Something very peculiar happened in Arkansas on the weekend.
Firstly 100,000 drum fish died for no particular reason and then 5000 black birds fell out of the sky – dead.
At first it was speculated by game and fish commission ornithologist Karen Rowe that “the flock could have been hit by lightning or high-altitude hail”, the Associated Press reported.
Now it has been officially confirmed by the State veterinarian that New Year’s Eve revellers shooting off fireworks in the area startled the birds from their roost and caused them to die from stress.
Hmm, I’ve been wondering about the cost to wildlife of our entertaining fireworks every new year.
Last year I was on a boat in Darling Harbour and I was quite disturbed by the anxiety of the seagulls at midnight when the fireworks went off. They scattered – screeching hysterically – as every firework exploded. It was fairly upsetting to watch.
On 12th June, 2010 the Belfast Telegraph reported that a controversial pyrotechnics display beside a wildlife hotspot went ahead after a council claimed there was no scientific evidence that birds would be disturbed.
But residents living near Six Mile Water wetland habitat area in Ballyclare have alleged that a wildlife crime may have been committed when the display was held at the end of Ballyclare May Fair. It is illegal to disturb nesting birds.
Meanwhile, the RSPB warned that fireworks must never be set off next to birds’ breeding and roosting areas.
On 5th November, 2010, according to http://www.rspb.org.uk/news/263589-remember-remember-wildlife-on-bonfire-night RSPB Cymru gave advice on protecting birds and other wildlife from bonfires and fireworks.
RSPB Cymru urged everyone to spare a thought for garden wildlife this bonfire night.
At night-time in particular, birds are likely to be roosting in trees and bushes, and the wildlife charity is warning that holding firework displays too close to their shelters could disturb them.
Although there is no evidence to suggest fireworks cause conservation problems, loud bangs and flashing lights too close could cause birds to move on, and every movement made in the cold weather uses up vital energy supplies.
RSPB Cymru asked anyone planning a bonfire or fireworks display in their garden to avoid doing it too close to nest boxes. Even if the nesting period is over and young birds have long gone, many birds use nestboxes for shelter over winter.
This advice, although very wise, is not helpful in Australia because private fireworks displays are illegal. The government or councils set off the fireworks displays.
If every bird in the world was to fall down dead it would not stop any country’s New Year firework displays.
However, the sky is their home and they don’t understand what is happening when the sky explodes with smoke and horrible noises and bright lights.
And let’s not forget the dogs, cats and wildlife that suffer because of the fireworks.
According to http://www.dorwest.com/Top/Common-Problems/N/Noise-Phobias-Fireworks thunderstorms, fireworks, gun shots or any loud or sudden noises can disturb and frighten dogs and cats. These often occur unexpectedly, making it difficult to help your pet cope with the stress caused, especially if you don’t want to resort to total sedation which is something not now recommended by vets for these type of situations.
It is estimated that around 50% of dogs are afraid of loud noises such as fireworks, thunderstorms and gun shots, and many cats suffer too. This fear reaction can become extreme and some pets develop firework phobias, showing a level of fear that seems out of proportion with the sound. Many pets suffer during the fireworks season, which can often continue right through until the New Year. There are also other occasions when loud noises can cause stress and anxiety. The fear this causes can result in a noise phobia where the dog or cat will become anxious and distressed upon hearing any loud noise and most pets with noise phobia experience worsening signs each year.
I have just received an email from my cousin Annette, in Holland who tells me, ‘It’s like a war zone here as soon as the fireworks are on sale, so when 12 arrives, it’s no surprise, as one has been forced to hear the noise the whole day. 2 teenagers dead because of firework bombs, school burnt down, church burnt down and cars destroyed, is definitely not appealing, all one too many, it’s time to introduce a law or a EC law against private fireworks.’
Is there a point to the Australian government wasting $5 million on fireworks when surely half that amount would produce a terrific show. Of course, now they feel obligated to surpass the previous years’ displays. So soon they’ll be spending $10 million for sure.
So what’s the solution? I wish I knew. I can only recommend that all pets be kept safely inside during firework displays. Unfortunately we can’t do the same for all wildlife and birds.
And I wonder what killed all those fish?
To find the answer to that question, have a look at my next blog.