WELCOME TO THE CFZ BLOG NETWORK: COME AND JOIN THE FUN

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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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Jon at Uncon...

Last November we went to the Fortean Times Unconvention where much fun was had by all. We videoed several of the talks with the permission of both the FT posse and the speakers, and then because we were overtaken by events we completely forgot to post them up.

So here is the first one, and being an egotistical so and so, it is me, shamelessly plugging my new book, Island of paradise which you can buy HERE





BY THE WAY, WHICH ONE'S PINK?

http://www.tmz.com/2009/03/03/albino-dolphin-tickled-pink/

The Internet is a wonderful thing, but ultimately completely frustrating. This picture of "the world's only pink bottlenosed dolphin" which is supposed to be living in a "lake in Louisiana" was splashed across the Internet last night with no further information.

There are, of course, pink dolphins in the South China Sea and the Amazon, but they don't look anything like this. However I am not saying that the picture ain't genuine, merely that I don't know anything about its provenance. However, on a vaguely related topic, if you ever felt despair at the calibre of some of the people who inhabit "teh internets" read the comments at the bottom of the original posting, especially the incomprehensible one about Mr Darcy and female sex aids. It will make whatever faith you still have in humanity drop even lower.

GUEST BLOGGER RICHARD HOLLAND: Wild Cats and a Carnivorous Squirrel

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

Having hunted out the beech marten info from my archive of notes gleaned from Bye-gones, the long defunct journal for Wales and the Borders, I spotted several references to wild cats which I thought might be useful to jot down here. This might be tiresome news for you big cat experts: I confess ignorance as to the distribution of wild cats in times past but was surprised to find them still prevalent in Wales in the final decade of the 19th century.

In 1892, the editor informed his readers: ‘Lord Stanley of Alderley, writing to Land & Water, says that a wild cat was killed on Holyhead Island on January 26th.’ This island off the coast of Anglesey is only a few miles long and has – today anyway – poor tree cover, not the sort of habitat I’d imagine a wild cat favouring.

A year later, in May 1893, the editor offered another vague snippet of news: ‘A pack of otter hounds had an exciting chase after a wild cat in Carnarvonshire the other day.’

And finally, in 1896, he referred to Mountaineering Below the Snow-line, ‘the statement of a Scottish keeper living in Cwm Eigiau, at the foot of Carnedd Llywelyn, in 1881’. Apparently, this keeper stated that ‘the wild cat was still sufficiently common in that part of Wales to account, partly at least, for the scarcity of game’. Carnedd Llywelyn is north of Capel Curig, east of the Nant Ffrancon, an especially bleak and unpopulated part of Snowdonia. It too has minimal tree cover. Is this the sort of habitat the Scottish wild cat would favour? Could it be a different species or sub-species adapted to a different landscape? Or could these cats simply be feral domestic breeds?

Finally, another oddity, this time from my home-town of Mold (whose ugly name, incidentally, is a contraction of the moniker of its Norman overload, Montault). Correspondent ‘W.G.’ writes from Mold in February 1892:

‘On Friday last a squirrel was seen in the garden here carrying a dead blackbird up into a tree; he then ate it, dropping bones, wings etc, after consuming the flesh. We have, however, had very severe weather here for some time, and this may account for it.’

Oddly enough, I spoke to a man who was convinced he had the ghost of a squirrel in his living room in Mold. He and his wife would see the impression of little paws running up the curtain, but they never saw anything make them and never found other evidence of an animal hiding out in the room. It’s a peculiar place, Mold.

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

This is all Jan's fault - a timewasting spider

I have a bone to pick with Jan Edwards. She knows how busy we are, but she still insists on sending me something to waste my time even more. She writes:

"Poke and prod the spider with your mouse. Also, 'grab' one of its legs or its body with your mouse and drag it around the screen -- tell me it's not alive! Also, anywhere on the map, hold down (or hit) the Space Bar, and it leaves little bugswatch the spider go after them.

Link to:

http://www.onemotion.com/flash/spider/

Also, try the controls on the right hand side...I changed the angle view that was mega.

OLL LEWIS: Penllyn Is In My Ears And In My Eyes



A few of you will probably be aware that one of my internet nom de guerres is ‘gwiber’ and I’ve actually been asked a few times what it means.

A gwiber (pronounced ‘why-bur’) is a type of wing-ed serpent said to be found almost exclusively in Wales. In folklore they range in size from fairly small beautiful creatures to great big monsters that are often said to protect a hoard of treasure and sometimes, if a would-be slayer is lucky, a particularly attractive maiden. They are the original form of the Welsh dragon, the four legged red ‘Ishtar gate’ style dragon that features on today’s Welsh flag is a modern creation that came into being sometime after the crusades. The use of the red dragon as a symbolic representation of Wales according to folklore came from Merlin’s prophesy relating to a red gwiber and a white gwiber he saw fighting. After the victory of the red gwiber Merlin proclaimed that the original people of Britain would eventually defeat the invading Saxons while fighting under a red dragon, this came to pass with the ascension to the throne of Henry Tudor (Henry VII), a direct descendant of Welsh royalty after his victory over the English king Richard III. However, the gwiber was a symbol of the British people long before this legend was supposed to have taken place but, you’ll have to come to watch my talk at this year’s Weird Weekend in August (tickets are available now by the way) to learn more about that…

There hundreds of gwibers mentioned in Welsh folklore, from all over the principality, differing in size and ferocity. Often, due to the nature of folklore it is impossible to offer all but the vaguest date ranges to when the animals were meant to have been seen, let alone verify if the sighting even happened in the first place or what animals might have been seen. There have however been gwibers seen in fairly modern times and one witness was interviewed by Marie Trevelyan some years before she published her 1909 book ‘Folklore and Folkstories of Wales’:

“The woods around Penllyne Castle, Glamorgan, had the reputation of being frequented by winged serpents, and these were the terror of old and young alike. An aged inhabitant of Penllyne, who died a few years ago, said that in his boyhood the winged serpents were described as very beautiful. They were coiled when in repose, and "looked as though they were covered with jewels of all sorts. Some of them had crests sparkling with all the colours of the rainbow." When disturbed, they glided swiftly, "sparkling all over," to their hiding places. When angry, they "flew over people's heads, with outspread wings bright and sometimes with eyes, too, like the feathers in a peacock's tail." He said it was "no old story," invented to "frighten children," but a real fact. His father and uncles had killed some of them, for they were "as bad as foxes for poultry." This old man attributed the extinction of winged serpents to the fact that they were "terrors in the farmyards and coverts.”

Parts of the description make the animals sound very unlikely to say the least but never the less, last year I went to the woods around Penllyn, to see if I could find any trace of these creatures or, more likely, existing animals in the woods that these tales could have been based upon. Upon my arrival to Penllyn the first thing I noticed was just how quiet the village was. I live in a slightly larger village and no matter where you walk, or what time of the day, you always see someone out and about, weather they are walking a dog, off to the shop or pub or just posting a letter. Penllyn was different. During my wanderings around the village itself all I saw was the occasional car passing though and the gravestones of the local church, the only sign of current habitation was the village noticeboard and the well kept and tidy nature of the place. Perhaps I was unlucky and went on a day when all the residents were busy, but this meant that there was nobody in the village itself I could ask about local fauna or if they had heard about their village’s cryptozoological claim to fame.

So I headed off to the woods. In the woodland I was surprised to encounter the same quietness I had in the village, there was almost no bird song. I wandered through the woods, lifting up stones and logs and investigating the leaf litter but the only animals to be found were woodlice worms and other invertebrates and certainly nothing that could have been mistaken for a brightly coloured snake, let alone a winged one. I did find some eerie looking ruins, but if there was anything of cryptozoological note in the woods I didn’t find it that day. Before I left Penllyn I had one last avenue to pursue; Penllyn castle. Unfortunately the family living in the castle did not want to be interviewed by me, as they ‘don’t want publicity’ and neither did they want me taking any photographs while on site. This was strange considering they had had scenes from the Doctor Who episode ‘Tooth and Claw’ filmed there recently, but you have to respect people’s wishes. I explained that I was there for scientific reasons and wasn’t from ‘Heat magazine’ or something and left my business card with them but I never did hear back from them.

So did gwibers even exist in Penllyn? Or were they just folktales? Well there is certainly no evidence for them that has been unearthed yet other than stories and fantastical claims, so if I had to bet either way I’d say they probably did not, or at least not in the way they were described. Feathers on a snake would be odd indeed because there is no president for this and snakes are very far removed from dinosaurs and birds in evolutionary terms, but if an account was just talking about ‘wings’ on a snake and made no mention of feathers then it could be argued that it might be referring to something like a cobra. Real or not gwibers and other Welsh dragon legends are a huge part of Welsh folklore and very compelling creatures.

FLEUR FULCHER: Never mind the aurochs

Holding the bones of an animal you know you will never see alive is a horrible experience. Everyone else in my class passed the leg-bone of the Aurochs (Bos Primogenis) around the room, commenting on its weight and size, but not many of us knew what an Aurochs was, and even less cared.

The bone itself was huge, although I was obsessed with these very bovines for years this was the first time I had seen part of one so close up (apart from the aurochs horn drinking cups in Castle Drogo.. always worth a look). It so happened that I was the last in the class to see it, so it stayed on the bench next to me for the rest of the lecture. I confess, that although this was the lecture I had been looking forward to (the only one where I thought I might be up to the general standard!) I spent a lot of time looking at the piece of bone, touching it and thinking. There was anger and sadness as well as excitement that I had got to examine such an object.

We also looked at mammoth ivory, and baleen from the Right Whale (Eubalaena glacialis) thankfully the Right Whale escaped the fate of the other two animals, but only just, and would as few of my classmates have heard of it then? What if all whales had been driven to extinction in 1627 along with the last Aurochs? Would only 10% of people know or care that these marvellous mammals had EVER existed?
I hope that in 50 years time, students studying what I study now aren’t holding the bones of the Sumatran Rhino and wondering how its extinction could have been allowed to happen without even a ripple of protest.

GOOD NEWS FOR AMERICA AND THE WORLD

I do not want to be perceived as getting involved in party politics either in the UK or abroad, but America's new president should be congratulated for one particular action of his. According to an article published yesterday in the Washington Post:

"Today President Obama will restore rules requiring U.S. agencies consult with independent federal experts to determine if their actions might harm threatened and endangered species, according to an administration official who asked not to be identified, marking yet another reversal of President Bush's environmental legacy".

For reasons known only to himself, President Bush changed a longstanding practice under the Endangered Species Act in the last days of his administration. He issued rules that allowed agencies to move ahead with projects and programs without seeking an independent review by either the Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. God only knows why he did it, because this act of senseless stupidity, combined with Sarah Palin's sheer dumbness quite possibly cost the Republican Party the election.

Well done to Obama for showing the common sense, political acumen, and environmental compassion to restore common sense.

More from the 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..

Last time we asked which section you wanted scanned next, and you said Lake and Sea monsters, so that is exactly what we have done...

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's news Today

Time for the recap on yesterdays news stories on the CFZ daily news blog again and time to ruin your morning with a bad pun too. Here is the news:

Calls for DNA dog do test to track pavement poopers
Thai zoo in fresh panda insemination bid
Scots bird team on Syrian mission
Underwater Britain: the invasive species
A fish called wonder
Tiger catchers trying to save species
Frog's immune system is key in fight against killer virus
Police: Dog stood guard over Boulder man's body
Pink dolphin appears in US lake
Officials urging caution after cougar sightings
Mystery Big Black Cat Spotted Roaming Free
And
Crafty Australian crayfish cheat

I wouldn’t call it cheating, I’d say it’s more of a ‘cray’ area.