Falling Fish
© Unknown

"A procession of the damned.

By the damned, I mean the excluded.

We shall have a procession of data that Science has excluded.

Battalions of the accursed, captained by pallid data that I have
exhumed, will march. You'll read them -- or they'll march. Some of them
livid and some of them fiery and some of them rotten..."

- Charles Fort,
The Book of the Damned

Yes, and rotten is what Beebe, Arkansas woke up to on the opening day of
2011: A whole lot of rotting red-winged blackbirds. Initial estimates
put the number of dead birds littering the yards and streets of Beebe
at around 5000. Not only this, but about 125 miles west in Ozark,
Arkansas an estimated 100,000 dead drum fish have turned up on the
shores of the Arkansas River.

So what gives?

To coincide with the mass of dead bird and fish from Arkansas, Chile also experienced a mass death
of sooty shearwater birds along the shoreline between Mela and Colmo
Yao counties. This comes on the heels of a magnitude 7.0 earthquake in
the Santiago Del Estero region. Likewise, on the opposite side of South
America, at least one-hundred tons
of dead fish -- mostly sardines, croaker and catfish -- have turned up
on the shores of Paraná, Brazil since last Thursday. These signs do not
bode well for 2011!

Now in a world such as ours, with nearly every square inch of the planet
polluted beyond living tolerance, it would seem that mass animal deaths
should not be so uncommon. After all, in the past several years we've
seen mass die-offs
of honeybees, bats, dolphins, pelicans, frogs and likely other species
that have gone unnoticed. The cause of these mass animal deaths has
often turned out to be specific diseases, pollutants, or some
combination of the two. The odd thing about these dead blackbirds in
Beebe is that they just dropped dead in mid-flight. As Karen Rowe, an
ornithologist for the wildlife commission commented, "it's important to understand that a sick bird can't fly."
So what exactly caused over 5,000 blackbirds to take flight in the
middle of the night then drop out of the sky? These Blackbirds are
normally sleeping at night and they have very poor eyesight in the dark,
according to experts.

But not to worry, apparently the blackbird deaths pose no real
mystery! According to the director of Cornell University's ornithology
lab in Ithaca, New York, the most likely cause of this blackbird carnage
is a "washing machine-type thunderstorm"
which sucked the birds up into the sky and proceeded to soak them.
Being completely soaked, this, in turn, caused them to freeze to death
in the cold December air at which point they fell from the sky.

The good director's sorry attempt to explain away the dead birds would make Charles Fort roll over in his grave for sure!

However, Dr. George Badley, Arkansas's top veterinarian, tells a slightly different tale:

Preliminary autopsies on 17 of the up to 5,000 blackbirds
that fell on this town indicate they died of blunt trauma to their
, the state's top veterinarian told NBC News on Monday.

Their stomachs were empty, which rules out poison, Dr. George Badley said, and they died in midair, not on impact with the ground.

That evidence, and the fact that the red-winged blackbirds fly in close flocks, suggests they suffered some massive midair collision, he added. That lends weight to theories that they were startled by something.

The quote above implies that they collided with something, or something
collided with them and that they were "startled". Now, before jumping to
the conclusion that they must have run into a UFO or some super-secret
government beam weapon, let's see if there's an explanation a little
more mundane (despite how unlikely it seems at this point).

Preliminary reports
suggested that the birds could have been killed by fireworks, lightning
or even high-altitude hail from storms. As far as storms go, Beebe did
suffer a spell of bad weather earlier in the day on Friday that
included lightning and thunder. But the storms were far east of the
city by the time the birds were falling out of the sky at around 9-10pm
on New Year's Eve.

Dead Fish Arkansas River
© Arkansas Game and Fish Commission

Dead fish are seen along the Arkansas River.

Then we have the coinciding drum fish deaths west of Beebe along the
Arkansas River. Surely these underwater fish couldn't have collided
with the same object that struck the birds. Drum fish are known as
bottom feeders and fishermen know them as some of the toughest fish
around. As one fisherman wrote, "[the drum fish] is the most useless and depressing fish in the world. The thing never dies, you can stand there with a club and whack it for a long time, it'll live." In any case, we won't know what actually caused the fish deaths for another month, according a spokesman for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

The two mass deaths of fish and birds in such close proximity to each
other seems too coincidental to be completely unrelated, although the
cause of death would appear to be different in the case of each animal.
It's almost as if whatever killed the birds set off a chain of events
that led to the fish deaths and maybe other phenomena as well. As of
this writing, a similar die-off of blackbirds appears to have taken
place just three days later in Louisiana:

Labarre, Louisiana - Around 500 dead blackbirds and starlings have
been found in Pointe Coupee Parish, according to state wildlife

This comes after about 5,000 blackbirds and swallows were found dead
around Beebe, Arkansas on New Year's Eve. Dr. Jim LaCour with LDWF said
he's not sure the two incidents are connected.

"It's not common, (but) we do see a few die-offs for various reasons,"
said LaCour. "Yes, we need to look into it, we need to be a little
alarmed, but it's not out of the scope of things to have a die-off."

And now there are even reports of dead blackbird falling out of the sky in places as far away as Kentucky: