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Foam from ocean algae bloom killing thousands of birds

A slimy foam churning up from the ocean has killed thousands seabirds and washed many others ashore, stripped of their waterproofing and struggling for life.

The birds have been clobbered by an unusual algae bloom stretching from the northern Oregon coast to the tip of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state.

"This is huge," said Julia Parrish, a marine biologist and professor at the University of Washington who leads a seabird monitoring group. "It's the largest mortality event of its kind on the West Coast that we know of."

The culprit is a single-cell algae or phytoplankton called Akashiwo sanguinea.  Though the algae has multiplied off the coast of California before, killing hundreds of seabirds, the phenomenon has not been seen in Oregon and Washington, and has never occurred on the West Coast to this extent, Parrish said.

Hailstones kill 90 percent of wild game in parts of Austria

Hundreds of deer were discovered either dead or so badly injured they had to be put down by wildlife experts.
In the country's rural Salzburg province, 90 per cent of pheasants and 80 per cent of hares were killed in the hail storms.

Sepp Eder, the hunting chief, said : "Animals sought shelter in farms, in fields of grain but the hail was so heavy it smashed right into them. It may take five years for animal numbers to recover, if they ever do so."
Farmers are believed to have suffered more than £60 million in damages to crops and buildings.

New Armageddon-Worthy Cloud

In hill country from Iowa to the Scottish Highlands, sky-gazers have reported some strange, ominous-looking clouds of late. Dubbed undulatus asperatus (turbulent undulation), the atmospheric anomaly could be headed where only 80-odd clouds have gone before: into the International Cloud Atlas. If it makes the cut, asperatus will be the first new addition in more than 50 years.

Where did it come from? Gavin Pretor-Pinney, president of the UK-based Cloud Appreciation Society, has a theory: "It's warmer, moister air above and colder, drier air below, with an abrupt boundary in between." Add wind passing over rolling terrain and "you get the same wavy effect as on the surface of water."

The formation has probably been around for a long time, but it's only now getting attention: "Before the Internet and digicams, people might have mentioned it to a few friends and that would be it," Pretor-Pinney says. "Once the news got out, I was inundated with emails saying, 'I saw it three years ago; here's the picture!'" He's charting those images against atmospheric conditions to document the cloud's unique characteristics. The next step: Storm Geneva to seek formal recognition from the World Meteorological Organization.

Killer whales leave porpoises for dead

Scientists are grasping for answers to explain why southern resident killer whales — a group of fish eaters that prefer chinook salmon — have also been observed toying with harbour porpoises before leaving them dead, including two cases in the past month in Washington state and B.C.’s Strait of Georgia.
Joe Gaydos, staff scientist with the SeaDoc Society, speculated in an interview Tuesday that killer whales might see the porpoises as an opportunity for a playful “cat and mouse” game — albeit with deadly consequences.
“The thing we forget about wildlife is that they don’t really have a consciousness like we have, that this is okay and this is not okay,” he said from his office in Washington’s San Juan Islands.
A 2005 paper co-authored by Gaydos reported the discovery of 13 dead harbour seal pups in the San Juan Islands. It found evidence of a “novel pattern of killing without intent to eat” by “one or more transient killer whales” — a separate group that targets marine mammals and not fish — although resident killer whales could not be completely exonerated in connection with the seal deaths.

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