Sea birds, turtles pay a dear price for oil

Stephanie Springer

Panama City Beach, FL - (WALB) - The Deepwater Horizon spill has had a major impact on wildlife. West of here, hundreds of birds have been spotted covered with oil.

Many have no chance of surviving. But for those birds that do, there are folks ready to help.

BP contracted Tri State Bird Rescue and Research to come in and help the areas along the gulf coast impacted by the spill.

At Panama City beach where they haven't had too many oiled birds wash up on shore...but further west it's a different story. As of today 551 birds have been collected dead in Florida, more than 100 with visible oil. That number is much higher in States like Louisiana, where they have collected 718 dead birds.

But for the birds that do have a chance at survival there are special people dedicated to helping those birds survive.

Every weekend Amanda Barber leaves Albany and heads for the gulf coast, but unlike most people she doesn't go to work on her tan..she goes to help.

"I'm there to do what I can, and focus on the ones we can save and get them back out," said Barber.

Amanda specializes in rehabbing birds, and right now hundreds of birds along the gulf coast that need her help. "Its pretty depressing. A lot of the birds that come in are pretty severely oiled at this point and a lot of them cant be saved

After the deepwater Horizon Oil Spill BP brought in experts from Delaware's Tri State Bird Rescue and Research. An Oil Response team has been on the scene in Pensacola since April helping the oiled birds. "We are one of the few organizations that deal with oil spill responses."

The group turned this old warehouse in Pensacola, into a bird rehabbing center to help the birds affected along the coast.

Staff members and Para professionals, like Amanda are divided into teams. Some are out on the beach rescuing birds, others spend their time carefully washing the birds.

"It takes about an hour and you use a lot of dawn dish soap, a lot of Dawn dish soap."

But some of the birds are so badly oiled, even a cleaning wont help them survive. But the effort can be dangerous too. they've got very sharp beaks but when they are stressed out like that when they know they are in trouble, they are fighting for their lives.

But regardless of the risks, Amanda says its something she's got to do. And she plans to keep making the trip, until her help is no longer needed.

Now if you happen to be walking up and down the coast and you see an oiled bird do not try and touch it. Call professionals trained in that field.

If you want to get involved and help Amanda recommends volunteering at a rehab center first, and next time something like this happens, you can possibly help with a organization like Tri State.

As of July 15, 509 birds have been cleaned and released.

Sea Turtles that live in the Gulf are already threatened or endangered species. Oily water is just one more threat to their existence.

In an effort to save thousands of turtles, groups are relocating sea turtle eggs from the gulf coast to the Atlantic Coast.

They're patrolling beaches and looking for nests.  So far, officials with the National Park Service have confirmed several nests in the Pensacola area.

Experts say without the move, many young turtles would die.

"Joe and I picked up tar balls all around here but fortunately these little guys will be moved to the Atlantic," said Chet Powell of the GA Wildlife Rescue Association.

Some of the baby turtles will be marked so experts can monitor them for decades and find out how the relocation affects them.

Much of the effort is focuses on saving critically endangered Kemp's Ridley turtles. That's the smallest and rarest species of sea turtle.