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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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

OLL LEWIS: Phrustrations and Phun Phinding Pheasants

Oll Lewis, the Welsh dude who lives in my spare bedroom, who also happens to be the CFZ ecologist, and Richard's assistant as far as looking after the CFZ menagerie is concerned, is rapidly becoming one of the most popular bloggers on the network.

Since I joined the CFZ I have been given many missions to carry out, but as it turned out none were quite as frustrating as my latest one. On the face of it the job of locating two pheasants suitable for the CFZ aviary seemed like a simple task. How hard can it be, I mused, to ring up a breeder to get a list of what they have in stock ask about any possible discounts relating to the fact we are a not for profit organization and present said list to Jon for his perusal before we hop into the CFZ mobile to select our pair. As it turns out incredibly hard, what I thought would be a short easy task has taken up a large portion of yesterday and is still ongoing as I write this blog.

The first stumbling block I came across was in dealing with a certain pheasant conservation society. They had, according to Jon, assured Emma that they would be sending us a list of local pheasant breeders in Devon and buoyed by this Jon had paid around £30 to join them and gain access to their private internet forum which was supposed to be a hotbed of pheasant/conservation activity. A few days later we had heard nothing from them so as the curtain raiser to my pheasanty quest I was to contact them and remind them about their earlier dealings with us to get them to send off a list to us as they had promised. No such luck. When I telephoned them the phone was answered by a most befuddled sounding lady, who denied point blank having ever heard of us or even being aware that anyone had paid any money to join their organisation. One example of how frustrating this conversation was when I introduced myself as ‘Oliver Lewis from the Centre for Fortean Zoology’ and she insisted that she didn’t have anyone by that name there, and another was when she asked her colleagues if they had received any phone calls from the zoology department of Aberdeen! Well this was all starting to get stupid, I know for a fact that I don’t have a strong accent, there have been times when English people have even been surprised to find out I was even Welsh, so clearly something was up with her phone line at the very least. Eventually, god only knows how, I got her to promise that she would check the records to find the record that we had paid for membership and send off an email with our username and password and the list of local pheasant breeders.

In the meantime Jon had acquired the phone number of a nice chap called Alan who breeds the pheasant species we most wanted, Temminck’s Tragopans, so I called him. Pheasant Alan, not to be confused with our friend and local publican Alan Lindsey who owns the local pub and comes into this narrative later, was very interested in what we were planning and even offered us a discount on a pair of Tragopans. There was a slight problem with this though; the birds hadn’t hatched yet and would be ready in November. This was certainly a setback as we needed to get the pheasants as soon as possible, not only so that visitors to the Weird Weekend (remember, buy tickets in advance to save money) will be able to see them but so we can make absolutely sure that the pheasants are used to Woolsery’s changeable weather before autumn and winter arrive.

While I was reporting this to Jon he received an email from the afore-mentioned conservation society with our log-in details and the list of local breeders. Except it didn’t have a list of local breeders at all, only the suggestion that the quickest way to obtain this information was to make a post on their forum. The trouble with this was that the forum there moves at a snail’s pace and would appear to only have 3 members. So their lofty promise of a list of breeders was a bit of a damp squib and it was up to me to scour the internet and yell.com to find pheasant breeders.

Finding pheasant breeders on google is not the easy task it might seem; you have to wade through hundreds of pages of details of pheasant shoots and some stuff which to be completely honest you can’t work out what possible connection it could have with pheasants at all. For example, to the best of my knowledge, Rasputin had no interest in the breeding and rearing of pheasants and although Tron is a fantastic movie I don’t recall a light cycle race between two pheasants (be great if that appears in the sequel though). Anyway, eventually I managed to track down a few breeders and started to phone them up to find out their prices. However, many of them refused to answer their phones, had I only tried to phone at lunch time or after 5pm I might have been able to understand this but one breeder I’ve been trying to contact since yesterday to no avail. Another problem that came up was that most breeders only have pheasants available from the autumn, this was the case with one breeder in Somerset that Max found for us. The fellow’s advert stated that he had grouse available, however this turned out to be a (ho-ho) grouse exaggeration as the man insisted he didn’t have anything available and didn’t sell grouse anyway, despite what the advert said.

Another ‘highlight’ of the day included me telephoning a Welsh language school in Cardiff that presumably some rapscallions that were being taught there had posted onto the internet as being the phone number of a pheasant breeder. I managed to get in contact with one pheasant breeder that did have some interesting birds available there and then but when I tried to call back I just couldn’t get hold of them.

However, 6pm came and it was time to nip up to our local pub, The Farmer’s Arms, to feed special pellets to some of the fish we have housed there and perform water tests. It was there I started relating my tale of pheasant related woe to the landlord Alan Lindsey. To which Alan responded:

“There’s a fellow that comes in here, that’s the biggest pheasant breeder around for miles, he’s got hundreds of them. I’ll pass your email on to them if you like.”

So, after all that it might turn out that we get pheasants from just up the road. Stay tuned for future updates on the search and please send us an email if you know any pheasant dealers.

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