Another Tough Week But Some Good News, Too (From Audubon to my Inbox)

As we all know, even guarded optimism regarding BPs efforts last week to stop the Gulf oil leak turned out to be misplaced. But once again there is at least a glimmer of hope on the horizon, with today’s news that efforts to place a containment cap over the well appear to have been more successful. That said, this is at best a short term and partial measure, as it would enable some of the spewing oil to be siphoned to a tanker on the surface.

Meanwhile, NOAA has expanded the Gulf’s “no-fishing” zone, oil has reached Alabama’s Dauphin Island and begun washing up on north Florida beaches, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has confirmed oiled birds from Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. Details are sketchy but you can see the lastest US Fish and Wildlife report on captured and dead wildlife here (PDF). Although not every captured or dead bird is a result of the spill, this presents an important picture of impacts on wildlife.

Melanie Driscoll, Director of Bird Conservation, LAThis crisis is clearly going to be with us for many months to come — and beyond — with a long-term solution not anticipated before relief drills can be completed in August. Audubon’s Melanie Driscoll highlighted some of the recovery’s challenges for Audubon magazine’s blog. However, as anyone who is following the latest developments and the recent photos from the spill can attest, you don’t need to be on location to feel heartbreak and even despair as you see its toll on wildlife.

As the crisis deepens, so does the need for a multi-pronged and coordinated response. Fortunately, Audubon’s Oil Spill Volunteer Response Center (learn more here), launched in Moss Point, Mississippi this week, will enable us — and many of our committed volunteers — to play an increasingly important role in that response.

The center will serve as the hub for our recovery effort throughout the Gulf. Under the direction of Sean Saville, National Field Director for Audubon, volunteers are already staffing the center and scheduling other volunteers in a range of essential tasks, including assisting in the transport of injured and oiled birds, creating transport cages, and answering the center’s Bird Hotline.

Here are a few excerpts from one volunteer’s account of her time helping to ready oiled birds for transport:

“While there I put together pet taxi’s. Tie wraps work so much faster and easier than the screws 🙂 Since there aren’t any large animals going into the pet taxi’s, a tie wrap on each corner is enough to hold them together. I placed the oil absorbant pads in the bottom…I was put in charge of making sure all the incoming birds were labeled with the coordinates where it was picked up. I wrote the coordinates on paper and gave it a number which I wrote on a piece of duck tape and stuck on the pet taxi. That way I remembered what boat the birds came off of in case there was a question…Thanks for giving me chance to experience this. I really enjoyed today and look forward to tomorrow.”

We will be ramping up this week, ensuring that dedicated and trained volunteers, like Christine above, are on hand to meet the evolving needs of the recovery effort. Here is some of what they will be doing:

* Volunteer Response Center Staff — scheduling volunteers, identifying and coordinating engagement with new projects, logistical support, arranging training, office management, etc.
* Coastal Bird Survey — collecting data and photos on bird resources and impacts across the coast according to specific scientific protocols.
* Wildlife Transport Facilitator — assisting USFWS and Tri-State Bird Rescue with round-the-clock shifts in key locations for injured/oiled wildlife recovery and transport operations throughout the coastal region.
* Bird Capture and Rescue Materials — volunteers are needed to make nets, cages and other materials to assist trained professionals in oiled bird rescue efforts.
* Citizen Science Monitoring — submitting electronic information on birds sightings at Important Bird Areas, refuges or sanctuaries to assess population impacts, numbers of target species or species of concern.
* Bird Hotline Operators — providing on-site bird expertise for our Volunteer Response Center as well as possibly in field offices of BP, Tri-State Bird Rescue and others involved in response efforts to address issues related to bird sightings, handling, species identification, etc.

Audubon is very grateful for our dedicated volunteers — and we simply can’t say that enough! It is important to know that even if you are not on the frontlines, it is your commitment that is making it possible for us to make a real difference — even in the face of this unprecedented challenge — for birds, wildlife and communities throughout the Gulf region.

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