Earth ChangesS

Bizarro Earth

New Zealand: Mystery as sparrows drop dead

Hundreds of sparrows littered New Plymouth's main street yesterday, shocking business owners arriving at work and baffling a bird expert.

© MARK DWYER/Taranaki Daily NewsBIRD IN THE HAND: SPCA field officer Jackie Poles-Smith said she could not believe it when the birds arrived.
The drenched birds were dropping like flies from two trees on the Hill on Devon St West after a deluge of rain.

Autopsies will be done on some of the dead birds to see if foul play was involved.

The Shampoo Shop and Salon owners Jane Moodie and Jan Bocock said waterlogged birds lined their shop front as they arrived at work about 8.15am.

Better Earth

US: Rare sea otter confirmed at Depoe Bay

Sea otter
© Morris Grover/Oregon State Parks rangerA rare sea otter floats in the water below the U.S. 101 bridge in Depoe Bay.
Oregon has a rare visitor -- a sea otter that can be easily seen from the sea wall at Depoe Bay.

A federally protected endangered species, sea otters went extinct off the Oregon coast in 1906 when the last one was confirmed killed. A reintroduction attempt failed in the early 1970s.

Since then, solo sea otters have been confirmed at Yaquina Head in the 1990s and at Cape Arago in February 2003.

Black Cat

England: Giant cat seen by two tree surgeons

Big cat paw print
Tree surgeons John Vine and Nick Cole captured this image of a paw print which they say was left by a giant cat
Two tree surgeons have today spoken of their shock and amazement after claiming to have seen a cat 'the size of a labrador' emerge from under the willow they were felling.

John Vine and Nick Cole were trimming the tree near Gloucester, when they saw the creature come out of thicket.

They managed to photograph the big cat's paw print following the sighting earlier this week.

Mr Vine, 49, said: 'I was working 50ft up in tree when Nick shouted to me to look down to my left.


New Butterfly Discovered with Mustache Disguise

© Natural History Museum, LondonThe Splendeuptychia ackeryi butterfly, or Magdalena valley ringlet, whose distinguishing feature is unusually hairy mouthparts.
A mustache on a butterfly has tipped off curators at the Natural History Museum in London that a specimen in their collection for 90 years actually belongs to a new species.

A curator found the disguised insect, initially collected from the dry Magdalena valleys of Colombia, among the 3 million butterfly specimens at the museum where it had lain undiscovered.

Blanca Huertas compared the mustachioed specimen with a recently found wild specimen, allowing her to identify the older specimen as Splendeuptychia ackeryi, or Magdalena valley ringlet, whose distinguishing feature is unusually hairy mouthparts. (The name ackeryi is dedicated to Phil Ackery, the former collection manager of the butterfly collections at the museum.)

Cloud Lightning

There's the snow ... now for rain

Great Wall
© APTourists get a cool view of the Great Wall
Beijing - China's normally dry capital lay covered in a white blanket for a third day yesterday, with Beijing residents and tourists basking in an unusual, artificially produced snowfall.

The snow was a product of cloud-seeding, a method used by the Government to induce rain to try to end a three-month drought that has gripped at least 12 Chinese provinces.


US: "Right" Whales Battling Back from Edge of Endangerment

Strong Population of 400 Gets Constant Monitoring

Right whale
© Wikipedia Commons/Public DomainDrawing of Northern Pacific Right Whale
When I first saw the term "right whale," I immediately thought of the term "left whale." Reading that I was wrong, I considered the "right whale" may be the "correct whale" and I was "right." Well, not the right "whale" but just plain right. Now I'm confused.

John D. Sutter of has posted an article, "Volunteers, scientists guard endangered whales," that reports that researchers, volunteers and scientists are routinely standing guard on beaches to identify right whales.

Bizarro Earth

Ban on mountaintop mining overturned

Even as public opinion in the US turns against coal, judges have overturned a ban on blasting away mountaintops to get at seams.

In the central Appalachians, including West Virginia, mining companies have lopped up to 300 metres off hundreds of mountains, destroying biologically diverse hardwood forest. The debris is often dumped into valleys, sometimes burying streams in the process.

A lawsuit filed by the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition (OVEC) based in Huntington, West Virginia, argued that such valley fills violate the Clean Water Act and the National Environmental Policy Act, and a US district court ruled in their favour in March 2007. But on 13 February, a Court of Appeals panel voted 2:1 to reverse the decision.

Bizarro Earth

Lake Michigan Fish Populations Threatened by Decline of Tiny Creature

The quick decline of a tiny shrimp-like species, known scientifically as Diporeia, is related to the aggressive population growth of non-native quagga mussels in the Great Lakes, say NOAA scientists.

As invasive mussel numbers increase, food sources for Diporeia and many aquatic species have steadily and unilaterally declined.

A recent research study from NOAA's Great Lakes Environmental Laboratory published this week in Freshwater Biology documents the recent decline of Diporeia and the explosive growth of quagga mussels in Lake Michigan. Over the past five years quagga mussels have displaced native Diporeia as the dominant bottom dwelling organism, leading to a major disruption in the lake's food web.

"Quagga mussels have displaced other more energy-rich food sources and leave fish and other aquatic species with fewer food options," said Tom Nalepa, NOAA research biologist. "The invasive mussels are low in calories and their shell has no nutritional value. Fish feeding on quagga mussels expend considerable energy crushing and passing the indigestible shell."


3rd Earthquake In As Many Weeks Rattles New Jersey

For the third time in three weeks, a small earthquake has rattled an area of north-central New Jersey.

No damage or injuries were reported from the 2.3 magnitude quake, which was recorded shortly before 1:42 a.m. Wednesday.

Scott DiGiralomo, a coordinator with the county's office of emergency management, says the epicenter was just over a mile outside Dover. It was felt mostly by people in Denville and Randolph.

The quake is the third to hit Morris County since Feb. 2.

Bizarro Earth

US: Earthquake Rattles Nevada Town

A small earthquake rattled nerves in Wells last night, but otherwise caused no damage or injuries. The 3.5 magnitude temblor was reported at 7:12 p.m. and was centered 7 miles northeast of the small eastern Nevada community along Interstate 80.