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I am a life long bird watcher and have done much of my birding offshore - Oil seeps out of the Gulf of Mexico at a a rate that would stun most naturalists, without man's intervention the imput is widely spread and with the gas, which vents even more prolifically, these hydrocrabons are the energy source that deepwater marine life is so dependant on. Oil has always occurred naturally. However when both birding and working in the sixties and seventies every visit to a beach seemed accompanyed by oil stained towels and 'scope tripod and regular sightings of partially oiled birds. Thankfully that is not the case now on most European and US beaches. You say this present spill is an 'uncontrolled scientific experiment' so was the regular spills and washing out of bunker oil in the 60'5 and 70's. Is there anything we can learn about the robustness of seabird and wetland bird populations to that former uncontrolled scientific experiment to relate to the present situation. I can't remeber any analysis but surely somebody would have looked at particular 'black spots' such as Liverpool Bay and the Solent in the UK and many places in the US. I have to say that if there is food and a habitat and no direct persecution, pouplations of most species appear very resilient and the loss of Loiusiana wetlands at an astonishing rate due to unsympathetic engineering of the environement would surely seem to be the most significant long term risk to wetland bird populations in the area.
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