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Tue, 24 Jan 2017
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'A Waxwing Winter': Soaring numbers of rare birds invade the UK

© Les Williams
Waxwings
An unusual species of bird is enjoying a winter vacation here in the UK, according to the RSPB charity.

Waxwings are a small starling-sized bird with a prominent crest and colourful markings. They only travel here from Siberia and northern Scandinavia when they experience a particularly harsh winter or if there is a shortage of food.

So many have been spotted this year, the RSPB has described it as a 'Waxwing Winter'.
They're moving across the country from east to west and they're devouring trees full of berries .... Only ever 3 or 4 years do these birds come in large numbers.

- JAMIE WYVER, RSPB
The wildlife conversation charity hopes the rare winter visitor will encourage more people to take part in its annual Big Birdwatch, the world's biggest wildlife survey.

© Les Williams
Waxwings mostly feed on fruit.

Comment: See also: Rare waxwing birds from abroad that signal harsh winter seen across Gloucestershire, UK as temperatures plummet


Seismograph

5.4 magnitude earthquake hits central Italy, tremors felt in Rome

© Alessandro Bianchi / Reuters
Quake comes months after almost 300 people were killed in Central Italy earthquake

An earthquake has struck Italy, shaking buildings in Rome just months after almost 300 people were killed in one of the worst disasters in living memory.

Residents of the capital described their homes and offices shaking at around 10.25am local time (9.5am BST).

The European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre (EMSC) measured the quake at magnitude 5.4, placing the epicentre in Central Italy, just over 10 miles from Maltignano.

There was no immediate indication of deaths or severe damage, the organisation said.

Small tremors have reportedly been felt in Rome for several weeks but Wednesday's was the biggest seismic event in several months.

It comes just months after a 6.2 magnitude earthquake killed at least 299 people in the country's central regions in August.

It was followed by at least two more deadly earthquakes in Umbria and Marche in October, both measuring over six on the Richter scale.

Attention

Woman plays dead to stop rogue kangaroo attack in Melbourne, Australia


Eastern grey kangaroo
A 54-year-old woman named Debbie Urquhart has shared that she needed to play dead to stop a rogue kangaroo from viciously attacking her. The animal attack took place while she was jogging along a running track in Melbourne's northeast at about 6AM on Jan.14.

The incident happened just 500m from her Templestowe home in Melbourne's northeast. She has recalled that she was kicked by a kangaroo repeatedly. The woman said she was left with no other option but to fake her death.

Urquhart managed to jog her way home after the attack. She was rushed to the hospital, where she received 35 stitches in her arm, shoulder and buttocks.

Urquhart shared that the animal has ripped her to pieces. "I was trying to crawl away. He left me for a bit and I thought he was going to come back and kill me," she told Manningham Leader.

Camera

Frozen Baikal: Stunning Photos of the Deepest and Oldest Lake On Earth

© Кристина Макеева
Baikal is... impressive. It's the deepest and the cleanest lake on Earth. When we were planning our trip, we had no idea how wonderful, majestic, and fairy it would be. We were enraptured by its beauty, so much so that we almost didn't sleep all 3 days we were there.

Lake Baikal is about 600km (373 miles) in length. The thickness of the ice on top reaches 1.5-2 meters (5-6.5 feet)—at its thickest, it can tolerate vehicles of about 15 tonnes, but sometimes we saw cars that had been fallen down.

But the ice isn't just strong, it's also gorgeous: displaying different patterns in different parts of the lake because the water freezes layer-by-layer. Baikal's ice is also the most transparent in the world! You can see everything all the way to the bottom: fish, green stones, plants, and bluish gulf. The water in the lake is so clear that you can see various objects even as deep as 40 meters (130 feet).

The bubbles in the ice are the result of methane gas that is produced by algae.

Attention

Ten dead dolphins are washed up on British beaches in just a few days

© Wessex News Agency/Clare Riley
Concern: A dolphin found at Smeaton's Pier in St Ives, Cornwall is the tenth discovered dead along West Coast beaches in as many days, prompting fears over what could be killing them.
Ten dead dolphins have washed up on the beaches around the West Country in as many days, prompting fears among conservationists over the exact cause.

Pollution, trawler nets, inclement weather and jet skiers have all been cited as likely causes for the demise of these marine animals.

Clare Riley was among those who found the latest dead dolphin on the beach near Smeaton's Pier in St Ives, Cornwall.

'It was sad to see - I've been in Cornwall for six years waiting and hoping to see dolphins and I was finally rewarded two weeks ago with an awesome display of a pod playing and surfing the waves at Gwithian,' she said.

Another resident, Tony Mason, said: 'I saw them at Gwithian last Sunday, swimming around jet skiers. To then find that one dead was so sad. Such a beautiful creature.'

Between January and March last year, 61 dolphins, porpoises and whales were found dead around Cornwall's coast, the steepest rise in the death toll since 2006, according to the Cornwall Wildlife Trust.

They said previous post-mortem tests showed creatures washed up on the shores had died from a number of causes, including pollution, illnesses, natural causes and after being caught in fishing nets.

Comment: Last month in two separate incidents, thousands of dead fish were discovered on Pentewan and Marazion beaches in Cornwall.


Fire

Costs of Alberta's Fort McMurray wildfire almost $10 billion


In this May 7, 2016 file photo, a wildfire burns south of Fort McMurray, Alberta.
An assessment of the total financial effect of last spring's Fort McMurray wildfire is pegging the direct and indirect costs of the blaze at almost $10 billion.

The $9.9-billion figure includes the expense of replacing buildings and infrastructure, as well as lost income, profits and royalties in the oilsands and forestry industries, said MacEwan University economist Rafat Alam.

It also includes early estimates on indirect costs such as environmental damage, lost timber, and physical and mental-health treatment for residents and firefighters.

The estimate will go even higher, Alam said Tuesday.

"It's not fully done yet. More data kept coming and I'm sure it will keep coming in."

Alam said it can take up to 10 years to get a complete picture of everything that happened and what it cost.

Earlier this year, insurers estimated they'd be paying out about $3.7 billion for damage caused by the blaze, which firefighters dubbed "the beast."

Comment: Study: Wildfire seasons are more destructive and lasting longer almost everywhere on Earth


Ice Cube

'Extremely rare' ice blockage at hydro dam causes power outage in Yukon, Canada

© Yukon Energy
The Aishihik hydro facility is located 110 kilometres northwest of Whitehorse.

Generating problem at Aishihik hydro plant leads to outages in Dawson City, communities south of Whitehorse


An underwater camera has confirmed that an ice blockage at the intake of the Aishihik hydro facility caused the power outage south of Whitehorse Tuesday morning.

The camera found six to eight inches of slushy ice - the technical term is frazil ice - covering what's called the trash rack, said Yukon Energy spokesperson Janet Patterson.

She said Yukon Energy will dispatch a crew along with the City of Whitehorse steam truck to the Aishihik plant on Wednesday. They anticipate it will take about a day to remove the ice.

Patterson said an ice blockage at the dam is an "extremely rare event" that has not happened in 25 years.

The blockage prevented water from getting to the generators, reducing output.

Arrow Down

Another huge sinkhole opens in Pacifica, California

© KTVU
A massive sinkhole has shut down a busy intersection in Pacifica, forcing drivers to take detour.

The pavement collapsed on Edgemar Avenue by Highway 1 after a recent round of storms.

The hole is 15-feet deep and 40-feet wide. It is close to a fire station and a church.

Another sinkhole opened up at the same intersection a few months ago but this one is three times bigger.

It is unclear when the repair work will begin.

Comment: To learn more on what's behind the increase in sinkholes, see our SOTT focus article on the topic: Sinkholes: The groundbreaking truth


Ice Cube

Snow over the top of your head in Russia: Record snowfall in some areas

© Via Instagram/grann_nat
In the Kuzbass Mountains it is possible to dip your head in the snow.

At the meteorological station "Central Mine" snow depth has reached 188 cm (6′-2″).

In the region of the Volga and Central Russia, average snow depth exceeds 40 cm (16 inches). In Nizhny Novgorod snow depth is 43 cm and in Tambov it is 44cm. In Samara and Kirov, snow depth has reached a half meter (19 inches)! For comparison, the normal amount of snow for this time of year is 25-35 cm (10-14 inches).

Due to frequent snowstorms in the Lipetsk region, the capital set a record in floodplain areas - 85 cm (33 inches)! Thirty-three inches. That's waist deep! Beyond the Urals there is even more snow. The region of Omsk recorded 75 cm (2½ ft) of snow (Tevriz), while the region of Tomsk reported 92 cm(3 ft) (Bakchar).

Traditionally, a large amount of snow is observed in Kamchatka and polar Yakutia. In the village Chokurdakh, the snow measures 166 cm (5′-5″). The absolute snowfall leader in Russia is the alpine weather station Sochi, with more than 220 cm (just over 7 ft).

Cloud Lightning

Lightning bolt kills 4 at new church in South Africa

Lightning struck a church in Tsomo, killing four congregants and injuring four others including the head reverend, shortly after Sunday's sermon.

Among those killed were the church society steward and three women. The injured included the church minister, his daughter, and an evangelist.

The lightning struck the United Methodist Church of Southern Africa's Luzuko Society Church hall at KuNgceza village near Tsomo on Sund ay, killing church steward Justice Dlabane, 76, and congregants Nozuko Ntozini, 52, Noright Qhesa, 60, and Nophelo Mvikweni, 56.

The church's circuit secretary, Nomgcobo Ncoko, said: "It was a disaster and a miracle. I thought it was judgment day. I saw a strong and fearsome bolt of blue lightning and a ball of fire striking where the society church steward was sitting.

In series of bizarre firsts: