Falling Fish
© Unknown
"A procession of the damned.
By the damned, I mean the excluded.
We shall have a procession of data that Science has excluded.

Battalions of the accursed, captained by pallid data that I have exhumed, will march. You'll read them -- or they'll march. Some of them livid and some of them fiery and some of them rotten..."

- Charles Fort,
The Book of the Damned
Yes, and rotten is what Beebe, Arkansas woke up to on the opening day of 2011: A whole lot of rotting red-winged blackbirds. Initial estimates put the number of dead birds littering the yards and streets of Beebe at around 5000. Not only this, but about 125 miles west in Ozark, Arkansas an estimated 100,000 dead drum fish have turned up on the shores of the Arkansas River.

So what gives?

To coincide with the mass of dead birds and fish from Arkansas, Chile also experienced a mass death of sooty shearwater birds along the shoreline between Mela and Colmo Yao counties. This comes on the heels of a magnitude 7.0 earthquake in the Santiago Del Estero region. Likewise, on the opposite side of South America, at least one-hundred tons of dead fish -- mostly sardines, croaker and catfish -- have turned up on the shores of Paraná, Brazil since last Thursday. These signs do not bode well for 2011!

Now in a world such as ours, with nearly every square inch of the planet polluted beyond living tolerance, it would seem that mass animal deaths should not be so uncommon. After all, in the past several years we've seen mass die-offs of honeybees, bats, dolphins, pelicans, frogs and likely other species that have gone unnoticed. The cause of these mass animal deaths has often turned out to be specific diseases, pollutants, or some combination of the two. The odd thing about these dead blackbirds in Beebe is that they just dropped dead in mid-flight. As Karen Rowe, an ornithologist for the wildlife commission commented, "it's important to understand that a sick bird can't fly." So what exactly caused over 5,000 blackbirds to take flight in the middle of the night then drop out of the sky? These Blackbirds are normally sleeping at night and they have very poor eyesight in the dark, according to experts.

But not to worry, apparently the blackbird deaths pose no real mystery! According to the director of Cornell University's ornithology lab in Ithaca, New York, the most likely cause of this blackbird carnage is a "washing machine-type thunderstorm" which sucked the birds up into the sky and proceeded to soak them. Being completely soaked, this, in turn, caused them to freeze to death in the cold December air at which point they fell from the sky.

The good director's sorry attempt to explain away the dead birds would make Charles Fort roll over in his grave for sure!

However, Dr. George Badley, Arkansas's top veterinarian, tells a slightly different tale:
Preliminary autopsies on 17 of the up to 5,000 blackbirds that fell on this town indicate they died of blunt trauma to their organs, the state's top veterinarian told NBC News on Monday.

Their stomachs were empty, which rules out poison, Dr. George Badley said, and they died in midair, not on impact with the ground.

That evidence, and the fact that the red-winged blackbirds fly in close flocks, suggests they suffered some massive midair collision, he added. That lends weight to theories that they were startled by something.
The quote above implies that they collided with something, or something collided with them and that they were "startled". Now, before jumping to the conclusion that they must have run into a UFO or some super-secret government beam weapon, let's see if there's an explanation a little more mundane (despite how unlikely it seems at this point).

Preliminary reports suggested that the birds could have been killed by fireworks, lightning or even high-altitude hail from storms. As far as storms go, Beebe did suffer a spell of bad weather earlier in the day on Friday that included lightning and thunder. But the storms were far east of the city by the time the birds were falling out of the sky at around 9-10pm on New Year's Eve.

Dead Fish Arkansas River
© Arkansas Game and Fish CommissionDead fish are seen along the Arkansas River.

Then we have the coinciding drum fish deaths west of Beebe along the Arkansas River. Surely these underwater fish couldn't have collided with the same object that struck the birds. Drum fish are known as bottom feeders and fishermen know them as some of the toughest fish around. As one fisherman wrote, "[the drum fish] is the most useless and depressing fish in the world. The thing never dies, you can stand there with a club and whack it for a long time, it'll live." In any case, we won't know what actually caused the fish deaths for another month, according a spokesman for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

The two mass deaths of fish and birds in such close proximity to each other seems too coincidental to be completely unrelated, although the cause of death would appear to be different in the case of each animal. It's almost as if whatever killed the birds set off a chain of events that led to the fish deaths and maybe other phenomena as well. As of this writing, a similar die-off of blackbirds appears to have taken place just three days later in Louisiana:
Labarre, Louisiana - Around 500 dead blackbirds and starlings have been found in Pointe Coupee Parish, according to state wildlife officials.

This comes after about 5,000 blackbirds and swallows were found dead around Beebe, Arkansas on New Year's Eve. Dr. Jim LaCour with LDWF said he's not sure the two incidents are connected.

"It's not common, (but) we do see a few die-offs for various reasons," said LaCour. "Yes, we need to look into it, we need to be a little alarmed, but it's not out of the scope of things to have a die-off."
And now there are even reports of dead blackbird falling out of the sky in places as far away as Kentucky:

It appears that these dead blackbirds first showed up in Kentucky around "Christmas time", which means that this die-off process might be something ongoing as opposed to a single collision in an isolated area. It's possible that these other bird deaths outside of Arkansas were simply weather or disease related, but it still seems awfully strange. Could all of these birds die as a result of a collision? And if so, what sort of 'collision' could span three states and happen in multiple instances over a week-long period to cause such carnage?

Methane Out-Gassing

The Earth has been known to expel gasses such as C02 and Methane in large quantities at times -- sometimes to the detriment of surface dwelling life. This out-gassing usually happens in areas of high volcanic activity, but the phenomenon is not entirely exclusive to these regions. Regions that have high natural gas production, such as the mid-section of Arkansas, may present other areas where out-gassing could occur. The New Madrid Earthquakes of 1811-1812, which occurred in the greater Arkansas region, exhibited a number of effects consistent with the out-gassing of methane, according to the geologist and astrophysicist Thomas Gold in his paper Terrestrial Sources of Carbon and Earthquake OutGassing.

Flaming Tap
© Mike HaleAn image from “Gasland,” a documentary on problems attributed to natural-gas drilling, including flaming kitchen taps.

With the recent practice in the oil and gas industry of hydraulic fracturing, a number of residents living nearby such operations have reported "flaming water" from their water wells (the flammable component being methane). As humans are now opening up the Earth in rather unnatural ways, in addition to polluting the groundwater and making a lot of their fellow people sick with the practice of hydraulic fracturing, could hydraulic fracturing (which is widely practiced in Arkansas for 'enhancing' gas wells) produce a higher probability of Gaia 'burping' in a given region?

While there is some suspicion that out-gassing could be the mechanism behind certain mass bird and fish die-offs around the world, this doesn't appear to be the case with the blackbirds in Beebe. If we believe the top Arkansas veterinarian, Dr. George Badley, these birds died as a result of some "collision". The only way that methane could fit in with the evidence so far is if a bubble of the stuff exploded somewhere in the atmosphere near the birds. Up to this point, however, we've seen no other evidence on the ground around Beebe that indicates out-gassing activity. Tests for poisonous gasses and other diseases have turned up negative in all the reports given to the media. However, we can't rule out out-gassing as the cause of fish deaths since those tests are currently underway at the time of this writing. If we assume that the fish may have died as a result of methane out-gassing, is there a common link between this out-gassing and the 'collision' bird deaths?

Overhead Explosions of the Cosmic Sort

One possibility for these bird deaths that I haven't seen mentioned anywhere yet is that of a shock wave from a overhead meteor or bolide explosion. Connecting some dots here... In the days preceding the Blackbird die-off there were several meteor sightings/experiences in the Eastern US that may be consistent with a stream of cometary debris entering Earth's atmosphere:

Bright Maryland Meteor Spotted Tuesday Evening
I came back today to two reports of a bright meteor visible from Maryland Tuesday evening, Dec. 28, 2010. Details are still very sketchy. But 25-or-so other people from Virginia to New England spotted something similar at about the same time, according to fireball reports to the American Meteor Society web site.
US: Meteors Scream Over Maryland for Past Two Nights
For a second night in a row, Maryland residents have reported large fireballs coursing through the night sky...

On Tuesday, the sky over Frederick and Hagerstown lit up like daytime when what must have been an epic meteor broke through the atmosphere. The
Frederick Post was quickly on the story, gathering the most terrifying quote perhaps ever printed about shooting stars:

"I heard this sizzling behind me. ... I turned and looked: This huge meteorite came. ... It was throwing off sparks and chunks," Labrush said. "I'm into meteorites - every time they call for meteor showers, I'm out. I very seldom get scared - (but) I never want to see another one like that."
Florida, US: Mysterious 'space ice' baffles Lee County family
An Alva family says a chunk of ice fell from the sky and landed in their backyard. The homeowner says the skies were clear blue and can't figure out how it happened.

Cyndi Smith says she is still trying to figure it all out.

"I don't know, a space ice comet! I don't have any ideas where it came from," she said.

According to one article, residents of Beebe experienced explosions just before the birds started falling:
Game and Fish Commission officers said there were reports of loud noises shortly before the birds began to fall from the sky, which may have accounted for why they were flying at such an unusual hour.
Others in the area suspected that it was 'fireworks' that caused the birds to die:
A local resident reported hearing about 20 loud booms Saturday night - which could have been fireworks or a cannon to get rid of nuisance birds - and saw a huge flock of frantic birds when he went outside.
The big question is: Were these loud booms the result of fireworks for New Year's celebrations, or were these explosions something of a cosmic sort like the Maryland residents witnessed days before? Perhaps one of the overhead explosions was enough to startle the birds out of the trees into the sky, and then the shock wave of another struck them unexpectedly mid-flight as they frantically tried to escape the loud noises? Birds have much more sensitive internal organs than humans do, so the shock wave could have affected only the ones in the air closest to the blast. By the time the shock wave reached the surface, it would have likely dissipated enough so that any surface dwelling creatures (including humans) were unaffected and probably only heard it as a loud 'thunder'.
Update (January 5, 2011)

To lend credence to the meteor explosion theory, we noticed this recent article that referenced a Doppler radar snapshot over Beebe about a half hour before the reports of blackbirds falling out of the sky poured in. The commentator at Maryland Weather suspects that this blip on the radar -- which encompasses many square miles -- is actually a huge flock of blackbirds in mid-flight. Perhaps this is one possibility, but such an image is also consistent with an overhead meteor explosion.

For those who don't recall, there were several meteor explosions over the Midwest that occurred on April 14th of 2010. Fireballs lit up the skies over Madison, Wisconsin and areas along the border of Iowa and Illinois. Despite the lasting impression this made on nearby residents, these fireballs also painted a huge blip on Doppler radar as well. But perhaps this was only a huge flock of birds too...

Madison Wisconsin Meteor
© University of Wisconsin-Madison, Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic SciencesMeteor flash over Madison, Wisconsin on April 14th, 2010.
Midwest Meteor Radar April
© UnknownWisconsin Meteor Doppler Radar Data - April 14, 2010
Beebe Radar comments
© UnknownDoppler radar over showing the huge blip over Beebe, Arkansas from another angle.

We also have a renegade earthquake in Indiana that occurred on December 30th in an area that has never experienced an earthquake in all of recorded geological history. There are no known faults in the region which leads us to suspect that the earthquake may have been of cosmic origin too. Just as a comparison, the 1908 Tunguska explosion in Siberia produced a magnitude 5.0 earthquake at the nearest seismic station. It should be noted that a bolide explosion in the upper atmosphere may not necessarily be visible to people on the ground. But could this hypothetical blast (or series of blasts) be so lucky as to hit birds in all three states, and if so, why is it only blackbirds? Why don't we see large masses of other migratory birds among the fallen dead?

If an overhead bolide explosion is enough to send a shock wave into the earth, killing birds mid-flight or causing earthquake-like effects, surely such a shock wave could liberate pockets of gas within the Earth as well. This could push poisonous gasses to the surface or diffuse them into bodies of waters. Perhaps this chain of events, starting with an overhead bolide blast and proceeding to an out-gassing of methane into the Arkansas River is what killed all those drum fish? But if that was the case, why only drum fish? Whatever killed these birds and fish seems strangely selective, although this could be due to a flock or a school being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Still, red-winged blackbirds and drum fish seem to be the primary victims at this point.

Meteor Impacts and Genetic Changes
How the Tunguska object may have appeared.

Given the seemingly genetic selectivity of these bird and fish deaths, one wonders if there isn't some mechanism going on here that we haven't considered - something hitherto unknown by mainstream science. Considering the meteor explosion hypothesis, there is an interesting study that was conducted on the flora and fauna (including humans) surrounding the 1908 Tunguska blast area by the Budker Institute of Nuclear Physics in Novosibirsk, Russia. What they discovered was rather surprising. Various species of flora had certain genetic differences from similar species in the surrounding forest. These weren't any sort of sci-fi mutations, but they were nonetheless sufficiently quantifiable to be measured.

Another interesting observation they discovered was that the genetic changes didn't necessarily occur to the flora and fauna closest to the blast site, but rather to those specimens closest to the meteor's travel path. It was almost as if the light or sound given off by the meteor prior to the explosion had the ability to alter species' DNA in some mysterious way. The authors of the study speculate that electromagnetic waves in the VLF range were given off during the meteor's approach. These VLF waves then affected "heat shock proteins" in the nearby plants and animals, causing lasting genetic modifications.

VLF waves have also been observed preceding major earthquake events too. Some even believe these waves can predict major earthquakes. There have also been many cases in modern literature and folklore of animals acting crazy or trying to escape just before major earthquakes. If VLF waves preceding earthquakes are what drive animals to such odd behavior, perhaps it's not such a stretch to consider VLF waves from meteors or fireballs as producing mutation or death in a given species? Maybe meteor or comet impacts are the real evolutionary origin of this biological flight program found in some animals?

One has to admit this is highly speculative, however. There could possibly be other more plausible explanations for the selectivity of these mass animal deaths once more data becomes available. As mentioned above, it could just be a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Perhaps it is best to leave this one "open" for now and see where this Procession of the Damned ends up...