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Wed, 21 Nov 2018
The World for People who Think



Hurricane Florence's death toll includes millions of farm animals in North Carolina

North Carolina farming flooding

North Carolina farming flooding
For Chris Smith, whose North Carolina farm is home to 30,000 chickens and 150 acres of sweet potatoes, the fight to survive Hurricane Florence is not yet over.

As torrential rains from the storm filled local waterways and flooded nearby roads, Smith, one of hundreds of local farmers in a state known for its poultry and hog operations, found himself cut off from supplies, power and any way to move his birds out.

The ferocity of the storm was surprising, according to Smith. "We thought we weren't in a flood-prone area, but we had a pretty good scare," he said. He rationed the feed he had on-hand as best he could, and used 250 gallons of diesel per day to keep his generators running.

Now Smith, who counts himself lucky that his flock survived, is looking to quickly move his chickens to processing plants before the weekend, when more showers are forecast and the nearby Neuse River may flood further. He's not alone. Seeking to minimize deaths from a storm that's already killed millions of animals, farmers are turning to helicopters, boats and heavy trucks to supply farms stranded by flooding and debris.


Yet another dead bottlenose whale found beached in Skagafjörður fjord, Iceland - 10th dead cetacean for the country this year

Among the deepest diving whales in the world's
© Bjarni Jónsson
Among the deepest diving whales in the world's oceans. Bottlenose whales dive up to 1 km.
We have seen a unusually large number of reports of beached bottlenose whales and other deep ocean whales this summer. Scientists have been unable to determine the cause of these deaths. Marine biologists in Norway have also noticed an unusually high number of beached deep ocean whales this summer.

On September 21 the North-West Iceland Natural History Museum NNV received the fifth report of a beached bottlenose whale in Skagafjörður fjord this summer.

The whale was found dead on Borgarsandur beach near the town of Sauðarkrókur.

The 3.8 m long animal was removed from the beach before it started to rot, as the beach is a popular recreational area for locals.

Comment: The same website also reported on August 30:
Earlier this week biologists with the North-West Iceland Natural History Museum NNV investigated a bottlenose whale, a 9 m (30 ft) long male, which was found beached near Ytri-Ingveldarstaðir farm in Skagafjörður fjord in N. Iceland. The whale appears to have died relatively recently and washed ashore. Bjarni Jónsson, the director of NNV, told the National Broadcasting Service RÚV that it appears whale beachings are more common this year than in recent years.

Three seperate beachings were reported in the Eastfjords last week, bringing the total number of reported beachings in the region to nine. In many cases the animals in question have been bottlenose whales. Two bottlenose dolphins beached themselves on Engey island outside the Old Harbor in downtown Reykjavík earlier this month. One of those whales was rescued, the other died.


Dead whale on Haxstead's Beach near Mystery Bay, Australia

Dead whale washed up at Haxstead's Beach south of Mystery Bay on Friday

Dead whale washed up at Haxstead's Beach south of Mystery Bay on Friday
A dead whale has washed up on Haxstead's Beach south of Mystery Bay today (Friday, September 28).

As a precaution people are advised not to enter the water in the area of Mystery Bay and Tilba as the whale carcass may have attracted sharks to the area.

The whale looks to be white on the underside and is not fully grown.

This is the second juvenile humpback whale to wash up on the South Coast in the last fortnight.


Endangered whale not seen in years spotted off Canada west coast

sei whale

Sei Whale (Balaenoptera Borealis)
For a handful of researchers surveying marine life off British Columbia's coast -- it was a whale of a tale.

This summer, a group of biologists and Canadian Coast Guard members became the first people to report seeing endangered sei whales in Canadian waters in more than half a century.

"This was very exciting because we didn't expect it," said Thomas Doniol-Valcroze, a research biologist with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

"People on my team had never seen them."

The sei whale, one of the fastest marine mammals in the world, is part of the same family as blue and fin whales.


Floods in Kerala, India take toll on migration of butterflies?

Blue Mormon

Blue mormon butterfly
With butterfly migration yet to start in the Pachaimalai and Puliyancholai hills, researchers are citing multiple factors, including the recent floods in Kerala, for this delay in micro fauna movement in the ecologically-sensitive Western and Eastern Ghats.

"In the past five years, I had observed butterfly migration in Pachaimalai and Puliyancholai hills from July onwards. But, this year, even near the end of September, there is no sign of butterflies congregating in both habitats," said Q Ashoka Chakkaravarthy, wildlife conservationist and scholar of environmental science, Tiruchy.

Though Kerala faced nature's fury in August, ecologists are suggesting the floods are among the major factors that have affected the ecology of the Ghats. "Deforestation is going in many places in the State due to widening of roads and other infrastructure projects. In fact, large-scale tree cutting is going between the Thuraiyur and Perambalur areas. This will affect the survival of several organisms."


Butterfly numbers in the UK are down despite the summer heatwave

small tortoiseshell

Small tortoiseshell
The number of the UK's small tortoiseshell butterflies has plummeted this summer despite the record-breaking heatwave.

One of Britain's best-known garden butterflies, the small tortoiseshell, was once common and widespread, but only 23,000 of the insects were counted during this year's three-week Big Butterfly Count, which coincided with the hottest summer on record.

Charity Butterfly Conservation says sightings fell by 32% compared with last year and the population has collapsed by 75% since the 1970s, with growing concerns among scientists for the species' long-term future.


There were 1 billion Monarch butterflies - Now there are 93 million

monarch butterflies

Monarch butterflies
On Tuesday evening, outside of what we veteran Beltway newshounds call the Gohmert Side of the Capitol, the Congressional Pollinator Protection Caucus, which is an actual thing, held a bipartisan twilight event that involved the release of 50 monarch butterflies into the darkening sky. One of them alighted on a little boy's shoulder and stayed there for quite a long time. The little boy got his picture taken by everyone. This was a nice moment. As Rep. Marcy Kaptur, Democrat of Ohio, said, "We should all be able to agree on butterflies."

The CPPC is serious business. Between the destruction of monarch habitats through pesticides, most notably milkweed, and the ongoing mystery of colony collapse among the bees, American agriculture is endangered. At Tuesday night's event, it was made plain that without agriculture, there is no food, and with pollinators, there is no agriculture. In 2017, according to the Center For Biological Diversity, the overwintering population of monarchs dropped by a third.

Comment: See also: Report shows a sharp drop in monarch butterflies wintering in California

Habitat loss results in a 90% population reduction of monarch butterflies in 25 years


Hundreds of sandpipers in 'collective suicide' at Ecuadorian high-altitude lakes

Upland Sandpiper (Bartramia longicauda)
© Melissa James
Upland Sandpiper (Bartramia longicauda)
Every year in the high-altitude lake area of Ozogoche, in eastern Ecuador, hundreds of upland sandpipers (known in Spanish as cuvivíes ) fall dead in the months of September and October. Many theories have hoped to explain this bizarre occurrence in the Andean province of Chimborazo but it's not yet clear why these small greyish birds throw themselves into the freezing cold water of the lakes that are considered sacred by the local indigenous community.

While locals think of it as a supernatural phenomenon thought of as a gift to Mother Earth, researchers are trying to find a scientific explanation. Ornithologist Tatiana Santander has ruled out the possibility that the birds could have a sickness that was making them dive into the lake. "This happens every year, so it's a bit hard to prove that the birds are sick and die this way," Santander told AP.

Another theory says that the sulfuric steam from volcanic lakes is intoxicating the birds, however, no other local species appear to suffer from this. Although she hasn't been able to prove any of the theories, Santander believes the weather has something to do with the mysterious actions of the birds. "We consider that, because of the weather of the place, the strong winds make the birds fall into the lake and they receive a thermal shock that causes their death."


Whale hello there! Rare sighting of Beluga from Arctic waters seen feeding in River Thames, UK

The whale was spotted near Gravesend in Kent
The whale was spotted near Gravesend in Kent
A Beluga whale, native to the waters surrounding the arctic, has been spotted in the River Thames, marine life rescuers have confirmed.

The sighting has caused excitement on social media, partly due to a dearth of exciting wildlife in the British Isles.

Ecologist, Dave Andrews, was the first to spot the impressive creature, watching it as it ate around the barges near Gravesend, Kent.

After British Divers Marine Life Rescue were alerted, they confirmed the sighting, noting that the whale seemed to be "swimming strongly."

Spokesperson, Julia Cable, warned the public not to get close to the creature, but rather "to watch it from the shore."

Comment: Is there some change occurring in our planet's waters that are driving these rare sightings?


Dead whale washes ashore in Amagansett, New York

A dead minke whale washed up on Indian Wells Beach in Amagansett Monday afternoon.

The Atlantic Marine Conservation Society was called to the beach for the 12 to 14-foot whale at around 4:30 p.m.

The A.M.C.S. is working with East Hampton Town Marine Patrol and the East Hampton Town Highway Department to figure out how to remove the whale from the beach.