Bay Area Oil Spill A Disaster For Birds

November 11, 2007 on 4:19 pm | In Daily Local Birder | No Comments

image of birds that will be hurt by the Cosco Busan Oil Spill in Marin

Click to read a post identifying the birds shown above

Greetings Birders,
I write this post with a heavy heart. When the Cosco Busan crashed into the Bay Bridge this past week, every birder I know immediately thought of what this disaster would mean for the birds. This time last year, my husband and I spent hours out in West Marin. The painting, shown above, was my sampling of the fabulous number of migratory species present in places like the Bolinas Lagoon. Every year, millions of wonderful shore birds flock to Tomales, Bolinas, Point Reyes, Inverness, Stinson Beach and the rim of the SF Bay for the cold months. Long-billed Curlews, Willets, Avocets, Pin-tails, Wigeons, gulls of all kinds, pelicans, sandpipers and dozens of other species line the sands and to see them is to enjoy a miraculous, unforgettable sight. San Francisco Bay and Marin County are the vital destinations of these precious wild birds, and within hours of the tragic crash, reports have begun to come in about oiled birds throughout the region.

Groups including the Point Reyes Bird Observatory, the Oiled Wildlife Care Networkand the International Bird Rescue Research Center have quickly dispatched trained employees to collect and attempt to save the birds. The SF Chronicle ran a story saying that the 58,000 gallon oil spill would likely affect hundreds of birds; I call that estimate extremely low. My guess would be that thousands of birds will be sickened and killed by the toxic oil, and that our water and beaches will be fouled for years to come.

This Google Map of the Oil Spill will show you where the oil has currently spread to and gives some details about the birds who have been collected so far. The IBRRC reports 350 birds currently in their care. Many more have been found dead.

In addition to our beloved birds, November is whale migration season here. The whales will be swimming through the oil, as will seals, sea lions and other marine mammals. I keep thinking about the family of river otters who have recently taken up residence in Rodeo Lagoon – birders have been watching them with interest as the appear to have learned to hunt pelicans. I can’t help but think that the otters must be dead now. Really, the total effect of this disaster is almost too overwhelming for a simple nature lover like myself to comprehend. I only know that West Marin is one of my favorite places on earth, and to see it thus spoiled fills me with sorrow and anger.

We have got to find non-toxic alternative fuels. If commerce and government allows the health of all local waters to rest on the shoulders of a single ship’s pilot, then we need to find some way to make sure that his mistakes can’t ruin life for all of the inhabitants of the Bay Area. Had the Cosco Busan spilled 58,000 gallons of olive oil, corn oil, orange juice, hemp oil or what have you into our water, we might have a bit of a problem, but we would not have this unforgivable crisis on our hands with our migratory birds and local wildlife dying all around us.

Where I live, much of the public water comes from the Russian River. The Russian River connects up to the ocean. For sure, some of this oil will end up in humans, too, and it’s simply unacceptable that the mistake of a single human being could have consequences this far reaching.

The IBRRC says they currently have enough volunteers to accomplish their work. Lay persons are urged not to approach oiled wildlife because it will further stress the damaged birds and animals. You can visit this page for further information about this. If you are going to be in this part of the Bay Area over the coming months, you might want to keep the following numbers near your cell phone:

To report oiled wildlife: 877-823-6926

To report oil sightings: 985-781-0804

To inquire about volunteering: 800-228-4544

Last year, my husband and I spent New Year’s Day out on the Bolinas Lagoon, our hearts absolutely on fire with delight over the multitude of magnificent shore birds. This year, our country should be making a New Years resolution to stop the madness of our fuel oil dependence which has made us enemies around the globe and a devastating threat to the habitat we share with local birds and animals. We need to see that enough is enough. Our earth is too precious for this.

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