Audubon Oil Spill Response Team Update #2: Bring in the troops ... and booms

Gretna, Louisiana, 1:04 a.m.

Difficult news today. Audubon's Dr. Greg Butcher and I were present in Venice, La., this afternoon when Gov. Bobby Jindal announced that BP's containment device isn't working, delaying, if not quite crushing hopes for a quick and dramatic reduction in oil flow.

Yet so far, environmental impacts remain difficult to see and measure. Oil is present on and around the Chandeleur Islands Important Bird Area, but relatively few oiled birds have been brought in to rehabilitation facilities. Sources told me today, though, that the number could jump dramatically any day. When? No one knows. And that's just the birds. What's happening beneath the water, where oil and dispersants are suspended across thousands of square miles? No one knows.

Pushing uncertainty aside as best we can, the Audubon team is hard at work. I want to highlight just one example today.

Melanie Driscoll, Audubon's director of bird conservation in Louisiana, is a powerhouse. She has established Audubon as a trusted partner with oil spill response personnel from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Tri-State Bird Rescue & Research (the organization that is rehabilitating birds harmed by the spill) and has begun placing volunteers to assist in bird rescue operations.

This gives you a glimpse into Melanie's world of late:

Melanie multitasking

I caught up with some of our volunteers in the field today. You can meet one of them, Liz, in this video. Thank you, Liz, and all the other volunteers! If you haven't already signed up to volunteer, you can do that here:

And an update.

This morning, we revisited the islands that, two days ago, gave me "giddy hope" because of their abundant birdlife and apparent security.

We arrived to find boat crews laying boom -- floating barriers -- around the islands, and my heart sank. Don't misunderstand; any step taken to protect these places is important and welcomed, but the sight drove home for me the fragility and vulnerability of this entire ecosystem.

crews laying boom to protect nesting islands

Roseate Spoonbills and Great Egrets

Roseate Spoonbills and Great Egrets nest on taller vegetation on these nearshore islands; Brown Pelicans, terns and Laughing Gulls nest on the ground.

David J. Ringer
Mississippi River Initiative
National Audubon Society

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