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 18, 2009

Earth Hour

I just received this email from Don, the founder of the Tortoise First forum
The World Wildlife Fund is asking individuals, businesses, governments and organizations around the world to turn off their lights for one hour – Earth Hour – to make a global statement of concern about climate change and to demonstrate commitment to finding solutions. Go to http://www.earthhourus.org/main.php to learn more.
While I seriously doubt that this action is likely to have any tangible effect on fuel consumption, it will, hopefully have a symbolic effect. We do need to use the resources of our planet with much greater care and concern for the implications. I'm all for it.

GUEST BLOGGER NICK WADHAM: When you gotta go, you gotta go!

Let’s face it, most of us have been there, packed sardine-like in the car, luggage carefully crammed into every conceivable convenient corner, if not three, at least two kids in the back whinging about how long will it be and “are we there yet?”
You could be going anywhere, the sea side, nanna and granddad’s or even on your way to the airport, when, just at the least helpful moment, just when you don’t need to hear it...

“I need a wee wee!”

Panic-stricken, you have to make a split decision. Do I slam on the anchor and reverse back to the lay-by one hundred yards gone or thrust the accelerator through the floor to get to the next possible safe place to stop before the flood gates burst?

You might think we are the only members of the animal kingdom to go through this coming of age initiation ceremony, but you’d be wrong!

Early this morning whilst hanging out the washing (I’m a new man – apparently), I was quite stunned to see a pile of “clotted water” dumped unceremoniously in the corner of the deflated children’s paddling pool, that I still hadn’t gotten around to putting away since the end of our torturously short summer last year.

Whilst pegging out various pairs of pants I was instantly transported back to two simultaneous locations: my childhood and my favourite part of the English GCSE that I used to teach – Seamus Heaney’s Death of a Naturalist, to which I shall treat you now; I hope you enjoy it.

Death of a Naturalist

All year the flax-dam festered in the heart
Of the townland; green and heavy headed
Flax had rotted there, weighted down by huge sods.
Daily it sweltered in the punishing sun.
Bubbles gargled delicately, bluebottles
Wove a strong gauze of sound around the smell.
There were dragon-flies, spotted butterflies,
But best of all was the warm thick slobber
Of frogspawn that grew like clotted water
In the shade of the bank. Here, every spring
I would fill jampotfuls of the jellied
Specks to range on window-sills at home,
On shelves at school, and wait and watch until
The flattening dots burst into nimble-
Swimming tadpoles. Miss Walls would tell us how
The daddy frog was called a bullfrog
And how he croaked and how the mammy frog
Laid hundreds of little eggs and this was
Frogspawn. You could tell the weather by frogs too
For they were yellow in the sun and brown
In rain.

Then one hot day when fields were rank
With cowdung in the grass and the angry frogs
Invaded the flax-dam; I ducked through hedges
To a coarse croaking that I had not heard
Before. The air was thick with a bass chorus.
Right down the dam gross-bellied frogs were cocked
On sods; their loose necks pulsed like sails. Some hopped
The slap and plop were obscene threats. Some sat
Poised like mud grenades, their blunt heads farting.
I sickened, turned, and ran. The great slime kings
Were gathered there for vengeance and I knew
That if I dipped my hand the spawn would clutch it.

Seamus Heaney

I had this delightful little poem going in my head as I hung the last pair of odd socks that were forlornly hoping to be reunited with their dry counterparts in the airing cupboard. Standing back to admire my handiwork I spied the ideal container to use to safely move the spawn to my little water feature – a cheap plastic ersatz half barrel that is wonderfully unkempt with lots of algae and a daring blue water iris tempting a frosty fate by poking its tender little green spears above the water level, the sides of which are coated in acres of green sustenance for the anticipated arrivals.

Safely transferred I mused the scenario of the male frog clamped to the female, driving their froggy equivalent of my 806, her complaining to him, “Are we there yet?” Then sending him into overdrive, by declaring “I need to spawn!”

I can see him now screeching up beside the flat blue paddling pool.
“Ere you go luv, this’ll do!”

As they say in the frog world, “When you gotta spawn, you gotta spawn!”



It is always nice to be able to introduce you all to a new guest blogger. Possibly the nicest thing about the CFZ bloggo is that it is a living, breathing community, and new people arrive on a regular basis. I can't tell you anything about Liz, apart from the fact that she bought some books from us at Uncon, briefly spoke to Richard, and has a charming habit of referring to me as `Mr Downes`, when everyone else calls me `Jon` or `Hey You` (or somethimes something more scatological). She is obviously one to watch....

It was from the friendly little town of Heywood in Lancashire that I descended on UnCon in November 2008 for the first ever time. I was looking for anything to do with ape-men and I was not disappointed. I sat like a five-year-old at story-time through Richard Freeman’s almasty talk (genuinely convinced he had caught one and would bring it out any second; I even primed my camera just in case!) and bought every book on the CFZ stall that mentioned Bigfoot in the contents list.

You see, British Bigfoot has fascinated me since childhood. Growing up in nearby Rochdale I heard tales of Heywood, or Monkey Town (or Ape Town) as residents and neighbours call it: a little mill town where the people have long brown tails and the pubs have holes in the bar stools to accommodate said appendages. This was a place where monkey-men and human apes roamed the streets and local woodland; where it wasn’t safe for ordinary men and women to walk alone lest they be accosted by Roddy McDowell’s less benevolent cousins.

When I moved to this place of wonder almost three years ago I eagerly cased out the local pubs with my mate Donna for incomplete bar-room furniture. I took the dog to the Roch Valley Nature Reserve in case Bigfoot lurked under the footbridge over the river like the troll from the old fairy tale.

Alas, my hopes have recently been dashed. Ape Town has a railway line and a station; now mainly used by the East Lancashire Railway Preservation Society; and this line was built by Irish navvies who pronounced the Heap Bridge section “Ape Bridge.” The nickname stuck and ever since Heywood has been proud to call itself Monkey Town.

There is a little hope, however: on a recent late-night walk through town I did notice a group of very suspicious-looking hominids in black tracksuits, swigging beer and puffing on spliffs at the back of Morrison's.

Words from a silly old git

Thank you to everyone who said nice things about me yesterday. I wasn't fishing for compliments (honest) but it is always nice when you get them. I am going to be up and about for some of today at least, so I hope that I shall be able to answer some of my backlog of letters.

Getting older is a strange feeling. In the past few weeks I have looked in the mirror and seen my father (albeit my father with long hair, a beard, and about ten stone added to his body mass) looking back at me. Well my father was a great man who achieved remarkable things for Queen and Empire, but he could also be a silly old git, and I have inherited that part of his psyche at least. I am turning into a silly old git at times, and I do get upset when people attack me. But when I get messages of support like yesterday it takes that upset away, and when I look around the CFZ family I feel a glow of pride.

When I say `the CFZ family`, I don't just mean the social malcontents who live with me and Corinna. I don't even mean the slightly wider circle like David and Ross B-P, Matty Osborne, Maxy, Fleur and Tim whom I see on a regular basis, but I mean the family members who I haven't as yet met, like Tony in New Zealand, tirelessly scanning in fifty years of press cuttings for us, and Naomi and Ritchie, traversing Texas in search of blue dog information and jackalope piccies for the CFZ. I mean Jan in Oman (who I haven't seen in ten years now), chasing up stories of surviving lions, and Heather in the UAE looking for rare geckos.

You all make a silly old git feel very proud!

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's News Today


The latest news from the CFZ daily cryptozoology blog is as follows:

Terrier Alert: Python Swallows Pet Dog
Human Remains Found In Croc-Infested Swamp
Fossil hunters find sea monster ... and a dinosaur the size of a skinny chicken
Pint-size dinosaur found
Frogs get married, summon rain
World's Bravest Bunny Chases Snake Up Tree
Florida holds strange pet amnesty
Woman wakes up to a 'cute' snake
Purr-fect entrance
Angry Elk Charges At Passing Cars On Road
Swiss spider smuggler trapped by police
Cute seal drinking sake in bath sparks outrage
Leopard removed from German family's home
Fossil sea monster's bite makes T-Rex look feeble
Star Wars scientists use laser gun to kill mosquitoes in fight against malaria
Life could have survived Earth's early pounding
That’s quite a coo: pigeon manages to burgle a bagel - picture

There’s a pretty ‘coo’l picture in that last story.