I just talked to John who will reply tomorrow from his office.
I suggest that you focus on estimating the numbers of oiled birds of
each species coming ashore after the oil spill by gathering
information on: a) beached bird deposition rates; b) carcass
persistance rates; c) numbers of live oiled birds that come ashore and
are taken to rehabilitation centers; and d) description of the extent
of the oil spill at sea and when it affected coastal areas. It
probably will be too difficult to conduct aerial surveys of birds at
sea or run models to estimate the numbers of birds lost at sea. So
focus on trying to estimate how many birds of each species came
Three main data collection efforts are needed:
1) determine beached bird deposition rates and carcass persistance
rates by conducting counts of dead and live oiled birds on a sample of
beaches in different parts of the spill zone. This information is
vital to estimating overall numbers of birds that wash ashore on all
beaches. Every day (if possible) or every two days search for new
oiled birds that have come ashore and look for old oiled birds on the
sample beach. Make sure the beach or section of beach searched is
well marked on a map. Don't dig up old dead oiled birds but let them
stay on the beach as you first found them. Put a numbered tag on each
dead oiled bird when first found and leave it on the beach. Don't
allow anyone to remove dead oiled birds from these sample beaches. If
live oiled birds are removed, make sure that you document how many
birds of what species were removed and when. These counts of oiled
birds probably need to be conducted for a month at least. Avoid
getting oil on your hands or inhaling fumes if they are present!
2) conduct counts of beached birds on as many beaches as possible
throughout the spill zone. After birds have come ashore for some
days, conduct single counts of the numbers of dead and live oiled
birds on beaches. These single counts permit surveys over wide areas
in a few days with a small number of people. But make sure to
continue the daily surveys (mentioned above) at the same time. Make
sure that each bird is identified as best as possible to species. If
people doing counts cannot identify all species, then get personnel to
collect birds in plastic bags and bring them back to someone for later
identification. They can be frozen, if necessary or stored somewhere
where they will stink. Make sure that your counts are conducted
before people get onto beaches and try to clean up the dead bodies or
rescue live oiled birds.
3) tabulate the total numbers of live oiled birds that are collected
by the general public and taken to rehabilitation centers for
treatment. Most of these birds will die but they must be recorded
anyway. Live oiled birds will be treated at these centers but
information should be recorded on when they were removed from a beach
and where. If you can make sure that centers record how many birds of
each species they get, then you don't need to collate this information
until after the spill is over. Or get them to save and freeze their
dead birds for later identification.
4) the Coast Guard should be describing the extent of the oil at sea
and where it reaches land. So you should not have to worry about that
until after the spill is over.
Additional things to consider:
a) conduct a carcass drift experiment. Try to collect a sample of
dead oiled birds that are floating on the water. Put tags on the
birds and put them back in the water. When they wash up on shore in a
few days or weeks, people will find them and send information on where
and when the tag was found to the address on the tag (e.g. Japan Alcid
Society). John will address this more.
b) the science of oiled bird rehabilitation is not well developed. Most birds
die even after cleaning and release to the wild. You need specialized equipment
and experienced personnel to care for oiled birds which is very expensive. The
general public will want to try to care for and clean oiled birds anyway because
they want to do something to help the birds. Try and encourage these people to
collect live oiled birds and bring them to a veterinarian but after you have
conducted your single counts on many beaches throughout the spill zone. Make
sure that people are aware that oil is toxic. But the Japan Alcid Society should
spend most effort documenting the spill and estimating the numbers of birds
killed, not rehabilitation. I will talk to Scott Newman and get him to contact
you by email you, with regard to possible rehabilitation to do or euthanizing
birds. It might be worth trying to rehabilitate Japanese Murrelets if you are
going to put any effort into this.
Stay in touch and John and I will try to provide additional advice once you can
FAX us a map of the area involved and when you provide more questions. I'll FAX
you a copy of a paper on oil spills. John will send some papers too.
I presume you have read Kazama (1971) about mass mortality of the Japanese
Murrelet from an oil spill in the Japan Sea? Hopefully, this is not a repeat
The PSG meeting is in Portland. I'll be leaving on Tuesday 7 January in the
late afternoon and returning on Sunday 12 January. Email or call me before I
leave if you need more information now. John is not going to the PSG meeting so
you can contact him. Good luck!
Copyright(C)JAPAN ALCID SOCIETY. All rights reserved.
Compiled by Koji Ono firstname.lastname@example.org
Revised: 7 Jan. 1997