Wednesday, February 4, 2015

INFRASTRUCTURE COLLAPSE: Train Crashes Into Tractor-Trailer In Braintree, Massachusetts - One Passenger With A Minor Injury!

As if things weren't bad enough: Tractor trailer crash on commuter rail tracks near Weymouth/Braintree line. Photo: Neal Simpson

- A train crashed with a tractor-trailer in Braintree, Massachusetts on Wednesday.

CBS Boston reports that the Kingston/Plymouth Line train that left Boston's South Station at 10:50 a.m. collided with the truck on Grove Street in Braintree.

Location of the crash.

Response to Truck vs commuter train accident in Braintree. EMT’s await towed train

Debris field Commerce Drive & Grove St Braintree after commuter train vs tractor trailer. Photo: Josh Brogadir

The driver of the tractor trailer jumped out of his vehicle before the crash, a spokesman for Keolis, the company that operates the commuter rail, told the station.

Multiple reports say there is at least one passenger with a minor injury. - Huffington Post.

DISASTER PRECURSORS: Omen – The Latest Incidents Of Strange Animal Behavior, Mass Animal Die-Offs, Appearance Of Rare Creatures And Warnings From Mother Nature!

February 4, 2015 - EARTH - The following constitutes the latest reports of unusual and symbolic animal behavior, mass die-offs, beaching and stranding of mammals, and the appearance of rare creatures.

Hundreds of dead fish found floating in Mississippi River in Iowa, America 

For the second consecutive winter, hundreds of fish were found dead along the shore of the Mississippi River in Davenport, Iowa.  About 270 dead freshwater drum fish were discovered along the shoreline between Lock and Dam 15 and Credit Island Park according to a report from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

“The fish kill was determined to be from natural causes, either oxygen depletion, stress or disease,” the report said.  “A similar fish kill of freshwater drum occurred at approximately the same time last year in the same area.”

When the ice melts, the fish that died float to the surface and are blown to shore.  It can look much worse than it really is, though, as we reported in March 2014. If you have any doubts or concerns about a fish kill, it’s best to contact your local fisheries biologist or the DNR. - WQAD.

67 sick Sea Lions washed ashore already this year, 'no muscle, no fat, just skin and bones', 'it's a real shock' in California, United States

California sea lion pups recover at SeaWorld San Diego's Animal Rescue Center Jan. 27. Marine mammal rehab facilities have seen
high numbers of sea lions this month. (Mike Aguilera/SeaWorld San Diego via Getty Images)

This year is shaping up to be a brutal one for the California sea lion -- the third year in a row for record numbers of sea lion strandings in the state.

Sick, abandoned pups have shown up in alarming numbers on beaches in January.

"Their growth is stunted,” said Shawn Johnson, director of veterinary science at the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, Calif. “They're basically starved to death -- no muscle, no fat, just skin and bones."

But pups aren't the only ones in trouble. California marine mammal rehabilitation centers this month have treated record numbers of sea lions of all ages.

"We've had 67 strandings of sea lions of all different ages,” said Johnson, whose center would normally see one, maybe two, sea lions in the entire month of January. “The whole population is getting hit hard."

"It's a real shock to us," he added.

The story’s much the same in Southern California.

“It's shaping up to be a very, very bad year as far as rehabilitation,” said David Bard, operations director at the Marine Mammal Care Center in San Pedro. There were 75 animals at the center as of the end of January. Like its sister center in Sausalito, the facility was seeing a wider age range of sea lions in January, as well as a greater cross-section of species.

The San Pedro center has seen “double the numbers we saw in the middle of January 2013” -- the year of an Unusual Mortality Event.

The National Marine Fisheries Service declared the UME in 2013 – a phenomenon characterized by an unexpected number of strandings and significant die-off of a marine mammal population.

Scientists thought the huge number of strandings in 2013 was an anomaly, Johnson said.

"But then it happened again last year, and now it's happening again."

The marine mammal centers in Northern and Southern California were not affected equally by strandings in 2013 and 2014, he added. In 2013, Southern California centers saw a huge influx of sea lions. Then in 2014, Northern California facilities were swamped.

Sausalito’s Marine Mammal Center, which averages 600 animals a year, responded to 1,030 animals, Johnson said. Of those, "711 were sea lions, mostly pups, but again it was spread over all the age classes."

January 2015, however, has been “extremely unusual” for the Northern California center, he said.

In winter, the sea lion population is concentrated in Southern California, then shifts northward in late summer, Johnson said. So for the center to see so many animals is cause for further concern.

There have been 60 UMEs in the U.S., for various marine mammals, since 1991. A cause has been determined in 29 of those cases, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Some are chalked up to infection. But since 1996 biotoxins from harmful algae blooms have been to blame in a majority of the UMEs, NOAA says. The biotoxins accumulate in the mammals' prey.

Another possibility is "the sea lion population is reaching carrying capacity," Bard said.

California sea lions were exploited in the 19th and early 20th centuries for their hides and blubber and continued to be hunted for sport in some areas later in the 20th century. The Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 led to dramatic increases in the populations of marine mammals, Johnson said. And the population is now abundant – 300,000, said NOAA Fisheries spokesman Jim Milbury, with a birth rate of about 50,000 a year.

The environment just may not be able to support a larger sea lion population.

It's also possible the sea lions' prey has shifted, Johnson said: “Maybe the fish have all left, and that’s why this is happening. We’re hoping for some answers in coming weeks.”

A team from NOAA Fisheries is at Channel Islands now, looking for clues to help solve this 2-year-old mystery, Milbury said.

Although sea lions range from Mexico to Canada, the Channel Islands are where most of America’s sea lions breed. Hordes of the mammals pup in rookeries on the islands.

Scientists have spent time on the islands in the last two years, but this year may bring extra urgency.

“This is the third year in a row that the anomaly has happened,” Johnson noted. “They’re working really hard to try to answer those questions.”

After the 2013 UME, the Marine Mammal Care Center in San Pedro began fund-raising in earnest to expand the facility. It now has two new enclosures for the animals.

“I’m not sure even that is going to be enough,” operations director Bard said.

The centers are under financial stress with the added burden of so many animals to treat. Bard said the center has gotten some funding for part-time husbandry assistants but was recruiting volunteer interns. California’s rehab centers rely heavily on volunteers.

Johnson said donors were crucial with all the extra mouths to feed – in 2014, the center spent $100,000 on herring alone.“I hope that we have some answers soon,” Johnson said, “so that we can prepare for the future.”  - LA Times.

Massive die off of fish in a river in Istanbul, Turkey

Riva Stream, one of the largest streams of Istanbul region, has been witnessing fish deaths on a massive scale for the last couple of days.

The shores of the stream near Bozhane, Öğümce, Göllü, Paşamandıra and Çayağzı villages of Istanbul's Beykoz district were filled with dead carps. Villagers said that the mass fish deaths were a result of chemical dumping into the stream by nearby industries.

Local fisherman Şeref Cesur, 60, claimed that industries near Ömerli village secretly dump chemical waste stored in pools by tankers into the stream. "We used to fish and swim in this stream since we were small. We even drunk water from the stream," Cesur said.

Sıtkı İlter, headman of Öğümce village, said that the fish deaths have been going on for a week and they think the cause is industrial waste.

Amid the blurry water of the stream that has an increased flow rate due to heavy rainfall, there is visible foaming in the areas where dumped water is released into the stream.

Locals said that they had witnessed similar incidents on a smaller scale in previous years.

The upper course of Riva Stream feeds Ömerli Dam, which provides more than 40 percent of Istanbul's drinking water. The mouth of the stream on the Black Sea, located just west of Riva village, is one of the most popular getaways near Istanbul due to its wide beach, although sea activities are losing popularity due to increasing pollution flowing from the stream.

The seventy kilometer long stream is also one of the few streams in Istanbul which flows along its natural course.

Environmentalists have also expressed their concerns over the last few years regarding high probability of increasing urban buildup near the connection roads leading to the third bridge of Istanbul, which runs parallel to the lower course of the stream. - Daily Sabah.

Thousands of dead starfish wash up on a beach in Abergele, Wales

THOUSANDS of dead starfish have washed up on a beach in Abergele after a period of stormy weather.

Shocked amateur photographer, Gordon McGookin, initially thought that Pensarn beach was covered in rubbish when he went out for a walk on Sunday.

On a closer inspection, he discovered thousands of starfish and razor clams spread out across 500 metres of sand.

Mr McGookin, aged 39 who lives in Pensarn, said: “I try to get out each day usually walking on the beach. It was Sunday when I spied them, just after the tide had gone out.

WATCH: Thousands of dead starfish.

“There was thousands of them. I have never seen anything like it before. I was a bit concerned but I guess the recent rough sea and high tides over the last week or two was probably the cause.”

Mr McGookin, who enjoys photography as a hobby, took some pictures and a video.

Charlie Lindenbaum, marine monitoring ecologist for Natural Resources Wales, said: “Unfortunately, this kind of event is relatively common along the coast of Wales. The recent stormy weather and strong, northerly winds will cause creatures like this to be washed on the shore so it is most likely a natural occurrence.

“We would ask that if people do see things like this to report it to us. We can then investigate to make sure there is nothing else to blame for the event and it also gives us an opportunity to learn more about the fantastic species we have along our coast and does show the diverse and rich wildlife we have in Wales.”

To report an environmental incident telephone 0800 80 70 60 - News North Wales.

Thousands of birds dying from disease at Walker Lake in Nevada, America

Canvasback ducks enjoy the water at Walker Lake. Thousands of ducks and other birds have died from an outbreak of avian cholera at the lake.(Photo: RGJ file)

Thousands of birds have died at Walker Lake from a disease experts say hasn't made an appearance in Nevada in decades.

An estimated 3,000 birds — most of them American coots and ducks — have died in an outbreak of avian cholera since early December in an event that still is unfolding. As many as 10 percent of Walker Lake's ducks may have died.

"It is still an ongoing outbreak," said Peregrine Wolff, veterinarian for the Nevada Department of Wildlife.

The event marks the first time for an outbreak of avian cholera in Nevada since the 1980s, Wolff said.

The highly infectious and quick-killing disease is unrelated to the avian flu that has spread among waterfowl in neighboring states and which experts said last Friday was found in a duck in Nevada's Lincoln County late in January. Avian cholera poses no threat to people or dogs.

The Department of Wildlife was first notified by hunters in early December that they were finding dead ducks around Walker Lake. It was the wrong time of year for the most common culprit when it comes to Nevada bird die-offs, avian botulism, so experts suspected something else was responsible for a die-off that appeared fairly large in scale.

"There's not a lot of things that kill a lot of birds quickly but avian cholera in one of them," Wolff said.

Tests of bird carcasses conducted at the National Wildlife Health Center lab in Madison, Wis., revealed the birds had died of avian cholera.

The outbreak likely started when infected ducks or geese flew to Walker Lake and mixed with other birds. Live bacteria is released into the environment from dead or dying birds and can quickly infect healthy ones. Infected birds die within two days but can expire in as little as six hours.

"When an outbreak is going on, it often occurs when a lot of birds are concentrated in one area," Wolff said.

About 1,000 dead birds have been picked up around the lake but the number killed is probably much larger because many dead birds are never seen, Wolff said.
More than 700 were picked up last Friday along a seven-mile stretch of shore by a volunteer crew of Walker Lake area residents. The dead birds were buried in a landfill.

"We need to take care of it because they don't have the manpower to do it," resident Sheri Samson said of the decision to help the Department of Wildlife by collecting carcasses.

The die-off has resulted in an unsightly and smelly problem in a scenic place residents love to walk and otherwise enjoy themselves, Samson said.

"It's an active beach area for all of us. It doesn't feel comfortable to walk our pets there," she said, adding that another cleanup is planned soon.

The outbreak will likely have to play itself out over coming weeks until wintering birds fly away, Wolff said.

"At this point, there's not much we can do except wait for the birds to start disbursing," Wolff said. "It's a concern because we will lose some birds, but it's only going to affect what's on the lake. Will it have a large population impact? Probably not."


Of the 706 dead birds collected last Friday, here is a breakdown:

American coots: 546
Mallards: 50
Gadwells: 37
Ruddy: 29
Wigeons: 16
Shovelers: 13
Sea gulls: 12
Bufflehead: 2
Cormarant: 1

Source: Nevada Department of Wildlife.
- RGJ.

10,000 Chickens killed due to avian flu in Hampshire, England

THREE people have been tested for bird flu following an outbreak at a Hampshire farm.

It is understood that three people, including a Defra official, were tested for the disease after showing symptoms.

This comes after health officials confirmed chickens at a farm in Upham, near Bishop's Waltham have avian flu.

A previously reported 1km restriction zone has been set up around the farm.

Now work has begun on slaughtering 10,000 chickens to try to contain the outbreak.

It is understood that this was confirmed last Friday following several deaths amongst the chickens.

It has been identified as the H7 strain, which is described by officials as ''much less severe'' than the H5N8 strain found at a Yorkshire duck farm in November.

Defra said there are no links between the two cases, while Public Health England said the risk to public health is very low.

The three people tested have proved negative. Defra said there are no links between the two cases, while Public Health England said the risk to public health is very low.

There is no food safety risk for consumers, according to the Food Standards Agency.

A 1km poultry restriction zone, including roads and footpaths, remains in place and the birds at the commercial chicken breeding farm, which has not been named, are to be culled as part of action to prevent any spread of the disease.

Nick Phin, director of the Centre for Infectious Disease Surveillance and Control, said: ''Based on what we know about this strain of avian influenza and the actions that have been taken, the risk to human health in this case is considered very low.''

A spokesperson for the Food Standards Agency said: ''On the basis of current scientific evidence, Food Standards Agency advice is that avian (bird) flu does not pose a food safety risk for UK consumers.''Laboratory investigations on the outbreak indicate that it is the N7 sub-type of H7 but this will need to be confirmed in further testing.'' - Hampshire Chronicle.

3,000 fish found dead in Collie River in Western Australia

Collie mass fish deaths Photo: Cobbler and redfin perch were among the species found dead in the Collie River. (Supplied: Department of Water)

Authorities are investigating whether recent heavy rainfall caused thousands of fish to die in the Collie River, in WA's South West.

About 3,000 fish, including cobbler and redfin perch, have been found dead in the eastern branch of the river, about seven kilometres from the Collie townsite.

People have been warned not to eat or handle the fish.

Department of Water spokesman Adam Maskew said initial test results were expected later on Tuesday.

"At the moment, we've collected samples of the dead fish and marron and we're undertaking pathology tests," he said.

"Water samples have also been taken for analysis as well." - ABC Australia.

37,000 birds killed due to avian flu near Netanya, Israel

An additional 37,000 cases of avian flu have been identified in Kfar Vitkin, a moshav near Netanya, the Agriculture Ministry said on Monday. The birds were all turkeys at the Beit Herut coop, were being culled and buried to prevent the spread of the disease, the ministry said.

Other cases have occurred and undergone treatment throughout the Sharon and Haifa regions, as well as in the Palestinian Authority, over the past few weeks. Some of the impacted areas have included farms in Moshav Halevy, Kibbutz Magal, Binyamina-Givat Ada and Aviel, as well as near Jenin and Kalkilya in the PA.  - JPost.

50,000+ fish dead due to sewage pollution in Cartagena, Colombia

The community asked to Aguas de Cartagena
accountable for the environmental and economic
// July Brown - The Universal
According to narrate the natives from the village of Puerto Rey, Puerto Bello sector, due to the expansion of the water pipe to the area north of the city making Aguas de Cartagena, broke the duct of wastewater passing through the place, causing environmental damage.

Based on a community, it is estimated that more than 50 thousand fish died because sewage contaminated around 13 breeding sites.
Economic losses of this possible environmental disaster has not been determined, but according to the owners of farms, these contained seeds of fish that cost from 500 thousand to 3 thousand five hundred pesos, not including maintenance and feeding the animals.

Affected fish species include Tarpon, red bream, tilapia and bocachico.

Duct of wastewater, according to residents of the area, broke around 10 o'clock in the morning by the work of excavation that waters of Cartagena ahead.
While hours later managed to stop the fluid, some houses are completely surrounded by these waters, as this medium.

"We are very concerned about the situation, I had 5 thousand fish in the hatchery and all are dead.
We want to Aguas de Cartagena we answer for damage. With this business I keep my family. Now I don't know what will I do", said Rubén Darío García Muñoz, one of those affected by the situation.

Another concern of the community is related to health, in particular the children, who may be affected by the amount of wastewater that is around the area, a situation that is aggravated because the beautiful port sector is not paved and the terrain is suitable for the accumulation of fluids.
For this reason also requested support from the environmental authorities.

Such is the situation of Claudia Marrugo, who lives in a House of wood that was completely lined with sewage.
She lives with her husband and three children aged 4, 6 and 7. "It gives me fear that children will be sick by this water, also the smell is horrible," added Marrugo.

Meanwhile waters of Cartagena said that the accident caused the fissure of the pipe and the dumping of sewage, without causing flooding to homes, was then immediately controlled through an emergency download.
It said drainage work being carried out to start the respective service, which it is estimated will last for 10 hours. - El Universal. [Translated]

10 dead whales during the past month 'baffle scientist' along south coast of Australia

 Local scientists are investigating if underwater seismic testing is to blame for the deaths of three more whales along South Australia s coast.

WATCH: Mysterious whale deaths in Australia.

- MSN.

Hundreds of birds dying in South Bay, San Francisco, America

Something is suddenly killing hundreds of birds in the South Bay and it might be related to the drought.

Native band-tailed pigeons stop eating and drinking before becoming so weak, they fall from the trees. They can no longer fly or see, their beaks are gaping open. And within a couple of days, they die.

Many of the carcasses end up at the Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley where a closer look shows white lesions that have swelled up and blocked their throats.

Something is killing South Bay pigeons and drought is making it worse.

Researchers think the culprit is avian trichomoniasis (trick-oh-mah-nye-ah-sis) and, despite all the dead birds, the good news is that it can’t spread to humans.

Since the beginning of January, a minimum of 200 to 300 pigeons have died.

Due to the drought, the birds are forced to share dwindling water sources and feeding ground, making it easier to spread the highly contagious bacteria.Similar cases have also been reported in Lafayette and Orinda. - CBS.

INFRASTRUCTURE COLLAPSE: TransAsia Plane Crashes Into Taiwan River As Magnetic Polar Migration Continues To Wreak Havoc On Global Transportation Systems - Incredible Footage Shows The Jet Nearly Hitting A Highway As It Ditched; At Least 11 People Dead! [PHOTOS + VIDEOS]

Insane dash cam video catches plane crash landing into river
February 4, 2015 - TAIWAN - At least 11 people have been killed after a regional TransAsia passenger flight carrying 58 crash-landed into a river in northern Taiwan. Incredible video-footage of the crash has emerged, showing the jet nearly hitting a highway as it ditched.

Dramatic dash-cam footage captured TransAsia Airways flight GE235 as it descended out-of-control towards a highway, moments before slamming into the Keelung River near the Taiwanese capital, Taipei.

The plane was carrying 58 passengers and crew, including 31 tourists from mainland China, Reuters reported. Taiwan's Civil Aviation Authority [CAA] reported 16 people had been rescued; 33 people are still unaccounted for.

WATCH: TransAsia flight GE235 crash caught on camera.

Latest reports from the scene of the crash confirm one fatality and 10 others who "show no sign of life," according to officials from the Taiwan Fire Department, as quoted by Reuters.

Taiwanese officials said the aircraft, a turboprop ATR 72-600, crashed shortly after takeoff from Taipei Songshan Airport.

The aircraft was filmed as it passes close to some buildings before careening towards a highway. Moments before impact, the plane turns on its side, its left wing shearing the overpass guardrail as well as clipping the roof of a moving vehicle. The plane’s belly is clearly visible as the aircraft narrowly misses a full crash into the roadway.

Screenshot from video

Rescuers carry out a rescue operation after a TransAsia Airways plane crash landed in a river, in New Taipei City, February 4, 2015. (Reuters/Pichi Chuang)

The wing of TransAsia GE235 clipped a taxi cab on the highway.

The wing of TransAsia GE235 clipped a taxi cab on the highway.

Amazingly, the pilots were able to ditch the plane into the river flowing alongside the highway, which explains how some passengers survived the crash. Television footage showed several passengers wearing life jackets swimming clear of the wreckage.

The death toll is expected to climb as rescue crews continue their effort to find survivors in the mostly submerged aircraft. Dozens of rescue teams in small rubber rafts are seen delivering what appear to be bodies covered in white sheets to the shore, just a few dozen meters (yards) away from the aircraft.

At a live news conference on Wednesday, TransAsia CEO Chen Xinde offered his “deep apology” to the families of the passengers and crew aboard the downed flight.

Maximum speed for was 116 kts directly after take off. Maximum altitude was 1350 feet 

Maximum speed for was 116 kts directly after take off. Maximum altitude was 1350 feet 

TransAsia Airways -600 was forced to ditch in Keelung River after takeoff from Taipei Songshan Airport

TransAsia Airways -600 was forced to ditch in Keelung River after takeoff from Taipei Songshan Airport

A video showed Taipei rescuers rushing to the scene of the crash to help the survivors.

Initial reports said that at least a dozen people were injured, while about 10 were trapped in the wreckage when help arrived.

In July 2014, a TransAsia ATR-72 crashed while landing on the Taiwanese island of Penghu in bad weather conditions. Forty-eight people died in that crash, with 10 survivors.

WATCH: First video after TransAsia flight GE235 crash lands into river in Taipei.

Wednesday's crash is the latest in a string of accidents to plague the Asian airline industry over the past year. On Dec. 28, an AirAsia jet crashed soon after taking off from the Indonesian city of Surabaya, killing all 162 passengers and crew on board.

On March 8, Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 vanished from radar while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, China. The plane was carrying 239 passengers and crew members from 15 nations. Despite a multinational search effort, the plane has never been located.Four months later, Malaysian Flight MH17 went down in eastern Ukraine, killing all 283 passengers and 15 crew on board. - RT.

DISASTER PRECURSORS: Omen – The Latest Incidents Of Strange Animal Behavior, Mass Animal Die-Offs, Appearance Of Rare Creatures And Warnings From Mother Nature!

February 4, 2015 - EARTH - The following constitutes the latest reports of unusual and symbolic animal behavior, mass die-offs, beaching and stranding of mammals, and the appearance of rare creatures.

Over 300 manatees converge on Three Sisters Spring in Florida to escape cold temperatures

Manatees at Three Sisters Spring in Citrus County, Florida.

Manatees invaded a natural spring in Florida, prompting scores of volunteers to rush to protect the massive mammals. A total of 300 manatees converged upon Three Sisters Spring, with 65 of the mammals gathering at one time on average.

The manatees began arrive around noon at the Three Sisters Spring central pool. Volunteers blocked off the public walkways in an effort to protect the mammals that were gravitating to the shallow natural spring so they could warm themselves.

The Citrus County wildlife park was forced to shut down so the massive influx of manatees could be dealt with properly.

Last week about 220 manatees decided to make the Three Sisters Spring their new temporary home. Florida wildlife workers consider the migration of manatees on Monday a "dramatic surge." The manatees began arriving when the tide rose. Over the course of an hour, about 290 manatees had arrived at that natural spring. A cold front was expected to arrive on Monday evening, according the the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The wildlife staffers were waiting until sunrise today to determine if it was necessary to keep the Three Sisters Spring closed for the protection of the manatees. The extreme low tide is expected to occur around 10:44 a.m. this morning. - Inquisitr.

Elephant tramples boy to death in Bangladesh

© Rahula Dassenaieke

A five-year-old body was trampled to death by a wild elephant in Tonkaboti area under Sadar upazila on Monday night.

The deceased was identified as Md Tareque, 5, son of Nurul Islam of the area.

Witnesses said, a herd of wild elephants stormed into the area at around 7:30pm. At one stage, one of the elephants swooped on Nurul's farmhouse of the area and killed his son.

Nurul and his wife sustained injuries while they were fleeing the house.

Some of the houses in the area were also damaged by the elephants. - The Daily Star.

20 dolphins have been found stranded on Irish shores in January

The number of common dolphins stranded throughout the country since October is close to the amount that should be expected for an entire year

Scientists have expressed alarm at a recent spike in dolphin strandings which has seen almost 20 of the animals recovered on Irish shores in the last month.

The number of common dolphins stranded throughout the country since October is close to the amount that should be expected for an entire year, according to marine biologist Dr Simon Berrow.

"The number of dolphins we've had washed up in the last few weeks is shocking in terms of conservation and management," said Dr Berrow, a member of the Marine Biodiversity Research Group at Galway Mayo IT (GMIT).

"Last year it wasn't such a big issue, but this year we're back up to a big peak in strandings. A lot of them have ropes around their tails, they have marks that are consistent with being caught in fishing nets," added the marine expert, who was part of a team that performed an autopsy on the carcass of a female killer whale found in Tramore on Saturday.

"We've had 10 strandings of the Cuvier's beaked whale which is really, really rare. We usually get one every few years, but we've had 10 over the last few weeks, and they've had six or seven in Scotland as well," he said.

The discovery of the orca whale's remains was regarded as an intriguing novelty by researchers, but the alarming increase in dolphin and Cuvier's whale strandings - where the animals found are usually dead - has caused some consternation in the scientific community.

Figures compiled by the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) illustrate a marked increase in common dolphin strandings since 2010, when just five were reported here. There were around 100 sightings of stranded common dolphins in 2013, and following a lull early last year the numbers now appear to be on the rise.

Approximately 30 such incidents have been recorded since last October,
according to Dr Berrow, but a lack of expertise means researchers can't definitively say why the situation appears to be deteriorating once again.

Ireland is one of the few coastal EU countries which does not have a dedicated post-mortem system for deceased marine animals, despite it having one of the largest whale and dolphin populations on the continent.

"The big problem is that there's no official post-mortem programme in Ireland, so when these things happen we don't know the cause of death.

"These things get washed up and we say 'wow, this is really, really unusual, something's happened offshore' but we can't then follow up and say this is caused by fisheries interaction, pollution or anything else because we don't know ... We need to address it to be honest because these animals are dying," he said.

Latest estimates by the IUCN conservation red list puts the number of common dolphins on European continental shelf waters at just under 64,000. Conservationists have cautioned against the use of purse-seine nets by fishing trawlers, which can accidentally entangle and injure the animals.

Elsewhere, the body of a killer whale which appeared on a beach in Tramore on Friday has been removed, and its organs are now being examined by specialist researchers from GMIT and University College Cork.

It is now believed that the specimen was one of a mature rather than a young female but uncertainty remains over the cause of death, which was initially thought to be malnourishment.

Studies will be carried out on its intestines and blubber over the next few weeks, and it is hoped that the results will provide a rare insight into the marine environment in which the whales reside. - The Irish Times.

Elephant handler has his arm amputated after being trampled by raging animal in Kharkov, Ukraine

Shock: Oleg Grishchenko (pictured before the attack) was caught unaware when the elephant named Tandy charged at him.
He suffered serious crush injuries and had to have his arm amputated

Oleg Grishchenko, 39, has worked with elephants all his life and is considered one of the most knowledgeable handlers in eastern Europe.

But he was caught unaware when the animal, called Tandy, became extremely and unexpectedly agitated, charging at him at a zoo in the city of Kharkov, in eastern Ukraine.

Friends and family have appealed for money to help Mr Grishchenko pay for his operation and take time off to come to terms with his injuries.

Head of the Department of Elephants and Hippos Yuri Danilenko, 46, said: 'It all happened very quickly. God knows how exactly, it was a pure accident.'

Working with elephants is notoriously dangerous and there have been many accidents and deaths in the UK and abroad involving the animals which weigh several tons.

Some believe illness can make them snap, while others think small enclosures can lead to bad tempered animals suddenly cracking under the strain of captivity.

Mr Grishchenko had been working at the zoo since 1993, without incident and was considered an expert in communicating with and understanding the animals.

His injury after the elephant knocked him over and stamped on his arm was so severe that doctors were forced to amputate it at the elbow.

Tandy was the first elephant born in the Ukraine when she came into the world on July 19, 1998 in Odessa Zoo.

The zoo has decided not to put her down after the unexplained incident. - Daily Mail.

Wintering Cape May warbler found in Enterprise, Oregon

The Cape May Warbler that has been wintering in Enterprise. © Tristen Hynes

A Cape May Warbler wintering in Enterprise is only the second member of its species ever found wintering in Oregon.

Dozens of birders who journeyed to Enterprise in recent weeks spent a chunk of their time trying to glimpse something that all agree is rather rare: a Cape May Warbler wintering in Oregon.

Among the visitors was Eugene resident Alan Contreras, co-editor of the 2003 guide, "Birds of Oregon: A General Reference." According to Contreras, Wallowa County normally attracts birders during January from various locales - because "several kinds of birds are found there in winter that are hard to find elsewhere in Oregon," he says - and this year's sighting of the Cape May Warbler, early in January, added to the allure.

The warbler has been located generally near the southern end of Enterprise City Park. This is only the second time a Cape May Warbler has been spotted wintering in Oregon.

Contreras said the first time was in 2001 in relatively balmy Brookings. He said the species, which breeds in central to eastern Canada, normally winters in the Caribbean or in Central America.

After visitors from Portland made the initial sighting here, birders visiting from Eugene, Albany and Corvallis relocated the warbler on Sunday, Jan. 18, Contreras said. The following weekend brought groups from the Salem Audubon Society and the Bend Bird Club. In all, roughly 50 such enthusiasts made the trip during January, Contreras estimated.

Contreras said Enterprise's Cape May Warbler has been living "off of suet feeders and whatever it gets out of old apples." He expects it to remain here until winter ends, but its survival can't be assumed. - Wallowa County Chieftain.

Snowstorm brings Eurasian thrush to Apple River, Canada

This rare Fieldfare was spotted by Blaine and Kathleen Spicer in Apple River,
Cumberland County, on Jan. 31, and again over the next two days.
Kathleen Spicer has seen a lot of different birds in her yard over the years, but very few in North America have been visited by a Fieldfare.

The robin-like European bird was first spotted by Spicer's husband Blaine in an apple tree in their yard during a snowstorm on Jan. 31, and was still being observed there as of Monday.

"Blaine saw it out the window and said, 'I don't know what this is,' so I grabbed my camera and stood on a chair to get a picture of it," aid Mrs. Spicer. "I thought maybe it was a Varied Thrush, because it had a robin shape. But when I looked at the picture, I knew it was something else."

Although she had never seen a Fieldfare before, there was something familiar about the bird. She grabbed a guidebook she had for European birds, and there one was right on the cover.

While it can be found as close as Greenland, the Fieldfare is more common in Europe, Iceland and Central Siberia. A large thrush, it eats worms and insects while its normal range, but will eat fruit in winter when other food is not available.

There have only been five prior documented sightings of a Fieldfare in Nova Scotia, and the only other one photographed was in Granville Ferry, Annapolis County, in 1994.  - Cape Breton Post.

Cougar attacks 45-pound dog in Placerville, California

A homeowner came face to face with a mountain lion early Sunday morning in a remote, wooded area of Placerville after it attacked her 45-pound dog.

Susan McPherson knew something was wrong after her dog, Mate, ran into the backyard at 3:30 a.m., and she did not hear his usual barking.

WATCH: Mountain lion attack in Placerville.

So she followed him - and spotted a mountain lion.

"I saw a large cat walking away," McPherson said. "I yelled at it. And he turned his head, and there was this gray dog (in the mountain lion's mouth) ... like a rag doll. So, I'm like, 'This can't be my dog.'"  - KCRA.

Groundhog Punxsutawney Phil 'forecasts' 6 more weeks of winter

Groundhog Club handler Ron Ploucha, left, holds Punxsutawney Phil, the weather prognosticating groundhog, during the 129th celebration
of Groundhog Day on Gobbler's Knob in Punxsutawney, Pa., Monday, Feb. 2, 2015.  © AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

The handlers of Pennsylvania's most famous groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, said Monday the furry rodent has forecast six more weeks of winter.

Members of the top hat-wearing Inner Circle announced the "prediction" Monday morning.

A German legend has it that if a furry rodent sees his shadow on Feb. 2, winter will last another six weeks. If not, spring comes early.

The forecast was also announced on Twitter, as was referenced in the official proclamation read by Jeff Lundy, the Fair Weatherman of the Inner Circle.

"Forecasts abound on the Internet, but, I, Punxsutawney Phil am still your best bet. Yes, a shadow I see, you can start to Twitter, hash tag: Six more weeks of winter!"

The forecast was delivered after a steady pre-dawn rain turned to snow as temperatures dropped from the high 30s to around freezing. They were forecast to keep dropping over much of the state, prompting the state Department of Transportation to lower the speed limit to 45 mph for many interstate highways which were already wet and expected to freeze or be covered with snow as the day wore on.

The rain kept some revelers away, with state police estimating the crowd at around 11,000, slightly smaller than in recent years when upward of 15,000 attended.

Despite the German legend, Phil's handlers don't wait to see if he sees his shadow - as he likely would not have on such an overcast day. Instead, the Inner Circle decide on the forecast ahead of time and announce it on Gobbler's Knob, a tiny hill in the town for which the groundhog is named, about 65 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.

Records going back to 1887 show Phil has now predicted more winter 102 times while forecasting an early spring just 17 times. There are no records for the remaining years.

Phil's counterpart in New York City, Staten Island Chuck, delivered a conflicting message in calling for an early spring after not seeing his shadow.

Chuck emerged from his home at the Staten Island Zoo early Monday and took part in a new ceremony that didn't include being held by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Last year, in de Blasio's first time at the annual ceremony, the rodent slipped from his grasp and fell to the ground. It died weeks later.

A medical exam revealed it died of internal injuries, but zoo officials said it was unclear if they were caused by the fall from de Blasio's arms. Zoo officials didn't make the death public for months.

The accident became a source of teasing for the mayor, and de Blasio himself suggested Monday that "teams of animal behavior experts and scientists have consulted from all over the country" to keep the groundhog safe.

In Wisconsin, the mayor of Sun Prairie might not be getting too close to a groundhog again.

During a celebration Monday, the handler of Jimmy the groundhog held the animal next the face of Mayor Jonathan Freund, and Jimmy promptly bit down on the mayor's left ear.

Freund flinched, but went on with the event.  - Morning Sun.

ICE AGE NOW: Great Lakes Ice Makes A Leap After January Cold Snap - Far Above The Normal Annual Maximum, With Another Month Of Growth Left!

Amazing shot from our Life on Photo Contest: Fortress of Solitude by @LakeErieSurfer

February 4, 2015 - NORTH AMERICA
- Ice cover on the Great Lakes has made quite a leap after the first, week-long cold snap of the season.

As of Thursday, ice covered 34.1 percent of the Great Lakes, up from just 5.6 percent on Jan. 1, and 10.8 percent on Jan. 5 — the first day of a polar plunge that gripped most of the eastern U.S. for days to come.

Animation of ice cover on the Great Lakes from Jan. 7 to Jan. 14 (NOAA)

“Last year, the Great Lakes were 21.2 percent ice-covered on Jan. 14, making this year’s ice cover 13 percent higher to date,” writes “If you recall, below-average temperatures were persistent from mid-January onward in the winter of 2014, leading to the second highest ice coverage on record at 92.2 percent on March 6, 2014.”

Satellite image of Lake Erie on Jan. 9, 2015 shows the lake’s mostly ice-free water peeking through the clouds. (NASA)

By Jan. 14, Lake Erie had iced over. Thin ice can be seen in the eastern half of the lake, while thicker ice had formed over the western half. (NASA)


The ice breaking tug Breaker cuts through Lake Erie.

Lake Erie in winter on approach to Buffalo.

Sunset on Lake Erie.

Lake Erie’s ice cover has sky-rocketed this month, and is now about 88 percent covered in ice. Just a couple weeks ago, it was ice-free.

Last year, Erie’s climb was slightly more gradual, starting in December and then shooting up twice after Polar Vortex I and II in January. It seems this year Erie is getting it done in one shot.

According to our winter weather expert Wes Junker, more cold might be in store behind a potent winter storm late next week. “After the storm pushes through, colder weather is expected to filter in,” Junker writes. “By the end of the two week period, temperatures could take a plunge as a strong upper level ridge develops over Alaska and northwestern Canada.” - Washington Post.

Satellite photo shows Michigan in white after weekend snowstorm coats region

The Great Lakes region covered in snow and ice Monday, Feb. 2, 2015. A weekend snowstorm dropped more than a foot of snow across some locations.
(Courtesy UW-Madison SSEC)

Who says you can't wear white after Labor Day?

Sunshine prevailed for most of the afternoon Monday, Feb. 2, providing us with a spectacular view of our Great Lakes with little in the way of cloud cover.

The remnants of the weekend snowstorm
aren't too difficult to spot, considering a blanket of white stretches from the Midwest into Michigan and farther east to Canada. Lake Erie is about covered, too, as most of its surface has frozen over.

The Great Lakes still are relatively ice-free as a whole. An early onset of cold temperatures last winter brought Lake Michigan's ice cover to 36 percent one year ago today, compared to 26 percent currently, according to the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory.

Even more strikingly, Lake Superior's ice coverage this year is 30 percent compared to 77 percent just last season.

West Michigan could get a new shot of snow Tuesday night into Wednesday, with 1 to 3 inches forecast. A blast of colder air soon will follow for the rest of the state, holding high temperatures into the teens. - MLIVE.

Once again, Great Lakes ice far above normal

Great Lakes ice cover has been above normal five of the last seven years, and seven of the last thirteen years. It is already far above the normal annual maximum, with another month of growth left.

Many experts claim the exact opposite, because their career depends on lying about the climate.

- Real Science.

FIRE IN THE SKY: "It Was Very Weird,... Was Falling Fast,... You Could See The Flames,... - Fireball Meteor Captured On Camera Over York, United Kingdom!

Fireball meteor captured on camera over York.  © The York Press, UK

February 4, 2015 - UNITED KINGDOM
- York residents watched in amazement as they saw a fireball fall from the skies this morning.

Bishopthorpe mum Chantelle Byford captured this photograph of what is presumed to be a meteor, at 7.43am.

She posted it on Facebook, in the York Past and Present Group, prompting an excited response.

© Facebook Snap

Chantelle told The Press: "My 9-year-old daughter said there was a ball of fire in the sky. I thought it would be a lovely sunrise but she opens the blind in front of me and showed me.

"It was falling fast and you could see the flames. I grabbed my phone and we went outside to take a picture. We watched it for a while then went to the upstairs window to get a better look. I told my 18-year-old who came and had a look and my 6-year-old son.

"It was very weird; we didn't have a clue what it was. I looked on Facebook to see if anyone else had seen it, and put the local news on to see if there had been anything related to it." - The York Press.