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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Sunday, June 28, 2009

COLIN HIGGINS: Giant, hay-eating eel

One of my favourite guest blogs is that of Colin Higgins from Yorkshire, who - incidentally - was the winner of the compy in January's On the Track, where he won my ever-lasting admiration by recognising Surabaya Johnny by the ever lovely Marianne Faithfull. He also went on the lash with Shane McGowan back in his student days, and is obviously a very fine fellow....

R. Taylor, The Wonders of Nature and Art, 1780

“Some time ago in the last century, the farmers near Yeovil, whose fields lay contiguous to the river, suffered greatly by losing vast quantities of hay; for which several people were taken up on suspicion of stealing the same; what added to the surprise of everyone was, that the hay missing did not appear to be cut, as it usually is, but pulled out as if by some beast, but that appeared a little improbable, as several loads were lost in the space of a few nights; a circumstance so alarming to the farmers induced them to offer a considerable reward to any who should discover how their hay was destroyed.

A company of soldiers quartered then at Yeovil, some of them for the sake of the reward, undertook to find out the affair. They made their intention known to the people injured, who readily accepted their offer; and a night was fixed on, to begin their watching, in order to make a discovery. The appointed time came, and a dozen of the soldiers after eating and drinking plentifully at the respective farmer’s houses, went on their new enterprise with bayonets fixed, and muskets charged, as if going to engage an enemy. They had not been long in ambush before one of them espied a monstrous creature, crawling from the side of the river, towards one of the stacks of hay; he instantly told his comrades. A council was immediately called, and they all unanimously agreed, if the bear devoured any of the hay, that two of them should get behind the stack, and fire at it, while the others dispersed themselves at different parts of the field, in order to intercept it, if it escaped their comrades vigilance; but the precaution was needless, for the soldiers fired their pieces with such dexterity that they soon laid the monster sprawling. This done all ran to see what was slain; but the moon not shining very bright, their curiosity could not be satisfied; though some of them said it must be the devil, in the shape of a snake. Highly pleased with this exploit, they hastened to the farmers and made known how well they had succeeded in their enterprise.

Next morning all the neighbours round, with the farmers, their servants, and the soldiers, went to see this amazing creature, and to their no small astonishment, found it to be a prodigious eel, which, it is supposed, not finding subsistence in the river, came out (ox-like) and fed on the hay. It’s size was such, that the farmers ordered their men to go out and harness eight of their best horses, in order to draw it to one of their houses, which with difficulty they did. When they got it home, the soldiers desired leave to roast it, there being a large kitchen with two fireplaces. This request was granted; and after cutting it in several pieces, fastening each piece to a young elm tree, by way of a spit, they put it down to roast. It had not been above an hour before the fire, until there was as much fat run out of it, as filled all the tubs, kettles, &c., in the house, which put them under the necessity of going out to borrow; but at their return they found the inundation of grease so prodigious, that it was running out of the keyhole and crevices of the door.”

Quoted in Fish, Fishing and the Meaning of Life, selected and introduced by Jeremy Paxman, Michael Joseph 1994


According to ancient Greek mythology, Atalanta was an Arcadian (according to Apollodorus) princess. Apollodorus is the only one who gives an account of Atalanta’s birth and upbringing. King Iasos wished for a son, and when Atalanta was born, he was greatly disappointed. He left the baby on the mountainside so Atalanta would die in the cold and from hunger, since he did not believe she was worth bringing up as a child.

A she-bear found her and took Atalanta in order to live with her. The she-bear took care of the baby, nursing her and keeping the little child warm. After, kind hunters found her and took care of Atalanta. In the end, she was a wonderful hunteress, and skilled athlete.

It has always seemed fitting to me that her name was given to one of the most striking British butterflies, the 'red admirable' (now red admiral), a glorious butterfly with a complicated life cycle. http://www.ukbutterflies.co.uk/ explains:

"This species occurs in Britain as a migrant originating from northern Africa and southern Europe, and being an extremely mobile species, can turn up in any habitat including woodlands, grasslands, meadows, heathlands and moors, coastal habitats, riverbanks, low montane habitats, gardens, parks, allotments and town centres. Males also gather at certain grassland hilltop sites, apparently to intercept migrating females. The number of migrants varies according to variations in climate in Europe, and this greatly affects the number of UK bred butterflies seen later in the year.

Migrants arriving in the early spring oviposit on stinging nettles growing along hedgerows or in woodland glades, producing a summer brood in the UK which typically emerges from mid July to early August. In late summer these butterflies migrate south, and there is some evidence that the butterflies attempt to overwinter in southern woodlands. There have also been several occasions when I have recorded Red Admirals entering factory buildings and houses in November. The butterflies awake on warmer days in early winter, and sightings are relatively common in woodlands on sunny days between December and late January. In hard winters they seem unable to survive the hard frosts of February, but in 2006 there were almost unbroken sightings in Hampshire and Dorset from January to April, providing fairly conclusive proof that the butterfly can successfully overwinter in southern England."

Two magnificent males have turned up in the CFZ garden, and are strutting around the place as if they own it. Whether they are migrants freshly arrived from Africa, or newly emerged ones that have been gorging themselves on stinging nettles since the spring, I don't know, but they are certainly welcome additions to the butterfly fauna of the garden.

We have had a fantastic year so far for butterflies in the CFZ garden. Not up to what it was like in the 1970s, certainly, but by recent standards, fantastic. We have recorded the following species:

Large white (Peiris brassicae)
Small white (P. rapae)
Green-veined white (P. napi)

Common blue (Polyommatus icarus)
Holly blue (Celastrina argiolus)

Red admiral (Vanessa atalanta)
Painted lady (Vanessa cardui)
Silver washed fritillary (Argynnis paphia)
Speckled wood (Pararge aegeria)
Wall (Lasiommata megera)
Grayling (Hipparchia semele)
Gatekeeper (Pyronia tithonus)
Meadow brown (Maniola jurtina)
Small heath (Coenonympha pamphilus)

There are some notable absences from this list. I haven't seen a small tortoiseshell all year, and I haven't seen a comma, a brimstone, or a peacock since I returned to North Devon four years ago. The irony is that when I was a boy catching butterflies in this garden, I was not interested in the browns or Satyridae. They were too insignificant and dingy looking.

Now, they are the biggest component of the garden butterfly fauna.

We have our collective thinking caps on trying to work out ways of increasing our bio-diversity for the next season.

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday’s News Today

Yesterday’s News Today

Today, for your viewing pleasure, I’d like to introduce you to a new themed day for the Yesterdays News Today bloglet; Stereoscopic Sunday. As some of you may know I recently acquired a Stereoscopic camera and have been showing it off to anyone I can press-gang into wearing red and cyan specs.

This has also given me the opportunity to do things for the first time they’ve ever been done in the history of mankind. Sure, it might not be an achievement as impressive as, say, walking on the moon, which Neil Armstrong did or discovering America, as Prince Maddog did, but taking the first 3D photo of a mermaid is pretty damn cool in my book.

And now, the news:

Wood harvest puts pandas at risk
Battle To Save Penguins Facing Extinction
Cattle to graze on heathland
Return for damselfly in distress
Rare moth is sighted on Skye estate
New mums ‘basking’ in glory of world exclusive pup births
Dolphin 'super pod' seen in firth
Baby pine martens back together again

The poor little fellows were probably ‘pine’ing for each other.


A few weeks ago we asked is this the end for charity fish auctions?

TIM ADDIS WRITES: I had to think hard about continuing the auctions as Alan had to pull out through continuing health problems. Alan's sisters also wanted to pull out so I had to decide to stop them or pull others into the organisation. I'm pleased to say I have had enough volunteers from those already attending the auctions to say we can now go forward & continue.
Alan will hopefully still be coming to the auctions but he is finding it a little hard to do the heavy lifting at the moment, which is understandable. Next auction is booked for the 6th December. As always, details will be put on the usual web page with loads of reminders beforehand.

So, that's one piece of good news.


Just a couple of interesting links that popped up in my in-box this morning:

Screaming Kangaroos: Large Anomalous Marsupials in the USA? The largest, and perhaps most famous of the macropod family (that is, creatures with large feet) are Australia's iconic hopping delight, the kangaroo. Used as a national symbol appearing on the Australian coat of arms, some of its currency, and a variety of other places, this unique saltatating (jumping) creature has become a mainstay of Australian culture.

Considered a cultural icon in their homeland, kangaroos are believed to exist only in their native Australia. But alas, perhaps all the wonderful treatment kangaroos get Down Under just isn't enough; in spite of our scientific understanding that the creatures are endemic to Australia, anomalous appearances of the creatures elsewhere have occasionally turned up over the years, lending to theories of Screaming Kangaroos, and large marsupials existing in parts of the United States.


Spain: The Bigfoot of the Pyrenees Friday, June 26, 2009Spain: The Bigfoot of the Pyrenees INEXPLICATA has written elsewhere about the "simiots" of Spain's Catalunya and Upper Aragon - creatures that may well find their U.S. counterparts in our very own Bigfoot. Today, Raul Nuñez of the IIEE sends us an interesting article on another supersized inhabitant of the Pyrenees -- the towering "Basajaun", a regular feature of Basque folklore.



Colin Higgins, one of my favourite bloggers, has written:

"For the past few weeks I've been getting occasional messages when I open a web page [on the bloggo]:

"Internet explorer cannot open this website - connection aborted".

This now happens with every page making the site unusable. Not IT literate enough to diagnose the problem myself but thought it might be worth reporting it case it's something your end."

Has anyone else got this problem, or indeed, does anyone else know what could be causing this? It only happens on our pages, and not on other blogs in the bloggo network like Karl or Corinna.

Suggestions please.