for a minute so I thought I would write a very short update for the blog. First, thank you all for your well wishes and support. We are so grateful to the people who have contributed their time or money to this effort and to IBRRC’s other programs.

New Video report by Contra Costa Times

Secondly, although this is another horrible oil spill impacting the birds we all love to see in our wonderful bay, I want to say to you that we have something unique in this state that no one else has and that we should all be grateful for. I am and maybe that is because I have been through the horror of trying to care for oiled birds in funky disgusting old buildings that were called “emergency bird treatment facilities”. They never worked!

Since 1990 we now have a state mandated program, the Oiled Wildlife Care Network, OWCN, that allows us to provide the “best achievable care” for oiled birds in Califonia. IBRRC is a member participant of the OWCN and we manage two large oiled birds facilities in the state for the network. The center we are working in during this spill is our headquarters based in Cordelia, CA. The other facility is in San Pedro, CA, near Long Beach. We love both facilities and after years of working out of warehouses and horrible make-shift emergency centers that very much limited our ability to care for oiled birds, a day does not go by that I am not grateful for what we have in this state.

IBRRC was one of the first groups in the world to even try to rehabilitate oiled birds way back in 1971 when two oil tankers collided in the fog in San Francisco Bay. And now we’re veterans of over 200 oil spills. Can you believe it?

It is hard to imagine we have been all over the world and managed the oiled bird rescue and rehabilitation programs at the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the Treasure oil spill in Cape Town, South Africa where the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and IBRRC jointly worked with local groups to save over 21,000 oiled penguins. Yes, 21,000 penguins and we had remarkable 95% release rate in that spill.

But no where else in all these spills and all these countries do they have a program that coordinates concerned and trained people like our response team and builds and helps maintain state of the art oiled bird rehabilitation facilities. It is only here in California that this is ready and available for use in these tragic spills.

So even though we are ALL fed up with politics and bureaucracy, I just want to point out that at least we have this great program for the birds that live or fly through our state.

That is if for now. We are posting pictures so that you can see the birds we are caring for and we will keep people updated as this spill progresses.

Thanks again for all your support,

Jay Holcomb, IBRRC

November 11, 2007

Birds always come first


From Jay Holcomb, IBRRC’s Executive Director:

Many of you are asking, “What can I do to help during the oils spill and beyond?” We hope you will read this and that it will help answer some of your questions. We have a very small staff and we are attending to our patients, so the phone at our clinic may go unanswered. At IBRRC, the birds come first.

Here is some concise information about what is going on behind the scenes:

The spill is managed by the California Department of Fish & Game’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR) and the Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN). href=”http://www.ibrrc.org” target=”_blank”>IBRRC, a key participating member of the OWCN, manages the two large regional oiled bird rehabilitation centers in the state based in Cordelia, The San Francisco Bay Oiled Wildlife Care Center and San Pedro, The Los Angeles Oiled Bird Care and Education Center.

State and Federal Park wardens and employees are also assisting in the effort. Members of IBRRC’s oil spill response team are a key part of OWCN’s efforts to rescue and care of oil spill victims. Our response team includes wildlife rescue professionals who have trained and responded throughout the world.

As of Thursday evening, November 15th, 951 live birds are in care at The San Francisco Bay Oiled Wildlife Care Center in Cordelia. Members of our team are working extremely hard to find and save as many avian victims as humanely possible. We’ve been able to wash nearly 400 birds of oil.

Although it is heartbreaking to have an oil spill happen in our own backyard, there is one good factor and that is that animals affected by this spill, including marine mammals, are being cared for by people who are the leading experts in the field of oiled wildlife rehabilitation. We are passionate and dedicated to helping aquatic birds and waterfowl. It’s what we do and if you can’t do the work, then support the people who do. That’s really what matters.

Oiled birds are covered in a thick heavy petroleum substance. They are hypothermic. They beach themselves because they are cold Water birds stay warm because their feathers act as insulation. When oil gets on their feathers and sticks to their body, it is like a rip in a diver’s wetsuit. They attempt to preen the oil off instead of feeding and eventually they become cold (hypothermic) and attempt to get out of the water. Some birds cannot walk on land due to the placement of their legs. Rescuers are viewed as predators, so the birds become even more stressed when rescue attempts are made. The oil may also cause skin and eye irritation.

It’s been documented that even a small spot of oil on the bird’s feathers can kill a seabird. Please read: How oil affects birds.

The first thing wildlife professionals do is warm the birds and give them fluids because they are assumed dehydrated, and keep them in a dark quiet box that has ventilation. Here’s our procedures in detail. Here’s our procedures in detail.

When they are stable enough for transport, they are driven to IBRRC which is located in the San Francisco Bay Oiled Wildlife Care and Education Center at 4369 Cordelia Road in Cordelia, CA.

Upon intake, the birds undergo specific procedures required for oil spill victims, including being numbered and photographed. Blood work is done to determine their internal condition. They are weighed, tube fed fluids and put into warm boxes in an area separate from non-oiled birds.

The birds are not washed until they meet specific criteria established for spill victims of their species. This includes determination through blood work, weight and observation of the bird’s behavior to determine if the bird is strong enough to endure washing, a stressful experience that can take up to half an hour. Read Frequently Asked Questions

Birds are washed with Dawn dishwashing liquid using special nozzles, toothbrushes and Waterpiks. Dawn is used because it works the best and fastest removing oil from feathers while being safe for the birds and people washing them. Proctor and Gamble the makers of Dawn donate many of their products to IBRRC and have for many years. See story

After rinsing, they are placed in quiet covered boxes with warm air dryers. They begin to preen their feathers back into place and rest. They are checked continually to make sure all the oil has been removed. They then go into warm water therapy pools to continue preening and realigning their feathers. When deemed strong and waterproof, they will be placed in the cold water pools to self feed and rehabilitate. When release criteria are met, they are banded and released into non-spill affected areas.

This labor of love is backbreaking work, but we love what we do. If you want to help us here are some things you can do now:

DONATE YOUR TIME: There is nothing more valuable than your time. Please fill out our online volunteer application. If you have special skills please note them. If we need you, we will call you. Be patient, we have a large number of volunteers helping already, but we may need more. This depends on how long the spill lasts and the number of birds we get in.

DONATE MONEY:Consider contributing as an annual donor to a non-profit wildlife rehabilitation organizations like The International Bird Rescue Research Center, IBRRC. For a full list of participating members of the Oiled Wildlife Care Network, OWCN,, go to the OWCN website list. See also the full list of wildlife rehabilitation organizations that help all of California’s wildlife, you can find it on the website for California Council for Wildlife Rehabilitators (CCWR).

DONATE ITEMS: We often need supplies, towels, tools, services and labor. Please fill out what you can provide on the volunteer form. If you’re a massage therapist or you’re good at organizing coffee and food donations or you have other practical skills to help the army of volunteers get through this spill, please offer to help.

WINGS ON WHEELS and other IBRRC ongoing efforts to care for California’s wildlife: :
We are desperate for help in this program! Please visit our webpage and determine if you can help transport birds from other centers to our center in Cordelia. Driver’s needed

On behalf of our staff, the hundreds of volunteers helping during this spill, thank you!

– Jay Holcomb, IBRRC Executive Director

[Editor’s note: Jay Holcomb has 35 years of oil spill experience and leads bird rescue’s highly experienced wildlife responders.]

The Oiled Wildlife Care Network is a legislatively mandated program within The California Fish and Game, Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR) which strives to ensure that wildlife exposed to petroleum products in the environment receive the best achievable treatment by providing access to permanent wildlife rehabilitation facilities and trained personnel for oil spill response within California. California’s two key centers, located in Cordelia and San Pedro, California are managed by International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC) under the direction of Jay Holcomb. The OWCN is managed statewide by the UC Davis Wildlife Health Center, a unit of the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine under the direction of Dr. Mike Ziccardi.

November 10, 2007

Enough volunteers?

The latest posting on the OWCN website claims its got “enough volunteers for the next day or so…” This may be surprising to some, but there’s a lot of trained folks in the state’s oiled wildlife network that usually get the first nod – especially if they’ve been through the myriad of trainings that OWCN and IBRRC put on each year throughout the state.