Bye Bye Baby!

Our great OWCN staff at International Bird Rescue released “the baby” this week with great fanfare (not to mention a lifeguard escort). Because few of us here in San Pedro had experience with fledgling cormorants, the baby provided both entertainment (those adorable squeaky sounds!) and education. We consulted with folks who have more experience with cormies at this age, so we all learned a little something.

The baby Brandt’s went from a fluffy puffball to a sleek, streamlined cormorant in the weeks he’s been with us, but that hasn’t stopped us from continuing to refer to him as a baby. I guess it is always hard to admit it when your baby grows up!

Kelly got some fantastic photos of his release, which as I mentioned included a boat escort by the Cabrillo Beach lifeguards so he could be released out on the water. A big shout-out to the lifeguards for helping to get this guy home!

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Here he was as a fluffy baby.


Here he is heading out of the carrier.


Here he is getting ready to take the big plunge.















And here he is in the water!


A Loud Good-bye

2015-06-25 12.22.48Guess who went home today? I’ll give you a hint: it wasn’t a quiet exit. That’s right, we released Grebey today! I heard him (yes, we measured his bill and discovered that despite our use of the feminine pronoun, he was a male after all) scream as he came out of the pool, and he screamed again while getting weighed, and then again going into the carrier.

Surprisingly, he was silent as Kelly took him out of carrier at the beach and placed him in the water. Perhaps he sensed the solemnity of the occasion. He looked around for a few minutes as he swam away from us, and then he started diving and looking like a proper grebe. That the was cue for his entourage of staff and volunteers to head back to the center for lunch.

Grebey, or Green 10, was the first non-pelican affected by the Refugio spill to be released. On Saturday, we’ll be releasing several more pelicans at Goleta Beach, so if you’re in the area, please join us. Thanks to everyone who participated in the OWCN response to make the release of these birds possible!


8-hr HAZWOPER Refresher

Our 8-hr HAZWOPER refresher is currently available for OWCN responders.  Please read all of the following information, as our registration process is slightly different this year.

HazWOPERpicYOU MUST ALREADY BE IN THE OWCN RESPONDER DATABASE TO ACCESS OUR REFRESHER.  Log into your OWCN responder profile, and go to the “Sign Up” tab.  In the “Sign Up” tab, you will find the three modules.  Make sure you sign up for all three!  Once you sign up, you will find the activity listed in your “Assignments” tab.  Hover over the activity title with your mouse to bring up a box containing a link to the module.  When you click on the link, you will be taken to the Adobe sign in page, where you will enter your username (email address and password).  Due to the ongoing spill response, we will be providing extra time for the refresher this summer.  The refresher will be available through July 31st.  Please remember that even though the refresher is open until July 31st, if you took it in June last year, your certificate expires on July 1st of this year.  If it expires and we have another spill, you will not be eligible to respond in the hot zone!

logocircleA couple troubleshooting notes that we frequently see:

1.  For you veteran Adobe users, don’t forget that if you have password trouble and reset your password, please wait at least an hour for the reset to take place before you try to log back in.

2.  Make sure you have a reliable, fast internet connection, or you may encounter problems with slides loading and viewing properly.

3.  If you have trouble advancing the slide, sometimes slower browsers prevent the slide from fully loading.  The “next” button is still there, it just hasn’t shown up yet.  Try hovering your mouse around the lower center and right part of the screen.  When the cursor changes, you are over the “next” button, and can click to advance.

4.  When you take the quiz at the end you must click the “submit” button for your score to be recorded.  The screen will go blank after that.  That is normal – a blank screen after you click “submit” means we have your score!

5.  Do not review your exam questions or open the module to any slide after you submit your quiz score.  This will reset the module and will erase your score.

For technical questions, email me ( or Steph (  Thank you all for your patience, and happy refreshing!


Refugio Incident Marine Mammal Updates

Hi All – Please enjoy the guest blog written by Tiffany Fisher from SeaWorld.  One of the OWCN’s primary care facilities for oiled marine mammals is the Oiled Wildlife Care Center (OWCC) which is housed at SeaWorld in San Diego.  The OWCC was activated for primary care of oiled marine mammals during the Refugio Incident, and has been staffed with well trained SeaWorld employees. – Becky

SeaWorld workers caring for an oiled sea lion pup at the OWCN's Oiled Wildlife Care Center.  Photo By: SeaWorld

SeaWorld workers caring for an oiled sea lion pup at the OWCN’s Oiled Wildlife Care Center.
Photo By: SeaWorld

With things finally slowing down here at the OWCC I wanted to give everyone a recap of how things are going here on the marine mammal side of things. Thus far, we have received over 40 animals to care for from the Refugio Beach Incident, mostly California Sea Lions, but with 6 Elephant Seals, and 1 Harbor Seal as well.  Many of the young sea lion have been arriving very thin and extremely dehydrated.

Since the spill started those of us that have been through the training have been completely immersed in the “oil Spill world.”  For most of us here, this is our first spill.  I have to say it is definitely harder doing the “real thing” than just doing the trainings and webinars! In the beginning we were receiving multiple animals in each and every day and we were quickly running out of space at the OWCC.  So we got creative and went to the store and bought some large outdoor livestock pens, and those have been amazing.  The OWCC was quickly transformed into a lean mean marine mammal cleaning machine!!

An oiled sea lion pup from the Refugio Incident getting washed by SeaWorld staff at the OWCN's Oiled Wildlife Care Center. Photo By: SeaWorld

An oiled sea lion pup from the Refugio Incident getting washed by SeaWorld staff at the OWCN’s Oiled Wildlife Care Center.
Photo By: SeaWorld

The cleaning process went really well for the marine mammals.  We used the pre-treatment on some of the tough tars spots and then an all over body scrub.  All the animals got to soak in a nice warm bubble bath!  Most of the animals we received just required one wash but some with more stubborn oil spots received two or three washes.

After getting cleaned at the OWCC and deemed “clean” by our vet team, we then transported the animals over to our Stranded Animal area. While unfortunately we weren’t able to save all of the animals, it is great to walk by there now and see how much progress many of them have made.

Overall working on the marine mammal recovery side of the oil spill has been such a rewarding and learning experience.  I have worked with our beached animal program before but adding the oiling element makes it much more of a challenge.  We have had so many hard working animal care staff working long, hard hours to take care of these animals that were affected by the spill, as well as all of our staff performing the many necropsies for those animals we could not save.


Everyone loves “the baby”!

We have a baby here in the San Pedro facility . . . . a baby cormorant, that is. He came in oiled, but has now been washed and is fluffy and very, very cute. Everyone refers to him as “the baby cormie,” or simply, “the baby.”

He (or she) makes cute little squeaky noises — and so do many of us, as we gush about how adorable he is. Although habituation is a concern, he’s likely old enough to know he’s a cormorant (a Brandt’s), and we are of course taking extra precautions to ensure he doesn’t like us too much. That doesn’t stop us from liking him, though!

Oil spills are serious, and caring for wildlife is serious, but sometimes, you need an excuse for some levity, and “the baby” has provided us with that during this spill. Here he is, hanging out in a waterfowl pen. I hope you agree that it is impossible not to love a baby cormorant!2015-06-05 13.40.56


An Intricate Web: Notes from the Field, part 2

Today I go home. 22 days, 7 hotel moves, 4 moves of our staging area for field operations (Refugio State Beach, El Capitan, San Buenaventura, McGrath), 222 birds collected (live and dead, as of June 10) and 134 marine mammals (live and dead, as of June 10). It has been quite a ride. Before this, I had never been part of such a large scale oil spill response. Yes, I have taken countless trainings in Incident Command System, I have participated in more drills than I can count, and in general, we spend most of our working day talking and planning what to do when a spill happens. But as “they” say (and it is true), each spill is different, and it is impossible to prepare for every single aspect that may be thrown at you. In that sense, this was the best drill ever, although it wasn’t a drill – it was the real thing. There will be many lessons learned about this spill.

Every time we participate in a spill or drill, we have what is called a “hotwash” after it is over. This is where we make lists and talk about everything that went right during the spill or drill (positives), and things that we need to improve upon (our deltas – a soft way of saying “negatives”).  It is going to take weeks, months, and years to work this one out because this spill certainly had it all. So even though our work in the field is coming to an end, in many ways our work is just beginning. I look forward to being a part of this next phase.

Beach at San Buenaventura on my last day.

Beach at San Buenaventura on my last day.

So as I leave, I look back on it all. Like an enormous web, the wildlife aspect is just one small part of the whole spill response. It is truly amazing to learn about all the different elements that work in unison to move the response forward. I feel really proud about the job we have done, rescuing the animals in need and collecting the ones that have died (important for assessing the overall impact of the spill), but we did not work in isolation.

In order to do our job, it was essential to have the support of the Wildlife Branch at the Incident Command Post. Each day we would let them know what was needed for us to do our job, and like magic, they would make it happen: new kennels, more staff, new staging areas, lots of ice. These were just some of the requests we made over the last three weeks. And they had their own job to do – getting information from us about what we were seeing and what we were collecting and passing that information along to the rest of the response. And like I said before, the Wildlife Branch is just one small aspect of the entire web of response. We also had the essential support of our Volunteer Coordinator and our Administrative staff, who worked with us every day to find enough trained people to help us out, and found them hotel rooms. Not a small task. And then of course, our work in the field would not have counted for anything had it not been for the A team on the other side: the people that stabilized the animals and the ones that took care of them after they arrived at the primary care facility. And let’s not forget about our transporters. They spent hours and hours, most of this in LA and San Diego traffic, just to get the animals to the care they needed.

As things in the field slow down, Jack Ames and Erica Donnelly-Greenan take a much needed break.

As things in the field slow down, Jack Ames and Erica Donnelly-Greenan take a much needed break.

Now I really must go pack, but before I do, one final thought: just as waves keep washing upon the shore, we will continue to have oil spills (as long as we are dependent on this stuff). But I leave with the knowledge that we have done our best, but we have a long road ahead of us to learn how we can improve for next time. Because there will be a next time. I feel truly privileged to have been a small part of this web.


Updates You’ve Been Waiting For . . .

Well here she is, a star! Western grebe Green 10, or Grebey as we call her here, is doing great. She’s living full time in the pool and maintaining both her weight AND her attitude. We always know when she’s inside for a weight check because she announces her presence (and her displeasure!). She’s got some burns on her feet from the oil, so we’re waiting impatiently for those to heal so we can send her home. .  2015-06-01 11.53.02

Blue One is continuing to improve and progress through the rehabilitation process. He was rewashed due to some residual oil on his feathers, and he tolerated that just fine. He definitely needs plenty of TLC, but he seems to have recovered from his medical issues. Well, okay, he’s still clumsy, but maybe that’s just him! Like Grebey, he’s living full time outside and maintaining his weight like a good pelican should. I don’t have a good picture of him yet (the light wasn’t quite right to capture his handsomeness), but I thought you might enjoy this photo of hungry pelicans waiting for their breakfast.

2015-06-01 11.50.50 It’s truly a privilege to see these guys recovering, and I’m grateful to have a front-row seat. None of this would be possible without the support of our fabulous OWCN member organizations, and more specifically, the volunteers and staff from those organizations who’ve actually done the work. I really can’t thank them enough.