Wild Baby Season is Coming!

The earth rolls around the sun dipping first this hemisphere then that one toward the light and the wild animals follow suit. Summer birds have already begun to return to the North Coast. Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) investigate the old cavities where they may have raised last year’s young. Ravens (Corvus corax) fly though late Spring winds with sticks for their nests held tightly between their bills.

Mother mammals are on the move, seeking safe places to give birth. This year everyone is in  a hurry to bloom and leaf!

All of  this means that our busiest season is about to start. Each year we treat around 1200 animals. Nearly half of these patients come in during the months of May, June and July. While we stive to reduce the number of our wild neighbors who need help,  through public education and good phone consultation to resolve human/wild conflicts, still our caseload and our costs will predictably skyrocket in the coming weeks.

We will be reaching out to you frequently, asking for help. Financial contributions of any amount are critical. We’ll also be asking for donated supplies, like goat milk, produce, sheets, towels, vinegar and baking soda – all things that are crucial to our daily operation!

Nestling Swallows (2015) receiving their regular feeding – soon these birds would fledge into our Songbird aviary where they continued to be fed while they learned to fly and eat on the wing.  
Common Murre (Uria aalge) chicks, separated from their fathers at sea, too young to provide for themselves. Each year we raise any number of these oceanic birds, depending on the how successful the year’s breeding season is… last year we raised 6, the year before, 30.
Every year for the last 5 years we’ve provided safe haven and bits of mouse for a Western Screech-owl (Megascops kennicottii) chick found in Fortuna’s Rohner Park

Every year we care for several Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) goslings who’ve been orphaned by the highways that separate their nest site from the water. Parents killed trying cross US101 leave chicks scurrying in traffic – a dangerous situation for all. If safely captured, the young geese will come to our facility in Bayside.

The most common reason for young Opossums (Didelphis virginiana) to be orphaned? Their mothers are hit by cars while they’re still in her pouch. Each year we admit over 50 babies! 

Black-crowned Night-Heron(Nycticorax nycticorax) chick’s life took a turn for the worse when s/he was knocked from the nest high above the beach at Moonstone during a wind storm. This yung bird ate a lot of fish!
Every summer we save lives, preserve wild families, and give unfortunate victims of accidents and human intervention a second chance. This juvenile Hermit Warbler (Setophaga occidentalis) whose nest was disturbed in the Arcata Community Forest. An improvised substitute made from a basket lined with twigs and mosses was placed high in the tree  above where the young not yet flighted bird was found. Soon parent birds were seen bringing food and resuming care. Reuniting wild babies with their families is an important and frequent task throughout Spring and Summer.
Each year Raccoon (Procyon lotor) mothers are shot, trapped, poisoned and otherwise mistreated in ways that leaves their babies behind, often stuck in an attic or a crawlspace and left to die. When they’re lucky, someone hears them, finds them and brings them to us. Almost every single orphaned raccoon we care for could have been raised by their mother if only people would take basic steps to protect their property by preventing Raccoons and other animals from getting in, or seeking advice before acting irresponsibly and resorting to lethal solutions. Providing care to orphaned Raccoons isn’t cheap! Usually they are in care 4 moths before they can be released. Each baby costs nearly $500 to raise successfully and we raise over 20 of these curious Earthlings each year!

Every year our busy season has the added stress of paying for food and medicine, the water bill, the electric bill, staff salaries. Scrimping and saving is good and necessary, but so is knowing that our basic costs are going to be covered. It’s good to know that if an unexpected major expense comes up – like last year when we treated a lead-poisoned Bald Eagle whose care required six months of recuperation – that we’ve got it covered.

So, we’re launching a special Baby Season fundraiser.* Our goal is $25,000 between now and May 31. That’s 9 weeks. $25,000 will keep us going through early Spring and leave us ready to take on the most hectic months of our year with something in reserve, reducing our stress so that we can be better care providers. It costs us about $12,000 a month to operate during the Summer. Your help is vitally important. Without your generosity… well, let’s just say that we are grateful that you’ve kept us going this long and we look forward to your continued support. Let’s make this the best, least stressful Wild Baby season we’ve had. Thank you!!

*By the way, we are still a couple thousand short of our March goal of $7000. Want to help us reach it? Donate here. Thank you!!


photo: Bird Ally X/ Laura Corsiglia


Tangled Up and Bruised

How this bird was ever rescued was the product of the two ingredients we rely on the most: the unlikely timings of coincidence and intuition combined with the intentional timing of preparedness. Early in the morning last Tuesday, Humboldt Wildlife Care Center staff rehabilitator, Lucinda Adamson, woke up early from a dream about seabirds. Now Tuesday is Lucinda’s “Saturday” – the first day of her weekend – and getting up in the early hours of the day and heading to the beach might not be the first thing she wanted to do, but she thought she might as well go have a look. So off she went, equipped wth towels and a net, in case she found any seabirds stranded.

The surf has been rough and the waves large for most of November – and our clinic has been admitting more seabirds. We currently have several in care, recently released several more and will likely see many more seabirds before the end of the year.

[Yes, we need your help! Every day of every week of every month of every year we are here for the injured and orphaned wild neighbors. From Chipmunks to Pelicans, we are ready to help who ever comes through our door! Help us meet our critical November goal of $7000 ] 

As soon as Lucinda got to Samoa Beach she found a bird. A Pacific Loon (Gavia pacifica) tangled in a lost scrap of fishing net. Scooping the bird up she brought him into the clinic just as staff was beginning the workday. Some mild teasing about working on her day off was in order, as we moved to admit the entangled loon.

img_4922On the beach at the moment of rescue -, any loon on a beach is a loon with a problem. If you see something say something!

Derelict fishing gear, improperly discarded fishing line, hooks, and lures are estimated to kill thousands of wild animals each year along California’s coast. At Humboldt Wildlife Care Center, we don’t see many birds entangled, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t there. This Loon was found early in the morning, when the tide was low, during inclement weather on a deserted beach. That he was found at all is incredible.

Fortunately, although both feet, both wings and even the bird’s head and neck were caught in the net, no injuries except for a few mild abrasions were noted. The net slipped off easily. After a quick examination, we realized that bird was indeed very lucky – no serious injuries, thin but not yet dangerously thin, and still very alert and strong. After the exam we put the Loon in our new seabird pool to test his feather condition. Again, he was in better shape than many – waterproof, immediately diving, able to stay in the cold water and thrive. Now all he needs is time to regain lost weight.

img_3640The small scrap of net that had very nearly killed this Pacific Loon.

palo-11-18-16-2-of-3A moment during the examination after three days in care.

palo-11-18-16-3-of-3In our pool, waterproof and doing well – with a good prognosis, this loon is beating the odds.

This Pacific Loon is one of the luckier victims of derelict fishing gear. Most die at sea. Loons that make it to shore are often so debilitated that their chances for recovery are poor. Less than 50% of our patients impacted by  are able to be released. If it wasn’t for your support – none would be. You provide the resources that enable us to take care of less common patients like this Pacific Loon, as well as pay staff members like  Lucinda, who’s dedication and willingness to follow her early morning intuition rescued this bird from certain death. We rely on you, now and always.  Thank you for your support!


Improvements that will protect Pelicans coming to Shelter Cove

Day 11 in our August fundraising Drive: So far we’ve raised $580 of our goal of $5000 by the end of the month. Your help is needed. Every donation helps. Thank you for being a part of this wildlife saving work!

Three years ago, August 2011, Bird Ally X began responding to fish-oil contaminated Brown Pelicans in Cresent City and Shelter Cove. Besides the 50 birds rescued, we noted that the infrastructure at both locations were the cause for the contamination. In November of that year we presented this information to the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District. It seemed that the situation would be rectified. A positive aspect of this event was our partnership with Humboldt Wildlife Care Center, which eventually led to the unification of the two organizations.

Unfortunately, in 2012, it became obvious that the problems hadn’t been fixed. We ended up mounting a large response, treating over 250 Brown Pelicans out of our very small facility in Bayside. Trying to get the discharge pipe that was spewing fish waste into the water of Shelter Cove stopped was very frustrating. While some modifications were made, the outflow continued. It wasn’t until Brown Pelicans left the area and headed north that the contaminations stopped. (read about our 2012 efforts)

Preparing for the Possibility of Pelicans: 2013The discharge pipe at Shelter Cove – July 2012 (photo Daniel Corona/Bird Ally X)

Bird Ally X/HWCC inundated with Fish-oiled Brown Pelicans! Again!
Dead contaminated Brown Pelican – July 2012 (photo: Drew Hyland/Bird Ally X)

North Coast Fish Waste Response (updated)
Brown Pelican released at Shelter Cove, September 2011 (photo: Laura Corsiglia/BAX)

Now, two years later, we are happy to see that the Harbor District is taking its responsibility for the fish cleaning station at Shelter Cove seriously and moving forward to stop the discharge pipe. What follows is a news story from the Redwood Times that ran this Spring… We’re glad we were able play our part, with your support, in bringing these needed changes. Thank you for helping us meet our mission!

Harbor District meets with RID and the public in Shelter Cove

Sandy Feretto, Redwood Times
Posted: 03/18/2014 04:21:00 PM PDT

On Thursday, March 6 the Humboldt Bay Harbor Recreation and Conservation District met with the Shelter Cover Resort Improvement District and about 100 members of the public in Shelter Cove.

Jack Crider, chief executive officer of the Harbor District told the Redwood Times that the meeting addressed a variety of issues.

The Harbor District has a goal of eliminating the discharge pipe from the fish-cleaning table into the bay that has caused problems for the pelicans.

The first step is to eliminate the carcasses, Crider explained, and the next step would be to process the water from the fish-cleaning table and dispose of it in the resort district’s sewer system.

The solids separated from the water and carcasses can be frozen and sold as bait.

Crider said that over the last year the Department of Fish and Wildlife has finally acknowledged the district’s right to remove and sell the fish carcasses from the fish-cleaning table.

Since the harbor district first discussed the idea, Patrick O’Shea, of Shelter Cove, has entered into a lease agreement with David Mollett, the owner of Mario’s Marina that included the commercial boat-launching contract.

O’Shea intends to upgrade “the green building” that is in the middle of the parking lot at Mario’s. He plans to sell the frozen fish carcasses for bait and fresh, locally caught fish from the building. He has been in the process of obtaining permission from the Coastal Commission, Crider said.

Crider went on to say that the Harbor District’s easement covers the public access road down to the beach for recreation purposes, the breakwater, and technically the Harbor District owns the fish cleaning equipment. There have been some improvements made to the breakwater, but Crider said they are having some problems with sand that will require maintenance.

The Harbor District also has safety concerns with the public parking at the bottom of the beach access road. The district will post signs at the bottom to remind people not to park there.

He said that the Regional Water Quality Control Board has asked the district to test the beach sand and water in order to determine the impact of allowing cars to drive all over the beach. It will cost the district about $10,000 a year and take two or three years to yield results.


Hooked by Unattended Line, Western Gull Heals and is Released

At a quarter to five a couple of Sundays ago, just as we were completing the day’s tasks and getting ready to leave the clinic, the phone rang. An employee at Pacific Seafood, a fish processing facility on the Eureka waterfront, had spotted a gull nearby who was tied to some fishing line. We quickly fed the last couple of patients and headed out to take a look.

Fish hooks and fishing line cause numerous wildlife injuries. The toll fishing gear takes on marine birds, reptiles, and mammals (not to mention the targeted species!) numbers in the thousands along the California coast alone each year. (see study here) According to the Humane Society of the United States (link here) over a million marine animals are killed each year by “longline” fishing at sea.


(a collection of hooks and other items removed from patients at Humboldt Wildlife Care Center)

Hook and line injuries are commonplace for all wildlife rehabilitators, especially in locations where wildlife and people co-exist in large numbers – San Francisco, Monterey Bay, Los Angeles…

When we arrived on the scene, the fellow who called was standing a few yards from an adult Western Gull (link), who was trapped on the wharf, a hook in his (or her) neck attached to a line tied to the railing. Someone had been fishing and left his rig in the water. The gull had tried to eat the bait and gotten hooked.

We netted the gull and wrapped her (or him) in a towel. We made a quick examination to see if the hook could be immediately removed. Sometimes, with a quick snip of the barbed end, the hook comes out, and the small wound is fine to heal on its own – the bird can be released right away. In this case, however, the hook was small and difficult to see in the fading late afternoon light. For safety’s sake, we brought the gull back to our Bayside clinic.

WEGU release story 19 Feb - 1

DSC_0869Under the examination light, the small hook was easy to see. After removing it, we found a deep pocket of pus inside the gull’s mouth – an old infected injury. The bird’s feet also had early stage pressure sores caused by a life spent on concrete.

There is no getting around the fact that in a very short time modern industrial civilization has re-shaped the world that we share with other animals, other life. Derelict fishing gear, automobiles, ocean pollution, climate disruption, domestic animals, glass windows, resource extraction, – the list is long and each threat is new. All the marine birds we see today have existed as they are for at least 20 million years (Gaston 2004). Each of this gull’s injuries was the result of civilization’s altered environment.

The infection in our patient’s mouth required a course of antibiotics. We gave the first dose and set up safe housing for the night, fed some fish that had no sharp surprises, turned off the lights and headed home.

WEGU release story 19 Feb - 2The next morning we moved the bird to our aviary built especially for gulls, pelicans, and cormorants – all marine birds who spend time in and out of water. With a large pool, an artificial rock wall, high perches and a substrate (all surfaces that the birds might perch on) intended to relieve the constant pressure on their delicate feet, this aviary is a key part of our rehabilitation program. When treating wild animals, patient housing plays a leading role in their recovery.

Over the course of the next ten days the gull’s condition swiftly improved. The deep wound inside his mouth healed, the punctures from the hook healed. Her (or his) feet had improved too.

Last Tuesday the gull was released at North Jetty. Once out of the box, the bird took time to preen – which is how birds maintain their feather condition. Besides allowing flight, the feathers of all birds protect them from the elements. For aquatic birds this is particularly necessary – as warm blooded animals who live in the cold North Pacific need an impeccable array of feathers simply to surivive. Once satisfied that all was well, s/he launched from the rocks out over the inlet to Humboldt Bay and was gone.

There are many things you can do to help prevent this kind of injury to wild animals:

  • Most importantly, if you fish, mind your gear. Try not to leave anything in the environment. Line, hooks, weights, all of these can produce fatal and torturous wounds.
  • If you find derelict gear in the environment, remove it! Every hook removed from the docks, beaches and river banks is a hook we won’t ever have to remove from a bird’s mouth.
  • Pass this information along!
  • Support wildlife rehabilitation. Our ability to do this work depends directly on community support. BAX/HWCC is not funded by the county, state or federal governments. Your contribution makes our work possible. Thank you!


Release Photographs!

WEGU release 18 Feb 14 - 01
HWCC/BAX volunteers prepare to release the Western Gull
WEGU release 18 Feb 14 - 02
Western Gull steps out to freedom

WEGU release 18 Feb 14 - 05
Preening keeps feather at peak performance

WEGU release 18 Feb 14 - 07
Tail feathers? check.

WEGU release 18 Feb 14 - 08
Wings? check.
WEGU release 18 Feb 14 - 11
So long….

WEGU release 18 Feb 14 - 14
Out over the inlet to Humboldt Bay and toward the North Pacific Ocean

WEGU release 18 Feb 14 - 13
S/he returns to a wild and free life

WEGU release 18 Feb 14 - 18Good luck!


photos: Laura Corsiglia/BAX

Gaston, Anthony J., Seabirds: A Natural History, 2004 Yale University Press


North Coast Fish Waste Response (updated)

Newly released pelican surveys his old haunts at Shelter Cove from abo
Things are starting to quiet down, now that fishing season has quieted down as well. As we reported in our last update, the situation is Crescent City is largely resolved. Lids on fish waste bins, coupled with educational signwork brought an end to contaminations.
Working with the harbormaster, Rich Young, was a positive and productive experience. These simple solutions were quickly implemented. We captured a total of 32 birds in Crescent City – thirty Brown Pelicans (BRPE) and two Western Gulls (WEGU). Due to severe injury, three of the pelicans were humanely euthanized. One BRPE died from wounds not related to the contamination.
Pelican awaiting wash at HWCC. Note the contamination on his back and wings.

As of 27 September, we have two birds rescued from Crescent City still in care; – a BRPE with a fracture that is nearly healed, and a WEGU recovering from fishing line wounds. Both of these birds enjoy a good prognosis for release.

The Wash Hut

The first 25 birds that we rescued in the course of this response were cleaned at Humboldt State University’s Marine Wildlife Care Center, a facility maintained by the university and the Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN). The support of the OWCN throughout this response has been greatly appreciated. They’ve donated all the fish that these large birds consume. (Each pelican can eat more than five pounds of fish each day!)
Even more importantly in the long run, because the OWCN opened up the bird washing facility at HSU, we had the time needed to construct a small wash area at the Humboldt Wildlife Care Center.
Using as much donated material as possible, and a storage shed that was provided by HWCC, we spent well under 200 dollars. So far we have successfully washed 14 birds in this facility, happily known as the “wash hut.”

The new wash/rinse table at HWC

A bright side to this emergency is the rapid improvement made to the infrastructure at HWCC. The wash hut, the new aviaries, the pools, etc., will be a great benefit to aquatic birds who require care along the North Coast. With winter’s return so also return sea ducks, geese, grebes, and more.
Formerly, aquatic birds needing long term care, or
specialized housing had to be transported to the Bay Area, to a facility nearly 7 hours away. The added stress to the birds and

Monte Merrick (BAX),Lisa Kelsey (HWCC) and patient try out the new wash hut.

the consumption of time and resources was far from ideal. Now HWCC will be in a better position to provide care for those ducks, grebes, loons and others who are injured in some way.

The jetty at Shelter Cove – many of these birds are contaminated.
This contaminated pelican was rescued moments later.
A dead juvenile Brown Pelican on shore at Shelter Cove

Shelter Cove

In Shelter Cove the situation is also quieting down. Between 8 September and now, we have captured 17 of the 20-25 birds observed to be contaminated. 15 of these birds are pelicans, and the other 2 are Western Gulls.
One Pelican, a 2 year old, was euthanized due to a wing fracture, another pelican died in care while being treated for a compound fractured toe which had become seriously infected. One gull was euthanized due to a severe respiratory infection that had progressed beyond a treatable condition.
Ten pelicans have been released back into Shelter cove. We anticipate releasing the four remaining birds in care soon. Two pelicans may be released as soon as 29 September.

On 18 September we released the first bird rescued from that area back into the Cove. He joined a group of plunge-diving juveniles and adults and was captured on film succesfully capturing a fish by Judy Irving, who is currently working on a documentary about Brown Pelicans, titled Pelican Dreams.
On the weekend of the 24th and 25th, 9 more pelicans were released back into Shelter Cove. Several of the birds caught in this area were malnourished and required more time in care to regain lost body mass.
Of the 17 Shelter Cove birds, 1 BRPE was euthanized due to injury and 1 died, most likely due to an infection resulting from an open toe fracture. 1 WEGU was euthanized due to illness.
As we know, a life spent begging for scraps carries a high risk of injury and disease.
Incidentally, none of the rescued birds have been adults. We’ve treated 3 sub-adults while the rest have been hatch year juveniles.

The fillet table at Shelter Cove after intitial corrections.

Toward eliminating the source of
contamination in Shelter Cove, a few good steps have been taken. More needs to be done, however, before heavy use of the fillet table resumes.
Lidded cans have been added to the fillet table area, and signs cautioning sport fishers about feeding carcasses to pelicans have been posted.
Monofilament with orange caution tape streamers have been added as a deterrent above the table. However, in our experience this practice creates more entanglement risk than deterrence, and birds, pelicans and gulls have been seen inside the fillet table area while people have been cleaning

January Bill of BAX and Lucinda Adamson of HWCC

their catch since the monofilament was hung.

Grinder and Discharge Pipe

The main issue continues to be the grinder that discharges fish waste slurry into the marine waters. This appears to be at odds with both federal and state practices.

Adamson and Bill evaluate a Brown Pelican for release
Discharge pipe coming down to the ocean from the fillet table

Both the United States and California recommend that fish waste, commercial or recreational, be treated as sewage or solid waste. Preferrably fish waste should be composted wherever possible.
Many studies were completed on the feasability of composting fishwaste on small and large scales in the late 1980s, primarily as a way to eliminate the unsightly and malodorous nature of fish carcasses. These studies had very favorable findings. (here is one example)

BAX and Humboldt Wildlife Care Center will soon meet with the Board Of Commissioners of the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District to discuss ways to make the
fillet table at Shelter Cove bird-safe.
Fillet tables are well-used and appreciated. Often they provide a place for sport fishers to meet and share information and good cheer. So far, we have been met with mostly positive responses to our efforts to protect the wildlife that are attracted to the cleaning stations. By and large, recreational fishers enjoy nature and the outdoors and do not wish to cause harm to such an iconic bird as the Brown Pelican, or any wildlife. Feeding wildlife is enjoyable, as enjoyable as feeding family and friends. Once people understand the harm that can come to pelicans from being fed large carcasses, they stop. No one feeds birds with intent to cause harm!
We are confident that, with cooperation, we can make the fillet table in Shelter Cove a model of sustainable fish waste management that could be used coast-wide.

Where the discharge pipe discharges.

Meanwhile, we continue to care for the impacted birds at Humboldt Wildlfie Care Center and make frequent trips to Shelter Cove to monitor the situation and attempt to rescue the remaining birds who’ve been impacted by the oily fish waste.
Volunteers are still needed at HWCC. Bird Ally X is also looking for volunteers who wish to be trained in distressed bird capture. The more people locally we have who are trained and capable of responding to wildlife emergencies the better.

And of course, none of this work can happen without money. Building materials, utilities, water, medicine, gasoline, all matter of course requirements that consume the bulk of our budgets.
Both HWCC and BAX rely on community support to rescue and care for wild lives that have been adversely affected by human activity.
For more information please visit www.humwild.org.
Bird Ally X accepts donations as

Newly released pelican surveys his old haunts at Shelter Cove from above

well. You can write to us at PO Box 1020, Arcata, CA 95518. We love mail!*

HWCC volunteers after releasing 8 Brown Pelicans, 24 Sept.
This pelican didn’t wait to be asked twice.
Lucinda Adamason of HWCC and Laura Corsiglia of BAX watch newly released Pelicans at Shelter Cove
Proposed signwork for Shelter Cove as a stopgap measure.
Buh-bye. (BRPE release 24 Sept 2011)

*please note that, while Bird Ally X is incorporated in California as a Public Benefit non-profit organization, we are still waiting for 501(c)3 status and donations to BAX are not yet tax-deductible.