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Iconic Oiled Pelican photos win award

Via DC Birding Blog

When we think about how people remember events, it's often the still images that stay with us far longer than any written correspondence.  This is particularly true for those that transcend the event itself, those that are both tragic and hauntingly beautiful. 

In the wake of the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon disaster, we were treated to aerial footage of oil sheen, of blobs of oil washing up on white sand Gulf beaches and, most profoundly, to birds drenched in heavy crude struggling for survival.  These images certainly resonate with birders more than any other, but it's a testimony to the power of birds to make an impact with the general public that they've been such an enduring part of our lingering cultural memory of this particular event. 

That's why it's nice to see that one of the photographers who captured some of those amazing photographs was recently honored with the prestigious 2011 Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year for his photo of a group of oiled Brown Pelicans huddled together in a rehabber's crate. 

Oiled Pelicans

From the article:

The birds are seen clustered in a box at a rescue facility in Fort Jackson, Louisiana. At that moment, the animals had just gone through the first stage of cleaning, which involved spraying them with a light oil to break up the heavy crude trapped in their feathers. The resulting smelly, mucky residue dripped from the birds' plumage on to a white sheet.

"The problem with birds is that as soon as they get dirty, they try to clean themselves, which means they swallow a lot of oil. By November 2010, I think they had recovered over 6,000 dead birds," Daniel said.

"There was a closed door on the box. Every so often it would be opened and a bird would be taken out to be cleaned properly. I had a 35mm lens and when that door was opened, I would look in and grab three or four shots. The intent was not to disturb them any more than was necessary."

A remarkable photo.  And a remarkable use of birds to illustrate a much larger point.

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Nate Swick

Nate Swick

Editor, Social Media Manager at American Birding Association
Nate Swick is the editor of the American Birding Association Blog, social media manager for the ABA, and the host of the American Birding Podcast. He lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, with his wife, Danielle, and two young children. He is the author of Birding for the Curious and The ABA Field Guide to Birds of the Carolinas.
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