January 3, 2011

Yet Another Benefit of so called safe and sane Fireworks?

In addition to air, water and noise pollution we now have this issue below to contend with. I guess this is similar to dogs that break loose from yards and run wild once fireworks start. The Fireworks industry is pushing very hard to get fireworks now for New Years in addition to July 4th. Soon we we will be able to enjoy lovely fireworks all year long. Wonderful. Next up..fireworks to celebrate Martin Luther King Day...

Update 1/5/11: apparently this WAS the result of fireworks just as was suspected.


Fireworks likely cause of massive Ark. bird kill

By Elizabeth Weise, USA TODAY
It wasn't a secret government spraying program, Martians or gas seeping out of the New Madrid fault that killed the 5,000 or so blackbirds that died New Year's Eve in Beebe, Ark.

It was someone shooting off professional grade fireworks in a residential district, scaring the night-blind birds out of their roost into a 25-mph flight that ran them into houses, signs and even the ground, says Karen Rowe, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission ornithologist.

"They were bouncing off houses, basketball backboards, trucks," she says.

Rowe made her observations Wednesday as Game and Fish officials got back further results from necropsies on the dead birds. The findings have given Rowe and others enough confidence in their original conclusions that they were having fun with some of the other theories floating about.

Separate bird deaths were also reported this week in Louisiana, where 450 died, and in Kentucky last week, where hundreds more were found dead.

LOUISIANA DEATHS: Louisiana has mass bird deaths just days after Arkansas
BIRD KILL: Trauma cited in mysterious Ark. bird kill

The not-so-mysterious saga began at about 10 p.m. New Year's Eve in the tiny town of Beebe, about 40 miles northeast of Little Rock.

"Someone shot off 10 to 12 professional-type fireworks near the roost," she says. Wayne Ballew, Beebe's chief of police, lives nearby. He reported that they "shook the windows on his house," she says.

Rowe has talked with residents who live in the neighborhood where the birds were found and they all reported the loud booms at that time.

At that point, the flock, which could easily numbers in the tens of thousands, took to the air.

It was actually composed of both red-winged blackbirds and European starlings, which commonly roost together.

Unfortunately for the birds, both blackbirds and starlings "have extremely limited night vision," says Robert Meese, an avian ecologist at the University of California-Davis who studies a related blackbird species.

In addition, neighbors were also setting off fireworks and bottle rockets, which further confused the birds who were now madly trying to get back to their safe perches, Rowe says.

"I talked to individuals who were outside when the birds started crashing into things," she says.After the birds took flight they would have been completely disoriented and flying at a high rate of speed, "most likely about 25 mph, given my experience with their cousins, the tricolored blackbird," Meese says.

They would have flown up into the air, then back down looking for a safe place to roost.

"This rapid descent of living birds crashing into these multiple obstacles then caused the loud noises reported by the residents of Beebe, especially those that flew into rooftops or walls of houses," Meese says. "This also accounts for the blunt force trauma to the breasts."

Perhaps most importantly, Meese says, the spatial distribution of the carcasses on the ground is what would be expected from a flock of blackbirds in flight, relatively close together and not scattered over many miles.

The necropsies performed by the Arkansas Livestock and Poultry Commission found trauma to the chest, hemorrhages to the chest and the leading edge of the birds' wings broken, Rowe says.

"What seems like a deep mystery likely is not, and if this had occurred out in the middle of a wheat or corn field instead of in a suburban area, we'd probably never have been aware of it," Meese says.

State officials originally put the number of birds dead at around 3,000, but a more systematic count, and estimates of those taken by scavengers, puts it closer to 5,000, Rowe says.

The story of dead blackbirds raining down from the sky in a small Arkansas town, hitting as it did on a slow news week, caused a huge stir that still surprises state officials.

"I'm keeping a list of the most bizarre theories," Rowe says. So far they include:

• Aliens

• Noxious gases seeping out of the nearby New Madrid fault, cause of a massive earthquake in the area in 1812

• Sonic booms

• Fumes from a gas plant in Mississippi

• The government spraying poison over Beebe

And Meese adds these:

• Black helicopters (covert, unmarked military aircraft)

• Tornadoes

But it's taught Rowe that she and other wildlife experts need to do a better job of educating the public about the fact that wild animals die all the time. A bird that manages to hatch and leave the nest still has only a 70% chance of making it to its first birthday, she points out.

"Birds don't go to the bird hospital and get put on life support and die there. They just die. Mother Nature is not a nice lady," she says.

Contributing: Associated Press

Arkansas blackbird carcasses being sent for testing
CTV.ca News Staff
Date: Mon. Jan. 3 2011 11:16 AM ET

Wildlife experts hope to gain insight this week into what caused the mysterious deaths of more than 1,000 red-winged blackbirds in an Arkansas town on New Year's Eve.

Autopsies will begin Monday in laboratories in Arkansas, Georgia and Wisconsin, according to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, which is heading up the investigation.

It may take a week for results to come in.

For now, investigators are scratching their heads at the strange phenomenon. Between 11:30 p.m. and midnight on New Year's Eve, about 1,000 birds fell from the sky in Beebe, Ark.

Karen Rowe, an ornithologist with the AGFC, suggested lightning, high-altitude hail or celebratory fireworks may have played a role.

Horace Taylor, an animal control officer in Beebe, told CTV's Canada AM he believes the birds were scared into flight by fireworks. Because they have limited night vision, the birds then simply started to fly into objects and each other.

"We're pretty sure it's fireworks that caused it," Taylor said.

"The birds were frightened, they started flying and flying into one another, running into trees, houses, cars and everything they could hit, and it killed them, that's what I think happened."

The dead birds -- which have all been collected -- fell in an area about 1.5 kilometres long by 800 metres wide

The Monday necropsy testing is expected to help determine whether the birds died from trauma or toxin.

The incident occurred just one day after thousands of dead fished washed up on the shore of the Arkansas River, which is about 300 kilometres away from Beebe.

The fish were found by a tugboat operator along a 40-kilometre stretch of the river near the city of Ozark, Ark.

Because only drum fish were affected, some experts have suggested the die-off was likely due to disease, rather than contamination.

It's not clear whether there is any connection between the two incidents.

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