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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In between each episode of OTT, we now present OTTXtra. Here are three episodes pretty much at random:


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Friday, September 02, 2011

ANDREW MAY: Words from the Wild Frontier

From Nick Redfern's "There's Something in the Woods...":
Terror in the Skies
Polling for Monsters

From CFZ Australia:
Saving wildlife a full-time job in Australia
Richard Freeman at the Weird Weekend 2011
Thylacines at dog shows - what next?
Adam Davies at the Weird Weekend 2011
From the archives: A Venerable Cockatoo (1916)
Thylacine exonerated - jaws couldn't kill sheep
Max Blake & Darren Naish at the Weird Weekend 2011
Glen Vaudrey at the Weird Weekend 2011
Mystery animal puzzles Diamond Valley residents

From CFZ Canada:
Monsters don’t live in your closet. They live in your backyard.

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Invasive Pythons in the United States Ecology of an Introduced Predator
Michael E. Dorcas and John D. Willson
Foreword by Whit Gibbons

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-Rick Shine, University of Sydney

"This meticulously researched and profusely illustrated work shines a spotlight on the dangers caused by introduction of non-native pythons into South Florida while providing a comprehensive account of what we know about the ecology of Burmese pythons, both in the United States and in their native range. This book will be of considerable interest to a wide range of readers including scholars, researchers, outdoors people, wildlife enthusiasts, and those concerned about the environmental and human threats posed by this invasive species in the United States."
-Russell A. Mittermeier, President, Conservation International, and Vice President, IUCN

"Michael E. Dorcas and John D. Willson provide a much-needed examination of the growing impact of Burmese pythons as an invasive species in the United States. By highlighting the many dangers and detrimental effects the introduction of non-native pythons has caused in the Everglades, this book documents the mounting threat which invasives pose to ecosystems everywhere. The first book to focus solely on this issue, Invasive Pythons is well-researched, well-illustrated, and well-timed."
-Edward O. Wilson, University Research Professor, Harvard University


Most people think of pythons as giant snakes in distant tropical jungles, but Burmese pythons, which can reach lengths of over twenty feet and weigh over two hundred pounds, are now thriving in southern Florida.

These natives of Asia are commonly kept as pets and presumably escaped or were released in the Everglades. Pythons are now common in this region; widespread throughout hundreds of square miles, they are breeding and appear to be expanding their range. Pythons are voracious predators that feed on a variety of native wildlife including wading birds, bobcats, white-tailed deer, and even alligators. Their presence has drawn dramatic media attention and stoked fears among the public that pythons may threaten not just native species but humans as well.

Despite this widespread concern, information on pythons has been limited to a few scientific publications and news coverage that varies widely in fact and accuracy. With Invasive Pythons in the United States, Michael E. Dorcas and John D. Willson provide the most reliable, up-to-date, and scientifically grounded information on invasive pythons. Filled with over two hundred color photographs and fifteen figures and maps, the book will help general readers and the scientific community better understand these fascinating animals and their troubling presence in the United States.
Features information on general python biology,
Biology of Burmese pythons in their native range
Research on pythons in the United States history
Status of introduced pythons in Florida,
Risks pythons pose in Florida and elsewhere
Methods to control python populations
boas and pythons that may become or are already established in the United States




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West Country nature reserves lead remarkable recovery with a quarter of national ‘boomers’

Britain’s loudest bird, once extinct in the UK, has enjoyed its best year since records began, says a new survey by the RSPB and Natural England. The bittern –a threatened relative of the more familiar grey heron – is bouncing back, following intensive conservation efforts, which has seen its population rise over the last 15 years from 11 males in 1997 to 104 this year. And a quarter of these rare birds were recorded in Somerset, the most successful year in the county since it first bred in 2008, following an absence of forty years.

Bitterns are highly secretive wetland birds and live most of their time within dense stands of reed, making them very difficult to count. However, the males have an amazing ‘beatbox’ ability, where they fill their gullets with air which they release to make a booming ‘song’ which can be heard several kilometers away, enabling scientists to determine the bird’s population.

This summer, researchers found evidence of at least 25 ‘singing’ or ‘booming’ males in the Avalon Marshes to the west of Glastonbury, 11 more than in 2010, and 18 more than in 2009. The Avalon Marshes include the RSPB’s Ham Wall and Natural England’s Shapwick Heath National Nature Reserves..

Steve Hughes, RSPB Site Manager at Ham Wall, said: “It’s been an unbelievably good year, and reflects the years of hard work with our partners and supporters. The growth of the Somerset bittern population is vital if we are to secure a long term future for this bird in the UK. It’s a big step forward for nature conservation.”

The bittern has had a rollercoaster history in Britain, as the bird was extinct as a nesting species between 1886 and when it recolonised the Norfolk Broads in 1911. The bird’s population rose once more until the 1950s when another decline brought the population to a recent low in 1997.

Natural Environment Minister Richard Benyon said: “To see a species that was once extinct in the UK rise to a population of over one hundred is a real achievement. This is largely down to the work of the RSPB and Natural England, and shows what can be achieved if we work together. This partnership work is vital as we work to meet the commitments set out in the Natural Environment White Paper and the England Biodiversity Strategy.”

Martin Harper is the RSPB’s Conservation Director. He said: “To lose the bittern once in Britain was regrettable, but to have lost it twice would have been unforgiveable. Concern for the bittern in the 1990s led to an intensive species-recovery programme, with research and habitat improvement and creation playing major roles. Focussed work on bitterns has led to great gains for reedbeds and all the wildlife associated with this priority habitat.

“This species-led approach to bittern conservation has been vital for the recovery of the bird in England. We look forward to seeing an extension to this approach for other threatened species as a central theme in the England Biodiversity Strategy delivery plan.”

Seventeen out of every 20 English booming bitterns (85%) were recorded on nature reserves and overall almost two thirds (65%) of booming bitterns in 2011 were recorded on Sites of Special Scientific Interest.

The bittern still faces several threats, including sea level rise, where freshwater sites along the coast could be inundated by saltwater, which is why the success of the Somerset population is so important. Additionally, a potential issue is the need for sites suitable for nesting bitterns to receive on-going management.

Dr Pete Brotherton, Natural England’s Head of Biodiversity said: "The bittern’s recovery is a great conservation achievement and shows what can be done when government, conservationists and landowners work together. This is an encouraging sign that we can restore and improve our wetland habitats, which bring vital benefits to both people and wildlife."

The number of booming males recorded in the top five counties during the 2011 survey is highlighted below (The figures in brackets refer to the figures in 1997): Suffolk 33 (4); Somerset 25 (1); Norfolk 23 (3); Cambridgeshire 7 (0); Lincolnshire 4 (0).

The survey also recorded the number of nesting bitterns. A minimum of 63 nest have been confirmed in England at 26 sites, compared to the low point of six nests at four sites in 1996. With 21 confirmed nests, Suffolk was also the best county for nesting bitterns in 2011. Somerset was second with 19 confirmed nests and Norfolk was third with 11 confirmed nests.

Since the mid 1990s the European Commission has provided EU LIFE funding for two bittern conservation projects to create new reedbeds or manage existing ones. Of the 63 nesting bitterns, 37 were recorded on sites included within these projects.

The bittern monitoring programme is jointly funded by the RSPB and Natural England, through the Action for Birds in England programme.



OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's News Today


On this day in 1787 Paul 'Bus Stop' Fitch Jr designed the world's largest set of nested tables by adding a fourth table to encompass the existing three. It is not known if he secured the financial backing to physically construct any of his patented diagrams but the Science Museum in London made a replica of the 4 nest table out of string, plasticine and concrete and proved that it could, in theory, have worked. Fitch is well known for his inventive foresight having invented the bus stop long before the bus existed. Wells borough council bought 10,000 of the stops but sadly only 4 were ever made after supply issues forced Fitch to make them out of discarded elastic bands. Fitch was executed soon after the construction of the 4th bus stop when he was caught following a postman to collect up any elastic bands he dropped, which was at the time a capital offence.

And now the news:

Taxidermist creates animal hybrids in New Zealand
What A Zoo: Five Caiman Crocodiles Among Critters ...
Tasmanian tiger's jaws were too weak to kill sheep...
African Golden Cat: Rare Footage Of Animal Recorde...
Deep-sea mussels are living hydrogen fuel cells
Bigfoot in Banff?
Woman, 90, savaged by alligator
Black leopard reportedly sighted again in Ohio

Like Peter Lorre contemplating a crime:

DALE DRINNON: Tarantulas and Atlantis

Three new postings for the second of the month:

A news story just posted at the Frontiers of Zoology group just made it onto the blog:

I have finally decided to go ahead and run the English translation of Gunther Bischoff's comments on the Northern Atlantis theory of Jurgen Spanuth:

(even though it is not especially polished, it is mostly readable)
And I have posted a note on my own views, comments and amendments on Bischoff's articles in an appended note of my own, just to make my stance on the subject clear:

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MAX BLAKE: Swarming ants

I was reading the local paper and came across this note about a major story printed 50 years ago (1.09.1961):

'Residents of parts of Blagdon were shocked on Sunday to be suddenly infested by a plague of large flying ants.

The ants became thicker in the afternoon, when, for a time, even the strong sun was obscured. Householders who had been outside rushed indoors and fastened windows and doors. One resident described the scene as 'terrific'. Nothing like this had been seen in the village before.'

Just another instance of swarming insects!


This seems appropriate:

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