Open House 2010

A record number of people attended the Open House and donor BBQ July 24th. Le Nichoir’s volunteers and staff were delighted with the outcome of this year’s Open House. More than 200 adults and 145 children attended the event. (July 2010)

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Day 8

Leaving was actually very hard to do. On the way out of the marina, I spotted tri-colored herons feeding along the side of the road, the alligators suspended in water, cypress trees and extraordinary vegetation, partially submerged cars and trucks from Katrina. Then the very warm thanks from everyone I met. Thank you for caring to come here and help, I heard it time and time again.  Yes it was hard to leave, except when I got out of the air conditioned car. Then I was ready for home and open windows and my guys. But I will be going back.

Day Six – Lynn Miller’s Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill Blog

Everyone was taking off except me. I had been invited to stay with a forensic psychiatrist who was volunteering at Fort Jackson, so I packed my gear and headed out to the rehab station. I spent the day working with Dr Erica Miller from Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research, admitting birds,

sweeping floors, restocking coolers, and generally helping out where ever I could. I learned one heckuva lot! And sweated a lot!

The team there is outstanding. Everyone made me feel so welcome and shared with me their trials and triumphs. I also so saw first hand how interesting being in the bayou could be. I went out the back to for some reason and saw a rather large snake trying to get through the chicken mesh fence. It had obviously eaten and its full belly would not pass through the fence. I called for my colleagues to come and look – this was pretty exciting stuff – and was told it was a non-venomous water snake. Since there are many venomous snakes around, everyone is understandable cautious. I can tell you it makes for a cautious approach to and use of the port-a-potties. The temperature was still over 100F with the humidity.

Day Five – Lynn Miller’s Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill Blog

Up at 5 am. I was given permission to go to Fort Jackson at 8 am – a 2 hour drive away. I arrived and was allowed to sign in and get identification under the auspices of the International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC). I then spent several hours meeting the teams and watching as they went about their jobs. The main intake is pelicans, primarily brown’s, but also the odd white one. The brown pelicans were far more benign than that white one, which launched itself at the side of its cage and snapped its beak every time someone went by. There was a backlog in washing as they had been slammed with intake the previous week, however they are managing to wash between 30 and 40 birds daily, in temperatures that are inhumane to the people. That day the temperature there was approximately 120°F. I watched one chap put his Tyvek suit on, work in admissions for 20 minutes,  hen remove his Tyvek, revealing that all his clothing underneath was wet with sweat. The need to supervise the team members for heat stress is critical, and everyone is charged with looking out for each other. There are coolers with water and Gatorade everywhere. After the morning at the center, I joined the team from HSUS and sat in on meetings with the local parish presidents, Congress member, and Senate, followed by observing the press conference. Most interesting.

Next was a visit to the Marine Turtle Recovery Center at the Audubon Rehab Station. They seem to have a very well organized process in place, and plan on holding these turtles until it is safe to return them to the wild, no matter how long it takes.

We finished the day on Bourbon Street.

Day Four – Lynn Miller’s Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill Blog

Slept in till 6am. Still hot and humid.

We spent this day out in the helicopter again, flying eastward into Alabama. This is where the reality finally hit me. Flying over Mobile Bay between the land and Dauphin Island you could see extensive oil slicks and sheen. Not so bad in itself until you really looked and saw dolphins swimming in it, it looks so benign from 2000 feet up. That was a very sobering sight. But again the enormity of what this region is facing was brought home to us. We landed for refueling and decided to visit a local beach that had tar balls reported on it. Sure enough there were extensive areas of tar balls and the water was quite turbid. People were still using the beach but not allowed to swim. The laughing gulls were everywhere and in a group of 20 I observed, three were obviously open mouth breathing, not a good sign, and one, as it flew off seemed unsteady. I had observed one bird drinking from a pool of water surrounded by tar balls. The flight back to New Orleans took us along the coast and over Lake Pontchartrain. The sun was going down and there was a haze to the day. We were in Huey helicopter, and all I could think as the sun was reflected off Lake Pontchartrain and our Safety Officers helmet was, my God, Apocalypse Now! We had just seen tar balls over an extensive area of beach, most of it still in the water sunk to the dips in the sand and some areas of oiling on the shoreline itself.

All so sad and very sobering.