Saturday, May 01, 2010

Our birds are in good hands

People like Jay Holcomb and company

Dish soap in hand, Jay Holcomb and his team from the International Bird Rescue Research Center are ready to help our feathered friends survive the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Holcomb talks to Tonic — and shares thoughts on how you can help.

"Right now, it's quiet," Jay Holcomb says on his cell phone from the shore in Louisiana.

But is it the quiet before the storm?

"That's the million-dollar question," he says. "The oil's already starting to hit the shore. I don't know how bad and how far it's going to go."

Since the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico April 20, millions of gallons of oil have leaked into the sea. And while visions of the Exxon Valdez disaster, with shores full of dying, black-covered birds and marine life have rattled in everyone's heads ever since, the oil has — thankfully — stayed off-shore. Until now.

"We have one bird in already," says Holcomb. "A Northern Gannet." An elegant, white bird with black-tipped wings that has no business mucking around in mankind's black gold.

That one bird — being cared for on May 1 — may never know how lucky it was to land in the hands of the best of the best.

Holcomb, the executive director of California's International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC) since 1988, was on the ground after the Exxon Valdez cracked its hull, and has overseen more than 150 oil spill relief efforts around the globe. So whether they know it or not, in times of crisis, he's our feathered friends' best friend.

"You pay attention to what the currents and the wind are doing. There's all kinds of sophisticated equipment to track this stuff. But the reality is, as much as we all had our fingers crossed this week, mother nature is tricky," Holcomb says. "We have high tides. I could say, fairly certainly, that the potential for this being massive is there."

It's why the IBRRC has joined forces with Tri-State Bird Rescue & Research of Delaware and local organizations to mobilize in advance of the potential onslaught — getting washing trailers ready in more than one spot along the coast, and accepting shipments of cases of Dawn dishwashing detergent (still the preferred oiled-bird cleanser after all these years), donated by Proctor & Gamble.

read the whole story here.

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