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, January 24, 2012

WATCHER OF THE SKIES: Shrikes and Sparrows

As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time, Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... about out of place birds, rare vagrants, and basically all things feathery and fortean.

Because we live in strange times, there are more and more bird stories that come her way, so she has now moved onto the main CFZ bloggo with a new column with the same name as her aforementioned ones...

Tree sparrow numbers get a boost in Cumbria
Tree sparrows (Passer montanus) have suffered a massive decline over the past few years.

Their numbers have dropped by over 90% over the last four decades, but farmers in Cumbria have been playing a part in a conservation project to help them. Called Operation Tree Sparrow, the scheme was set up by the RSPB and involved the erection of over a thousand nestboxes and hundreds of feeding stations on 85 farms in Cumbria, Lancashire, Greater Manchester, Cheshire and Merseyside.

Eden farmer Richard Fisher, of Southwaite, said: “I’ve noticed increases in tree sparrows in areas around the nestboxes and areas of wild bird cover, which are a part of my Entry Level Stewardship and Countryside Stewardship schemes.

“These schemes are beneficial to birds and other wildlife and provide good financial incentives for farmers as well.”

You can find out more at:

http://www.thewestmorlandgazette.co.uk/news/farm_and_country/9475762.Cumbria_farmers_give_sparrows_a_boost/ Picture from Wikipedia.

A thorny subject as the butcher bird returns
Out there in the hedgerows of north Wales and deep in Clocaenog forest, mice and small mammals are on high alert. Why? Because the bird with the violent feeding habits has been spotted patrolling the skies. The great grey shrike (Lanius excubitor) or butcher bird as it is also known, is back. It is a rare winter visitor to the UK, but can be spotted perched on the tops of small conifers in Clocaenog forest.
It resembles a small magpie and according to Wikipedia: “The scientific name of the Great Grey Shrike literally means "sentinel butcher": Lanius is the Latin term for a butcher, while excubitor is Latin for a watchman or sentinel. This refers to the birds' two most conspicuous behaviours – storing food animals by impaling them on thorns, and using exposed tree-tops or poles to watch the surrounding area for possible prey.” Its usual prey includes wrens, mice and other small mammals which stores as described above. It breeds in northern Europe and Russia, moving south to central and southern Europe and Britain to spend the winter.
Read more information at:


Picture from Wikipedia.

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