Bird rescue during the cleanup

Cheong Wei Siong, recovering from coordinating the mangrove operations at Buloh-Kranji finally shared an interesting story with us amidst the chaos of the morning:

“A few NUS participants alerted me of a injured bird at their cleanup site near the end of KR2. It was (I think) a grey heron. It’s neck was somehow twisted, and i think the left wing was broken.

The participants were quite afraid to go near it though. I contacted Krish [K. Ramakrishnan of SBWR], and he told me to carry it up GENTLY, place it inside a trash bag and pass it to him.

Krish brought it back to Buloh, gave it a shot of anesthetic. He said the injury may be due to a concussion upon landing, and the chances of the heron surviving is little. I didn’t have time to find out more later but felt glad that I was able, at least, to prevent the the bird from drowning in the high tide. Hopefully it stands some chance rather than no chance at all. But I am not sure if I hurt it while transferring it into the bag, its fragile.

This is the FIRST TIME i have tried to save a bird or rather any animal!!!!!!

So err, story ended. =)

Characteristically Wei SIong. He must sleeping peacefully now. Before he slept, I did tell him that it was lucky the bird was near Buloh, its where we have sent other injured birds.

We all hope the heron will survive.

And Wei Song, its the not the first animal you’ve saved. Think of every cleanup you’ve helped to organise!

So where were we today?

Unfortunately a quick Google Maps chart of site points that Kenneth prepared in a hurry has disappeared. We were responding to an urgent query from Shobana Kesava; she needed a preliminary sketch map of the sites that were tackled today.

I could not use the Google Earth file I’d been using for planning since she doesn’t use it. I did think about exporting but then it’d be quicker to sketch, scan and email. But the ICCS Otter had left the museum (it was already after 6pm) and I didn’t have a scanner at home.

Then I thought of sketching and photographing the result but then remembered the blank map at the National Geographic Xpeditions site. I used Skitch to do the rest.

Skitch has a good run today capturing and uploading images, seeing how my NUS servers were unavailable. Always good to have alternatives. Like this WordPress blog – been citing it to the people who needed the information. What eased my pain was ecto; it makes WordPress as fast as my blog engine. And its available on pcs too.

Well Shobana filed her story and hopefully it will survive editorial onslaught tonight.

Plastic debris – curse of the albatross

Marie Y. Azzarello & Edward S. Van Vleet, 1987. Marine birds and plastic pollution. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser., 37: 295-303.

Abstract: The intrinsic properties and widespread presence of plastic particles in the marine environment have profound effects on birds inhabiting the world’s oceans. Industrial and user-plastics composed of polystyrene, polypropylene, polyethylene, styrofoam, and polyvinyl chloride are the most prevalent forms of plastic marine pollution.

Their dispersal and accumulation, in average densities of 1000 to 4000 pieces km-2, are controlled by surface currents, wind patterns, and different geographic inputs. Seabirds in the order Procellariiformes are most vulnerable to the effects of plastic ingestion due to their smaller gizzard and their inability to regurgitate ingested plastics.

Planktivores have a higher incidence of ingested plastics than do piscivores as the former are more likely to confuse plastic pellets with copepods, euphausiids, and cephalopods. Hence, diet may be a major factor determining the quantity of plastic ingested. Physiological effects related to the ingestion of plastics include obstruction of the gastrointestines and of subsequent passage of food into the intestines, blockage of gastric enzyme secretion, diminished feeding stimulus, lowered steroid hormone levels, delayed ovulation and reproductive failure.

As plastic manufacture and use increases and subsequent disposal at sea becomes more extensive, the impact of dscarded plastic on birds inhabiting the marine environment may also be expected to increase.

Download the pdf of the paper here.

Royal Albatross (Diomedea sanfordi, Order Procellariiformes),
Otago Peninsula (off Dunedin), New Zealand.
Photo by Anita Gould.

More photos uploaded!

Earlier this year I had decided to switch to Flickr even though the old workhorse iView Media Pro had its advantages. I had been using that for all the earlier years. However my server is preventing uploads so just as well!

And Flickr has done a great job, and all of this has been really easy. You can download the originals and comment too! And insert photos feeds into your blogs, like I did in the sidebar. The list of photo albums will be maintained here.

I’ll feature them individually and to get the ball rolling are some shots from Kranji Mangroves by Kenneth Pinto:










Data streaming in…

At International Coastal Cleanups throughout the world, you will see about one-third the volunteers carefully check off items against a list of categories or marine debris. All that data is collated by the end of the session with every three data cards consolidated into one until there remains only one summarising the site’s results. It’s a wonderful system that has reduced lots of work and delays. In Singapore we have posted data for mangroves online THE SAME DAY since 2001 and since 2002 for beaches.

Photo by Kenneth Pinto.

It doesn’t happen by magic though! When the cleanup volunteers head home, Zone Captains return to the Raffles Museum – the ICCS headquarters – where photos are uploaded and data is processed to generate charts and total debris from around the country. Once all the data is in, this data is submitted to the Ocean Conservancy which publishes an annual report based on global data.

Photo by Kenneth Pinto; more photos in this flickr set.

We track the data coming in and ensure we get it all the same weekend. That way no one has any homework after the cleanup a can see their results the next day! Google Spreadheets comes in real handy with its live uploads and multiple user data entry. We have to do a good job to ensure the volunteer’s efforts are not in vain! And by making the data public, anyone can use it.

See the ICCS 2007 Status sheet

Photos from Kallang Basin are in!

Ng Kai Scene, the South Zone Coordinator brought in the data and photos from the zone she coordinates in partnership with Kallang’s flagship group, Waterways Watch Society.

The groups that groups that participated in that area are the German European School, NUS High School, NTU Earthlink, Compassvale Secondary and Waterways Watch Society. See the Flick set here.

“I always thought one more straw wouldn’t hurt anyone…”

After years of picking up all sort of consumer waste on our shores including an endless number of straws (e.g. 1,534 straws and stirrers picked up from half of the East Coast beaches this year), I am an enthusiastic advocate of the first maxims in “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.” “REDUCE” eliminates improper disposal, space for trash, chemicals from burning or figuring out the complications about recycling.

Picking up that last straw.

November Tan who blogged about the inspirational morning’s activities, has heard the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore coordinators (her fellow museum volunteers) talk about the issue so often, that she actually gave up on straws before attending her first cleanup! She says,

“Reading the article [“Battling the Curse of Marine Litter”], I remember something about straws.

Today when we first reach the shore to start, a fellow NUS volunteer immediately noticed the multitudes of straws there and it made an impact on him straightaway. He said the very familiar line that “I always thought one more straw wouldn’t hurt anyone…” and you know what’s left unspoken.

I’m just glad that … because of all the discussions over the years, I don’t use straws anymore! Apparently the drink stall uncles at arts canteen sees me coming towards them and would straight away say “no straw right?” haha If only more people turn down straws as well.”

George Jacobs, a long-time advocate against straws, would be pleased to hear that. He wrote in again this year to the local broadsheet, The Straits Times (Singapore) to emphasise the point:

Straws not only killer litter, they endanger wildlife too

MR ANDY Voon Kian Hiong is right to say in his letter, ‘Go green, have a straws-free day’ (The Sunday Times, July 8), that we should reduce our use of drinking straws.

For most drinks, most people above the age of three can easily manage without a straw. Straws are not only an unnecessary waste of resources, but they are also a form of killer litter in that they endanger wildlife which mistake straws for food.

Every year, straws are among the most common forms of litter collected by the many volunteers who participate in the International Coast Cleanup, Singapore. This year, International Coastal Cleanup, Singapore will be held on Sept 15. I hope many people will join the clean-up and even more people will litter less and help conserve resources by reducing the use of drinking straws.

George Jacobs

Read the other comments offered by Straits Times readers there, and decide for yourself.

RGS data in from East Coast Park sites EC6-12

The Raffles Girls School Secondary 1 cohort has submitted their data for East Coast Sites 6-12. The organiser Mr Lim Er Yang submitted his excel sheet and their data report includes

  • 6,641 pieces of styrofoam,
  • 4,765 Cigarettes / Cigarette Filters
  • 2,047 food wrappers and containers
  • 1,534 straws and stirrers and
  • 1,009 pieces of Plastic sheeting / Tarps

Their comment:

“Styrofoam pieces and cigarette butts number as the most common pollutant on the beach, followed closely by plastic pieces. Pupils noted that recreational activities along East Coast Park encouraged human interaction with the sea and people simply litter out of convenience, even though litter bins are located close at hand.”

Working in the rain

The Kranji mangroves crew shrugged off the rain and got the job done!

Some early photos from NUS participant November Tan – she’s blogged about the inspirational participants already and the rest of her photos are on flickr.