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article imageFish rain down on desert village, UK starlings die in unison

By Stephanie Dearing     Mar 15, 2010 in Science
Two locations, a world away from each other, experienced strange animal-related events recently. In Somerset, England about 75 starlings just fell to the ground while a village in northern Australia had fish plummet from the sky.
Somerset, U.K. - Officials with the RSPCA are investigating what lies behind the mysterious deaths of around 75 Starlings, which simultaneously fell from the sky, dying in a group. A witness said the flock of birds fell out of the sky around 4 pm on March 7th, all falling close to each other. RSPCA Officer Alison Sparkes said "It was a remarkable sight and I've never seen anything like it before. Onlookers said they heard a whooshing sound and then the birds just hit the ground. They had fallen onto the ground in quite a small area, about 12 feet in diameter."
Most of the birds died rapidly, but a few still surviving were put down by the RSPCA. Thus far, no explanation for the bizarre event has been found. Toxicology tests have been done, but results take approximately one month.
There is one poison that can affect the birds if used wrongly - Avitrol. The strong poison is commonly used to scare pigeons and other "nuisance birds" away. Proper use will not see any birds dying, but if too much poison is mixed in with the seed, many birds will die, often falling from the sky whilst flying. The poison is so strong that its use is monitored through issuing special permits in most countries.
On the other side of the world, at the end of February, it rained fish in Lajamanu, Australia. Located in the desert hundreds of miles from any open source of water, villagers saw Perch fingerlings rain from the sky for 2 days. This small community has now had fish rains on three separate occasions over a 30 year period. Residents are not used to the rare event, often feeling as if they have gone crazy when it does rain fish. One resident and eye witness, Mrs. Balmer, told NT News "I haven't lost my marbles. Thank god it didn't rain crocodiles."
Another witness, Christine Balmer told NT News "It rained fish in Lajamanu on Thursday and Friday night. They fell from the sky everywhere. Locals were picking them up off the footy oval and on the ground everywhere. These fish were alive when they hit the ground."
Australian meteorologist, Ashley Patterson said a tornado could have sucked the fish up, causing their release hundreds of miles away, but noted that no reports of tornadoes had been made in Northern Australia prior to the fish rain event. Patterson said it was likely a storm updraft was responsible for the transportation of the fish.
It is normal for strange things to be released from storm clouds every now and then. Storms have deposited frogs, tomatoes, squids, worms and fish. How Stuff Works explains the phenomenon as the result of a waterspout -- a tornado that is situated over water -- as sucking up water and living creatures within that body of water, before releasing the water and creatures over land.
More about Raining fish, Birds, Starlings, Somerset, Lajamanu
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