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International Bird Rescue Research Center to the rescue: Seabirds in trouble.

By Gary Bogue
Tuesday, October 27th, 2009 at 7:55 am in Algae, International Bird rescue research Center, Seabirds.

Stranded by harmful sea foam, caged murres waiting to be checked in at IBRRC in Fairfield. (Paul Kelway/IBRRC)
murres1 paul kelway ibrrc

The International Bird Rescue Research Center needs your help. So do a lot of seabirds that are in BIG trouble.

I just got a call from my friend Jay Holcomb, executive director of International Bird Rescue Research Center.

Jay works out of IBRRC’s bird center in Fairfield. When the Cosco Busan hit the Bay Bridge on Nov. 7, 2007, and spilled oil in the Bay, the oiled birds were taken to IBRRC for care. In my opinion, Jay and his staff and volunteers are the best in the business when it comes to caring for oiled and distressed seabirds. Jay travels all over the world to assist and advise when there’s a big spill.

Boxes full of slimed seabirds arrive at IBRRC in Fairfield to get help. (Cheryl Reynolds, Concord)
ibrrc birds arrive

Right now, wildlife rescue centers in Oregon and Washington are overwhelmed with epidemic numbers of wet, cold and dying seabirds that have been soiled by an unusual sea slime.

Loon stranded by deadly sea foam along Oregon coast. (P. Chilton/Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team)

To give them a hand, on Sunday about 200 of the slimed seabirds were transported from Portland, OR, by van down to IBRRC in Fairfield. LOTS more are coming.

They’ve seen an increase in unusual events like this one, sparking concern. In Nov., 2007, hundreds of soaked marine birds were stranded in Monterey. IBRRC says what was then a mystery can now be blamed on an abundance of a certain phytoplankton — a harmful algae bloom. The cause for their growing abundance is still in question.

Surf scoter gets a bath (Cheryl Reynolds, Concord)
scoter washing cheryl

In this most recent case, a particular species of phytoplankton, typically seen off the California coastline, was found in northern waters in VERY high numbers, potentially linked to warmer than usual water temperature. Stormy weather churned the stuff into a soap-like foam. I’m told that for aquatic birds, this can be deadly.

Feather structure and overlapping alignment is what insulates a bird from water and wind. When something disrupts this, whether oil, dirt, or a surfactant like this, the bird is exposed to the elements and quickly becomes wet and cold. If they don’t get to land, they’ll drown. Many already have.

Washing slime off a surf scoter. (Cheryl Reynolds, Concord)
surf scoter wash cheryl

Because of the huge number of casualties, IBRRC is treating this emergency as an oil spill, with one significant difference — there is no oil. This means that there is no responsible party and therefore no financial support out there for their rescue effort.

“We are very fortunate that the State of California has created two incredible oiled wildlife rescue facilities and that they can be used to help these birds,” Jay said. “But since this is not an oil spill, IBRRC will need to pay the cost of transportation and care, so we are asking the public to please contribute and help us save these birds.”

They need your help to save these beautiful birds. IBRRC is a nonprofit organization and they need to find $50,000 to pay for their care (medication, food for the birds and other supplies and equipment). They can only do this with your help.

Loons sit on sponge “donuts” to protect their breast bones (keels) from sores. Feet also have booties for protection (Paul Kelway/IBRRC)
loons on donuts Kelway

You can give them that help they need by going online to where you’ll find different ways to donate:

Donate online via PayPal:

Donate by check or money order:

Other ways you can help:

You can also stay tuned and  keep up-to-date on what’s happening:

Please help, I suspect that everything they learn from caring for these birds, they will be able to apply to our own nearby coastline when this problem eventually happens again down here and local seabirds will need to be rescued and cared for from our own local shores. And I’m sure this will happen.

Thanks for caring! /Gary

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