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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

MUIRHEAD`S MYSTERIES: BIG BAD BIRDS AND A SMALLER DUCK

I thought I`d concentrate on birds today, for some reason. No, my house hasn`t been attacked by starlings overnight, but it could have been!

The first report is from 1966, from a Salt Lake City newspaper the Desert News of July 18th 1966:

'But Would You Believe Batman?

A huge bird hovering over the east bench area sent residents scurrying for binoculars, dark glasses and
hats Monday.

Most residents agreed that it could be an eagle, but it may have been Batman.

C. L. Fairbanks, 817 Logan, saw the bird and it was “about as big as a Piper Cub airplane.” It didn`t have a motor and had retractable landing gear.

It disappeared eastward after a few moments of circling the area.'
(1)

Now something from the late 1970s:

'There are big birds…and then there are BIG BIRDS.The former category includes condors and storks and others with wingspreads ranging up to 10 feet, which are sometimes seen far from their usual haunts. The latter are something sufficiently different to be considered Fortean, at least until a more precise term can be applied with assurance.

The latest spurt of Big Bird reports has come from exotic Central Illinois, where one appears to have tried to carry off a 10-year-old, 70 – pound boy.The newspaper reports were immediately followed by the the expected flurry of “explanations”, none of which accounted for the observed phenomenon.

On the evening of July 25,1977, according to wire service stories, Mrs. Ruth Lowe, of Lawndale, Ill. (35 miles south-east of Peoria) was cleaning the family camper when she heard a scream. Upon running to the back yard, she saw her son, Marlon, fighting with a huge bird that had lifted him two feet off the ground.

The Big Bird dropped the boy, was joined by another of its kind, and the two flew off in the direction of Kickapoo Creek. Mrs. Lowe described the birds as looking like condors, primarily black, but with white rings around their necks. She estimated their wingspans at eight feet. Mrs.Lowe`s husband, Jake, and neighbors James and Betty Daniels ran to the yard in time to see the birds.
(Ed of INFO Note:……..One theory that the California forest fires may have driven a few birds east may have some merit).

Mr Daniels told UPI, “If I had just had a can of beer earlier, then I could have said I imagined I saw it. But I didn`t have any beer that day.” Mrs.Lowe delayed reporting the incident the to the police for a day,fearing they wouldn`t believe her. “I thought if I did tell the police, they`ll think I`m crazy, and they did.”

Logan County Conservation Officer A. A. Mervar guessed the four adults saw turkey or king vultures, though neither is remotely capable of picking up a 70-pound child. A spokesman for the Brookfield, Ill., Zoo said an African stork escaped from custody on July 31 and was one of six received from Kenya in mid July, but it was still in the zoo on July 25. Also, upon escaping July 31 it flew 60 (or 80?) north, while Lawndale is 130 miles to the south.'
(2)

(Hall has much more information on this particular big bird attack:

'Following his release from the bird`s talons, Marlon Lowe ran into the camper in the Lowe driveway and wouldn`t come out for a long while.Reportedly he wasn`t even scratched from the experience. His shirt was frayed but not torn. His mother reported that afterwards he spent a restless night trying to sleep.”He kept fighting those birds all night long.” she said' (3)

The next one and a half pages are made up of similar big bird reports.

On June 7th 1996 a gentleman told me about a report of a large bird “about the size of an eagle. Brownish with other markings and ragged wings”. This was at Orcheston, Wiltshire, about 15 miles N.N.W. of Salisbury. (4)

On October 6th 1999 I retrieved an e-mail off cz@onelist.com from a M. Wren to the group which ran as follows:

'While checking old animal prints from the 1800s that are up for auction, I`ve run across a duck called “The Longtailed or Northern Harled”, it looks very much like a hybrid between the extinct Labrador duck (coloring) and the North American pintail (body and feather formation). Is any one on the loop familiar with birds and especially ducks? I`m not as sure of birds as I am with mammals and I don`t know if this is an unusual duck or not.

A copy of the image can be send (sic) to any one interested in this one.

Tanks! (sic)
Wren'
(5)

Finally, back to another big bird report, this time from Alaska in 2002:

'It may be a bird. It almost certainly isn`t a plane. All that is known for sure is that several people have reported seeing an enormous creature with a 4-metre wingspan flying over south-west Alaska in recent days. Those who saw it are urging children to stay in doors.” At first I thought it was one of those old-time Otter planes,” Moses Coupchiak, 43, from Togiak, 400 miles from Anchorage, told the Anchorage Daily News…John Bouker said he saw “the bird” shortly afterwards about 300 metres away from the plane he was flying. “The people in the plane saw him. He`s huge. He`s huge. He`s really, really big.” he said. “You wouldn`t want to have your children out.” Phil Schemf, a federal specialist in the Alaskan capital, Juneau, told the News he was sceptical.” I`m certainly not aware of anything with a 14ft wingspan that`s been alive for the past 100,000 years…”' (6)

1. Desert News July 18th 1966. Richard Muirhead`s collection and M.Hall Thunderbirds America`s Living Legends of Giant Birds (2004) p.73
2. D.Berliner Big Birds. INFO Journal. Vol.6 no.3 Sept/Oct. 1977
3. M.Hall op cit. pp15-16
4. R.Muirhead notes.
5. E-mail from M.Wren to cz@onelist.com October 6th 1999
6. O.Burkeman First it was bigfoot,now it`s big bird. The Guardian October 19th 2002

The B52s Rock Lobster

We were at a party
His ear lobe fell in the deep
Someone reached in and grabbed it
It was a rock lobster!

Rock Lobster!!!

Rock Lobster!!!

We were at the beach
Everybody had matching towels
Somebody went under a dock
And there they saw a rock
It wasn`t a rock
It was a rock lobster!

1 comment:

shiva said...

Interesting that the Lawndale birds were only reported as having a wingspan of 8 feet - that's actually well within the range of known raptors such as the Bald and Golden eagles, and considerably exceeded by the Steller's eagle, the Lammergeier, several Old World vultures and, of course, both species of condor (with the Californian condor reaching 10 feet). Combined with their behaviour (attempting to carry large prey), that makes them seem more likely to be some sort of eagle or Old World vulture than a condor or New World vulture to me, as the Cathartidae have very weak talons which are not at all suited to carrying anything, whereas several species of Eurasian eagle and the Lammergeier (which are all, along with hawks, kites and Old World vultures, in the Accipitridae) are well-known for carrying heavy objects (and in some cases attempting to carry prey items far too big for them to sustain level flight while carrying).

I remember there being suggestions that the 2002 Alaskan "big bird" was an out-of-place Steller's eagle, which is fairly plausible as they are found just the other side of the Bering strait, and it isn't inconceivable that they could even breed in Alaska if a breeding pair strayed off course slightly.

As for the duck, it sounds like this to me: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Long-tailed-duck.jpg