Which Way Did They Go, George? Which Way Did They Go?

George and Junior in Red Hot Rangers
If you are my age, you remember the cartoons of the 1940s and 1950s. Last night I recalled a character who would ask “which way did they go, George, which way did they go?” I finally found him with a Google search. The two characters were George and Junior, and they were in MGM cartoons directed by Tex Avery in the 1940s. These characters were inspired by George and Lenny from Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. The latest chase for the missing oil reminds me of the George and Junior cartoon, Red Hot Rangers, where they were forest rangers “fighting” a fire.

Since the missing oil has been a topic of discussion here on BirdSpert, I thought that I might post a few of the latest articles. We have been told that the “Deepwater Horizon oil is different.” Yes, apparently it sinks. Here are a couple of recent reports.

Today, at a site about 16 nautical miles from the wellhead, we dropped the multicorer into a valley. When the instrument returned from the bottom, it contained something we had not seen before: a layer of flocculent, sedimented oil that was cm’s thick.

Gulf Oil Blog, UGA Department of Marine Sciences

Indeed, data collected by the Hatteras all day on 10 September along a transect some 40 nautical miles long, provided strong evidence of a new, shallower plume.

The Great Beyond from Nature

As to the projected impacts, here is an interesting story about Wes Tunnel’s work. Wes is head of the Texas A&M Harte Research Institute in Corpus Christi, and he has been studying the impacts of Ixtoc from 1979.

Tunnell said that harm caused by the lingering tar was evident, but also seemed limited. Algae coated it and crabs were not hesitant to crawl over it. But no corals were clinging to it, and sea grasses, killed by the crude’s initial incursion, had not returned.

This morning (Monday, 13 September), Bob Marshall of the Times-Picayune, reports that:

A new wave of black oil suddenly came ashore west of the Mississippi River on Friday and Saturday, coating beaches and fouling interior marshes, according to anglers’ reports.

Remember the Ted Williams’ article, the one that stated the three ifs (If major diversions reconnect the river with its floodplain, if one of BP’s two relief wells succeeds, and if the gusher has been plugged by the time you read this or soon thereafter, fish and wildlife will eventually gain more from new habitat than they lost to BP oil.)? The problem is that the damage is ongoing, and whether or not the well is plugged there is still oil in the Gulf.

Williams castigated “Plaquemines Parish president Billy Nungesser, who, committed as he is to the cause of his fellow victims, has a talent for saying the wrong things to national audiences.” This new oil is in Plaquemines Parish, and I wonder how Billy feels now that he has been thrown under the bus by Audubon and drenched with a new layer of old oil?

Laura Erickson posted this article by Craig Pittman from the St. Petersburg Times on her blog (please follow her blog; she has been following the gusher closely). The title of the story is “Bird rescue experts kept on sideline after gulf oil spill.” Here is a quote from the article:

The Deepwater Horizon disaster may have killed thousands of birds in the Gulf of Mexico and no one knows about it, say experienced wildlife rescuers. The reason: The experts were not allowed to go look for live oiled birds in the areas where they were most likely to be found. Instead they were assigned to less urgent duties, or never called in at all.

As Ted Williams noted in his article Bad Bayou, BP has hired “Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research and the International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC)” to rehab oiled birds. He noted the following: “I witnessed the same passion and dedication inside the fan-cooled rehab center—converted from a warehouse—where experienced professionals from Tri-State and the IBRRC were working long, brutal shifts, massaging birds with solvent, washing them with detergents, rinsing them with high-powered sprayers, drying them, and wrapping them in blankets to carry them to their outside pens.”

Interesting. According to the St. Petersburg Times,

That leaves people like Jay Holcomb on the sidelines — even though Holcomb, president of the International Bird Rescue Research Center, has been saving birds from oil spills since 1971. During the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill, Holcomb oversaw the entire bird search and rescue program in Prince William Sound, the largest of its kind ever attempted, involving about 50 boats. He has also worked on spills in Africa, Spain and the Galapagos Islands.

Yet on this spill, instead of searching for birds in need of rescue, “we’ve been assigned to respond to hotline calls,” Holcomb said. “We’ve been completely kept out of it.”

What about Tri-State Bird Rescue? And who is Wildlife Response Services? According to the same article,

BP hired a 4-year-old Texas company called Wildlife Response Services to oversee the rescue and rehabilitation of birds, turtles and any other animals hurt by the spill. The owner, Rhonda Murgatroyd, starred in a television ad for BP touting the oil company’s response to the spill.

Here is an additional quote from Rhonda Murgatroyd,

Murgatroyd said she has worked on spills across the gulf coast for the past decade. She said federal agency employees were assigned bird rescue duties because Holcomb and the other wildlife rehabilitation experts “didn’t have the personnel to go out and rescue all the birds.”

I know at least one person who works for Wildlife Response Services, and I assume them to be a perfectly capable company like the others. I have no idea about Tri-State, although they claim to be the principal responder. As for IBRRC, I guess they were left in the lurch. But what about the quote from Murgatroyd who says that the other experts “did not have the personnel to go out and rescue the birds.”? I thought that Audubon had 17,000 waiting in the wings. All three organizations, according to their websites, train volunteers. So how many were trained?

Tri-State is from Delaware, and IBRRC is from California, so it makes sense for Wildlife Response Service to have a key role since they are located in BP’s backyard. But the St. Peterburg Times article does conflict with what Williams portrayed. Read the Times account of the experts from US Fish and Wildlife Service chasing oiled birds. Would we really have been worse with the amateurs?

Which way did they go, George, which way did they go?

Ted Eubanks
13 Sep 2010

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