Published: Jul 13, 2010 2:22 AM EDT
Updated: Jul 12, 2010 11:17 PM EDT

Wildlife officers released 21 brown pelicans and 11 gannets into the clean Gulf waters off Sanibel Island on Monay.   All the birds had been coated in oil along the northern Gulf coast, and then cleaned.

"This is awesome, really incredible," said Teresa Parsons of Miami as she watched the crates being opened, and the birds flying away.  

Officers from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service flew with the birds from New Orleans to Fort Myers.  Then, they loaded the crates onto 4 vans and drove to Sanibel, where the birds were released.   All of the birds had been rescued in the past 2 weeks, covered in oil from the British Petroleum well blow-out in the Gulf.

"This is a great opportunity for the officers to do something to help these birds get back to safety in the the wild," said officer Toni Westland, who is stationed at Ding Darling National Wildlife refuge on Sanibel.

Some beach-goers had no idea the release would occur.  Others heard about it on TV news and brought their children to watch the release.    Tim Walker of New Jersey was one of those.  "This is a way to teach the children that people have to take care of the birds and animals.   We have to do what we can, whenever we can, to help them," he told WINK.

Officers say they may bring other rehabilitated birds to this area in the future.