Sea birds are landing on California?s beaches covered withoil, but there is no oil leak in the ocean. Scientistsstudying the situation say the oil is not coming upnaturally from the ocean floor. They are planning to analyzethe oil coming off the birds’ bodies so they can try toidentify its source.

Charlie LeDuff writes in the New York Times that there is anoil slick floating someplace?scientists don’t know exactlywhere?along the California coast. So far, it’s killed 700seabirds and injured 700 more, and one sea lion has beentaken to a veterinarian. As many as 5,000 seabirds mayeventually be harmed by becoming coated with oil and unableto fly. the oil also affects their ability to reproduce.

This could be caused by oil pipes that broke during therecent mudslides, as well as leaks from abandoned or littleused oil wells. There are a surprising number of these inthe Los Angeles area, including oil wells still pumping awayat the turnoff to the airport and even one oil well in theyard behind a high school in Beverly Hills. It could also berunoff from the heavily used highways here, that wasdislodged by the rain. However, if this is the case, it’sthe first time highway runoff has been extensive enough toaffect seabirds. There have been no reports of oil tankersin distress.

An oil patch has been spotted floating near Platform Holly,one of the 21 oil-producing platforms off the coast ofCalifornia, but none of these are malfunctioning.Investigators don’t think Holly is to blame.

The investigators may have to trust theirintuition.Subscribers canlearn how to do this too, since Anne’s wonderful interviewwith Sonia Choquette is still available to them.

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