Photo credit Rory McLeod. Dead fish at Lake Pamamaroo in the Menindee Lakes System
As wildfires roared from California to Colorado killing all wildlife in its path and a historic cold snap rushed through the Rocky Mountain region earlier this month, a strange thing started happening: Huge numbers of migratory birds began dropping dead. Normally, birds don't just die in plain sight. But the winged creatures are being found on bike paths and roads, hiking trails and driveways as if they plopped down from the sky. So what's going on?
Researchers are scrambling to explain why hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions, of birds, are suddenly being found dead across wide swaths of New Mexico, Colorado, Nebraska, Arizona and Texas in recent weeks - an event that could be one of the region's largest bird die-offs in recent memory. "Bird die-offs happen, but one doesn't often see this sort of scale in space and time at all," said Andrew Farnsworth, a senior research associate at the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology. "It seems unprecedented to me."
The phenomenon could be due to a confluence of factors, researchers say, including extreme heat and drought throughout the West; plunging temperatures mixed with snow early in the season; and massive wildfires that changed migration patterns or caused birds to inhale too much carbon monoxide.
Regardless of the reason, experts say the sudden deaths could impact bird species that are already seeing precipitous declines in population over the past 50 years as their habitat disappears and climate changes transform the ecosystem. It appears the birds were two-thirds the weight of what they should be, just skin and bones, which reminded me of another catastrophic bird die-off involving American birds late last year."What we are seeing is just the tip of the iceberg" Thousands of short-tailed shearwaters migrating from Alaska have been washing up on Sydney's iconic beaches but the death rate of Alaskan seabirds is unprecedented
BirdLife Australia has rendered the problem a 'crisis'. In a statement on its website, the group says: 'For the fifth consecutive year, the sea surface temperatures off Alaska have been unusually warm, which has led to a dire shortage of the shearwaters' marine prey, resulting in thousands of dead shearwaters being washed ashore along Alaska's beaches. 'According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, they died of starvation. 'It wasn't a single event, though; instead, it was a series of catastrophic die-offs. 'Starting in late June, these die-offs continued along different sections of the Alaskan coast, occurring progressively further south, through into August. 'Numerous shearwaters also washed up on Russia's Chukotka Peninsula as well. 'Although many thousands of birds were found dead and dying on the beach, this is likely the tip of the iceberg as the majority of the birds will have died out at sea.'
It is the tip of the iceberg!
2019 Alaska Seabird Die-off
Photo credit adn.com
The Big Wobble has been reporting an unprecedented seabird die-off in Alaska and Canada since 2015.
Climate change is considered by scientists as a significant contributor to seabird declines with reports of British species such as terns and kittiwakes facing an uncertain future as sea temperatures rise. Puffins, in particular, have suffered enormous losses in recent years and a report from the International Union for Conservation of Nature in April warned the iconic species was at risk of extinction.
Thousands of dead seabirds have been found washed ashore on sites from islands in the Bering Sea to villages north of the Bering Strait, signs of another large die-off in the warmed-up waters of the North Pacific Ocean. (The actual numbers will be in the millions as most will die at sea.) The dead birds are mostly northern fulmars and short-tailed shearwaters, species that migrate long distances to spend summers in waters off Alaska and other northern regions, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reported.
Also in the mix are some kittiwakes, murres and auklets, the federal agency said.
The cause is being investigated. Necropsies so far show that the birds are emaciated - with no food in their stomachs or intestines and little or no fat on their bodies.
"Right now, we know that they are starving to death and can't hold their heads above water, and they're drowning," said Ken Stenek, a teacher in Shishmaref and volunteer in a program that monitors seabirds.
The precise toll is unclear.
The new die-off follows a massive loss of common murres in 2015 and 2016, 2017 and 2018, the biggest murre die-off on record in Alaska, and a precursor to near-total reproductive failures for murres in the Gulf of Alaska and Bering.
It also follows the deaths of thousands of puffins found last fall on St. Paul Island in the Pribilofs and, prior to that, mass deaths of murres and auklets along the U.S. West Coast.
In each death wave, starving birds have left emaciated carcasses, and each wave has been associated with unusually warm marine waters. The University Of Aberdeen has issued the latest depressing news of a catastrophic die-off, this time the unfortunate species is the world's seabirds.
"Our research shows, that despite the decline of the world seabird community between 1970-1989 and 1990-2010, competition with fisheries remained sustained," said the study's lead author Dr Aurore Ponchon from the University of Aberdeen."This competition was even enhanced in almost half the oceans."This enhanced competition, in addition to other factors such as pollution, predation by invasive species on chicks, the destruction and changes in their habitat by human activities and environmental changes caused by climate change, puts seabirds at risk, making them the most threatened bird group.” She added: "This study calls for improved management of the world's fisheries to alleviate competition pressure on seabird populations."
Now higher temperatures in rivers and streams are killing adult salmon before they can even reproduce. Dwindling winter snowpack is also shrinking rivers and streams.
Fish Hatchery workers report seeing more perish in the stream beds before they can spawn.
The federal government has issued a disaster declaration for Alaska's pink salmon fishery and several other salmon and crab fisheries along the West Coast. Gov.
Bill Walker requested the declaration after the 2017 pink salmon harvests in Kodiak, Prince William Sound, Chignik and lower Cook Inlet came in far below forecast, the Alaska Journal of Commerce reported. The disaster declaration granted by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker gave Kodiak and the other Alaska fisheries the ability to seek disaster relief assistance from Congress because of the unexpected large decreases in salmon returns. Full story
Gregory Perez says he's worked for years building and tending to these acres of water, or his private oyster leases. Full story
According to the Guardian, a record-breaking June heatwave apparently caused the largest die-off of mussels in at least 15 years at Bodega Head, a small headland on the northern California bay, with a similar mass mussel deaths at various beaches across roughly 150 miles of coastline.
In 2011 reports from scientists revealed starfish were melting, and shellfish populations were breaking down from Alaska all the way down to Mexico.
The die-off affects the rest of the seashore ecosystem. “Mussels are known as a foundation species. The equivalent is the trees in a forest – they provide shelter and habitat for a lot of animals, so when you impact that core habitat it ripples throughout the rest of the system. Full story
Below is a "small" list, showing deaths of animals killed by disease, pollution or man in the first month and a half of 2020 and let me tell you, I have hardly scratched the surface, many millions more don't get reported. As for marine life, most of the dead sink to the bottom of the sea, or the birds, die out at sea, so you see, below is just a tiny per cent of the real carnage
Have you seen any of these disasters on the media? (Apart from the billion deaths of animals reported in the Aussie bushfires). No, it never gets mentioned. If you get down to the bottom before being sickened, good luck. Full story
And it has, during May and early June 2020, researchers have discovered more than half of the country's herd, around 130,000 have died. The extent and speed are really unheard of according to veterinarian Steffen Zuther who believes bacteria is to blame for the death of the saigas. Full story
According to Buglife wiping squished bugs off your windscreen used to be an annoying summertime task for every motorist. But experts say the decline of insects in the UK has reached such a critical level that drivers have noticed their front window is now fly, gnat, wasp and moth-free. It's not just the UK, here in Holland, every summer the Dutch head off south to France, Spain and Portugal for their annual break, reaching the destination with the front of the car covered in insect road-kill with the difficult task of cleaning the front of the vehicle but not anymore, my neighbour couldn't wait to tell me a month ago how his camper was bug-free arriving in France after a thousand-kilometre journey from Holland.
So where have all the bugs gone? “This is part of the wholesale loss of small animals in recent decades. Nature lovers say the increasing use of pesticides and intensive agriculture over the past 50 years could be to blame.
Beekeepers have lost a third of their colonies every year since 2006 due to these practices, while research into the State of Britain’s Larger Moths, published in collaboration with the charity Butterfly Conservation, showed a fall of insects by 40 per cent in the South of England over the past four decades.