Heavy fuel oil that spilled from a Kirby Inland Marine oil barge after it collided with a cargo ship on March 22, began washing up on Galveston Bay's shoreline on Sunday. The Coast Guard received its first reports of impacted birds by Sunday afternoon and the Houston Chronicle published a photo of a duck on the beach covered in oil.
There are shorebird habitats on both sides of the shipping channel, including the Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary.
Richard Gibbons, conservation director of the Houston Audubon Society, told the Associated Press that the Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary attracts 50,000 to 70,000 shorebirds to its shallow mud flats perfect for foraging.
“The timing really couldn't be much worse since we're approaching the peak shorebird migration season,” Gibbons said. He added that tens of thousands of wintering birds remain in the area.