Sunday, November 18, 2007

Oily Birds

Our first morning and we trundled in the sun on the N line tram across the city to Ocean Beach on the Pacific Coast. But as we neared the road to the dunes and surfers' beach, yellow ticker tape and a volunteer official barred our way. Thousands of gallons of oil from a container ship had spilled into San Francisco Bay the previous week and some of it had been swept by the tides round the coast. Now a major rescue of wild birds and clean up operation of the shoreline was underway round the spot that in summer is the breeding ground of the protected Snowy Plover.

We could walk, we were told, at the northern end of the beach but warned to be careful of the oil. As we walked along, we passed a clutch of white protective-suited Coast Guards and saw the helicopters overhead. We learnt on a news programme that volunteers so concerned at the slow rate of clear up had invaded the beach. The Coast Guards in surrender hastily trained them up to help.

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