Showing posts from November, 2007

Some Video Footage

... The local CBS station shot some footage the day that Robb and I participated in the bird release. If you're interested, I'm at the very beginning of the segment, releasing a bird, and then grinning from ear-to-ear, and also at the very end, releasing a fast-flying black duck (a Surf Scoter) out of a blue cat carrier. You'll see a flash of curly brown hair on the left side of the screen, and my huge smile. At the end of the segment, you have to take it on faith that the slim woman in the jeans and black jacket is me. There's an ad at the beginning of the video, so be patient. You should be able to watch the film by clicking here .

Just when you think you're finished...

... It all starts up again. I went into the International Bird Rescue Research Center on Sunday, expecting to hear that things had stabilized, and that they would no longer be needing night-time volunteers. The professionals mobilized for the spill had gone home, and the volunteers were continuing to break down the emergency hospital. Shortly after I arrived, we were told that the Mystery Spill in Santa Cruz was continuing to affect birds, and that a van-load of birds was on its way up to the center, needing emergency care. It being a huge travel night, the birds did not arrive until about the time that I was going home. The staff of IBRRC was in for a long night. People called their families, saying that they would not be coming home. The sad fact is that just because one catastrophic event seems neatly wrapped up, and we're tempted to pat ourselves on the back and get back to our normal lives, the next crisis is right around the corner. We can't be complacent, because the

Heart's Desire, Healing and Freedom

... From the moment that I started working with the birds affected by the oil spill, it has been my dearest wish to be allowed to see a rehabilitated bird set free. Today, my wish came true. I was allowed to return healthy, wild birds to their homes. Robb and I got up early and drove out to Cordelia, where we loaded birds into our cars and drove over hill and dale to the beautiful and beautifully named Heart's Desire Beach on Tomales Bay . We spread the boxes out by the surf. And one by one, we set the birds free. Most of the thirty-one birds we released flew off together as quickly as their wings would carry them, but this juvenile Western Gull made us all laugh by strutting up and down on the shoreline before finally swimming away. All the work I've done with the birds has had double meaning for me. When I released the birds, I wished that they live a fine life in the wild, and are never again touched by human hands. I also wished that anyone going through a traumatic reco

I'm not the only one who feels this way

... Click here for article from the San Francisco Chronicle that does a great job of articulating some of the points from my recent rant. The point is this: the more "stuff" we consume, the more we exhaust the finite resources of our planet, the more we ruin habitat, the bigger mess we leave for future generations. Have you ever thought about just how many products are on the shelves of the local Target or WalMart or Macy's? Can you picture all that stuff off the shelves and piled in front of the shop? Have you ever considered the raw materials it takes to make all the stuff for sale? Have you ever thought about all the miles all those goods traveled, and how much fuel it took to bring those things to your local store? Have you ever thought about all the plastic and paper that it took to make the wrappings and hang-tags to display those goods? The paper was made of wood pulp, which means destruction of forests, and the plastic is a petroleum product. When you get th

Black Friday/Buy Nothing Day/A Holiday Rant

... The day after Thanksgiving "traditionally" marks the first day of the Christmas shopping season, but this year Christmas appeared on store shelves even earlier than usual. I was simultaneously delighted and appalled by seeing plastic Halloween lawn-display zombies displayed side-by-side with Christmas banners proclaiming "Peace." The perverse juxtaposition (intentional or not) appealed to my sick sense of humor. The thought of all the throw away plastic crap being sold in the name of "celebrating the season" turned my stomach. I would rather be beaten with sticks than venture anywhere near a store today. Frankly, I do best if I stay out of malls altogether at this time of year. I'm not a religious person, but I believe that Jesus would be horrified by the orgy of consumerism that has been tied to his birth. By now, Robb knows that when I start my rant out about how the Three Kings would have taken back their gifts to the Christ Child if they sa

Thanksgiving Snap Shots

... I'm just going to string together some photos of Thanksgiving Day at the rehab center, to give an idea of what we've been doing. This little Ruddy Duck sure looks cute, sitting on his fish basket, but to a trained rehabilitator, this is a distressing sight. The fact that it has "hauled out" of the water means that it is probably cold from not being fully waterproof. Sitting in its food will only make this situation worse, since the oils from the fish will further compromise the waterproofing of its feathers. This fellow was removed from the pool and allowed to dry out in a heated hospital pen. A Snowy Egret has been hanging around every day, hoping to score an easy meal. He's a fish thief. We keep the fish covered up, but he's very clever and persistent, and quite a moocher. As the emphasis of the care in the hospital shifts from stabilization and washing to preparing the birds for release, the staff members are switching jobs. Megan had been my superv

It never ends, does it?

... We had a lovely Thanksgiving day. I spent another day at the International Bird Rescue Research Center , and Robb baked an apple pie. Pie baking is a good cooking activity for Robb. Make the crust, put it in the fridge to cool, go lay down. Put pie in the oven, go lay down. We attended the annual vegan feast at Ashley's house, which was even nicer than last year. The day at IBRRC was sort of giddy. The bulk of the birds were outside paddling around in pools, and many are ready to release. People were no longer in emergency room mode. Some workers were breaking down parts of the hospital, and doing deep cleaning. I had another stab at organizing medical records. The catered Thanksgiving lunch raised spirits, as did the beautiful weather. There were actually news reporters buzzing around, filming stories on the volunteers who chose to work on Thanksgiving. I got to meet some of my fellow nature bloggers ( Feathers of Hope / Bird by Bird and Toad in the Hole ), which wa

It's Going Swimmingly

... You have to click on the photo shown above. It is a picture of the feet of a Western Grebe, one of the most common species oiled by the Cosco Busan oil spill. Look at that structure! Look at those toenails! Now, imagine working hundreds of these squirming beasties for days on end. In this photo, a Grebe's waterproofing is being assessed, and it is being given a general medical looking-over. If the bird looks healthy enough, it will spend the night with other healthy Grebes in a special outdoor swimming pool. The birds are wrapped in towels to limit contact from humans, and reduce stress on the animals. If there are concerns about the waterproofing a birds feathers, the bird will be kept in a heated pen (which Sheri and I built!) so that there is no risk of hypothermia. Because they needed to house so many birds, the rehab center rented a heatable tent, and last night I think about a hundred birds stayed in there. The birds sit on netting so that waste does not accumulate

For the Birds

... I've been wondering if the people who read this blog to check in on Robb's recovery are getting annoyed with reading about my work with the birds affected by the oil spill. I figure that the blog is usually about Robb's long recovery from a traumatic incident with a little bit of birding thrown in for spice. The last week and a half has been the opposite. Birds recovering from a traumatic event, with a bit of Robb for good measure. Hopefully, both the birds and Robb will make a good recovery! The focus at the rehab hospital has shifted. Most (but not all) of the oiled birds have been stabilized and washed. Of the ONE THOUSAND AND FIFTY birds brought into the center (not all of whom were oiled), seven hundred and forty have been washed, four hundred twenty four have died or were euthanized, and seventy three have been set free. Most birds at the rehab center are recovering in pens and pools and aviaries. That is a lot of birds. I heard that there were around four hu

The Effect of the Spill on Important Bird Areas

... The Audubon Society designates certain places as Important Bird Areas , and they have created a map that shows the impact of San Francisco Oil Spill on these areas. Sobering. (You can click on the map for a slightly larger image.)


Here is a great interactive map, documenting the effects of the recent San Francisco Bay oil spill. View Larger Map

What's the Flock?

Yesterday, I was far too busy to take pictures. However, since we are working with local birds, I have photos of many of them already. Perhaps it might be nice to look at some of our "hospital patients" in their natural habitats. What I mainly did yesterday was act as an assistant for a team of trained animal rehabilitators. Due to the complexity of this project (at this point, over a thousand live oiled birds have been brought in for care), I worked on a huge variety of tasks. I was at the center for eleven hours yesterday, which hardly compares to the hours that the more skilled workers have been putting in. Most of them have worked fifteen-to-eighteen hours a day since the oil spill. Since there are more pools and aviaries coming on line every day, we are busy with preparing these for the birds, and in some cases, moving the birds to more suitable pools. The birds have been through so many terribly stressful experiences, that we are trying to reduce their stress. O

Read All About It!

... I'm too tired to compose anything this morning, so I'm going to leave you with links to what others have written (or broadcast). The International Bird Rescue Research Center San Francisco Oil Spill News KRON 4 (great footage from the center where I've been working, and of the release of cleaned birdies) ABC 7 (ignore the ad at the beginning of the video) The San Francisco Chronicle National Public Radio The Monterey Bay Aquarium (which has one of my photos on their website) Click on the illustration for a larger view. ...

Fly Free, Wild Birds!

... On Friday, the first batch of birds affected by the San Francisco oil spill were released into the wild. Read all about it, here !

The Glamorous Work of Saving Oiled Wildlife

Sheri and I spent a day doing the heroic and heart warming task of compiling all the medical records for the birds that had been cleaned of oil, and had moved out of the drying rooms. I'm only being a little bit ironic, when I say that. The task was Herculean, and every single rehabilitator who saw what we were working on thanked us profusely. All of the birds' care had been faithfully recorded from the moment they entered care, but not all of the information had been transcribed onto individual records. We didn't quite finish our task, but when we left at the end of the day, the birds were much closer to all having unique medical records. Now a rehabilitator or vet can glance at a bird's medical file and see if to has gained or lost weight, or if the problems that they may be observing are long-standing or new. There have been over nine hundred oiled birds in care, and meticulous documentation is the key to tracking their recoveries. For those wondering, here are th

Everybody! Into the Pool!

... On Wednesday, both of the scene shop inters, Sheri and Mik worked on the Oiled Wildlife Response Team. Sheri and I worked in the pool area, and Mik was part of the construction crew. As part our many duties, Sheri and I transported birds between drying pens and rehab pools. I loved watching Sheri do this, because while you could see that she was being very, very careful, there was always an tiny but awesome smile playing across her face. I don't either of us can believe that we are actually caring for wild animals. Mik helps assemble three therapy pools, and worked on designing and building the support structure for another series of enclosed warm tanks. This is one of the pools that Mik and the construction crew put together. The pools were an instant success with the birds. As soon as the little eared and horned grebes were placed in the pool, they started a healthy, happy frenzy of grooming and cleaning. Everyone was completely charmed by this. You know that expression

"You Eat Like a Bird!"

... So, what does one feed over seven hundred hungry waterbirds? Lots and lots and lots of fish, for starters. The fish of choice is smelt , a small fish, notable for its lack of oiliness. It is imperative that birds under care are not exposed to oils which can affect their feather-waterproofing, and cause hypothermia. When oiled birds are first admitted to the oiled wildlife rehabilitation center where I have been volunteering, they are generally dehydrated and very hungry. Often they are too stressed to eat, so at first, the birds are given food and fluids through tube feeding. Of course, you cannot jam a fish (or anything else) into a tube and hope it will come out the other end into the bird's gullet. The birds' food has to be prepared. Just like in the old Saturday Night Live Bass-O-Matic skit , the fish goes into the blender, along with other nutritious yummies. There are two kitchens, working non-stop to prepare food for the hundreds of birds under care. One kitchen

Like Water Off a Duck's Back...

The International Bird Rescue Research Center in Cordelia California is an animal hospital whose primary focus is the care of oiled and injured waterfowl. This place is vast and truly impressive. The entire facility is set up for an emergency just like the one we're dealing with. There is a huge room for the intake and stabilization of birds, where all the workers wear HazMat suits. I am not trained in these procedures, and was happy to leave these tasks to the professionals. It is hot, disgusting, exhausting work. Once the birds are stabilized, they are washed. It typically takes forty five minutes and three hundred gallons of water to wash a bird. The birds are first treated with a solvent, and then they are washed with Dawn dish soap, which cuts through oil like nothing else. This is a terribly stressful experience for the birds. After washing, the leg bands that were put on when the birds were admitted are removed. Even after washing, these bands are contaminated with o