It started not two weeks ago on New Years Eve 2010. Over three thousand blackbirds simultaneously started attacking each other in mid-flight and then just fell out of the sky over the city of Beebe in Arkansas. People out to celebrate the new year were suddenly forced to dodge falling birds and bodies bouncing off buildings and cars, in an event they would never forget. It was a mysterious event and one that would be mentioned for years to come, eventually falling into folklore, but there was nothing to it to keep it in the news for long. The birds showed no sign of poison after several animals who ate the corpses suffered no ill effects, and the initial investigation showed no signs of disease. The event was put down to the birds becoming disoriented by the fireworks going off in celebration of the upcoming new year and this, combined with the poor eyesight of blackbirds, causing them to fly into each other and die of their injuries. City authorities hired a specialist firm to dispose of the birds that were now littering roads and gardens and life moved on. At least until it happened again. Three days later on the second of January and three hundred miles to the south in Labarre, Louisiana two groups of blackbirds (again) totalling just over four hundred and fifty were found dead spread across the highway. In that case it was determined that the birds had again been spooked by something which had caused them to fly into the powerlines near the road, however an investigation into possible disease or physical trauma is ongoing.

Two events, only a couple of days apart, and involving the sudden mysterious deaths of mass numbers of the same species in the same sort of geographical area. To most people that's a hell of a coincidence. Add the speed of publishing and lack of proper research that the web has brought to all of us and you've got a recipe for panic, a recipe that someone just had to cook. People started to connect the two events that quickly became known as harbingers of the "aflockalypse" while others went looking for other similar events that could prove a connection to some conspiracy theory or other. They weren't disappointed. Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in the United States, had over two million fish suddenly die on January third, and this event was soon linked to the deaths of just over a hundred thousand fish downriver in, believe it or not, Arkansas (which in turn linked the fish deaths to the bird deaths). These fish deaths are currently thought to be the result of sub-zero temperatures over the holidays cooling the waters until the fish couldn't survive in them, but the investigation is ongoing. Suddenly the events were forming a chain and more people were starting to take them seriously. As more people started to believe something beyond what we'd seen was happening, more related events came to light in the next few days. Forty thousand dead crabs washed up on the beach of the small town of Thanet right here in the UK, while a hundred and fifty tons of fish washed up in Vietnam and 100 tons of sardines and catfish were found dead in Brazil. Sparrows in China and Jackdaws in Sweden took a note out of their American blackbird cousins' book and plunged from the sky en masse. For many it seemed that the joking name of "Aflockalypse" was becoming more and more accurate as these events seemed to be spreading across the world. Many started to seriously talk about these deaths as omens of doom on a biblical level, never once suspecting that the mysterious connection between these events actually lay more in my dominion than anywhere else.

You see, mass animal deaths happen all the time. Seriously, we're talking hundreds of these sorts of events around the world every single year. The only reason people took special notice of these ones is that the two blackbird deaths seemed related and that set people looking for other similar events, which were in no short supply as usual. So how does the connection fall into my dominion? It's simple enough when you think about it. The increase in technology over the past decade or so, specifically in mobile communications technology, has put information, the ability to misunderstand that information and the ability to spread that misunderstanding into more people's hands than ever before. This simply enabled the story to travel faster and further, which is the only real connection between these so called harbingers.


24 thoughts on “Harbinger

  1. There have been stories of fish and frogs, birds etc. falling from the sky for hundreds, thousands of years.I think it's weather, to be honest. Birds are easily shocked & killed even by noise, and once you get 'up there' in the real airspaces, it' not all calm and smooth. An updraft such that gliders search out, in a storm, can *easily* zoom up thousands of metres in just a few minutes, way too quickly for a flock of birds thus caught up, to escape. Throw in thunder, lightning – there it is. That's the explanation that I understand. Clear Air Turbulence and all that. It can bring down Airliners, and Birds too.

  2. "aflocalypse" *shakes head* It's so easy to "read into" all these things with the thought of catastrophe following.Anyone else seeing some Horsemen galloping about?

  3. The theory that everyone gets so drunk on the alcohol in Christmas pudding at this time of year that they believe anything?

  4. When you cook a plum pudding, the plums aren't evenly distributed but clump together. Unlikely things are likewise going to happen in groups.

  5. As long as you're inside, Pussy Cat – who cares? 😀 I told you about the frozen pigeons falling out of trees, when I visited my family in Wiltshire one Christmas, didn't I?? 🙂

  6. I don't think that a few flocks of birds falling out of the sky is that much of a big deal, or that unusual, to be honest.Pods of Whales get caught on beaches all the time, that's equally unlikely, and yet curiously normal….people try to help and all that, but it's never seen as a sign of the approching end. Mostly because it isn't of course, any more than birds getting caught out by a storm, or plagues of Locusts, unexpected Tsunamis etc. are.Nature's a bastard and it never ends well for wild animals, not ever. We just happen to notice when a bunch of them die on our doorsteps. For all we know, flocks of Starlings, Sparrows and Flamingos drop out of the sky all the time out in the fields & paddocks, every day, out of sight. Why not? 🙂

  7. Originally posted by qlue:

    Unlikely things are likewise going to happen in groups.

    Both likely and unlikely things happen every single day. The reason they're noticed in groups is because they never stop.

  8. It might also be to do with climate change affecting the animals or their accustomed environmentfood sourcewhatever, because it *is* changing, and many animals only have a rather narrow band of conditions within which they survive & prosper…\edit : I don't seriously think that's the reason here, but it certainly is for many species around the world :worried:

  9. This has got to have something to do with the Angry Birds game half the population seem to be playing these days… :eyes:They explained the happening with the falling dead birds in Sweden with them having "met a truck"… :left:Personally, I'm more uncomfortable with the disappearing bees.

  10. Originally posted by Rose:

    disappearing bees[/url]That's easy too : Varroa Mite – that and Insect sprays on crops & fruit trees (which is just us, making a quick buck at the expense of The World, nothing unusual there.) The mite's a bastard though, and extremely hard to kill without killing the Bees too… 😦

  11. Easy? That's just one of the theories as far as I know. Others include radiation from mobile phones, climate change, virus and a heap of other things.

  12. Radiation from Mobile phones?? Cool 🙂 Well, the only reason that I say it's easy is that 3 or 4 years ago I did an extensive Bee Keeping course (because I love Bees too & wanted to become a bee keeper as a kind of hobby) – and that's what I learned – Varroa mite & insecticides ( & to a certain extent weedkillers, for slightly different reasons) are what's depleting the Bee pops around the world…. :worried:Oh yeah – you're right about the viruses, Rose – they're spread by the mite as well (although I'm sure there are other vectors too)…

  13. The biggest trouble with beekeeping? The ridiculous Hat. I mean…puhlease!…having said that, if you've got a reasonably healthy *single* beehive, just one, you could easily get 30 kg of honey out of it in a summer …that's pretty impressive 🙂 Imagine if, like most, you've got 10 – 20 hives…that's a shitload of honey….

  14. And bee keeping is a lot of hard work though. So don't everyone run of now and start their new 'hobby' all at once. :left:.You gotta love the bees and ya gonna get stung every so often. :happy:. Of course, if you're allergic to bee venom, it's a rather challenging hobby, but! :left:.And you don't need to wear the hat if you don't want to Flarin. Arab beekeepers traditionally don't. :p! (although traditions aren't always upheld by the latest generation. :left:)

  15. Originally posted by rose-marie:

    This has got to have something to do with the Angry Birds game half the population seem to be playing these days…

    Best.Explanation.Ever!!!:yes:Originally posted by Pineas2:

    There was a mass dying of pigeons in Italy at the end of last week.

    What colour? ;)Originally posted by FlaRin:

    That's easy too : Varroa Mite

    Originally posted by rose-marie:

    Others include radiation from mobile phones, climate change, virus and a heap of other things.

    Bang goes another carefully researched post.*hits the delete button*:mad:Originally posted by qlue:

    Arab beekeepers traditionally don't.

    Is it racist to say that Arabs are bloody morons when it comes to insects? :left:

  16. Haha @ Mik : I agree. No way I'd be working on a hive without the full safetly net 🙂 You *do* get used to the stings, but annoyed bees down the collar of your shirt is always going to ruin your afternoon 🙄

  17. Originally posted by Furie:

    Is it racist to say that Arabs are bloody morons when it comes to insects?

    I don't know! :left:. Originally posted by FlaRin:

    annoyed bees down the collar of your shirt is always going to ruin your afternoon

    The Arab beekeepers in question actually have a good record for not being stung. But I wonder how the deal with the bees that get inside the shirt myself? :sherlock:.

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