Aussie birds dying in mass, Austin TX birds dying in lots, a noxious smell in NYC that was not normal, and fish dying in the great lakes.
Man, what is going on?
Toxins may be behind bird deaths
By Nicholas Perpitch
January 10, 2007
WEST Australian authorities believe a toxin may responsible for the mystery deaths of about 5000 birds around Esperance, in the state's south.
With its nearby lakes, offshore islands and national parks, Esperance is renowned for its bird life, but lately the chorus of bird calls has been quieter.
The problem pre-dates last week's destructive storm, which led to the area being declared a natural disaster zone.
The Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) said it received the first report of bird deaths on December 7 from Esperance's Port Authority and reports had since come in from other parts of town as well.
The birds affected include yellow-throated miners, wattle birds, new holland honey eaters and some seagulls and pigeons.
"The birds are dying around sprinklers, water tanks, bird baths ... it seems as a result of them being ill. They're seeking water and they're dying around those water points,'' DEC district nature conservation co-ordinator Mike Fitzgerald said.
WA's Department of Food and Agriculture has conducted autopsies on five birds.
"It doesn't appear to be an infectious cause. Certainly, one thing that is being considered is a toxin,'' acting chief veterinary officer Fiona Sunderman said.
Dr Sunderman said the investigation had been hampered because the dead birds had very little in their stomachs, suggesting the food had been regurgitated or the birds were so unwell they could not eat.
Any one of hundreds of toxins could be causing the deaths but so far all leads had been dead ends, Mr Fitzgerald said.
"We're dealing with birds that eat insects and nectar, so we're at a loss to understand how the toxins have actually entered their food web,'' he said.
"Lead and arsenic and several other heavy metal materials are sometimes shipped through Esperance, but that doesn't seem likely.''
DEC tests have also ruled out the toxin being introduced through insects.
"We need to identify what toxin it is or we need to find the toxin in the water ... something to point where to take this,'' Mr Fitzgerald said.
Esperance bird watcher Alan Rose said he had never seen anything like it and was concerned it could spread to the local population of Cape Baron geese and push it to the brink of extinction.
"Numbers are not large, so they are vulnerable,'' Mr Rose, a member of bird watching group Birds Australia WA, said.
With no breakthrough in sight, authorities are asking the public to bring them more affected birds in the hope one may have enough food in its stomach to identify the toxin.
Autopsy hope in dead bird mystery
January 11, 2007
A TINY dying wattle bird being rushed to Perth this morning could hold the key to the mystery deaths of thousands of birds that dropped from the sky in the southeastern holiday town of Esperance.
As West Australian officials tried yesterday to hose down public health concerns - despite not knowing the cause of the deaths - the sick and convulsing wattle bird was put down by an Esperance veterinary surgeon.
Its gut and organs were preserved to stop decomposition and increase the chances of finding answers when it is flown to Perth today for what will be the sixth bird autopsy in a fortnight.
The other autopsies have failed to explain the deaths, which started three weeks ago, emptying the skies over Esperance of up to 5000 wattle birds, yellow-throated miners, new holland honeyeaters and singing honeyeaters.
Acting state chief veterinary officer Fiona Sunderman said having the latest bird - found in a park by local resident Michelle Crisp - handed in alive should help in the bid to unlock the mystery.
The attitude of West Australian officials is in stark contrast to their counterparts in Texas, who declared a major emergency this week when 63 dead birds were found in a street in the city of Austin.
Austin police shut 10 city blocks as workers in hazardous-materials suits tested for contaminants that may have killed grackles, sparrows and pigeons.
Experts believe the most likely cause of the Texas die-off is a deliberate poisoning as the crow-like grackles are regarded as a pest, covering the sidewalk in droppings.
As Texas officials insisted there was no threat to humans, West Australian Health Department director of environmental health Jim Dodds said there was nothing to indicate any risk to human health in Esperance.
"We're not aware of any concerns out of the bird deaths," Dr Dodds said.
"Our advice stands ... that people should collect the birds using a plastic bag as a glove and deliver the bird to the Department of Environment and Conservation office."
The uncertainty has wildlife experts worried, with Dave Pettet from WA Raptor Rehabilitation and Education concerned that birds of prey such as eagles and kytes could be at risk if they pick up the dead or dying birds.
"If there's a poison going through, it will be a secondary possibility that the raptors will start coming into it fairly soon," he said. "I'm concerned that somebody is doing it on purpose and we need to get to the bottom of it."
Officials admit that they have hit a wall in investigating the phenomenon.
I haven't seen any mention of it at all in my local papers.
I'm so glad Walter can keep me up to [email protected]
Wait for bird autopsy result
January 12, 2007
ALL eyes were on the tiny dead wattle bird when it arrived in Perth yesterday destined for the autopsy table.
The bird was flown 725km on a commercial flight from the southern seaside town of Esperance in a last-ditch effort to discover why thousands of the town's birds have died mysteriously over the past three weeks.
Residents are increasingly concerned, although West Australian health authorities have denied there is any likelihood of a risk to human health.
A post-mortem on the delicate 35g native bird took just over an hour yesterday at the state's animal health laboratory, but a spokesperson said the results would not be known for at least a week.
Tissue samples will be sent to the National Animal Health Laboratory in Victoria in the search for answers.
The catastrophic deaths of up to 5000 wattle birds, honeyeaters and miners in three weeks, have experts baffled. The birds have been found vomiting and convulsing in bushland and suburban backyards over an extensive area.
The Department of Environment and Conservation has failed to uncover any likely cause despite questioning industry groups, agronomists, grain handlers and timber companies about pesticide and chemical use.
They have not ruled out a natural cause, although most believe chemicals or pesticides are more likely.
While five previous autopsies have failed to find answers, the wattle bird represents the state Government's best chance to date because it was handed in while still alive, enabling its organs to be preserved before it was sent to Perth for autopsy.
Birds Australia, the nation's main bird conservation group, said it had never heard of anything similar.
Members of the public are being asked to hand in any dead or dying birds for further tests, but with few birds left in the town they hold little hope of getting more specimens.
Good lord, is it the end of the world already?
what ELSE is dying?
I remember a girl I went down on once, who had obviously not been taking proper care of her area. The instant the smell hit me, I came back up, shellshocked and woozy. For weeks I could not get rid of that stink on my face. Birds dropped from the sky that night too.
I bet she moved to Australia.
27 Things That Fell From the Sky
A great cloud of hay drifted over the town of Devizes in England at teatime on July 3, 1977. As soon as the cloud reached the centre of town, it all fell to earth in handful-size lumps. The sky was otherwise clear and cloudless, with a slight breeze. The temperature was 26 C.
3. BLACK EGGS
On May 5, 1786, after six months of drought, a strong east wind dropped a great quantity of black eggs on the city of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Some of the eggs were preserved in water and hatched the next day. The beings inside shed several layers of skin and resembled tadpoles.
The famous Kentucky meat-shower took place in southern Bath County on Friday, March 3, 1876. Mrs Allen Crouch was in her garden making soap when pieces of fresh meat the size of large snowflakes began to fall from the cloudless sky. Two gentlemen who tasted it said that it was either mutton or venison.
Scientists who examined the material found the first samples similar to lung tissue from either a human infant or a horse. Other later samples were identified as cartilage and striated muscle fibres. The local explanation was that a flock of buzzards had disgorged as a group while flying overhead.
A fine blanket of soot landed on a Cranford park on the edge of London's Heathrow Airport in 1969, greatly annoying the local park keepers. The official report of the Greater London Council said the 'soot' was composed of spores of a black microfungus, Pithomyces chartarum, found only in New Zealand.
8. FIVE HUNDRED BIRDS
About 500 dead and dying blackbirds and pigeons landed in the streets of San Luis Obispo, California, over a period of several hours in late November 1977. No local spraying had occurred, and no explanation was offered.
The Book of Lists, The Original Compendium of Curious Information, by David Wallechinsky and Amy Wallace.
If 5,000 birds (= the total bird population of a complete region) fall poisoned from the sky here, I wouldn't actually joke about it.
But obviously, this isn't really a big problem in Australia.