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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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

OLL LEWIS: The Birds

In 1952 Daphne du Maurier wrote a novelette called The Birds’about when birds decide that they’ve had quite enough of people and attack them en mass in a Cornish coastal town. The story was later adapted into a fantastic film by Alfred Hitchcock and is probably hovering near the top of some studio executives pile of films to make disappointing remakes of.

The first act of the film partially concerns an unusually large build up of birds in one small town, before the attacks begin. An observant person in Woolsery might have noticed a similar thing happening around the CFZ HQ in recent weeks, and I offer my sincere apologies in advance to the citizens of the village in advance should they start getting dive-bombed by swarms of blue tits.

The reason for this unnervingly large conglomeration of avians is that during the recent snows we felt sorry for our feathered friends and started to feed them a few little morsels to help them through the worst of the weather while they would be finding it difficult to forage for food. Naturally hand-outs of seeds, fat and bacon rind proved a hit with the local birds and despite the lack of Art Deco architecture ‘Le Cottage Myrtle’ became the in-place to be seen for sophisticated ‘Flappers’.

Because this small amount of food had attracted a nice selection of different species of birds it was then decided that we should put up bird feeders on a permanent basis, so we placed four large feeders hanging from the trees around the gardens. This was when all hell broke loose, as it were. Each week we are getting through two kilos of birdseed to feed our ever-growing list of garden visitors. I’m quite proud of the number of different species we’re attracting to the garden and the amounts: we have over 30 individuals of some of the smaller species that visit the garden.

At present (this week) our garden visitors appear to be:

-Blue tits (Cyanistes caeruleus obscurus)
-Willow tits (Poecile montanus)
-House sparrows (Passer domesticus)
-European Starlings (Sturnus vulgaris vulgaris)
-Chiffchaffs (Phylloscopus collybita)
-Bramblings (Fringilla montifringilla)

-Robins (Erithacus rubecula)
-Blackbirds (Turdus merula)
-Turtle doves (Streptopelia turtur)
-Jackdaws (Corvus monedula)
-Tree creepers (Certhia familiaris)

None of the birds I’ve spotted in the garden since we started feeding have been especially rare, but some species that are visiting the CFZ grounds are getting rarer. Between 1980 and 2005 numbers of turtle doves declined by 62% and numbers of willow tits declined by 58% so by getting our garden birds through the winter we’ve done our small bit to help these species.


Russ.G.H. said...

Hi, love the site. Just a quick question, are you sure that you have Turtle Doves and not the more common resident Collard Dove visiting your garden. Most 'Turtles' should be enjoying the winter in Africa.

Syd said...

As Russ suggests, I think you may have a slight mis-identification here. What you are seeing is most likely our resident collared doves.
Turtle Doves are not resident British birds and only come here in the summer (April to September) to breed and even during that time, the North Devon/Somerset border is at the very extreme western edge of their territory so it is highly unlikely (though not totally impossible) that you would see them in Woolsery even then and certainly not in mid-winter.
They over winter in the warmer climes of North Africa. Or at least those do, who manage to avoid the guns of the lunatic Maltese sportsmen ??? during their spring and autumn migrations. flights.

Oll Lewis said...

Unusual though it is to see a turtle dove at this time of the year they were definitely turtle doves, however since I wrote this article there has been a collared dove starting to visit the garden too and he does look rather different to the pair of turtle doves.

I've not seen the turtles since I came back from Plymouth, but I'm hoping that they'll be back so I can film and photograph them to prove that they're here. A lot of the birds have been scared off lately by the large numbers of starlings that are mobbing the feeders, so far this week I've only managed to get film of the Starlings, willow tits and the afore mentioned collared dove as a result.