Cloud Precipitation

300 flamingoes killed by hailstones in Albacete, Spain


Dead flamingoes
Dozens more birds were injured at the lagoon of Pétrola

There have been various stories in the news during the early part of this week concerning the rash of fierce hailstorms which has affected numerous areas of the country, and some of the most violent storms have hit the province of Albacete in the region of Castilla La Mancha.

One of these occurred at the saltwater lagoon of Pétrola in the east of the province on Monday, where around 300 flamingoes are reported to have died although an official total has not yet been finalized. The regional firefighting services were called in to help environmental officials remove the dead birds from the water, and dozens of injured flamingoes were also rescued from the lagoon by staff on board small zodiac boats which were brought from Almansa and Hellín as they worked all morning to clear the shallow water.


60,000 antelopes died in Kazakhstan in 4 days — and no one knows why

© Albert Salemgareyev
In May 2015, nearly half of all the saigas, a critically endangered antelope that roams the steppe of Kazakhstan, died off. Exactly why is still a mystery.
It started in late May.

When geoecologist Steffen Zuther and his colleagues arrived in central Kazakhstan to monitor the calving of one herd of saigas, a critically endangered, steppe-dwelling antelope, veterinarians in the area had already reported dead animals on the ground.

"But since there happened to be die-offs of limited extent during the last years, at first we were not really alarmed," Zuther, the international coordinator of the Altyn Dala Conservation Initiative, told Live Science.

But within four days, the entire herd — 60,000 saiga — had died. As veterinarians and conservationists tried to stem the die-off, they also got word of similar population crashes in other herds across Kazakhstan. By early June, the mass dying was over. [See Images of the Saiga Mass Die-Off]

Now, the researchers have found clues as to how more than half of the country's herd, counted at 257,000 as of 2014, died so rapidly. Bacteria clearly played a role in the saigas' demise. But exactly how these normally harmless microbes could take such a toll is still a mystery, Zuther said.

"The extent of this die-off, and the speed it had, by spreading throughout the whole calving herd and killing all the animals, this has not been observed for any other species," Zuther said. "It's really unheard of."


Wrong place, wrong time: Extremely rare Arctic Beluga whales seen off cold beach in Northumberland, UK

© Seawatch Foundation
The distinctive beluga whale is a rare sight in British waters
Delighted holidaymakers caught sight of two elusive beluga whales swimming casually off a Northumberland beach over the weekend in arguably the wildlife event of the year.

Belugas are some of the most charismatic of all the whales, their ghostly white forms blending with the ice floes of their native haunts off Greenland and the Barents Sea.

They are extremely rare visitors to British waters and until last month there had only ever been 17 recorded sightings throughout history, with the vast majority in Scotland.

After one was filmed off the coast of County Antrim in July, two other belugas have now turned up in the North Sea, with experts highlighting the unusually low water temperatures this summer as a possible cause for their visits.

Whatever the reasons, for fortunate whale-watchers the chance of seeing the belugas is a once in a lifetime happening.

Comment: See also these other reports in 2015 from the UK: Wrong time, wrong place: Rare Arctic Beluga whale seen off the Irish coast

Rare Arctic bowhead whale seen for the first time in UK waters


Blue whale seen in British waters for first time in history

Blue whale caught swimming in British waters
This unique but distant shot of a small dorsal fin cutting through the Atlantic marks the only accepted pictorial evidence of a blue whale off the UK's coast.

The huge cetacean, measuring twice the length of a double-decker bus, was seen 250 miles south west of Cornwall over a deep-sea canyon on the edge of the Bay of Biscay, part of which lies within within English territorial waters.

Prof Russell Wynn from the National Oceanography Centre took the photograph while taking part in a marine mammal survey on board the Royal Research Ship James Cook last month.

He explained: "I was enjoying watching up to seven Fin Whales around the ship, when the blue whale suddenly surfaced about a kilometre away.


Man attacked by grizzly bear in Ghost wilderness area, Alberta


Grizzly bear
A 31-year-old man attacked by a protective mother grizzly bear in the Ghost wilderness area on the weekend is expected to recover from his injuries, according to an Alberta government spokesman.

Around 8 p.m. on Saturday, two men on off-highway vehicles were injured when they crested a hill in the Ghost public land use zone and surprised a mother bear with two cubs.

"We believe they were grizzly bears," said Brendan Cox, a spokesman for Alberta Fish and Wildlife. "It was a defensive reaction by the mother bear to protect her cubs.

"It is unfortunate that one of these people was seriously injured before they were able to use the bear spray."

The grizzly retreated when the men used a form of pepper spray that can be used to deter aggressive bears in the wilderness.


Hunter attacked by grizzly bear in Idaho released from hospital


Grizzly bear
An archery hunter who was attacked by a sow grizzly bear while hunting in the Caribou-Targhee National Forest in the vicinity of Yale Creek near Sawtell Peak Monday was released from the Madison County hospital after walking out under his own power.

The archer sustained injuries to his hand and wrist. He had no broken bones but he did have soft tissue damage. He was treated and received antibiotics and painkillers, according to officials from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG).

Mike Adams, 55, of Idaho Falls, reportedly was carrying bear spray but apparently couldn't access it when the attack occurred. He tried to shoot the bear several times with a .44 magnum revolver pistol at point-blank range.

Following the attack, Adams was able to reach his cell phone and was able to dial 911 to call for help.


Elephant rams safari truck in Hwange, South Africa

A British traveler in South Africa captured GoPro camera footage of an annoyed elephant taking a swipe at a safari truck filled with onlookers.

The video, posted to Vimeo by Kid_GoPro, shows the elephant make angry-sounding noises while ramming the safari truck filled with wildlife watchers.

The truck takes the hit and spins around before the elephant storms off,
apparently satisfied that his point was made.

The uploader said "no one was harmed other than the safari truck" during the incident in Hwange, South Africa.


Almost all seabirds are eating plastic

© Britta Denise Hardesty
Toothbrushes, dolls arms, balloons, cigarette lighters and bottle caps are just some of the items on a seabird's dinner menu these days, say researchers.
Ninety per cent of the planet's seabirds are having plastic for dinner, a new study has found.

The findings are from the first global assessment of plastic ingestion by seabirds, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Toothbrushes, cigarette lighters, bottle caps and even a doll's arm are just some of the items on a seabird's dinner menu these days, says Dr Chris Wilcox of CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research.

Previous research suggests there are as many as 580,000 pieces of plastic polluting each square kilometre of the ocean at any one time. And there have been increasing reports about it being found in the guts of marine organisms including turtles, fish, dolphins and seabirds.

To see how pervasive the plastic threat was to seabirds across the planet, Wilcox and colleagues compared maps showing the changing density of plastic over time with maps showing the distribution of seabird species.

They also reviewed published studies of plastic ingestion carried out in 135 species of seabirds between 1962 and 2012. For example, previous studies on Lord Howe Island have found that around 10 per cent of the body weight of some birds is plastic. By combining all this data, the scientists were able to develop a model that links the amount of plastic a seabird consumes to the amount it's exposed to.

"As birds encounter more plastic they'll have more plastic in their gut and conversely if they encounter less they'll have less," says Wilcox.

Using the model the researchers estimate that today, a "shockingly high" 90 per cent of seabirds are ingesting plastic. The researchers also found that the threat was relevant to 99 per cent of seabird species.

"If you use that model and predict forward we conclude that by about 2050, plastic will be in about all seabird species on the current trend."

The research suggests plastic ingestion is likely to have its highest impact in the Tasman Sea, southeast of Australia, where there is a high number of seabirds and a high density of plastic pollution, says Wilcox.


300 buffaloes die of anthrax at Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya

Bacillus anthracis
In an update on the anthrax update at Lake Nakuru National Park in Kenya from July, Dr Kisa J. Z. Juma Ngeiywa, CVO Director of Veterinary Services with the Ministry of Agriculture in Nairobi reported to the World Organisation for Animal Health that the outbreak is ongoing and the number of animals affected has increased.

Ngeiywa notes the number of dead Cape buffaloes due to anthrax in Lake Nakuru National Park has reached 300. The park has a buffalo population of 4,500.

In addition, a number of other animals have been affected to include rhinos, Rothschild giraffes, elands, impalas, warthogs and Thomson gazelles.

Officials report the source of the outbreak is contact with infected animal(s) at grazing/watering near the lake shore, watering holes and the fence line since mid-July.


Mysterious disease kills 100 goats in Ragapur, India


100 goats perish in Ragapur village
At least 100 goats have perished displaying symptoms of cold and fever at Ragapur village in Sirpur (U) mandal in the last four days spreading panic among the Gonds. "We are unable to understand what ails the goats," wondered Pendur Geeta one of whose goats fell ill two days back. Kanaka Sonabai, the local Asha workers and some other villagers informed the animal husbandry department of the disease which seems to be endemic as of now.

The veterinarian did respond but failed in saving the goats the loss being valued at over Rs. 4 lakh in terms of money.

According to villagers the goats seemed to have contracted the disease while grazing in the nearby open lands. "The animals developed the symptoms only in the night after returning from grazing," Geeta disclosed.