Falling starling mystery, owl deaths, goose missile and a fatal pheasant
More than 200 starlings fell from the sky onto a street in Draper, Utah, on 29 January 2018. People on social media speculated that aliens were to blame – or the flock was poisoned or hit by lightning. “No aliens, no cloaking device,” said Sergeant Chad Carpenter of the city police. “No poison, it was just one of those freak things where the birds were just flying along, crashed into the side of a large vehicle and boom!” Whether it was misdirection or weather related, something caused the lead starling to crash and thanks to the breeds’ tandem flying, the rest followed. While most of the birds were killed, 17 survived and were transferred to a local rehabilitation centre. fox13now. com, 30 Jan 2018.
Dozens of dead barn owls were found along Interstate-84 in southern Idaho on 10 February 2017. Nichole Miller and Christina White of Boise were driving home to Boise from Twin Falls when they spotted more than 50 dead owls during a 20-mile stretch near Jerome. Mike Keckler, Idaho Fish and Game spokesman, explained that hungry barn owls become victims of road kill when they target mice along the Interstate. “It almost looks like they fell from the sky,” Miller said. Boise State University student Erin Arnold, who recently published a thesis on Southern Idaho’s owl deaths, described I-84 as having “one of the world’s highest roadway mortality rates for barn owls”. KBOI News (Idaho),13 Feb 2017; raptorresearchcenter. boisestate.edu/arnold-erin/
Thousands of dead and dying bees washed up on a popular beach in Naples, Florida, on 7 February 2017. Naples residents said the problem started a few days earlier. They were both concerned and confused. “Why are there bees? Where are they coming from? And why are they in a very specific area of the beach?” asked Martha Duff. A bee expert said seeing bees wash up on a beach was very unusual. He speculated it might have
LEFT: Some of the 200 dead starlings on a street in Draper, Utah. BELOW: Erin Arnold examining a dead barn owl on Idaho’s I-84. BELOW LEFT: Robert Meilhammer poses with a dead turkey; a Canada goose later exacted revenge. been anything from a nearby pesticide spraying forcing them to the water or a swarm flying overhead that became exhausted and flew into the water. [NBC] 8 Feb 2017.
On 1 February, Robert Meilhammer, 51, of Crapo, Maryland, was hunting for waterfowl in Easton, near the Miles River, with three others when someone in the group fired on a flock of Canada geese overhead. One of the geese fell and hit Meilhammer, knocking him out and causing severe head and facial injuries. The dead goose also knocked out two of his teeth. He was airlifted to hospital. The bird weighed between 10lb and 14lb (4.56.4kg). washingtonpost.com, 2 Feb; BBC News, 3 Feb 2018.
A pheasant killed a motorcyclist when it hit his helmet at a combined speed of 60mph (100km/h). Robert Patterson, 51, of Llandudno Junction, Gwynedd, fractured his skull when the 6lb (2.7kg) bird flew out of a hedgerow on a country road in Wales last November. “It was a significant impact,” said a pathologist at the inquest in Caernarvon. “It was instant death.” Patterson suffered further injuries as his bike went into a bank. D.Telegraph, 22 Feb 2018.