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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Thursday, June 18, 2009


Everyone knows that Jon has a fascination with chickens and other fowl. In order to keep the old bugger happy people like Max send him YouTube videos, which he invariably posts on the bloggo for no other reason than to be able to shout "Wayhay!!!"

DALE DRINNON: Appendix to Cryptozoological Checklist - Former Checklist Summary 3

Category III of former Checklists: this category is one that deserves more attention. It centers around cryptids that appear not to be identifiable as known species but are not so far different that they stand out as glaringly odd.

1. High-fin sperm whale
2. Antarctic saber-fin whale (possibly related)
3. Double-dorsal finned dolphins
4. African unknown sirenians
5. Lake Titicaca seal/ manatee
6. Gigantic anaconda
7. Minhocao (stated as an "even larger giant snake", probably an error)
8. The "mysterious beast", a probable giant catfish
9. New Britain migo
10. Celebes unknown crocodile
11. Tatzelwurm
12. Tzuchinoko (Japanese unknown snake, possibly Angkistrodon)
13. Ahool, giant bat of the Orient
14. "Olitiau", giant bat of Africa
15. Outsized African pythons
16. South American apes ("Ameranthropoides")
17.Marquesan rail
18 Lau (as African giant catfish; reports also tend to sound like crested cobra)
19. Jhoors and Burus, unknown monitors of India
20. Possible similar African forms (nguma-monene is possibly related but entry conflates it with
the crested crowing cobra)

1.Trinity Alps giant salamander
2. Antarctic Narwhal
3. Two-backfinned Mysticete
4.Palmyra fish (type of killer whale?)
5. Scott's dolphin
6. Giant rattail
7. Beebee's Abyssal fishes
8. Giant woebegong "Ground shark"
9. Percy Fawcett's "toothless shark" (South American catfish, poss. related to "Mysterious beast")
10. Genaprugwirion, Welsh large unknown lizard (just as likely a large agamid as a tuatara)
11. Van Roosmalen's tapir
12. Jetete
13. Black wattleless guan
15. Alovot
16. Kondlo
17. Sasao
18. Goodenough black bird of paradise
19. O'Shea's Papuan viper
20. Cigau

Former Checklists Classification summary part IV
This section is the one that will be hardest for mainline science to accept. It incudes some highly original or unlikely forms and in some cases call for not only the erection of new genera for them but even new families. Some of the reconstructions of these forms are highly speculative. There are very good reasons to drop any or all of these from serious study.

Heuvelmans, primarily "sea serpents"
1. Super-otter
2. Many-humped
3. Cetacean centepede or many-finned
4. Super-eels (admittedly a composite category and dubious on that criterion alone)
5. Merfolk and
6. Steller's sea-ape.
7. Giant invertebrates: ctenophores and salp-chains, poorly described but promoted by Mackal. At least some of Mackal's identifications are patently false, such as when he uses salps to explain "yellow-bellies" and ends up by lamely saying that salps do not come in that coloration pattern. So why bother?

1. "Trunko", a "sea-mastodon" ( from some carcase cases and suspicious for that reason)
2. Mamba mutu (unknown African sirenian)
3. Giant Jellyfishes. ( At least some of the candidates are invalid.)
4. Giant salmon of China. These are most likely NOT salmoniformes but Huso sturgeon.
5.Luminous Mudskipper (if it is only covered with luminous bacteria, that is not a separate species)
6. Allghoi khorkhoi, "Mongolian death worm"(highly exaggerated accounts)
7. Orang bati ("flying people")
8. Seram (Ceram) civet (not known if really native sample)
9. Sawfin-dorsalled Freshwater dolphin (possibly deformed or damaged)
10. Caribbean crowned crowing cobra (If true, could ONLY be the exported version of the African kind)
11. Ulama or screaming devil bird of Sri Lanka
12. Sumatran hummingbird (almost certainly not a hummingbird, unless artificially introduced)
13. Ethiopian vampire bat (possibly diseased, in which case they are most likely rabid)
14. Dodu (3-Toed African mystery ape, more than likely a mistaken description unless pathological)
15. Das-adder (mammal-headed snake)

Some of these are probably unknowns; others most likely are vague rumors or mistakes and several might be pathological specimens of known animals. This is hard to sort out but most of them look to be false leads or descriptions that are so bad that the living animals could not be recognized. More information is needed in these instances. In most of these cases the categories as they are described are probably invalid.


To my London area and/or UK friends:

First, this is a reminder that I'm going to be lecturing in two days; on Saturday, at the London University Union hall, which is on Malet Street. Get out of the Goodge tube station and turn left for a block, then turn right and you'll find it. It starts at 1:30pm and it will be well worth any effort you have to put into going, I promise. It's a thorough and clear explanation of why we are at long last (10 years!) solidly in position to prove beyond any shadow of scientific doubt that the Starchild is indeed a human-alien hybrid.

Secondly, even if you can't come on Saturday, keep your eyes peeled for The Daily Mail on Tuesday or Wednesday (firmly tentative as of right now) that will be dealing with the Starchild in a major investigation. It's being written by one of their top feature writers, Dr. Danny Penman, who is a Ph.D. biochemist. From the tone of our conversations over the past couple of days, I think he will do right by us.

I hope you all can make it but if not, at least tell any of your London-based friends who might be able to and who might be interested in learning a LOT more about this remarkable subject.


JON DOWNES WRITES: My position with regards to Lloyd is similar to my position with regards to the work of Greg and Mike Warner. I have known Lloyd for a decade now and think the world of him. He is a sweet southern gentleman and completely sincere; however, despite the fact that I think that the skull is of immense cryptozoological importance, I think that it is about as alien as I am....


One of the things about the Fortean omniverse I have always found entertaining is the way that stuff always happens in batches. On the same day that I received this story
about alligators in Alabama, I also received this series of photographs and what purports to be a news story:

"The picture to the left was taken by a KTBS helicopter flying over Lake Wiess about 90 miles north of Birmingham, Alabama. The helicopter pilot and the game warden were in communication via radios; following is a transcript of their conversation:

"Air1, have you a visual on the 'gator? Over. "
"Approaching inlet now; over."
"Roger, Air1."
"'Gator sighted. Looks like it has a small animal in its mouth. Moving in; over."
"Roger, Air1."
"It's a deer!"
"Confirm, Air1! Did you say 'deer'? Over."
"Roger. A deer, in its mouth. Looks like a full-sized buck . That's a BIG 'gator! We're gonna need more men. Over."
"Roger, Air1. Can you give me a idea on size of animal? Over."
"It's big... 25 feet long...at least! Please advise; 'gator is heading to inlet... Do I pursue? Over."

That has to be a HUGE 'gator to have a whole deer in its mouth! The deer was later found to be a mature stag and was measured at 11 feet! Are you ready to go skiing on Lake Wiess ?! If you ski at the west end of the lake, try not to fall!

This alligator was found between Centre and Leesburg, Alabama, near a house! Game wardens were forced to shoot the alligator... guess he wouldn't cooperate.

Anita and Charlie Rogers could hear the bellowing in the night. Their neighbors had been telling them that they had seen a mammoth alligator in the waterway that runs behind the Rogers' house but they dismissed the stories as exaggerations. "I didn't believe it," Charles Rogers said; however, they later realized the stories were, if anything, understated. Alabama Parks and Wildlife game wardens had to shoot the beast. Joe Goff, a 6'5" tall game warden, walks past the 28-foot, 1-inch alligator (8.5 metres) he shot and killed in the Rogers' back yard.

We sent the pictures to our resident herpdude Richard Freeman who wrote back:

"The Alligator with deer in its mouth was real. The 28 foot 'gator was bad photoshop. The biggest 'gator ever recorded was 19 feet 6 inches and shot in Louisiana in 1890. The biggest in recent years was about 15 feet.
The only crocodilian reliably measured at over 28 feet was a 28 foot 4 inch Indo-pacific croc."

I would like someone with a knowledge of North American deer to take a look at the first two alligator pictures and try to give us a more reliable size estimate.


Yesterday I posted a story about the implications of the Peruvian "Giant Snake" and described some of the less pleasant aspects of the reaction that the story and the CFZ have been getting. I received two important letters in reply. The first was from Mike and Greg Warner:


I see by your post today that you are taking some abuse over the release of this data (it's being directed at us too). My dad and I release you from our gentleman's agreement to save you any further grief. Let us know and we will respect your decision. My dad's away this weekend and we can't release our findings until next week anyway and then we're finished with this process. I know you disagree with us but I hope that we can make you "happy by proving you wrong" one day. We are now working with scientists who see some merit in the data we have released and some TV producers have approached us following our story breaking in the papers a few weeks ago.

Kind regards

Greg & Mike

This only served to confirm what I have been saying from the beginning: Greg and Mike are decent fellows, with whom it is a pleasure and a privilege to be associated. I wrote back telling them that I wouldn't dream of it; that a deal is a deal and that if I backed out merely because some idiots within the cryptozoological community delight in name-calling and ridicule, then the bully boys would have won and that this was the antithesis of what the CFZ is all about.

My second letter was from David "Geordie Dave" Curtis, a reprobate who currently does CFZery in Co Durham. It read:

Dear Jon,

Regarding those accusations that you are in the pay of the government.: I thought everybody knew that you are in fact Agent Q and you and Richard regularly fly to Seaham in your black helicopter to play Swingball and drink Pimms with the 3 aliens I keep captive in my shed in the back garden.

Regards Davy.C

P.S The Doctor says I am getting much better and maybe allowed out by myself next month if I am a good lad and take my medication.

I wrote back and told him that he was an idiot, but nonetheless a loveable one....


Gavin Lloyd Wilson, our trust news editor is taking a leave of absence of about a month to write a book, so in the mean time the news will be posted by Corinna and Jon. If there is anyone else who fancies becoming a temporary news editor for a few weeks please e-mail jon at jon@eclipse.co.uk

Good luck with the book Gavin, we miss you already....


A lot of stuff is happening at the moment here at the CFZ and the next 24 hours are going to be somewhat disrupted here on the bloggo. As you no doubt have noticed, the evening posts are four hours late. There will be a post tomorrow morning and we shall do our best to make it a bumper edition but we make no promises as to when tomorrow evening's post will appear.

Corinna and I will be going down to South Devon to pick up an important new donation to the CFZ Museum and Graham will be driving to Portsmouth. Graham will not be back until Saturday night and we won't be back until late tomorrow.

There will be updates at some point but don't hold yer breath, or expect us to stick to any semblance of a schedule until sometime on saturday....


Jon and the Bloggo Team

THE CATS OF UPPER MINSTER - Part Twelve - Raaaaar!!!

The other week, as an amusing one-off , Tim Matthews wrote a silly short story spoofing some of the more ridiculous exploits of various self-styled big cat researchers over the years.

It was so popular that he wrote another one and now - by public demand - it has become a serial. Every other day will see an episode of Timmo's new Fortean soap opera The Cats of Upper Minster. And having read the first few episodes I can confirm that it is bloody smashing and highly amusing. "I'll carry on until it stops being funny" says Tim, and you can't say fairer than that!

Frieda was sitting in the bedroom she shared with Florence and although it was quite unusual for a fourteen-year-old to share rooms with a younger sister, she adored Florry and kept an eye on her. Florry had the worst nightmares ever and was quite highly strung whereas Frieda was relaxed about most things, even big cat hunting. Florence had trouble sleeping, too, so Frieda offered her all the sisterly love she could manage and they enjoyed each other’s company.

Enjoying a book on dinosaurs, Frieda was interrupted by the buzzing of her mobile phone. She had a text from Ellie. “Omigod they have found two mice and think aliens experimented on them, love El x”

“Madness,” exclaimed Frieda, rushing next door to tell her brothers and sister about the latest news from the front line. “You will not believe this!”

She showed them the text and when they’d stopped laughing, and had managed to explain to a befuddled Florence exactly what the ABC Team thought they had found they sat there in disbelief. “Whatever next?” said Robin. “This is like the worst version of Harry Potter!”

“Harry Potter is ace,” said Tom, “But I know what you mean. It is as if they’ve watched far too much BAD science fiction and can’t tell the difference between reality and fantasy.”

“Indeed,” said Robin. “But it helps us. Frieda, can you text Ellie back and ask her to get pictures. I have an idea.”

“She is ahead of you, brother,” replied Frieda. “Here we go. She has just sent them. We should download them onto your computer and take a look. Now where’s that cable thingy?”

“Here it is,” he replied. “Right then... it goes in the USB port heeere... Aha, it’s working... open programme... find piccies... and CLICK!”

Shortly, a few good-quality still pictures of two long-dead field mice appeared on the computer screen. There were indeed small holes in the head quite visible. The children didn’t see anything remarkable about these pictures even though the ABC Team a few miles away by the riverbank clearly saw more extreme possibilities.

“Well what is this supposed to show?” asked Frieda, pretty much saying what the others were thinking. “It looks unremarkable!”

“It does, doesn’t it,” added Robin, “But I shall send these pictures to Susannah at her new surgery and see what she thinks. After all, she’s got more qualifications in animals than 100 ABC Teams put together.”

An e-mail to Susannah@minstervets.com was soon dispatched and Robin spent time doing things with a computer programme to clean up the pictures. Then, just a few minutes later, came a reply:

“Thanks for message Tom. I spoke to Jack about big cat but these specimens are not new and quite normal. I have come across similar holes on a range of animals – from field mice to foxes – and they occur when something small buries into the creature, sometimes from the head, sometimes from the side. How these people arrive at aliens and helicopters is evidence of near total insanity. In fact it is at times like this that I realise how many dangerous and obscene theories there are out there and I should hate the thought that this group would have any involvement in researching big cats of any sort. Indeed I wouldn’t be happy at them investigating the contents of my rubbish bin.

That is enough from me!

Love Susannah xxx”

The children laughed at the rubbish bin comment and pictures of The General and Burger Van Man rooting through the bins of Upper Minster looking for food flashed through their heads.

Whilst the youngsters were getting organised, a few ABC Team stragglers were putting out a “specially prepared action leaflet” door to door in Upper Minster. Featuring a vicious-looking big cat with blood dripping from its mouth and flaming eyes on one side; and written in bad English on the other, the leaflet, produced by The General, read as follows:

“People of Upper Minster. We are your saviours the ABC Team of Big Cats Research. Dedicated to uncovering the cover up about big cats in your village. Animals have been killed, pets terrified, pensioners scared to death but we are hear to help you rid the place of its scourge. We are calling in supporters from the nationwide to assist us in our peril and we will put this place on its map.”

“We will not rest idly in our beds while your are under threat from things unseen. Your quiet life of village living cannot last thanks now to the invasion by dark forces.”

“Have YOU seen the Killer Cat? If so, handle with care as it is dangerous and known to kill. Phone us now on the number given and we will be there to assist you in ridding your place of its scourge. You can trust us world experts. We mean business and we are the ABC Team in conjunction with Channel X TV seen Europe wide on Channel 777.”

If ever a leaflet was designed to annoy, disturb and upset local people, this was it.


Meanwhile, down by the river the field mice had been put into an old carrier bag and The General had taken the specimens promising to send them to a “Lab in London for further investigation,” by which he probably meant the large freezer in his West Ham flat. There was a general air of excitement and confusion but Yvonne Fawcett was not yet sure what to do with this story as it sounded far too ridiculous to be true, even for her, the pioneer of Paranormal TV magazine style reporting. When her job as scheduler of Children’s Programmes for Channel 5 had come to an end, she had formed her own company – Semantix Film Productions – and won commissions to make numerous TV shows. She often took a starring role, too, her biggest hits being those where she was able to encourage gullible celebrities – not her usual array of B- and C-list scareaholics – to join her at Loch Ness or in some haunted castle or other. She’d even done a night vigil in a crop circle near a Neolithic site in Wiltshire. Several of her crew members had allegedly fainted although the un-broadcast material filmed by static cameras during the adverts – the stuff the public wasn’t supposed to see - showed them laughing and joking and practicing falling over. Damn those satellite communications experts, she thought to herself.

Just then one of the ABC Team members, Donna Wild, shouted “Have you seen this? Paw prints in the mud!” Now anyone knowing anything about pets could see that these were normal cat prints but no; Donna had to make a big deal about them. “They’re much bigger than I’d expect,” she claimed. A later investigation for Channel 4 News would show that Donna had never even owned a cat and that her own pet was a suffering reptile kept in appalling conditions in a rented house in Southampton. Mind you, it was people like Donna that kept the world of Paranormalia going with their mostly unsubstantiated claims. She, like the other ABCers, was on a mission and needed some proof, so they found some. What was more, once a claim was made it needed to be backed up because if they didn’t have each other and their fantasies what did they have?

Yvonne Fawcett, the most wily feline of them all, saw an opportunity. Filming the excitement, a plan started to hatch. A bit of clever editing, a bit of blurry footage of paw prints, partially obscured, might be enough to convince a gullible public; those who wanted to believe. She thought she could get away with it. Most times she did and her viewers wanted to believe. After all, she was on special assignment... so she would find something special....

Since the story had broken she had had words with the Channel X Dirty Tricks Department and this had resulted in her friend and colleague Ron Jeremy being brought in to replace news reporter Richard Smallbody. Not only did their viewers wants results – proof of the unknown – but they wanted it now and the more they needed it, the more chicanery was required to bring in the results and allow Channel X’s advertising sales team to bring in the revenue....

It was very much a case of cause and effect and The General was useful to them; so they used him and would drop him as required.

“Farley, dear, we need to do a piece to camera. This waay!” What Yvonne wanted, she got and Farley ‘The General’ Norman was happy to be the centre of attention despite the fact that his appearance was bound to suggest to even the most supportive Channel X TV stalwart that all was not well in his camp, or in his mind.

They went for it:

“I am standing with Farley Norman of Big Cats Research here in rural Dorset at the heart of a community rocked by extraordinary claims in recent days. I am Yvonne Fawcett and I am going behind the news to present a series of cutting edge reports from the frontline with the people making the news. Mr Norman, we have seen you on Channel X news with Ron Jeremy but give me some background to your work here so far and today’s mooomentous events."

“Well Yvonne,” said The General. “It started with a lead from a local supporter here in Upper Minster and now we have a dedicated team engaged in a full scale iiiinnnternational effort to track down a mystery beast with magical powers – the power to appear and disappear at will, to stalk local residents and to operate with impunity on local farms. This is not just a cat out of place, this is a mystery cat out of time and space, able to bend reality to its will.”

The General was talking a lot of empty nonsense, of course, but to the uninitiated it sounded fairly believable. Coached by the ruthless Yvonne Fawcett to present a racier storyline, he was in his element doing everything he could to keep the story going and to ensure that he was central to its development.

“We are standing now, here, today, in the centre of a window area of such importance that it cannot be underestimated. We will need time, with our team of experts, to take samples and make our investigations before going to the scientists.”

As The General spoke, Ellie MacPherson vowed to make sure that this awful man never got anywhere and would have to beg for his life when her friends and neighbours - the local villagers - got wind of what he and the ruthless Fawcett were trying to do to their home.

It was only a matter of time, she thought, before all this media hype started to unravel. “And when it does,” she said to herself, “Me, Tom, Florence, Frieda, Robin and friends will be there to make sure that life gets back to normal.”

Of course the villagers had a trump card. They had their own cunning Foxes; four children and one friend, Ellie, and she was their inside man....

She put her headphones back on and rejoined the ABC group....


"Coordinates for these images are at 72 37' 45"w, 3 23' 48"s. The video we will release will confirm our theories about a large reptile making major and minor channels and the existence of the enormous snake shape at the Napo/Amazon confluence. We believe we can prove that this shape has moved locations in recent years. Greg & Mike Warner."


Bloggo reader Jason Pratt has sent this: his interpretation of one of the recent sets of data released by the Peruvian giant snake expedition. He writes:

"As I noted, this isn't enough to resolve anything, pro or con, but it ought to be helpful for readers. JRP"

GEORGINA EDWARDS: Stingray Migration

It is always a pleasure to welcome a new guest blogger but this is a special pleasure because it is the first time that we have had two generations of guest bloggers in the same family. Georgina, who was pivotally involved in the Loch Ness Investigation Bureau during the glory years, is also the mother of bloggo regular Fleur Fulcher....

Looking like giant leaves floating in the sea, thousands of Golden Rays are seen here gathering off the coast of Mexico. The spectacular scene was captured as the magnificent creatures made one of their biannual mass migrations to more agreeable waters. Gliding silently beneath the waves, they turned vast areas of blue water to gold off the northern tip of the Yucatan Peninsula . Sandra Critelli, an amateur photographer, stumbled across the phenomenon while looking for whale sharks. She said: "It was an unreal image, very difficult to describe. The surface of the water was covered by warm and different shades of gold and looked like a bed of autumn leaves gently moved by the wind.

"We were surrounded by them without seeing the edge of the school and we could see many under the water surface too. I feel very fortunate I was there in the right place at the right time to experience nature at its best." Measuring up to 7ft (2.1 metres) from wing-tip to wing-tip, Golden rays are also more prosaically known as cow nose rays.

Nick Redfern's Weekly Round-Up

Each week Nick will be linking here various articles, news-stories and other items of a cryptozoological nature that can be found at his own blogs. Here are this week's stories:

1. Nick comes face to face with a "Texas Chupacabras" - or (depending on your perspective) the skull of a hairless dog:

2. From Man to Manimal - Nick's latest "Lair of the Beasts" article at Mania.com:

3. The CFZ's Michigan representative, Raven, asks the question: Bigfoot or just a Big Foot?

4. One more from Raven - on Michigan's growing population of Feral-Pigs:
5. A Wallaby of the Out-of-Place Kind:

6. An in-depth interview with Neil Arnold about his new book, Mystery Animals of the British Isles: Kent:

7. Does the Mammoth Still Roam...?


For those of you waiting for today's update from Mike and Greg Warner re. their expedition to Peru in search of the giant anaconda... There isn't one (and the picture on the left was pinched from Wikipedia just to make the page look pretty). I received nothing this morning or yesterday evening and my emails to see if everything is alright remain unanswered. I expect that nothing is wrong and that the daily trials and tribulations of life have just got in the way, and that we will hear from them again tomorrow.

However, it has to be said that the vast majority of comments on their findings have been negative ones. Greg asked me the other day why there were relatively few comments considering the number of hits they had received and I hadn't the heart to tell him that this was because I had not posted over half of them which were purely abusive or libellous. Postings that go "Wot da f*** is this f****** s***? F*** off!" have no place on this bloggo except to illustrate the calibre of some of our recent visitors.

There are a couple of little points that I would like to make at this point. I have been publishing the Warners' data on the bloggo for one reason and one reason only. I do not agree with their findings. I think that they are nice, sincere people who are mistaken in what they believe that they have found but the CFZ was always intended as an open forum where researchers from all walks of life and adherents of a wide range of belief systems can share their data and discuss their findings in a civilised and neutral environment.
With very few exceptions (those being people whose belief systems are ones that the people who set up and run the CFZ - i.e. me - find morally reprehensible, or whose belief systems are based entirely on superstitious tenets and have no scientific base for their existence, and those which only exist to further a religious or political ideology) anyone can contribute to the CFZ melting pot and I will defend their right so to do to the death.
I have received quite a lot of abusive mail on the subject of the Warner expedition. This happens regularly and often from the same coterie of people who make no secret of the fact that they dislike me, my philosophy and what I stand for.
Once and for all:
1. I do not know Mike and Greg Warner
2. I am not financially involved with them
3. I am not intending to publish their book (because as far as I know they haven't written one)
4. I am not being paid by the BBC to examine their evidence
5. I am not an employee of the British (or indeed any other) government
6. I was not drunk when I made the decision to publish this material
All this sorry affair goes to prove is that the cryptozoological commuinity still has a few particularly unpleasant people in it.

glen vaudrey

About eleven years ago a blackbird landed in our back garden. For reasons now lost to Mrs H. she whistled to her feathered visitor. Nothing complex - just a series of random notes repeated several times. The blackbird looked at her and then flew off.

The following day Jackie was hanging out the washing when the same blackbird appeared on the roof of our garden shed. Once again, she whistled the same series of notes that she'd whistled the previous day. To her astonishment the bird promptly whistled the same notes back.

Everyone knows that parakeets and mynah birds can mimic the human voice but at one time few people imagined that this was a talent shared by blackbirds. But it is.

During that summer Mrs. H became good friends with the bird, whom she named Blackie. It visited our garden every day and became bolder and bolder in terms of how close it would approach. Jackie then began to feed it and within two weeks it was quite literally eating out of her hand.

Eventually the bird stopped visiting our garden and we assumed she'd flown off to pastures new. To our delight, however, Blackie returned the following summer. Once again Jackie had been hanging out the washing when she heard the peculiar whistle she'd taught the bird the year before. Startled, she turned round to see our old friend standing on the path.

Over and over Blackie whistled the same tune, in response to which Jackie whistled back. Once again she began to visit our garden daily. On one occasion Jackie was indoors when she heard her feathered friend calling for her. She went outside and smiled at the sight which greeted her. There, standing on the shed roof, were Blackie and four downy young blackbirds. We're convinced that she had brought her young to show us.

One by one the young birds joined Blackie on the path and they all waddled to within a yard or so of Jackie's feet.

Blackie continued to visit us until last year. With each passing summer the whistles become louder and more persistent. She would jump up and down on the garden fence or the shed roof until Jackie popped outdoors to see her.

When Jackie first told me of the almost psychic relationship she had developed with Blackie I was a bit sceptical. I didn't think she was making it up but I did think that she wanted so much to believe that the bird was repeating her whistle that her imagination was getting the better of her.

But then I heard it for myself and actually managed to tape-record a conversation between Mrs. H. and Blackie. I no longer doubted that an extraordinary relationship had developed between them.

Perhaps the most fascinating interaction between Blackie, Jackie and I occurred in the summer of 2000. We were sitting watching the TV early one evening when we heard a frantic scratching at the front door, accompanied by an intense flapping noise. We both went to investigate, and as we opened the door we heard Blackie's familiar whistle. The bird was extremely distressed. It flew towards a nearby bungalow in which lived some neighbours, both of whom had severe disabilities. It continued to fly back and forth between our front door and the other residence, and it was obvious to us that Blackie was trying to tell us something.

We both hurried over to the bungalow and knocked on the door. Our elderly neighbour opened it and whilst Blackie was whistling frantically behind us, said, "Oh, thank goodness! I was just about to ring you and ask for your help! Quickly…come in!"

Jackie and I walked down the hall and into the lounge. There, fluttering around wildly, was a young blackbird. It had flown through the open patio doors and couldn't find its way out. I took off my pullover, threw it over the bird and brought it to the ground. I gently uncovered it and held it in my hands until it calmed down. I then went into the back garden where – no surprises here – Blackie was waiting. I let the young bird go and it flew straight to its mother.

The only explanation we can think of is that Blackie scratched, flapped and whistled at our door because it wanted our help.

Last year Blackie returned once again. As usual, Jackie and her feathered friend talked to each other but what thoughts were running through her avian brain must remain a matter of speculation. All Jackie knew was that she'd found a true and honoured friend.

Sadly, things came to grief. One day last summer Jackie went out into the garden and found Blackie dead, lying in the ornamental bird bath where she often used to bathe and drink. We gave her a decent burial. I'm no expert, but I reckon eleven years or more must be a pretty good innings for a blackbird.

And that, we thought, was that. But there is a peculiar postscript to this story, which I find entirely baffling. Two weeks ago, Mrs. H and I were both in the garden when we heard what sounded like the unique whistle she'd taught Blackie all those years ago. It wasn't the same but it was eerily similar. Suddenly a young blackbird flew down and landed on the path near Jackie. Three times it repeated the whistle. The only conclusion we could come to was that the bird was one of Blackie's offspring and that it had somehow inherited the whistle from its mother. The bird is now a frequent visitor to our garden. It's like having Blackie back again. Like the original Blackie, this one has taken to whistling and will not desist until Mrs. H or I go out and show ourselves. Satisfied, Blackie II will then fly off.

This morning things took an even stranger turn. I went out into the garden and as usual, heard the familiar whistle. I looked up and saw what at first I thought was Blackie II sitting on a nearby rooftop. What surprised me was its size. It seemed to have grown considerably since the last time I saw it. The bird took off and headed straight for our garden. It landed on the roof of our shed and I stared at it. It wasn't Blackie II at all. In fact, it wasn't even a blackbird. It was a jackdaw. It looked at me, whistled Mrs. H's tune and then flew off.

To be honest, much as I'm fascinated by the whole thing I really haven't a clue what the hell is going on. Can blackbirds teach songs to their young? Can jackdaws imitate blackbirds? And why on earth would the jackdaw I saw this morning want to imitate the call Mrs. H taught to Blackie?

I'm sure there must be a rational explanation for all this but not being an ornithologist I can't think of what it might be. I'm really hoping that some readers out there will respond to this blog and give me their two-pennorth's worth….

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday’s News Today

Yesterday’s News Today

Welcome, once again, to our round-up of cryptozoological news and a bad pun. Are you sitting comfortably? Then here’s the news:

Mass dolphin stranding linked to navy exercises
Darwin killed off the werewolf
Prehistoric Whale Discovered On The West Coast Of Sweden
Monkey 'IQ test' hints at intelligent human ancestor

‘Whale’ I never: three marine mammal stories on the same day, it’s almost as if it was done on ‘porpoise’.