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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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Thursday, October 22, 2009

RICHARD MUIRHEAD: Birds Behaving Badly - blimey! Part Two

Hi girls and boys; it`s me again.

All the entries below are from Wiliam Corliss`s book
Biological Anomalies: Birds (1998) except the first entry, immediately below, which is from Doris Rybot`s It Began Before Noah (1972), pp. 96-97, a history of mankind`s association with animals, particularly in the form of zoos. Here is the rather heart-warming story:

'One of the oddest stories of strange bedfellows concerns an eagle housed in the Museum of Natural History in Paris. This was about 1784. The great bird was moping and refusing its food. The keepers decided that the only hope of encouraging its appetite and so preventing it from dying was to give it living prey. The victim chosen was an “English cock.” He was put into the cage, and all stood round, hopefully waiting for the eagle to pounce. Instead, the eagle quite slowly approached the cock, looked him all over, and then-to the amazement of the spectators-spread a wing protectively over the smaller bird;and thus they walked together about the large cage.

The cock remained with the eagle,and from thenceforward it recovered its appetite for the usual dead meat, and was very soon completely restored to health. Simply, it had been moping for companionship. As our French author remarks: Chose curieuse et combine instructive !' (1)

Does anyone feel like following this up?

Concerning egg patterns, Corliss says: 'It is not uncommon for eggs to display... peculiar patterns and scribblings.Except as they might help in camouflaging the eggs, no profound importance can be ascribed to such random markings.On the other hand, once in a great while, an egg will be taken from the hen house with markings that are certainly not random and even seem to bear a “message”! J.Michell and R.J.M Rickard, in their Fortean classic Living Wonders,tell of several wondrous eggs. One egg making newspaper headlines in 1973 was clearly inscribed with a “6” on one end. In another instance, an egg bore the initials “WX”. One more profound egg message announced “Jesus comes.' (2)

Now, Corliss on feathers: 'Feathers as weapons. Some trogons, cuckoo-shrikes, and pigeons are armed with sharp pointed feathers on their backs and rumps. These feathers are partially erecticle and are probably useful, porcupine-like, against predators. (3) If spine-like feathers are good defensively, they should have offensive capabilities,too. The cassowaries of Australia and New Guinea are, like all ratites, flightless. Their primary feathers have been turned into formidable weapons: spines some 28 centimetres long. Not only do these spines protect these large birds from abrasive vegetation (4), but they are also used in fighting. (Note, too, that the knife-like toenails of cassowaries can disembowel unwary humans.)' (5)

'Anting: Description. The vigorous,enthusiastic, and apparently pleasurable rubbing of the plumage with, or its exposure to, ants and other substances, such as mothballs and smoke. All of the animals, objects, and substances employed in anting are acrid or pungent. Anting behaviour often seems frenzied or blissful…Rooks/Burning matches. Even more intrepid was a tame Rook.This Rook, while with its former owner, Diana Ross, the novelist, took to opening boxes of matches of the non-“safety” kind. He quickly learned that by holding a match in his toes and pecking at its red head he could cause it to burst into flame. The moment this happens, Corbie, as the Rook is known, picks the match up in his beak, goes into a magnificent anting posture and rubs the lighted match up and down the inside of his arched wings.' (6,7,)

  1. D.Rybot It Began Before Noah (1972) pp 96-97
  2. J.Michell and R.J.M. Rickard Living Wonders (1983) p.167 in W.Corliss Biological Anomalies: Birds (1998)p.98
  3. A.Thompson,A.Landsborough, A New Dictionary of Birds (1964) pp 153, 173,483 in W.Corliss Ibid p.45
  4. F.B.Gill Ornithology (1990) pp 59,61,68 in W.Corliss Ibid p.45
  5. See chapters BHX8-X2 in Corliss: Humans III
  6. M.Burton “ A Possible Explanation of the Phoenix Myth.” New Scientist 1:10, June 27,1957 in W.Corliss op cit p.163
  7. V.Markotic Current Anthroplogy 16:477,1975 in W.Corliss op cit. p.163

That`s all, folks. Next blog will look at odd-coloured foxes in Britain.

They tell us that we lost our tails,

Evolving up from little snails,

I say it`s all just wind and sails,

Are we not men? We are Devo! (Devo-Jocko Homo)

BUTTERFLY CONFERENCE NEWS

The 2010 target and beyond for Lepidoptera.

Reading University, 26-28th March 2010

BOOK NOW, OFFER PAPERS OR POSTERS AT

www.butterfly-conservation.org/symposium

Deadline for paper abstracts 2nd November.

The proceedings will be published as a book and special issue of the Journal of Insect Conservation.

A discount is available for all bookings made before 8th January 2010.

Sessions will include

· 2010 assessments for Lepidoptera from around the world

· The science of conservation management

· Practical habitat management

· Landscape scale conservation

· Climate change impacts and adaptation

· Future challenges

The Symposium will be opened by our President, Sir David Attenborough.

Keynote speakers include: Prof. Jeremy Thomas (Oxford Univ), Sebastian Winkler (IUCN, Brussels), Chris van Swaay (Dutch BC), Scott Black (Xerces Soc, USA), Dr Tim New (Australia), and Prof. Chris Thomas (York Univ).

Woodlands for wildlife conference

There will be a linked one-day conference before the Symposium on 25th March focussing on the management of woodlands for butterflies, moths and other wildlife. This can also be booked on the Symposium pages of the website, either together or separately.

LINDSAY SELBY: Was the Lambton Worm a Lake Cryptid?

Clear Day

The tale of the Lambton Worm is about a legendary cryptid in what is, at the moment, my local area. Durham also has lots of sightings of big cats.


The tale is set in the time of the crusades around the river Wear in Durham UK.


John Lambton, the young heir to Lambton Hall, was fishing on the river Wear one Sunday morning, instead of being at church. Something large started to tug on the hook so he reeled it in. It was a black worm like creature, which was only small, but twisted and coiled with great power. It had needle sharp teeth and seemed to secrete a sticky slime. Cursing, he went to throw the creature back when an old man appeared from behind him, he looked at what Lambton had caught, and warned Lambton not to throw the creature back into the river. "It bodes no good for you but you must not cast it back into the river, you must keep it and do with it what you will." The old man walked away.


John Lambton threw the creature into an ancient well on the road back to the hall.


John Lambton grew up and went off to the crusades. The water in the well where he had thrown the creature became poisoned, strange venomous vapours were seen rising out of the well, and village gossip surmised that the well had been cursed, and that something unworldly lived in its depths. When the worm reached maturity, it climbed out of the well and wrapped itself three times around a rocky island in the middle of the river.


The villagers saw the creature and called it a dragon.The dragon had no legs or wings, but a thick muscled body that rippled as it moved. Its head was large and its gaping maw bristled with razor sharp teeth, venomous vapours trailed from its nostrils and mouth as it breathed. The creature became hungry and started to rampage around the countryside, always returning to its hill or Worms Rock in the river Wear. It took small lambs and sheep and ate them whole, and it tore open cows udders with its razor teeth to get at the milk, which it could smell from miles away. Villagers who were brave enough to tackle the beast were crushed and killed.


Eventually when the dragon approached Lambton Hall, the locals had heard about it and were ready for its coming. They filled a large stone trough with warm milk and the creature plunged into the trough and drained it dry. Now full the worm returned to its river abode. This became a ritual that went on for seven years. The dragon stopped killing the cows and the sheep and only ventured up to the hall for its daily offering of milk. As the years passed the trail became marked by a path of dark slime and the life around the area returned to normal. Occasionally people would come and try and slay the worm but didn’t survive and the worm continued.


John Lambton returned from the crusades a battle hardened knight. When he heard of the worm he devised plan to kill the beast. He went to the wise woman who lived in Brugeford to gain her advice. She told him that the plight of the village was his fault and that it was his duty to remedy the situation: “You and you alone can kill the worm, go to the blacksmith, and have a suit of armour wrought with razor sharp spear heads studded throughout its surface. Then go to the worm's rock and await its arrival. But mark my words well, if you slay the beast you must put to death the first thing that crosses your path as you pass the threshold of Lambton Hall. If you do not do this then three times three generations of Lambtons will not die in their beds.” John swore an oath to uphold this. He then went to the local blacksmith and had him forge a suit of armour embedded in double-edged spikes.


The next day he engaged in battle with the worm in the river. Every time the dragon tried to embrace him it cut itself to ribbons on the spikes, so that pieces of its flesh were sliced off and floated down the river on a crimson tide. Eventually the worm grew so weak that he could despatch it with one heavy sword blow to its head.


He then let out three blasts on his bugle to tell of his victory, and as a signal for the servants to release his favourite hound from the house to complete his vow. Unfortunately the servants forgot in the commotion and joy, and as John passed over the threshold of the hall his father rushed out to greet him. Dismayed John blew another blast on his horn and the servants released the hound, which John killed with one sweeping blow from his sword. But it was too late, the vow was broken and for generations after none of the Lambtons died in their beds. It is said that the last one died while crossing over Brugeford Bridge over a hundred and forty years ago.


Songs and poems about the worm live on. There are two hills one called Worm Hill and another called Penshaw Hill both supposed to be the worm’s home. Penshaw Hill as markings around it which from a distance could be where a large worm curled but are more likely to be man made as at one time it was a fort.The tale of course could have been written as a moral story about what happens if you don't go to church on a Sunday.....a large worm eats your neighbourhood!


What I find so interesting about the story is the description could be any water cryptid, serpentine and black, reaching enormous size. Could there have been some truth in the story and a cryptid was living in the River Wear at one time? Just a thought.


EDITOR'S NOTE: Probably inspired by the fact I'm not very well today, and feeling sorry for myself, but these days I would assume that very few people die in their beds - at least not in their own beds. Most people die in hospital I would assume...

CFZ PEOPLE: Gavin Lloyd Wilson

I just want to take a few minutes to thank one of the most important members of the bloggo team, and one so secure in his anonymity that the only picture we have of him is him collecting his Golden Baboon award from me at the 2009 Weird Weekend, and even that doesn't show his face.

I suppose I could pinch something off facebook, but it goes against the grain to steal pictures from the bloke you are paying tribute to.

So, Gavin, I just wanted to publicly say thank you for everything you do. Every day, rain or shine, you do the blog news pages, and all you get in return are some stupid puns from Oliver. Thank you, mate; we really appreciate all you do....

MUIRHEAD'S INVOCATORY POWERS: Gull Strangeness, and Great Sadness

Something that I have noticed over the past fifteen years of being a Fortean publisher and writer is that (without trying to paraphrase Richard Hell and the Voidoids too badly) weird stuff comes in spates. This has been documented elsewhere, and such occurrences are often known as `Flaps`. However, something else that I have noticed is that for some reason completely unknown to me the mere creative act of writing an article about a certain subject can appear to provoke or perhaps invoke similar happenings across the globe.

Yesterday we published part one of a bloggopost by our old pal Richard Muirhead called Birds Behaving Badly - Beware!

No sooner had we done so but stories echoing two of the most peculiar aspects of Richard's article came into my email inbox:

Magpie funerals

Giant seagull appears behind newsreader


Coincidence? Probably not. Its all part of The Case. We are posting part two this morning and it will be interesting to see what happens.

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday’s News Today


http://cryptozoologynews.blogspot.com/

It’s time for the daily cryptozoology and animal news update. The bad news is that it’s followed as ever by a stale pun:

White lion cubs at West Midlands Safari Park

Birds learn songs from eggs factor

Amateur photographer captures rare damselfly in his back garden

Tarantula grounds UK flight

New moon rising: return of the werewolf

'Giant' orb web spider discovered

Eagles filmed hunting reindeer

Wildlife and Parks confirms sighting of mountain lion in Kansas

Hmm, the evidence is certainly ‘mountain’ up….