Wednesday, January 5, 2011


The New Year is now settling in nicely, although I personally have yet to accept the number 2011 as one that will follow my everyday life for the next 360 days. I am assuming that there are others who find the number wrong, some that immediately come to mind are those making a living off party sunglasses shaped like the New Year’s digits.

I have been following a story about birds falling from the sky in the last few days, first five thousand blackbirds littered an area in Beebe, Arkansas, the next day five hundred more were found in nearby Pointe Coupee in Louisiana and last night about a hundred crows dropped straight to the ground in Fallköping, Sweden – not exactly next door. These occurrences are intriguing as they involve hundreds of birds literally raining from the sky with no obvious explanation as to what caused this to happen. To make things even stranger apparently 100 000 dead fish washed ashore a riverbank about fifty miles from Beebe a week ago, again with no explanation at hand.

So why is this interesting? To me it is because of the lack of explanation, which has to be out there. Animals just don’t die of old age in groups. It will be interesting to see what comes out of the investigations that must be ongoing but until then it is amusing to read the conclusions people jump to in the meantime. As an example I have seen various blogs about a conspiracy lead by the drug companies in a desperate attempt at reviving the sales of bird flu vaccinations but this to me sounds ridiculous. Why then the fish? How could dead fish raise scares about avian flu? Pigs OK as that could possibly booster the sales of Tamiflu (remember the swine flu), but fish? Come on. Having said this I really, really hope there is not a fish-flu out there, although this would make the Tamiflu people rejoice it would in most likelihood cause the Icelandic economy to implode for good.

Another theory I am not a fan of is the fireworks explanation, i.e. that the birds had heart attacks after witnessing a firecracker go off. Believe me if firecrackers caused birds to die en masse we would not hear a single chirp in Iceland - ever, as better explained by my previous post. Animals hate these explosions but never have I seen or heard any accounts of a single bird dropping dead following New Years Eve or other firework celebrations. In case you were wondering we have all kinds of birds, big and small birds of both the sea and land bird types. What they do is flee, they fly away from what scares them and a single firecracker can’t be hard to escape if you have wings. Maybe penguins would be threatened or ostriches but not regular, free birds.

Who knows maybe this was all just a big coincidence.

Coincidences are something to think about. They are the occurrence of an event or events factored with time and a timeframe related to their general frequency. As an example it is not a coincidence if you meet a coworker in the elevator on your way to the office. If you meet a coworker in the elevator on the way up to the top of the Eifel tower it is a coincidence. You go to work in the same elevator 5 days a week but most only ride the elevator in the Eifel tower once during their lifetime, if at all (not counting you Cara). It is not a coincidence if you find a coin on the same street corner twice in a decade but it would be if you found it twice the same afternoon or two days in a row. The time separating the events must not always be brief, a large meteor crater being formed within another, existing one would be a coincidence even if the two were formed within tens of millions of years of each other. The key is in the frequency.

So how often do flocks of birds fall dead from the sky? I must admit I have no idea. The Arkansas event would not have been reported in the world media if it had not been the second event in Louisiana. Maybe legions of dead birds fall from the sky all of the time. Partly in uninhabited areas which would not be noted or reported and maybe the times it happens in the urban areas it only hits the local news, if that. If this is the case then the three bird episodes now being discussed are most likely simply a coincidence. A probability cluster.

I can tell you a true story about a "coincidence" that was not all it was made out to be. Two elderly brothers from the Westman Islands were out on their fishing boat when one by accident dropped his false teeth into the sea. The next time they took the boat out the other brother decided to play a trick on the one that lost his teeth, took his own dentures out and pretended to gut them from inside one of the cods they had caught. The brother that had originally lost his teeth took them from within the fish's belly and looked sceptically at them before placing them into his mouth. He then quickly removed them, saying: "Nah. That's not them", after which he threw the dentures overboard. The two brothers sailed back home, now both missing their teeth - good joke gone bad.

Whatever the explanation for the birds' demise, I luckily have four boxes of Tamiflu from the time of the first swine flu scare, the drug companies will not make much off me this time around – be it conspiracy or coincidence.

Yrsa - Wednesday
P.S. My New Year's resolution is to find the time to respond timely to comments on this blog. My profound apologies at how lacking I have been in this respect in the previous months.


  1. It wouldn't be a coincidence is I met someone I knew from work on the elevator to the top of the Eiffel Tower. It would be a miracle. I don't mind heights just as long as I can't look straight down and realize I can see the ground because there really isn't much between me and the ground. I definitely cannot ride in those glass elevators that run up the outsides of buildings.

    I think that there can be any number of coincidences that happen in someone's life on a weekly basis, giving some time between events. We just don't recognize them because we haven't been paying attention.

    Most people are, to greater and lesser degrees, creatures of habit. So we look for the things we expect to find.

    The only coincidence I can think of that couldn't have been planned happened on a trip to Disney World. We were trying to escape the Electric Light Parade that takes over Fantasy Land every night. My family was walking uo a very crowded street and I met my cousin and her family walking towards us. Neither of us knew the other was going to be there. We made specific plans to meet the next day so our kids could do some of the rides together. We were specific about time and place. The meeting never happened.

    So, the coincidence of being together at the same time in the same place was nice but, again, it would have taken a miracle to pull off the planned meeting.


  2. Hi Beth,

    I guess planning is not the way to go when in Disneyland. Funny coincidence that you should mention Disneyland as I had originally mentioned Disneyland in the post but changed it to the elevator in the Eiffel tower as I was more easily able to provide an alternative example with the office elevator.

    all the best Yrsa

  3. Yrsa

    I feel compelled to test you out on your New Year's resolution to respond to comments. It's funny. When I heard about the birds in Arkansas and it being possibly blamed on fireworks, the first thing I thought of was your fireworks in Iceland and if they bothered birds then you wouldn't have any.

    It is a curious event and I hope someone finds out what really caused the birds to fall.

    Happy New Year.

  4. Yrsa,

    I've been a bit distracted for the last few days and read Michael's piece on perching birds before seeing your piece on dying birds. I think I'll order the fish.

  5. Hi Jacquie - I am really serious about this resolution, having failed desperately at most others made in years past. Regarding the birds and the fireworks it is the Icelandic consensus that this is in no way to blame. Maybe it is just the crappy weather being experiences all over.

    Hi Jeffry - fish is the way to go, always. (Especially now with our economy being the dung heap it is - rah rah fish!).

    all the best Yrsa