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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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Saturday, June 27, 2009

LIFE IMITATES ART

Yesterday Karl Shuker posted this story about thunderbirds, and illustrated it with a striking Bill Rebsamen illustration of a thunderbird attacking a small plane. Imagine my amusement, therefore, to find this: a video of an eagle attacking a remote conrolled aircraft....

Raptor attack! from Billwhit on Vimeo.

DARREN NAISH IS BOTH BIG AND CLEVER

He has managed to get swearing and cryptozoology into a serious piece of work on his increasingly enteraining blog on Science Blogs.
He writes:

It's well known that elephants have a major impact on their environment; indeed, they're what's known as ecosystem engineers. In a new study, Ahimsa Campos-Arceiz, of the University of Tokyo, reports that Asian elephant dung might serve a hitherto unreported role as a microhabitat for certain small frog species. While inspecting Asian elephant Elephas maximus dung piles on Sri Lanka in 2008, Campos-Arceiz was surprised to discover individuals of the microhylid frogs Microhyla ornata and M. rubra and a species of the dicroglossid Sphaerotheca [shown here] hiding inside or under the piles (if you need to know where microhylids fit within the anuran radiation, see the Tet Zoo article here; I haven't got round to covering dicroglossids yet).
Read on »
Darren, dear boy, you are - as always - an inspiration to us all.

THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN KINGS DIE

I am more than slightly bonkers at the moment. It is ten past ten on saturday night, a time when all God-fearing cryptozoologists should be doing anything rather than lying in bed, medicated to the gills, with a smelly dog, a bottle of brandy and The Beastie Boys 2004 album To the 5 Boroughs blaring out into the over-warm midsummer evening. I only listen to hip hop when I feel ill, but it somehow strikes a chord with the psychotic side of my personality that only comes out when I am ill.

However, apart from the fact that Biggles really doesn't like the sampled dog noises on one of the tracks, we are quite a peaceful sight. I don't really want to talk about my Mental Health issues - I have never made any secret of the fact that I am very severely bipolar with twinges of a schizoaffective disorder, but I mention it only to set the scene of why I am lying on the bed doing all this stuff at a time when normal people would be doing something else.

I have spent the last two hours scouring the internet to find this 1977 music paper front cover. Why? Is it because I am psycho this evening?

Not really. It is because I wanted to illustrate a weird coincidcence. As a fortean pundit, strange coincidences are my sock in trade.

I still remember where I was on the night of August 16th 1977. I remember mosly because I wrote one of my better songs - Elvis died for our sins - about that night. The opening lines are:

I was watching television
when the newsflash came across
Elvis died in Memphis,
but I didn't give a toss
because I wanna be adored by peasants
(cos adoration's where its at)
I wanna play Las Vegas twice a year,
get crazy, stoned and fat

Four days later I did what I always did every thursday between 1973 and about 1992 - I bought the music papers. And being a snotty young 17-year-old punk who bought wholesale into the Joe Strummer ethos of No Elvis, Beatles or Rolling Stones in 1977, I started ranting about "opportunistic capitalistic scum using dead rockstars to boost sales blah blah blah" but it was nothing of the sort. It was just a coincidence. The Elvis cover had purely been to illustrate a story about some rock and roll revival reissue rodeo (or something equally as alliterative).

And for thirty-two years I have cited this as a weird example of acausal synchronicity. Now something strikingly similar has happened.

Although in the years following his death I became somewhat of an Elvis fan (I have actually been reading one of the better biographies of the man, on and off, for the last few weeks), I never used the term 'The King of Rock and Roll'. Like calling Bernard Heuvelmans 'The Father of Cryptozoology', it is not true and merely vulgar hyperbole. However, for the first time since August 1977, someone in the entertainment industry, who had been given a 'royal' title by the music press has died suddenly. He was Elvis's son-in-law, and also - it is beginning to appear - died of polypharmacy at an early age.

And look at the cover of Q, published just before he died....

In 2009 I don't care about Michael Jackson's death much more than I did about that of Elvis back in 1977, but I do find acausal synchronicity enduringly fascinating!

Weird, huh?

PS: I only discovered this while sitting up in bed reading Q this morning, but this issue also includes an article on rockstar deaths. Prescient or what?

WE WILL, I HOPE, BE BACK TO NORMAL TOMORROW

I am sorry that the evening posts are so late. There have been a string of issues -personal, medical, computer, family, animal etc - which have got in the way. Don't worry - nothing terribly bad happened, but a lot of annoying things rolled into one. Also the ongoing jackdaw saga has meant we are running terribly late today, and I am feeling a little under the weather, and will be retiring to bed any moment. However, I hope that everything will be back to normal tomorrow.

love to all,

Jon

FROM THE ARCHIVES: What's been did and what's been hid

What's been did and what been hid

by Jonathan Downes

I have been a fish keeper for nearly four decades now, and with the onset of middle age I find myself rapidly entering old git territory. One of the enviable traits of the middle-aged is that they can bore on about how things were much better in their youth. I remember, when I was about 12 or 13, my father spending an entire lunch telling me and my younger brother that the Led Zeppelin album that I had just received was atrocious, decadent, and not to be mentioned in the same breath as the Glenn Miller records of his youth. Don't worry, guys; I am not going to spend this entire article droning on about how much better fish keeping was in the 1960s. Mainly because it wasn't. Our hobby has come on apace, and I - for one - would hate to see a return to the bad old days.

However, if you'll pardon me relapsing into old git territory, there are some notable absences from the show tanks of tropical tropical fish shops - mostly fish that used to be kept widely and which are now very seldom seen, but a few, which as far as I know, have never been kept within the trade and I have never understood why.

The Mosquito Fish (Gambusia affinis)

I have extolled the virtues of this singular species in these pages before. I think that it is true to say that if it were not for this particular fish, that the tropical fish hobby, and furthermore the multinational industry that supports it, would not exist. These were the first tropical fish to be kept in temperate climes. They are attractive, showy, engaging little fellows. If I may dare to be anthropomorphic - something I usually avoid like the plague - they are one of the few little fish that really seem to have characters. All the other members of the live bearers that I have come across are nice enough little beasts but hardly riveting company. Don't get me wrong - I have enjoyed keeping Platys any time since 1966, but even the most beautiful of them pales into insignificance besides a male gambusia in breeding colouration.

Originally these little fish come from the warm areas of the southern United States and Central America, but they have a natural attribute that mankind has found irresistible. Their favourite diet is mosquito larvae, and they have been introduced to many parts of the world - including southern Europe - as a preventative measure against malaria. Sadly, however, they have lapsed in popularity as a pet (largely because of their pugnacious nature), and they are very seldom seen in the these anodyne days. If you actually manage to get hold of any please do - you won't be disappointed.

Paddyfield Eel (Monopterus albus)

I was brought up in the last days of the British Empire. Indeed, during my childhood in Hong Kong, I was a witness (though I did not know it at the time), to the last years of Empire proper, before the remaining jewel in the Crown succumbed to a creeping menace of laissez faire capitalism. I remember the governor driving past in his open-topped car and a hat decorated with ostrich plumes. I remember the cannon being fired each day at noon. My memories of the 1960s, therefore, are somewhat different to those of anybody who lived through the decade of love in the UK. My early years as an aquarist, therefore, were spent on the opposite side of the world and so I have no real idea whether this wonderful species was ever widely kept in the UK. Similarly, because I have not lived in the Orient since 1980, I have no idea whether paddyfield Eels are still kept as pets in Hong Kong. But if they ain't they damn well should be.

Paddyfield eels are not eels at all, but members of the order Sybranchiformes or swamp eels. They grow to a length about a hundred centimetres, and are - as the name implies - vaguely eel-like in shape. They are mostly and muddy brown in colour, although there is a very striking chestnut colour morph. They are practically indestructible, and I have seen them kept alive on Chinese market stalls in wicker baskets, which are occasionally doused with water. Why, you must ask, am I extolling their virtues as pets? They ain't exactly attractive. No, they are not, but they are highly intelligent - and in my 38 years of fish keeping I believe that they are by far the cleverest fish that I have ever kept. Various girlfriends (and an ex wife), over the past two decades have complained that I keep fish and other animals in tanks and that you're not able to interact with them in the same way that you can a dog or cat. Well duh! They live in water for one thing, but if you are looking for a fish that will become your constant companion during those long winter evenings then you cannot do better than one of these.

They can become hand tame, will feed from your hand, and will even learn to recognise different people in the room. Nobody ever believes me when I say this, but I even had one once that would let me pet it. They are fantastic fish, and I believe that although you cannot buy them in pet shops, they are imported for the Chinese food market.

There is, of course, a downside. They will devour any other animal in the tank with them, and in parts of America and Hawaii they have become introduced into the wild where they have become an invasive pest. This has given them an enormous amount of bad press. However, I have been a journalist for many years and can whole-heartedly advise you not to believe all that you read in the papers. Try buying one of these fish - shove it in a tank by itself. Don't bother to decorate the tank, your new pet will destroy any ornamentation you care to provide, and will uproot all plants, but you'll have a friend for life.

The Bitterling (Rhodeus amarus)

Even 15 years ago these fish were commonly seen for sale in high street pet stores. However, I haven't seen them for years. This is a great pity, because they are cheap and delightful pets. They are attractive little things - of a strange violet hue, and are lively and fun to watch. But it is their breeding habits, which are most notable. In the spring the males possess all the colours of the rainbow, and the females develop a strange fleshy ovipositor. In order to breed successfully they need the presence of a freshwater mussel into which the female lays her eggs. The male guards the mussel until the eggs have hatched.

Once upon a time these were very commonly kept, and as far as I'm aware it is purely because of the vagaries of fashion that they are no longer seen in pet shops. There are several closely related species of bitterling including some from the Far East, which can be kept in tropical tanks rather than cold-water ones. These charming little fish are well overdue a comeback.

If you ever get a chance to keep them, please do. You will not be disappointed.

Freshwater Pipefish

For my final selection I would like to choose something a little bit different. Freshwater pipefish are occasionally seen on dealers lists in the USA but I have never seen any in this country. The Syngnathidae or Pipefish family includes over 200 species, distributed worldwide except for the polar regions, mostly in marine environments. A small number of species reside in freshwater habitats. The Syngnathidae family is characterised by a body encased in a series of bony rings; a tube-like snout; and a lack of pelvic fins. Eggs are incubated in the abdominal pouch of the male.

Freshwater species are found in Africa, Indonesia and Central America. I first heard about them in one of Gerald Durrell's excellent books about animal collecting in Africa in the 1940s, and they have fascinated me ever since. From what I can gather, they are relatively easy to keep in a 35-45 gallon (132-170 l) tank. The tank should have a sand - preferably coral sand - substrate and be in a location that receives morning sun. Plant the tank heavily with plants that can tolerate the slightly brackish water conditions. The filter should create a moderate current and the tank must be well aerated. They can even be bred in captivity. With the growing popularity of exotic species such as freshwater stingrays, it is only a matter of time - I believe - before they are available commonly in British shops. When they are, remember where you read about them first.

ANOTHER EMAIL FROM SOSTRATUS

Dear Sir,

Well, I seem to have made an unexpected splash with you and your community! I feel rather a celebrity. I must say you are the first person to find my name ‘fabulous’, myself included. I’m quite proud of myself: one of my grandchildren has just shown me how to do ‘smileys’ so :)

I found this in the Daily Express yesterday and thought it might interest you.


You’ll have to forgive me; I have no idea how to turn it round to the right way up.

Yours,

Sostratus Winston

THE JACKDAW SAGA CONTINUES

Yesterday, as you know, we released Jerry the Jackdaw into the garden. He hung around for the rest of the day, and I have to admit that I was getting worried. He 'squawked' plaintively, and then got all territorial and had a noisy face-off with the neighbourhood blackbirds. One particularly pugnacious cock blackbird who lives in the bushy hazel hedge behind the lower aviary block took great exception to Jerry, and a verbal sparring match ensued that lasted until dusk.

Occasionally I would see two black shapes flying furiously over the bottom lawns, usually the blackbird chasing Jerry, but sometimes the other way around.

Then at about 6:30 Beth Tyler-King, returned. The lovely Bethany is the doyenne of the Hartland Wildlife Rescue Service. In fact she pretty well is the Hartland Wildlife Rescue Service. She brought with her two more jackdaws; one with a manky eye (that was beginning to heal nicely), and another that had been hand-reared, and whilst not imprinted on humans, was so close and friendly to the one-eyed one (immediately christened 'One-Eyed Jack' by Corinna), that it seemed a pity to split them up.


They were soon ensconsed in the jackdaw aviary, and fluttered about lustily while in the tree above them, Jerry 'squawked' enviously.

This morning Jerry was still squawking plaintively in the tree, and the two newcomers seemed more than a little unsettled. One-Eyed Jack escaped when Oll went to feed them, and so - as there was actually nothing much wrong with the other, and she had only been there as a companion to Jack (Corinna had named her 'Black Pearl', btw) - we let her go. One-Eyed Jack flew straight up into the tree where Jerry was sitting. They sat together with every sign of friendliness, but when Black Pearl joined them, the two friends flew off leaving Jerry looking rarther forlorn.


So, for the first time in weeks we were jackdaw-less. But not for long.


I wasn't very well earlier, and so I went back to bed for a bit to take my 'mendicine' (as my mother used to call it when I was small). I awoke a couple of hours later to the news that Jerry had flown down from the tree-tops, voluntarily re-entered the aviary, and was pottering around the floor looking for mealworms. To protect him from cats we shut the aviary door again, and now we are back where we were yesterday.


One-Eyed Jack and Black Pearl have flown off to pastures new (hopefully together), and Jerry is back in our protection eating mealworms like there was no tomorrow. Funny old world isn't it?



MORE MILDLY AMUSING NONSENSE

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday’s News Today

Yesterday’s News Today
http://cryptozoologynews.blogspot.com/

Right, by now most of you should know the drill: every Saturday on this bloglett I attempt to build up my part with Soundtrack Saturday. It doesn’t really work of course because nobody actually reads this preamble, as evidenced by the fact that not one person even tried to answer Thursday’s trivia question. Anyway, enough of that. Yesterday (although 2 days ago by the date this will have been uploaded) we witnessed the death of Michael Jackson. Whatever you think of him as a man it has to be mentioned that he sang some damn good songs. For my money the best of his songs was not Thriller but the often overlooked Smooth Criminal:
http://www.last.fm/music/Michael+Jackson/_/Smooth+Criminal?autostart
And now, the news:

Wildlife Faces Cancer Threat
Prairie dog of Bodmin
Thailand a hub for growing illegal ivory trade
France to face EU court over great hamster disappearance
Many sharks 'facing extinction'
More than 100 fish killed in pollution spill
Thousands of eggs seized in raid
Corncrake fights back from extinction
Legless frogs mystery solved

If I were a newt I’d be really worried right now about frogs encroaching on our similes….

ANOTHER UNIDENTIFIED INSECT

Found this bug in my garden. Don't know if it is a wasp or bee, or if it's native to the UK.

Thanks, Steve