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Baby seabird rescue efforts in Long Beach and San Pedro deemed a success

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The mission took quick thinking, innovation and plenty of patience.

But this summer’s rescue of some 580 baby seabirds in the Long Beach Harbor has turned the corner — and is now being hailed a success, though some of the work continues.

The chicks, all from a nesting colony of about 2,000 elegant terns on two anchored barges near the Queen Mary, were spotted falling off the platforms in early July as they began to fledge, since there wasn’t much growing room as they became more active.

Rescuers, led by Lenny Arkinstall of Los Angeles Cerritos Wetlands Stewards, went out in small boats to pluck the birds, too young to be waterproof, out of the harbor. They were transported to the International Bird Rescue facility in San Pedro, where they were treated and nurtured back to health.

The chicks did well and, just recently, bird center staff and volunteers began returning the recovered birds to their colony.

And they now also have a place to dry off should they fall again.

More than 10 floating platform “haul-outs” are now set up alongside the barges for the terns to get out of the water safely. They are low enough to the water’s surface for the small terns to climb onto and get warm.

Teams have been returning the stabilized healthy chicks as quickly as possible to the 180-foot-long barges that serve as their nesting sites. Baby seabirds, the center noted in a recent news release, have the best chance of surviving if they are raised in the wild by their parents.

As they were returned, an International Bird Rescue statement said, a “reunion” chorus of mutual bird calls could be heard.

The Bird Rescue staff now leads a multi-agency team to patrol and monitor the barges, taking any sick or emaciated chicks to the center for treatment.

Los Cerritos Wetlands Stewards, California Fish and Wildlife, Oiled Wildlife Care Network, the Aquarium of the Pacific, California Science Center, Heal the Bay, Marine Spill Response Corporation and Ocean Animal Response and Research Alliance have all been involved in the effort.

“Thank you to our supporters and partners for their high level of support,” said JD Bergeron, CEO of International Bird Rescue. “We believe our efforts will help protect a generation of this vulnerable species of seabird, which has been classified as near-threatened.”

Tim Daly, a spokesman for California Fish and Wildlife, said in July that it was possible that the birds were among those that left the Bolsa Chica Wetlands, in Huntington Beach, to find new nesting grounds in the harbor. The birds had been startled by two drones flying illegally over the Orange County nesting area on May 13. Fearing an attack from a predator, they abandoned their nests, leaving behind some 2,000 eggs at the time.

Fledgling activity is increasing currently, so chicks are still being rescued from the water around the barges. Rescuers are assisting the babies off the haul-outs until a longer-term solution can be put into place.

Non-sanctioned vessels are asked to keep away from the tern breeding colony, as any additional disturbance could disrupt the rescue efforts that are still ongoing.

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Source: Orange County Register

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