Tuesday, May 14, 2013

FIRE IN THE SKY: Shooting Stars Seen In Midland County Area, Michigan Over The Weekend - American Meteor Society Records 14 Reports Of A Fireball!

May 14, 2013 - SPACE - Residents and Midland County sheriff's deputies reported seeing shooting stars over the weekend.

A media log entry states a Greendale Township resident reported seeing a light in the sky with a tail following it at 10:07 p.m. Saturday. Deputies saw several falling stars throughout the night, the entry states.

One of those sightings was reported by a deputy over his radio at 10:14 p.m. Saturday, and was heard over the scanner.

"I just saw a falling star to the north," he said. A dispatcher teased, "I did not realize you were an astronomer," and the jovial deputy replied that he was "just observant."

American Meteor Society

According to the American Meteor Society, there were 14 reports of a fireball seen over Michigan and Ohio about 1:30 a.m. Sunday.

One of those reports came from a Gorgia F. in Mount Pleasant, who wrote it "looked like a shooting star, just much bigger and beautiful. It was coming down at an angle and looked as if it was heading down toward Rosebush or Clare."

Thirteen of the reports listed on the website are from Michigan, with the majority made from in Detroit area. - Midland Daily News.

MASS MAMMAL DIE-OFF: Morbillivirus Epidemi - Dead Dolphins Washed Ashore In Batumi, Georgia!

May 14, 2013 - GEORGIA - Two dead dolphins were washed ashore by the sea in Batumi on May 8.

The one meter-long sea pig dolphins were later found to have died as a result of the morbillivirus epidemi, Rustavi 2 channel reports.

Head of the Flora and Fauna Association Archil Guchmanidze said ten cases of the sea washing dead dolphins ashore had been recorded this year on shores in Georgia. - Georgia News.

WATCH: Dead dolphins washed ashore in Batumi, Georgia.

EXTREME WEATHER: Severe Potential - Low Tornado Trend May End With Threat Returning This Weekend To Nebraska, South Dakota, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Illinois And Texas!

May 14, 2013 - UNITED STATES - The number of tornadoes so far this spring has been well below normal. The threat of these dangerous storms looks to stay minimal until this weekend.

Why the Below-Normal Numbers

As many people noticed over the past few days, temperatures have been lower than average across much of the Plains and Midwest in May.

The cooler air over this broad area is helping to hold back the number of tornadoes thus far this year.

According to Senior Vice President of Accuweather Enterprise Solutions and Severe Weather Expert Mike Smith, "We have been 'a month behind' on temperatures this spring."

Smith added that the lack of moisture has also played a role.

"Cold fronts moving across the Gulf of Mexico sweep away the moisture needed to create thunderstorms," Smith said.

Severe Potential for the Weekend

These conditions are expected to break down slightly this weekend when threat of tornadoes may return across portions of the Plains.

The greatest risk area, according to Smith, this weekend includes South Dakota, Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, Iowa and parts of Illinois and far northern Texas.

There is definitely a potential for severe weather with storms in these areas, including large hail, damaging winds and isolated tornadoes.

At this time, it looks like the storms will likely wait until the late afternoon or evening to really fire up.

The storm is expected to come into the area at a particular angle that meteorologist refer to as a negative tilt.

In a video, Severe Weather Expert Henry Margusity commented that these sort of storms "are notorious for producing some pretty nasty weather."

Tornado Statistics and Outlook

Through May 7, 2013, preliminary data indicated that there have only been 237 tornadoes in the U.S.

This number is much below average, seeing as the tornado count as of May 7, 2012, was up to 659.

However, over the next 30-45 days, Smith says he expects to see "normal or even above-normal tornado numbers for the time of year." - AccuWeather.

ANIMAL BEHAVIOR: They're Here, Cicada Brood is Emerging - Billions Of Flying Bugs, Set To Invade The East Coast Of The United States; A Once-In-17-Years Event!

May 14, 2013 - UNITED STATES - For those of you who live in an area affected by Brood II of the periodical 17 year cicadas - see map here - they have started to emerge. During this past weekend, the loud and clumsy bug was observed in counties just to the south of Washington.

This photo shows a group of cicadas that emerged from the ground Saturday night near Manassas, Virginia. The cicadas crawled out of their nymph skins during the overnight hours and patiently waited for their shells to harden and for their wings to expand and dry out.© Kevin Ambrose

A milky-white cicada has just emerged from its nymph skin. The color of the cicada will darken as its shell hardens. For people who eat cicadas, this stage is the most tender and tasty. I've been told that cicadas taste like asparagus. Although I love asparagus, I have no desire to try a cicada. © Kevin Ambrose

I had a camp out scheduled with my kids this past weekend in central Prince William County and I knew that my campsite was located in Brood II country. I packed my camera hoping to find and photograph cicadas.

On Saturday afternoon, I arrived at the camping area near Manassas, Virginia and I looked in the trees for cicadas and their nymph shells. I found an apple tree that had a few nymph skins and one cicada. Most of the trees in the surrounding area, however, did not have cicadas.

A handful of nymph skins that were shed by cicadas. These skins were still soft and squishy because they were shed only a few hours earlier during a rainy and stormy Saturday night.© Kevin Ambrose

Thunderstorms moved into the area late on Saturday and I was forced to stop my cicada search. I only found one bug before I had to turn my attention to taking cover from the approaching storms. I did get a cool lightning photo which is included at the bottom of this post.

On Sunday morning, I returned to the apple tree where I had found a few cicada nymph skins and one cicada during the previous day. The scene was much different in the morning. The lower branches of the tree were covered with dozens of nymph skins and cicadas. Apparently, Saturday night was a big night for the emerging cicadas.

Some of the nearby trees were also covered by cicadas. I found one white cicada that had just pulled free from its nymph skin. Cicadas turn darker in color as their outer shell hardens.

A close-up photo of a cicada that emerged Saturday night near Manassas, Virginia.© Kevin Ambrose

During the morning hours, I took some photos and videos of the cicadas. The cicadas were not moving or flying. I tossed a couple of the bugs into the air and they could not fly, they just fluttered to the ground. I think their wings had not fully dried out and hardened. By the afternoon, however, they could fly quite well.

My kids were amazed and a little grossed out with how easily I handled the cicadas. I explained that I had seen a few cicada broods emerge in the past and I know from experience they don't bite. I told a few cicada stories from when I was a kid including how I used to fly them like kites.

A nymph has started to split its skin down the middle of its back and a cicada will eventually crawl out.© Kevin Ambrose

Cicadas are warm weather insects. They emerge only after the ground temperature reaches the mid-60s. The cicadas don't get fooled into emerging during January thaws or during early spring warm spells. It will be interesting to see if tonight's near-freezing temperatures will harm the bugs that have already emerged.

The cicadas pictured in this post emerged during a rainy and stormy Saturday night. This photo was taken Saturday night near Manassas, Virginia at the same location where I photographed the cicadas.© Kevin Ambrose

I live in western Fairfax County, an area affected by Brood X back in 2004. Washington, D.C. also experienced Brood X. I doubt we'll see cicadas from Brood II in those areas. Here's a map of the brood locations.

Let us know if you've seen cicadas this year. If so, please let us know the location. - The Washington Post.

WATCH: A short video that shows handling cicadas that emerged this past weekend near Manassas, Virginia. (Kevin Ambrose)

ANIMAL BEHAVIOR: Rabies Alert - Woman Bitten By Rabid Fox In Laurinburg, North Carolina!

May 14, 2013 - UNITED STATES - Health officials have confirmed that the fox that attacked a Scotland County woman earlier this week had rabies.

The fox tried to bite the woman early Wednesday morning as she walked to her car. The incident occurred in the Leisure Living subdivision off Havelock Drive in Laurinburg.

County health officials did not name the victim, but said that state officials confirmed that the fox had been rabid. It is the first case of rabies in the county this year.

Ashley Cayton said she was headed out to work when she saw what she thought was a dog at the end of her driveway.

"I didn't pay any attention to it," said the 26-year-old Cayton, who works as a newspaper carrier for The Laurinburg Exchange. "The next thing I knew, the animal had grabbed me by the leg and ripped a hole in my jeans trying to bite me."

Cayton said she tried to shake the fox off her leg and finally got away by slamming her leg against the side of her vehicle.

"Once I got it off me, I jumped in my car and called my boyfriend and told him that I had been bitten," Cayton said. "I told him not to come outside, but he didn't listen. He thought it was a dog, but I was pretty sure that it wasn't."

Cayton said her boyfriend, who was armed with a baseball bat, whistled for the animal.

"Nothing happened the first time, but after a second whistle, the fox came out from in front of the car and went after him," Cayton said. "When the fox got close enough, my boyfriend hit it hard and killed him."

Cayton said that the fox "had only grazed her skin", but she immediately went to the hospital to begin rabies treatments. The couple also brought the body of the fox to the hospital so the animal could be tested by the state.

State health officials alerted Cayton and county health officials on Thursday that the fox was suffering from rabies.

"We do have a confirmed case of rabies in a fox," Debra Mask, communicable disease nurse for the county Health Department said Friday. "We would like people to be are that if a wild animal is not acting normal to stay away from it. Whether it is aggressive or even friendly, stay away."

Mask said if a person is bitten, they should immediately wash the wound and seek medical help.

"Rabies is a fatal disease in animals and people," Mask said, "but it can be treated with the vaccine and medical care taken according to schedule."

Cayton said she began her initial treatment for rabies on Wednesday and will have to receive a total of four shots over the next several weeks.

"The shots don't really hurt," she said. "And I'm still able to do what I normally do."

Cayton did say that she was concerned that there might be other rabid animals in her neighborhood, which is home to a lot of children.

"I hope that was the only one, but I'm not so sure," she said. "After that thing attacked me, I was in my car shaking. I can say that I'm very much aware of my surroundings now. Other people should be too." - Laurinburg Exchange.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Planetary Transformations - Ghost Town, Under Water For 25 Years, Surfaces In Argentina?!

May 14, 2013 - ARGENTINA - A strange ghost town that spent a quarter century under water is coming up for air again in the Argentine farmlands southwest of Buenos Aires.

Epecuen was once a bustling little lakeside resort, where 1,500 people served 20,000 tourists a season. During Argentina's golden age, the same trains that carried grain to the outside world brought visitors from the capital to relax in Epecuen's saltwater baths and spas.

The saltwater lake was particularly attractive because it has 10 times more salt than the ocean, making the water buoyant. Tourists, especially people from Buenos Aires' large Jewish community, enjoyed floating in water that reminded them of the Dead Sea in the Middle East.

Then a particularly heavy rainstorm followed a series of wet winters, and the lake overflowed its banks on Nov. 10, 1985. Water burst through a retaining wall and spilled into the lakeside streets. People fled with what they could, and within days their homes were submerged under nearly 10 meters (33 feet) of corrosive saltwater.

Now the water has mostly receded, exposing what looks like a scene from a movie about the end of the world. The town hasn't been rebuilt, but it has become a tourist destination again, for people willing to drive at least six hours from Buenos Aires to get here, along 340 miles (550 kilometers) of narrow country roads.

People come to see the rusted hulks of automobiles and furniture, crumbled homes and broken appliances. They climb staircases that lead nowhere, and wander through a graveyard where the water toppled headstones and exposed tombs to the elements.

It's a bizarre, post-apocalyptic landscape that captures a traumatic moment in time.

One man refused to leave. Pablo Novak, now 82, still lives on the edge of the town, welcoming people who wander into the wrecked streets.

"Whoever passes nearby cannot go without coming to visit here," Novak said while showing The Associated Press around. "It's getting more people to the area, as they come to see the ruins."

Many residents of Epecuen fled to nearby Carhue, another lakeside town, and built new hotels and spas, promising relaxing getaways featuring saltwater and mud facials.

"Not only do we have Epecuen with the ruins and its natural wealth, but we also can increasingly offer other alternatives," said Javier Andres, the local tourism director. - CS Monitor.

Ghost town, under water for 25 years, surfaces in Argentina.

WEATHER PHENOMENON: End Of The World - Bizarre, Dark And Menacing "Bubble Cloud" Formations Baffle Onlookers In Telford, Britain?!

May 14, 2013 - UNITED KINGDOM - The skies above Telford formed into dark clouds which turned into grey and imposing bubbles and resembled the advent of an alien landing.

The clouds formed into large and imposing bubbles (CATERS).

The imposing clouds left onlookers questioning their existence and how they had formed.

In fact, the clouds, known as the lesser-spotted mammatus - appeared as a lobe and were packed full of ice and rain.

According to local forecasters the clouds created a large thunderstorm which drenched much of Britain over the weekend.

Bubbles formed in the skies over Telford (CATERS).

The clouds are associated with the powerful storms which can sometimes occur in the summer and are a sign of massive quantities of water vapour.

Phil Spencer, a 39-year-old truck driver from Telford, was left baffled by the sudden change in the weather.

The clouds usually form ahead of giant thunderstorms (CATERS).

He said: I went to Morrisons and looked up and noticed all these weird and wonderful shapes in the sky. It was only there for five or 10 minutes and then just literally went as quickly as it came in." - Express.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Mexican Volcano Looks Ready To Blow - Officials Poised To Evacuate Thousands As Rumbling Popocatepetl Spews Ash And Lava; Alert Level Raised To Yellow Phase 3!

May 14, 2013 - MEXICO - Thousands of people living in the shadow of this looming Mexican volcano have been placed on high alert following a dramatic increase in seismic activity from the Popocatepetl crater.

Threat: Officials are poised to evacuate thousands of people living in the shadow of the Popocatepetl Volcano in Mexico, which has been spewing ash in recent days.

'Increased activity': The National Center for Disaster Prevention has elevated its warning level to Yellow Stage 3 - the fifth rung on a seven stage scale - after the Mexican volcano began spewing lava, ash and gases.

The 17,886ft active volcano near Mexico City, known as Popo, rumbled and shook during the night on Saturday, and has been spewing ash, lava and steam in recent days. Officials have closed off an exclusion zone around the cone of the volcano and are poised to evacuate towns in its foothills as experts warned of plumes of steam reaching more than half a mile into the sky above the crater.

Danger: Smoke rises from the volcano, known as Popo, as residents of the towns in the foothills of the volcano brace themselves for further activity.

In the shadow of Popo: A man walks past an evacuation sign in Puebla, Mexico, left, amid fears a major eruption from the Popocatepetl volcano could be imminent.

Warnings: Soldiers and federal police have been deployed to the area in case of further, more powerful eruptions from the Popocatepetl volcano near Mexico City.

Authorities have alerted town in two central states as well as the capital, after Mexico's National Disaster Prevention Center elevated its alert level to Yellow Phase 3 - the fifth rung on a seven-stage warning scale. Should the alert level rise thousands of people could be evacuated from the most vulnerable villages in the shadow of the peak. Shelters have been set up in case authorities are forced to evacuate residents.

Steam: Mexico's National Disaster Prevention Center elevated its alert level.
Towering plumes of steam began emerging from the enormous Mexican volcano.
A seven-square-mile exclusion zone has been imposed around the cone of the volcano, and soldiers and federal police have been deployed to the area amid fears of further, more violent eruptions from Popo. Popocatepetl is an Aztec word meaning 'Smoking Mountain'. Popo lay dormant for decades until it began putting out small eruptions of ash almost daily in 1994. These eruptions started strengthening two weeks ago and have increased even more this weekend.

Safety measures: State vehicles line the streets in Xalitzintla in Puebla, where authorities are poised to put an evacuation plan into action should activity from Popo increase further.

'We're ready for any emergency,' Lidia Carrillo, a spokeswoman for the state, told the Los Angeles Times. Moderate outbursts from Popo in recent years have seen officials forced to evacuate residents from their homes. The millions of people who have settled in and around the Mexican capital mean experts regard Popocatepetl as one of the most potentially destructive volcanoes in the world. - Daily Mail.

WATCH: Popocatepetl under strict surveillance.

PLAGUES & PESTILENCES: China Reports Three New Bird Flu Deaths - Toll Hits 35!

May 14, 2013 - CHINA Chinese health officials have reported that three people have died recently from the new strain of H7N9 bird flu virus raising the death toll to 35.

The number of people infected has already risen to 130. The World Health Organization said that this new strain is one of the most deadly viruses around and seem to have originated in China’s east Jiangxi province.

Health officials in the country say that there is no evidence of human to human transmission and that people contaminated with the virus got it from poultry. WHO officials however say that 40 percent of the people infected with the H7N9 bird flu virus didn’t come into contact with poultry. They also said that 57 people infected with the virus have already recovered.

This new strain of the virus was first detected in March has caused prices for poultry in China to drop.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that the new strain cannot cause a pandemic however it is possible that it might mutate into a new strain that can cause a pandemic.

The H7N9 virus is a part of the A H7 group of influenza viruses that is usually found in birds. No H7N9 infections have been found in humans before the recent incident in China. The other forms of A H7 viruses are the H7N2, H7N3 and H7N7 which have been also known to infect humans.

Once a person gets infected with the H7N9 virus that person usually develops a severe case of pneumonia. Some of the symptoms associated include fever, cough and shortness of breath.

Chickens are fed with unsaleable eggs at a farm in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, April 17, 2013.
Credit: Reuters/Chance Chan

Scientists are still baffled as to why this virus is infecting humans right now. One key factor that must be determined first is the source of exposure of the patients. An analysis of the genes of the virus shows that it is more likely to infect mammals than birds.

As of now it is still unknown how people are getting infected with the H7N9 strain. People infected with the virus have had contact with animals or an environment where animals are kept. Scientists are now investigating the possibility of animal to human transmission as well as person to person transmission. - Reuters.

ead more here: http://www.adn.com/2013/05/13/2900936/volcano-heating-up-in-alaska-2nd.html#storylink=cpy

PLAGUES & PESTILENCES: Coronavirus - Saudi Arabia Confirms SIX New Cases Of Deadly SARS-Like Virus!

May 14, 2013 - SAUDI ARABIA - Saudi Arabia has confirmed six new cases of the SARS-like novel coronavirus in its Eastern Province, state media reported on Monday and Tuesday, citing the health ministry.

It reported four new cases late on Monday and a further two late on Tuesday. One of the new cases has been treated and the patient was released from hospital, while the other new cases were still being treated, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

On Sunday, Saudi Arabia said it had had a total of 24 confirmed cases since the disease was identified last year, of whom 15 had died. In its latest outbreak in its Eastern Province, it said it had had 15 confirmed cases, of whom nine had died.

World Health Organisation officials visiting Saudi Arabia to consult with the authorities on the outbreak said on Sunday it seemed likely the new virus could be passed between humans, but only after prolonged, close contact.

The new virus (nCov) can cause coughing, fever and pneumonia. A virus from the same family triggered the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) that swept the world after emerging in Asia and killed 775 people in 2003.

French authorities announced on Sunday that a second man had been diagnosed with the disease after sharing a hospital room with France's only other sufferer, who had recently travelled in the Middle East. - Reuters.

Read more here: http://www.adn.com/2013/05/13/2900936/volcano-heating-up-in-alaska-2nd.html#storylink=cpy

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Pavlof Volcano Is "Very, Very Hot" - Alaska Peninsula Volcano Signals Possible Eruption; Aviation Alert Raised From "Yellow" To "Orange"!

May 14, 2013 - ALASKA - Another volcano in Alaska is heating up, with seismic instruments signaling a possible eruption, scientists said Monday.

Pavlof volcano and eruption plume on evening of August 30, 2007.
Chris Waythomas — AVO/USGS

Read more here: http://www.adn.com/2013/05/13/2900936/volcano-heating-up-in-alaska-2nd.html#storylink=cpy

Tremors were detected at Pavlof Volcano, 625 miles southwest of Anchorage, according to the Alaska Volcano Observatory. Satellite imagery showed the mountain was "very, very hot," said John Power, the U.S. Geological Survey scientist in charge at the observatory.

The aviation alert level for Pavlof was raised from "yellow" to "orange." A major ash emission could threaten international flights.

Pavlof is 37 miles from the community of Cold Bay, which was notified of the new activity that began about 8 a.m. Monday. Because of clouds, the volcano was not visible to the village of 100.

The volcano last erupted in 2007, but residents there said that eruption had no impact on Cold Bay, likely because the winds blew any ash fall away. Ash clouds were visible to residents, however.

"It was prominent," said Mike Tickle, manager of the local fuel terminal. "You could see it from all over the place."

Pavlof is the second Alaska volcano to rumble this month.

Cleveland Volcano, on an uninhabited island in the Aleutian Islands, experienced a low-level eruption in early May. Satellite imagery shows the volcano continues to discharge steam, gas and heat, although no ash clouds have been detected in the past week, Power said.

Cleveland is not monitored with seismic instruments. Its alert level remains at orange.

Pavlof's 2007 eruption lasted 29 days. It emitted mud flows and erupting lava, as well as ash clouds up to 18,000 feet high, Power said. At night, the 8,262-foot volcano glowed.

Typically, Pavlof eruptions are gas-rich fountains of lava that can shoot up to a few thousand feet. But its ash clouds are usually less dense than plumes of more explosive volcanoes that pose a greater hazard to aircraft, said volcanologist Game McGimsey.

No ash clouds were immediately detected Monday, and local air traffic controller Craig Jackson said there were no flight interruptions.

Pavlof is among the most active volcanoes in the Aleutian arc, with nearly 40 known eruptions, according to the observatory.

Cleveland is a 5,675-foot peak on a remote island 940 miles southwest of Anchorage. The volcano's most recent significant eruption began in February 2001 and sent ash clouds as high 39,000 feet above sea level.

It also produced a rubbly lava flow and hot debris that reached the sea.

The most recent minor ash emissions from Cleveland were observed last November. - ADN.

Read more here: http://www.adn.com/2013/05/13/2900936/volcano-heating-up-in-alaska-2nd.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.adn.com/2013/05/13/2900936/volcano-heating-up-in-alaska-2nd.html#storylink=cpy

HIGH STRANGENESS: Weird, Smelly Foam Oozes Through Cracks In Chinese Streets?!

May 14, 2013 - CHINA - About 9 o'clock last night, in the Pukou District jiangpu Street, the Wende Baiyun Lane intersection, the road suddenly cracking, then spewing out a lot of white foam, and exudes taste.

After the incident, the fire brigade emergency disposal. It is understood that the accident may be due to road construction extrusion. The scene saw the road full of white liquid, rushing into the sewer.

The road suddenly spewing out white liquid, at first only a small piece, then gradually spread to the surrounding, emitting a foot tall, half-hour coverage of the forty or fifty square meters of pavement.

That the liquid is like lather, we do not know what things, very nervous, rushed to the police for help. 110, 122 and 119 has arrived on the scene, 110 police set up a cordon, the traffic police to evacuate people, to ease the traffic, firefighters set up a water washing dilution.

Later that liquid to stop spewing. In fact, the cracks on the road only one centimeter wide, only two or three meters in length, but the road there is a significant bump deformation. Indications that there have been changes in the road surface.

Why good road cracking, even emerge foam? Scene several people speculated that this road ongoing subway construction is estimated to be piling on the basis of the road resulting in a squeeze, leading to pavement cracking, penetration of liquid in the ground immediately gush. The concrete is under further investigation. - Longhoo. [Translated]

MASS BIRD DIE-OFF: Plagues & Pestilences - Over 164,000 Ducks Found Dead From Avian Flu In P'yongyang-Si, North Korea!

May 14, 2013 - NORTH KOREA - A new outbreak of the H5N1 strain of the avian influenza virus has been confirmed at a duck production unit in P’yongyang-Si, resulting in the deaths of more than 164,000 ducks.

This is according to the World Organisation for Animal Health who received notification from the Anti-Epizootic Department at the Ministry of Agriculture in Pyongyang yesterday.

Ducks in one of the 20 cages showed clinical signs on 19 April 2013 but recovered 3-4 days later. As mortality increased, samples were sent to the Central Veterinary Station on 2 May 2013.

In total, one adult cage, 12 fattening cages and 7 duckling cages were infected. More than 2,000 adult ducks, 42,000 fattening ducks and 120,000 ducklings younger than 20 days were dead or killed.

Movement controls, quarantining an disinfection are part of a raft of measures put in place to control the outbreak. - The Poultry Site.

ICE AGE NOW: A Year Without Spring - Many Bluebirds Couldn't Survive This Cold Spring In Loveland, Colorado?!

May 14, 2013 - UNITED STATES - The phone rang. Again. I didn't want to answer it. The two previous calls were from people who had found dying bluebirds in their yards. They wanted to help, but they needed someone to help them help the birds.

Eastern Bluebird.

Yesterday, the call was from someone who had found a dead bluebird. Three emails about bluebirds also came. One person had found a dozen dead or dying bluebirds in her yard. Another person recognized me at the coffee shop and wanted to relate yet another woeful bluebird tale.

The loss of a bluebird counts as nothing more than just one of those life and death things that happen in nature. But so much loss at once is stunning.

People everywhere love bluebirds, but Coloradans have special reason to esteem them.

The bluebirds are members of the thrush family. Considering we also have some blue warblers, blue buntings and blue jays the reality becomes obvious: all blue birds are not bluebirds. Just three species can claim the name "bluebird" and they are relatives of the robins, solitaires and thrushes.

Though every continental state has at least one bluebird species, all three species nest only in Colorado and three other states. Colorado and Arizona are the only states in which all three bluebirds live year-round.

Mountain and western bluebirds naturally occurred here. Savannah species, they prefer open areas in which to feed but old woodpecker cavities in which to nest. Either too many trees or not enough trees and they disappear from the lifescape.

Eastern bluebirds, like people, pioneered their way into Colorado.

The prairie and steppe grasslands of the Great Plains were a natural barrier that kept them in eastern states. First settlers planted trees, then trees planted themselves; and suddenly, treelands suitable for eastern bluebirds became available where they had never been before. And the eastern bluebirds responded by moving in on their own.

All three species migrate, but they are not long-distance travelers. Instead, they move a little distance but also shift their diets from mostly insects in summer to mostly fruits in winter.

Which probably explains the recent bluebird die-off.

Migratory birds use a lot of energy to get from where they are to where they want to be, and much of that energy comes from fat. Besides providing energy for flying, fat metabolized at night while a bird is resting produces the heat necessary to keep them from freezing.

Newly arrived migrant bluebirds would be shifting from their winter fruit diet to their summer insect diet and would have depleted fat reserves. Nighttime temperatures in the teens or colder, inadequate fat reserves to stay warm, ground insects on which they feed covered by a foot of snow and fruits depleted by various birds consuming them all through the winter add up to a killer combination.

Young birds, old birds, sick birds would not -- could not -- survive such harsh circumstances. And they did not.

The toll was heavy but it was not complete. Enough bluebirds survived to keep their kind going. A dash of blue will still grace the mountain fence posts and aspen groves this summer. Such joyful sightings will help resolve the sorrow of seeing a lifeless bluebird in the snow. - Reporter Herald.