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The Real Story: Athos I Oil Spill, November 26, 2004, Segment 2

Updated on November 14, 2012
Area that Encompasses the Athos I Oil Spill of 2004
Area that Encompasses the Athos I Oil Spill of 2004 | Source

The Story Continues

On Thursday, Dec. 23, we learned that the rewashes were finished on the afternoon of the 22.Total animals received were 252 with 119 in house. A total of 126 had been released and NJ had plus or minus 100 birds.

I began the day by weighing geese from NJ with an assistant and we transferred them to the flight cage. Two of them were drugged birds, so they went into the new section of the flight cage and the remainder went to the old flight cage. We began boxing up and putting away all the oil spill paraphernalia in the oil spill locker. Rooms were cleaned and readied to receive clean birds again from NJ. Laundry was gathered up and taken to the laundry room, where washing was begun. Husbandry was done, which would be the mainstay of events for the next couple of weeks.

On Christmas eve, my team and I weighed a dozen birds that went to the old flight cage. Then I went to the flight cage after I got laundry going, with a 50 lb. bag of duck pellets There were about 50 geese in the old cage and 20 drugged birds in the new cage. A helper and I distributed the pellets in troughs and mixed them with cracked corn. Then we doled out plates of greens and gruel, followed by bowls of water. We had just transported dishes and a couple of containers of chopped lettuce, as there was water on site. Then there were dishes and laundry ad nauseum, and I do mean a LOTof dishes and laundry!

Sunday, Dec. 26, 252 animals had been received in DE and 129 had been released. There were 164 in house, with all but 5 animals outside(2 birds and 3 turtles). NJ had received 160 plus or minus, with 94 of them coming back to DE. 70 plus or minus were still at the NJ facility. There had been no field retrieval since Thursday, but the attempt would be made again on Monday. The shift began by having two teams weigh and take geese received the night before from NJ out to the flight cages.

Monday, Dec. 27, we were still holding at 252 animals received, with 98 from NJ. NJ still had 160-170 birds. In house we had 165, 82 in DE and 83 received from NJ. 131 had been released. 22 geese were released at Blackwater today. NJ was still operating three wash lines. There was a possibility that the Fish and Wildlife Dept. would be going for a large field retrieval that afternoon when the winds died down. I learned how to sump the pools in the flight cages, and we removed the ice from three out of the four pools.

The Athos I

Tuesday, Dec. 28 we fed the geese in both parts of the flight cage and broke up the ice in the pools.

On Wed. Dec. 29, there were 175 animals in house, which included 100 from NJ. There were 253 received in DE and 134 received in NJ. NJ had 20 plus or minus the day before and there were now 14 left in NJ. We spent part of the day weighing birds that came in the night before from NJ and we transferred same to the flight cage. We had some drugged birds in this group, approximately 22 Canada Geese. Then we captured two domestic white geese to give to a lady in MD, as the two that she received the day before left her home, right after she got them.

I’ll skip to Sunday, Jan. 2, 2005. I fed all the geese in the flight cage, but that was after we gathered up a group and got Federal bands on them so they could be released. Each bird that we took in for oil spill and released had a Federal band so it could be tracked in the future if found again for whatever reason. We were trying for a release the next day for somewhere in the high 20’s. There were no longer any birds in NJ. We had 182 in house and a total of 180 had come in from NJ. 254 came to DE directly for a total of 534 animals cared for. 197 had been released. The NJ facility was temporarily vacant, but was being used as a base just in case any retrievals could be done.

Sea Tow's Work--Athos I Oil Spill

On Monday, Jan. 3, we first gathered up 30 geese to be released at Blackwater. Also, one gull and two domestics were released and placed elsewhere. Good release and placement day! All domestics must be placed as they cannot be released in the wild. I fed and watered the whole flight cage and emptied and filled the pools in the new cage. The geese were sitting on the side of the pool as well as in the pool that I was emptying and on the ramp. Some of them were bobbing their heads and cooing at me. I felt that they were accepting me as one of them.

Skipping to Jan. 7, it was then believed that the 30-50 geese at the Port Authority in NJ/NY would attempt to be captured on Tuesday, Jan. 11, as they had moved out of the area, so there were no more legal problems attempting to capture them. We released 32 geese, and I fed the geese in both flight cages, and emptied and filled the pools in the new flight cage.

The only day of work that I missed was for jury duty selection and that was Wed., Jan. 12. It actually made me angry to be missing my volunteer duty at Tri-State. I felt that my day was being wasted since I wasn’t there.

Thursday, Jan. 13, we placed 3 greylags(domestics) the day before. The other 6 would leave on Saturday. There would be an attempt made soon to try cannon netting on “The Walt Whitman Flock.” The Alaska spill was still going on, and another one in Mexico on the west coast involving approximately 100 birds.

Skipping to Monday, Jan. 17, we still had 37 birds in house, 344 had been released and 437 had been received since the start of this oil spill. Now I only had one section of the flight cage to care for, instead of two. Finally we got two heaters in the flight cage to keep the water from freezing!

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge Where Many Birds Were Released

Sunrise at Blackwater
Sunrise at Blackwater | Source

Retrieval Team--Baiting Birds

On Tuesday, Jan. 18, I got to be part of a retrieval team, which was located at a public ball field in Chester, PA. The oil team had been watching this group for quite a while. It was snowing a bit as well as cold, which could well have been on our side to get some geese. After all, cold and snow would keep oiled geese from being so mobile.

Upon arrival, there were 70-80 geese, what appeared to be an entire flock. I broke up some bread that we were going to use to bait the birds with. We were told that the head of the oil team was going to go on the field and target 3 geese that she had been feeding for 10 days and getting quite friendly with. About 10 minutes later, she was able to coax them to her with the bread, two of them running madly toward her. The poor things were cold and were having a hard time staying on their feet. They would drop to the ground on their bellies to eat the bread, stand up again, then rush forward to the next piece of bread. It would literally have broken your heart to watch this, but it sure worked like a charm.

The area of the ball field where she was had been cordoned off with light gauge netting and the two geese that she was able to coax in stayed right there while she and a helper held the net “gate.” The oil team member that I came with and I were motioned to come in after we got a couple of boxes, some tape, scissors, and a net to corral the geese with.

We were allowed entry to the geese where the net was used and the heavily oiled geese were captured without incident. The poor things were too cold to move. We held the geese while the other people put the boxes together, then we put them inside and tucked the flaps in. They came with me and the oil team member that I came with, and we transported them back to DE in the back seat with the heat on full tilt. One of the boxes that contained a goose was pitifully light, so it was obvious that we got at least one just in time.

About halfway back, the geese started coming to life, hissing and moving about in the box. This was a time when the hissing was a good sound. We knew that they would have no trouble making it. After all, they were out with their flock after having been oiled for heaven-only-knows how long, and they were tough enough to make it that far.

When we arrived at the facility, we brought the geese to the meds room downstairs and my job was done. Another oil team member was going to assist with getting them necessary liquids.


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    • aviannovice profile imageAUTHOR

      Deb Hirt 

      6 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Yes, Lucky Cats, those wonderful birds kept me coming back every day. Even here in OK, the head bob gets quite the reaction. I have goose friends that let me near their goslings to take photos. They know that I mean no harm.

    • Lucky Cats profile image


      6 years ago from The beautiful Napa Valley, California and your team are fabulous...such a painstakingly difficult situation but, one in which you are/were successful. it is so rewarding to save life; to develop relationships (though, I know, that this is discouraged order to keep the birds from bonding to humans...the rewards...when the birds (I love geese...I raised a baby to full adulthood and had her for years as an indoor/outdoor pet...she was a grey goose)..the birds seem to recognize that you have saved / helped them. I am learning so much about the proper feeding procedure; amounts, that very small nestlings need to be in heated environment and their food (fed by syringe) also must be heated to emulate the mother regurgitating into the babies' mouths...anyway, I digress. This is a fabulous far; lots of worry and hard, dedicated work....lots of animals saved!!!! Very very wonderful. UP Awesome, Beautiful, Useful and Interesting!!

    • aviannovice profile imageAUTHOR

      Deb Hirt 

      6 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Joyce, a lot of us saved so many birds. We worked so hard on doing what we had to do. We just did it because we loved birds so much. It broke my heart that I couldn't go to the Gulf states to help on those spills. Unfortunately, volunteers don't get paid.

    • writer20 profile image

      Joyce Haragsim 

      6 years ago from Southern Nevada

      I think we can call you Ms. Geese now they accepted you.

      Great hub and you saved so many birds, your a very good lady.

      Vote up awesome and interesting, Joyce.


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