Half a century ago, Belgian Zoologist Bernard Heuvelmans first codified cryptozoology in his book On the Track of Unknown Animals.

The Centre for Fortean Zoology (CFZ) are still on the track, and have been since 1992. But as if chasing unknown animals wasn't enough, we are involved in education, conservation, and good old-fashioned natural history! We already have three journals, the largest cryptozoological publishing house in the world, CFZtv, and the largest cryptozoological conference in the English-speaking world, but in January 2009 someone suggested that we started a daily online magazine! The CFZ bloggo is a collaborative effort by a coalition of members, friends, and supporters of the CFZ, and covers all the subjects with which we deal, with a smattering of music, high strangeness and surreal humour to make up the mix.

It is edited by CFZ Director Jon Downes, and subbed by the lovely Lizzy Bitakara'mire (formerly Clancy), scourge of improper syntax. The daily newsblog is edited by Corinna Downes, head administratrix of the CFZ, and the indexing is done by Lee Canty and Kathy Imbriani. There is regular news from the CFZ Mystery Cat study group, and regular fortean bird news from 'The Watcher of the Skies'. Regular bloggers include Dr Karl Shuker, Dale Drinnon, Richard Muirhead and Richard Freeman.The CFZ bloggo is updated daily, and there's nothing quite like it anywhere else. Come and join us...

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Monday, February 23, 2009

MAX BLAKE: What Maxy did next...

Well, it has certainly been a busy weekend for me! I awoke early to grab my kit for the weekend, and then headed out in the car to find a village hall in a tiny village outside of the sprawling metropolis that is Yeovil. If I am honest, I did not expect much from this year’s Bugfest, the Sci-fi blended with inverts I thought would be a disaster.

Yes, great for the kids it would be, but for people who wanted to meet up with friends and buy inverts? Not quite so good. However, after signing in and meeting the rest of the gang, I had a chance to look around, and it was not as bad as I first thought!

The sellers with livestock had some nice animals for very sensible prices, and in the 2 hours I was there I spent about twice as much as I expected! I ended up with a few cockroaches to add some new genes to my colony; some new Phasmids for school; a pair of red colour form Chilean Rose tarantulas (for only £20!) and 3 undiscribed baby scorpions, plus two large heat mats to keep everything toasty. I had a good old long chats with old friends, and met some new people, which is always good!

Eventually, Jon, Corrina and I decided it was time to leave and get to ol’ London town. We slogged our way up the, errr, road, and managed to get to a tiny railway platform where we could park the car overnight for free. Great! except there was nothing in the way of security. I risked it. The train arrived, and we were off to the centre, away from the stunning ring-necked parakeets which were zooming around next to the railway station and managing to get Jon and I very exited indeed.

A taxi took us from Waterloo up to the hotel where I arranged my inverts on the table by my bed. They were all fine from the journey, and the warm room would suit them fine overnight. I chilled out for an hour or so, before meeting J and C downstairs to whip off to the gig venue, only after seeing firsthand an example of racism between blacks and Asians. As we got there before the doors opened, we went to a pub and had a drink. I could here rant on about how much I love Weatherspoons pubs, but I won’t. Instead of staying for a few more drinks, we left to get back into the queue for the venue.

As expected, I was the youngest person there by a fair way. Not to worry, there was a great support band to watch. Only, there wasn’t, they were very much sub-par. So much so that I spent about half an hour during their set trying to work out how to increase the image size on the CFZ camera. I failed. After their set finished, we moved Jon around to the side of the stage at the front where he would be able to video the gig, and I could take photos. Dr. Strangely Strange arrived, and for the entire duration of their gig I was very much in rapture as I watched 4 fairly well aged Irish men play through their set in the relaxed manner of people who had seen it all before, and couldn’t care how many times they had to restart a song to get the start right!

Nor could the audience, we all laughed along and had a very merry time. I bought a copy of their reissued and tarted up album, “Kip of the Serenes”, which I managed to get signed by the three members of the band who played on it, as well as the fellow who played Glockenspiel on the first recording. The band seemed fairly positive about playing at the Weird Weekend, apparently they needed something to aim for or else they would probably split up again!

After the gig, we left to find somewhere to eat. The only place we could find was a 24hr kiosk where we got a Jacket Potato for Corrina, and two rather sad looking and tasting burgers for Jon and I. A short hop in a taxi, and we were back at the hotel to sleep until the morn.

The next day, after re-packing the inverts, we set off on a mammoth journey to the car, which took the best part of 3 hours by train and taxi. The car was undamaged, so I was happy. We set off to find Wildwoods, one of the best fish shops in the country. I could now wax lyrical about the new fish for the hobby that were for sale here, but I will leave that for a separate blog. Suffice to say, there was an awful lot of rare fish on sale here, if you were prepared to pay for the privilege. Still, there were many unusual fish for sale at reasonable prices. If you are into fish and live near north Greater London, for god’s sake go there! Our journey back was uneventful, but I did get two burgers for the price of one at the services we stopped at! Simple things, simple minds...

Sarah taking a photo of me, taking a photo of Sarah, taking a photo of me, taking a photo of Sarah, taking a photo of me, taking a photo of Sarah, taking a photo of me, taking a photo of Sarah, taking a photo of me, taking a photo of Sarah, taking a photo of me, taking a photo of Sarah, taking a photo of me, taking a photo of Sarah, taking a photo of me, taking a photo of Sarah, taking a photo of me, taking a photo of Sarah, taking a photo of me, taking a photo of Sarah, taking a photo of me, taking a photo of Sarah, taking a photo of me, taking a photo of Sarah, taking a photo of me, taking a photo of Sarah, taking a photo of me, taking a photo of Sarah,


With uncharacteristic briefness, Dave Curtis wrote: "I took this picture of what appears to be a critter sticking its head out behind a tree.It looks like a meercat.Davy.C"

Bolam is of course the forest where I encountered a zooform BHM six years ago; only part of a long series of strange animal sightings in the area..


"We really enjoyed the film of your lecture at the Grant Museum" writes Lindsey and Yvonne from Bolton. "But you appeared there a year ago, and we were in the audience on that occasion. Was that ever filmed?"

Indeed it was...


Once again we hand you over to guest blogger Richard Holland, editor of Paranormal Magazine, and all round good bloke. He intends to be a regular visitor tho these pages, and I am sure that you will all agree with me that this will be jolly good news for all of us..

I know Jon Downes is interested in Beech Martens, so I’ve dug through some old research material (made when I was a keen young lad in my 20s, with a proper beard) to unearth an account of the possible capture of such a beastie that may not be well known. It comes from a long defunct old journal called Bye-gones, which was distributed throughout Wales and the Borders and concerned with antiquarian and natural history matters from those regions.

The following extract appeared in the August 1887 edition and was provided by a correspondent calling himself ‘J. Ll.’ (they were all so modest, these Victorian contributors). The location referred to, Palé, is a large estate boasting extensive deciduous woodland in what is now the county of Conwy. Over to J.Ll:

‘A short time ago whilst one of Mr Robertson’s (Palé) watchers was going round his beat he found to his surprise in one of the steel traps set for vermin, a ferocious looking animal, and it was with the greatest difficulty he could approach him. Being caught by the hindleg, he was springing forward, and striving his utmost to bite him. The watcher, however, managed to set another trap, so his forefeet were secured, and he was taken alive to the keeper’s residence.

‘It was sent to Mr Shaw of Shrewsbury to be preserved, and Mr Shaw described him thus: “He is a fine example of the Beech Marten (Martesfoine) and has become very rare; they reside in trees, and feed mostly on squirrels. When descending to the ground they destroy rats and other small animals.”

‘We may also add that in size he is smaller than a fox, and of a dark brown colour with white along the breast, the tail and head very much resembling the cat. He has been well stuffed and looks very well, placed on a branch of a tree. This can be seen at Mr Thomas Hughes’s, Glyn, Llandrillo (the keeper’s house).’

I confess to being surprised by Mr Shaw’s positive identification: my understanding was that the Beech Marten has never officially been recognized as an inidigenous species to Britain, at least not in modern times. Or am I mistaken? The current location – if any – of the stuffed animal is, alas, unknown.

Richard Holland, Editor of Paranormal Magazine (www.paranormalmagazine.co.uk) and Uncanny UK (www.uncannyuk.com).


In her most recent blog posting my darling wife Corinna makes brief mention of a pub sign in the Middlesex village of Wraysbury. It features a snail that looks somewhat like Helix pomatia crossing what looks like a desert.

This got me thinking. I am often accused of being obsessed with pubs, but I don't think I have ever seen another pub sign featuring an invertebrate. So its over to you. We are launching the fabbo great British invertebrate pub sign hunt. If you see any pub signs featuring invertebrates, please send photographs to us, so that we can post them on what I am sure is going to become a wonderfully and epicly pointless, but mildly amusing bloggo thread..

GUEST BLOGGER OLL LEWIS: Whither the CFZ Archiving Project?

Oll has been jolly busy and the latest set of scanned news clippings and other stuff from the Archiving Project is ready for you to download HERE should you want to..

However Oll has a conundrum. What should he do next?

Vote for the next archive upload!

If you’ve been following the progress of the CFZ archive you’ll be aware that I’ve undertaken the humongous task of scanning uploading all of our stored news stories, letters, photos, slides and other documents dating from the olden days before nearly every news story was available online. If not then you really have missed out, check out the archive now for your chance to read newspaper articles on aquatic monsters from as far back as two centuries ago, read the news stories about the 1999 great white shark sightings off the Cornish coast, and see photographs from America allegedly depicting the carcass of a gigantic octopus. In the latest update you get the chance to read most of the stories published when it was revealed that the ‘surgeon’s photo’ of the Loch Ness monster was a hoax, one of the defining moments of cryptozoological history whether we like it of not.

With the set of articles on the surgeon’s photo I’ve finished scanning in the first of our box files and rather than just select another box file from the stack at random to scan next, Jon and I thought it’d be a good idea to let you guys choose what you want scanned in next. Simply post a comment after this blog with your chosen subject from the short list and the subject with the most votes gets scanned in next, so if you see a subject you like on the list and don’t vote you’ve only got yourself to blame if you have to wait a few months to see it.

The Candidates:
1) Dragons
2) Reptiles
3) Birds
4) BHM
5) Lake Monsters
6) Big Cats

Get voting.

Strangely Strange but Oddly Normal

On saturday night I realised a lifelong ambition. I saw a concert by Dr Strangely Strange and afterwards I met the band.

I have been an avid fan since 1974 when, for a dare, I went shoplifting in Woolworths in Bideford High Street. It was a silly thing to do, and was all about schoolboy bravado rather than about any attempts at becoming a juvenile Abbie Hoffman. However the record I pinched was an Island Records Sampler called Nice Enough To Eat. Just in case you are about to dob me in to the Director of Public Prosecutions, or blame me for the spectacular insolvency of the Woolworths empire late last year, the LP was priced up at 75p and was in the bargain box.

It contained some magnificent music, and introduced me to bands like Traffic and Blodwyn Pig, but most importantly to Dr Strangely Strange. With the possible exceptions of Hawkwind and my own Amphibians from Outer Space they are one of the most fortean bands ever, with songs about giant wasps, minotaurs and other strange things, and all-in-all a vibe of sweet otherworldliness.

I have been using a few bars of their signature song Strangely Strange but Oddly Normal as an ident for my webTV show Cryptozoology Online: On The Track for about eighteen months, and on saturday when they played The Gaff (a tiny club in London's Holloway Road), I had hoped to be able to video a few brief excerpts from the show.

Instead, with the consent of the band, I recorded the whole show, and it will be presented in its entirety on CFZtv and on the band's own website. Further collaborations including an appearance by the band at the Weird Weekend look increasingly likely. So here, as a taster, is the band (with Ivan Pawle singing) performing their best known tune:

Jaguar Japes and Jollity

So, what exactly is the status of Jaguars in northern Mexico and the southern United States? In the past few weeks there have been a couple of news stories about this beautiful beast.

First of all The National Geographic website carried this story:
February 11, 2009—The largest cat in the Americas is alive and well in the heart of Mexico, scientists say. Three photographs of a male jaguar and exactly 132 poop samples (including the one above, released February 10) are the first known evidence of the predator since the early 1900s. The big cat was snapped by a camera trap in the Sierra Nanchititla Natural Reserve.

I really wish that scientists wouldn't use the word 'poop'. I understand that the words `shit` and `crap` have become swearwords in some echelons of society, but there are still perfectly socially-acceptable synonyms for the process and product of defecation, such as `droppings`, `dung`, or `scat`. However this is just a pet niggle of mine and I digress. Back to the jaguars:

Sierra Nanchititla Natural Reserve is in the south of Estado Mexico, (the State of Mexico), a Mexican state in the central south of the country. Confused? So am I. I will now refer you to Wikipedia, an institution which, though flawed, has its uses.

The State of Mexico is (as the name implies) a state in the middle of Mexico but, again according to Wikipedia , slap bang in the middle of known Jaguar territory. However, the park's website whilst being understandably proud of the presence of jaguars despite the original story (see above) having been splashed all over the world's press.

Now ths story gets more complicated.Take a look at THIS picture. Yup, its another jaguar. And, yup, it is wearing a collar somewhat reminiscnet of that worn by a racing greyhound here in the UK. Does that mean that the CFZ have discovered an illegal jaguar racing cartel? No, of course not.

I will refer you to an article in the L A Times last week which reads:

"A jaguar was captured southwest of Tucson this week during an Arizona Game and Fish Department research study. The study was actually aimed at monitoring black bear and mountain lion habitats.The male cat has been fitted with a satellite tracking collar and released. The collar will provide biologists with location updates every few hours and it is hopeful that this data will provide information on a little-studied population segment of this species. This is the first time in the U.S. that a jaguar has been able to be followed in this manner."

Well, bloody hell that's good news isn't it? You cannae argue with a live jaguar Captain! However, other newspapers and internet commentators have implied that ths evcidence is unique. Well, it is and it isn't. This picture was taken, also outside Tucson, back in 2004, and was accompanied in the original article in the Arizona Daily Star with these quotes:

"This is the most jaguars that have been seen at one time, in one area, since the early 20th century," said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity. "It's certain that at least one jaguar has been able to make a living in Southern Arizona since 2001", said Bill Van Pelt, head of the Game and Fish Department's non-game mammals program. "But a true population would have yielded more photos, and there still is no evidence of female jaguars north of the border", he said.

"When I hear the word 'population,' that implies a breeding population where they're self-sustaining," Van Pelt said. "Until we've documented there are females, we just have dispersing individuals."

Right on Mr Van Pelt (although that is an unfortunate name when one is dealing with the conservation of an animal which has been hunted widely for its coat). But nothing seems to have changed in the last five years. Despite claims in the cryptozoological community that expeditions should be sent out to prove that jaguars were not hunted to extinction in Arizona 110 years ago, there is no evidence that anything untoward has happened. Jaguars are known to live in Central Mexico in the Sierra Nevada which is less than 200 miles south of Arizona. Young male jaguars are regularly wandering from there into the southern United States. Hopefully the Mexico-United States Barrier will not do too much to stop this happening in the future.

What will be really cool will be when a female jaguar crosses the border, and then we can all get excited at the prospect of jaguars returning to the United States as breeding natives for the first time since 1900.

GUEST BLOGGER FLEUR FULCHER: Fit nature into your day

Over, once again to the divine Ms F. After a gap of a few weeks during which she has been about her studies, she is back and as charming as usual....

People these days often say that they don’t have enough time for such pastimes as birdwatching or looking at insects, plants and the other marvels around them. But if you use every opportunity you are given then even the most boring and unloved day can become something special.

The train line from Lincoln to Peterborough is not the most exciting in the world but I enjoy it as it offers an hour or so to gaze out of the train window, not just at the lovely farms and old industrial architecture, but as a chance to nature-spot.

On just one of these journeys I saw buzzards, partridges, deer, rabbits, pheasants, one startled looking fox and a barn owl who, oddly, seemed to be enjoying the midday sunshine.

Talking to my older friends, it seems that one of the best ways to incorporate a nature watch into your day is on the school run. Walking the children to school would be the best way to do this, buy a few cheap nature guides (I got the old Observer's ones from a charity shop) and get the kiddies to tick off things they see along the way. In this way they will not only learn about the different birds, animals, insects and plants we have in this country but they will notice changes throughout the different seasons and grow to love and respect nature.

If it is impossible to walk the children to school then why not get them gardening? Even if you live in a flat with no garden then a window-box is almost always possible. That is what I had when I was living in Epsom and the bees and butterflies that visited made me very happy and somewhat proud that they would want to come to my plants.

Something I would suggest to anyone of any age who wants to learn more about nature is to keep a notebook with you at all times to note down anything interesting you see, even if you (like me) just write excitedly ‘little speckly bird with sharp shiny beak!’ and then find out it is a Starling (my excuse being we don’t seem to have them in Devon! And they are now a firm favourite with me).

So, go and see how many different ways you can fit nature into your day

Something rather peculiar happened this morning...

It is just gone eleven, and I am shuddering into a waking state. Corinna (poor dear) is absolutely shattered and is still asleep in bed, and it is Graham's day-off. Oliver (God bless him) has just gone up to the shop to find me something breakfasty, and I am just beginning my first cup of coffee. Outside the chickens are rootling around in their run, Ichabod the jackdaw is making strange croaking noises and Helios 7 my slightly elderly, and completely retarded long-haired cat is on top of the rabbit hutch chasing her tail in circles. It is a normal monday morning at the CFZ (except for the fact that Corinna and I are completely shattered after our long-weekend's activities).

Along comes the postman. He is clutching an a4 envelope which is addressed to me. I open it.

It is from the Institute of Creation Science, and although superficially interesting it is complete nonsense. First of all I am cross. Why do these idiots waste my time with this supserstitious nonsense, I think. And then the penny drops and I am not cross any more.

I am nearly fifty years old. I have been a member of Natural History, animal keeping, and zoological organisations since I was 12, 38 years ago. I have been a high-profile cryptozoologist for nearly twenty of those years. I have been involved in the mass media for a similar time. But untill now I have NEVER received an unsolicited Creationist tract in the post.

Last week we posted the latest in a long line of CFZ screeds against Creationism. My article on Darwin which attacks the movement was published in one of the country's foremost regional newspapers, and I took an anti Creationist stance in other media. The fact that we have started receiving their propoganda leaflets means that our campaign is beginning to work.

We have come to their notice, and they are getting worried.....