Since 2006, Lake Michigan has seen a steady stream of dead birds washing up on its beaches, and this fall has been exceptionally grim. So far, researchers and volunteers have found around 5000 dead birds along the shore. Two researchers are monitoring the coast where dead birds have been washing up: Dan Ray of the National Park Service and Jeanie Williams of the Inland Seas Education Association.

They’re walking along a beach in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. The typically pristine coast is littered with about two dozen dead birds including scoters, loons, ducks, and more. Researchers say the birds are dying because of a toxin called avian botulism, which can form on the lake bed under certain conditions. READ MORE