Laura Erickson's For the Birds

Friday, July 30, 2010

Situation: Grave

I'm having some laptop issues (I really want to believe my Mac-devotee friends, but ... ) so haven't been able to post video yet, and spent too much of my "down" time working on that. But during the past three days, thanks to Shawn Carey of Massachusetts Audubon (who had already worked out all the logistics and included me in his plans), I got to see a lot of things. I'll be posting more in depth about this as soon as possible.

1) Taken a 4-hour boat ride out from Grand Isle into Barataria Bay, looking from the closest legal distance at some badly oiled islands and seeing and photographing oiled birds

2) Taken an 80-minute plane ride out from Houma to Raccoon Island to see the delta and the most well-documented oiled bird colony--and how so far nothing has been done to address the situation.

3) Photographed and taken video of cleanup along the public beach at Grand Isle State Park. It was very disturbing how superficial the cleanup has been.

4) Gone to a closed beach at Grand Isle State Park where I got a good look at just how deep the oil is in the sand. It made me sick--literally.

5) Interviewed the woman spearheading the hermit crab rescue operations to find out a heck of a lot more disturbing things about how nothing is being done to clean this ecologically important and fragile length of the beach.

6) Attended a public information meeting in Grand Isle. People here are ANGRY--their lives have been turned upside down! One woman who was getting compensation money from BP got the amount cut severely the day after she spoke to CBS News. The BP representative at the meeting insisted this was coincidental. I've never seen people at a meeting so unified in their outrage and hurt and fear for their health and their future.

7) Attended the 100-Day vigil on a beach on Grand Isle. People are grieving those who died in the explosion and how much they've lost since then.

When I have time to sit down and figure out these stupid computer issues, I'll post a lot more detailed looks, one by one, of each of these activities. But when you watch the news, here are the things I've seen firsthand:

1) Beaches in Grand Isle are NOT cleaned up.
2) There is still a LOT of oil in the water.
3) People in Grand Isle said at the public meeting that they are still seeing airplanes pouring COREXIT over the Gulf at nighttime.
4) Birds are still dying.
5) The birds that aren't dying from oil are having a very hard time finding food in the massive stretches of beach that have been oiled.
6) The official number of oiled wildlife is shockingly, disturbingly, and falsely below what it really is, and does not include a great many birds that have been documented as oiled.
7) BP has been put in charge of training volunteers to help, but have not done so. I'm talking to a lot of qualified people who have volunteered to help wildlife or with cleanup who have been turned away.
8) No one seems to be in charge. I'd love to see an Army general take over the operation. It takes a military mindset to coordinate responses on all fronts to face and defeat such a huge problem.
9) So far, the organizations I've talked with who are doing the most to help with news and information or with actual activities to HELP are very limited:
The American Birding Association. Their Drew Wheelan has been there since May, talked to a lot of people, and been working tirelessly to get Fish and Wildlife and other agencies and BP to help the birds out there, to no avail.
The American Bird Conservancy. They sent a team there for 6 days and put together a very reasonable report with specific recommendations. See their site and download a pdf-file of the report here:
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has been documenting oiled birds.
Grand Isle State Park, which has been allowing their interpretive naturalist to coordinate volunteers to help hermit crabs.

I haven't talked to any rehab facilities yet except the tiny volunteer one working on hermit crabs. I tried to visit one in New Orleans but was turned away--they treat turtles and dolphins, and assumed I only wanted to see birds.

I'll post more, with photos, when I get somewhere where I can tackle and resolve my computer issues.