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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

GLEN VAUDREY: If you don’t look you are unlikely to find

I was wondering the other morning why there seems not to have been that many sightings of big cats reported in the countryside, that is considering the potential numbers of animals reportedly living in the UK that have been suggested by some people. But does this lack of sightings prove that there aren’t really that many mystery moggies lucking in the fields of this green and pleasant land?

To be honest I have no idea or really any great opinion on the subject of ABCs. I know people who have sighted them and I am sure that they have indeed seen what they say they have seen. I know a few people who have been out at all hours of the day searching for proof of them and I commend their effort and wish them every success in their endeavour. I am sure that one day they will have the proof of existence that is needed.

However what actually struck me was how little of nature is actually sighted. I was talking to a few colleagues a couple of mornings back on the subjects of fox sightings and it turned out that actually none of them had ever seen a fox.. Now the area covered is largely rural with a few large industrial towns scattered about and so on the surface appears to be suitable for such sightings to occur. I know first hand from sightings that there are indeed plenty of foxes in the area.

It appears that the reason for the lack of sightings comes from the fact that if you’re in your car you are tied to the road and with that you isolating yourself from the surrounds. Who knows what lies in the next field beyond the hedgerows? It could be a fox it could even be a big cat but until you stop to look you will never know for certain.


Dale Drinnon said...

Personally, I do not own a car and I always travel on foot. And by preference I like to travel by shady woody lanes. As a result I see about a thousand times more bird and animal life than any of my neighbours. I can even observe things about birds and animals a block up or down the street and tell a bystander about it, and it will have missed them entirely ("That orange tabby cat 200 yards to the South just paused twice while crossing the street and was staring right in this direction" I knew you were coming before I could make out who you were because the birds on that end of the street had stopped singing" and so on)

It's amazing to me that we can have such a thing as Canada Geese flying some little distance away below the treeline but honking noisily, and my neighbours will miss it. It's amazing to me that my neighbours do not discern the passage of individual dogs from their tracks they leave in the yard ("Only one dog around here leaves tracks THAT big"-in this case, a big black junkyard guard dog that occasionally gets out of his junkyard and runs around loose. Yes, I finally found out where those monstrously-large dog tracks are coming from)

Dr Dan Holdsworth said...

Well, if you want to see the countryside and see wildlife, ride a mountainbike. Bikes like this are almost silent, remarkably fast-moving (I reckon on 8 mph as a rough-track average), and most wildlife doesn't seem to think that a person on a bike is human. So, you can cycle along and most animals don't see a human and completely ignore you; stop and put your feet down and hey presto, there's one of those scary human things there and the wildlife then scatters.

Car drivers, by contrast, have tunnel vision. Whilst driving a car, I'm mostly concentrating on the front view of the road, and to a much lesser extent checking behind. I can't see up, and unless something catches my eye I'm not going to look to the side at all. This is why nighthawking metal detector use is so prevalent these days; as long as the nighthawk doesn't show a white light or step near to a road then they're most unlikely to get spotted unless someone is explicitly looking.

Recently this has changed somewhat, with the advent of cheap digital night vision devices. The first few were Sony camcorders, but outfits like GB Sights and lately the Yukon night vision company have changed all that. Yukon Digital Ranger scopes are very capable digital night vision devices that rely on sensitive cameras and high output long infrared diodes. Finally, around last Christmas, Lidl did a special offer selling a Bresser variant of a digital NV unit; lower quality than the Yukon device but for £100 not many will argue (least of all myself; very effective this scope is too).

These devices are only going to get better over time as military technology and CCTV technology improves, miniaturises and consolidates. The CCTV option is one I'm planning on exploring at some point, as soon as I can lay hands on a sensitive board camera, a mini Linux computer-on-a-chip system and suitable illumination and bait. I already use a similar system to monitor home CCTV cameras; scaling such a thing down would be an interesting challenge, but would let me monitor a location for the presence or absence of cryptids.

Neil A said...

Glen, I tend to disagree especially as you say, you aren't that intereste in 'big cat' sightings. Hundreds of reports reach researchers, police, newspapers, etc, every year. Naturally, some of these are misidentification - I've spoken to hundreds of people at lectures who have stated that they've never seen a badger, or a deer - a lot of people are very naive to the amount of woodlands and wildlife around us, despite development.

There are also many 'researchers' who've never seen anything. Much of it is right place right time, or pure luck and patience. Like any other animal animal, a large, exotic cat such as a puma would have territory, and an area it combs, in turn returning to the same areas time and time again.

However, despite all the reports (and goodness knows how many unreported) of 'big cats', there aren't thousands of animals out there, and certainly not hundreds, but it is a fact that more than a handful were certainly released across London, Surrey, Kent, and Sussex in the '60s and '70s, and animals were released prior to then and since then. The main problem is, we are dealing with extremely elusive animals and only a handful of individuals are actually out there looking, studying other wildlife, habitat, etc.This in turn makes looking for a large cat akin to searching for a needle in a haystack, and most people either give up after ten minutes.

The general public on the whole appears interested, but hasn't a clue about it's own wildlife before it can start searching for 'big cats'.

ricardo said...

This is one of the reasons why I thik it's just possible that creatures like Bigfoot might opossibly exist - bacause so feew people are actually putting themselves in a position where thay are ever likely to sight these things.

Personally, I had not seen any snakes in the UK until about 4 years ago, then I started doing research on the Internet and joined a Herpetology Group. I started to see snakes and keep records of my sightings - last year I saw over a hundred snakes, including a few in Central London. It really helps if you have know your quarry and go armed with a little local knowledsge.

I'm surprised your colleagues have never spotted a fox. I must have seen at least 4 this month in London without really trying, including a fox cub that walked through my French Doors at work and another that made a dramatic kill of a Canada Goose on Isleworth Ait. Are your mates partially sighted?