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, March 07, 2012

JON'S JOURNAL: Breeding blackbirds

Since the departure of Helios 7 with Oll last October, the songbird population of the garden seem to be a little more relaxed. There are a pair of thrushes nesting in the yew tree outside my study window, and the first pair of blackbirds (there were three pairs last year) have started doing what comes naturally.

Here, a diligent female blackbird collects moss from the lawn for nesting materials. I think my grandmother (who first laid the lawn) must be rolling in her grave at the thought that there is moss on the lawn, but it is hardly avoidable with the siggy summer s we have had for the past five years.

JON'S JOURNAL: The Garden Game

Spring has definitely sprung, and Graham has been busy in the garden.

First of all, he has been putting our new chainsaw to good use, and preparing some firewood for next winter. It all looks uncharacteristically neat and tidy.

Those of you who have been to the CFZ in the last few years will remember thnat at the 2007 Weird Weekend cocktail party irreparable damage was done to a chunk of the lawn underneath the old spreading beech trees in the middle of the grounds.

We have tried to replant the lawn with differing degrees of success: we tried re-seeding, re turfing, and even translocating chunks of turf from elsewhere in the garden, but nothing worked for more than a few months.

So, we have finally given in to the inevitable, and Graham has created a rather swish new flower bed...

Looking at that picture here I rather think that the handsome fellow on the left has lost some weight. After being on this very stringent diet since the beginning of December I bloody better have!

BIG CAT NEWS: Another one from Scotland, courtesy of Nigel Wright

This afternoon Nigel Wright, an old friend of us all, wrote to me:

Hi Mate!...

I have just got this in, thought you might be very intrested in the desription given of the cat!..I cant regonise what it could be?...here is the local newspaper link, from northg Scotland....


The animal was described as:

"I haven’t seen it for a while but it’s about the size of a collie and has a big bushy tail and the zig zag stripe patterns I would associate with a wildcat"

Thanks for that Nigel. What do you guys think?

BIG CAT NEWS: More on the Smallthorne Beast

I received another letter from the bloke behind the recent reports of The Beast of Smallthorne. He writes:

"Dr Shuker has got an inventive imagination, he starts off with words like 'Spoofed you again' he seems to be using 'suggestion' here, that is how he gets people to doubt from the very start. Then cunningly invent his own false evidence, he says 'the photohas been darkened and tilted very slightly to the left the Cub's head has been changed', This is pure invention, where is he basing this from? was he looking over my shoulder ? and the comment on the eyes of the Cub, common sense shows that Black Leopards have similar eyes".

No changes have been made to this narrative which is exactly as it was received.

Goodness me. I wonder what will happen next.

BIG CAT NEWS: Up the little wooden hills to Dunstable, and a Cornish Cadaver

The hunt for British Big Cats attracts far more newspaper column inches than any other cryptozoological subject.
There are so many of them now that we feel that they should be archived in some way by us, so we should have a go at publishing a regular round-up of the stories as they come in.
It takes a long time to do, and is a fairly tedious task, so I am not promising that they will be done each day, but I will do them as regularly as I can. JD

Is this the beast of Cornwall? Remains of 'big cat' found in pond after ...
Daily Mail
Last year the Environment Agency cleared the pond using electric prods to zap invasive predatory fish like pike in a bid to clear the mystery. Local photographer Paul Williams retrieved the skeleton and brought it to the surface for examination.

Richard Freeman says that these are the remains of a dog, Max (who saw more pictures than Richard) reckons a seal. However, we are waiting for more information and are doing our best to contact the people responsible. The second story of the day, illustrated by the same stock picture of a black panther which is used all the time at the moment, tells the following story:

“I was on my way back from work, and on the Higham Gobion Road, A couple of cars had stopped and I thought that there had been an accident. I got out and saw that everyone was watching this big black animal chasing rabbits around a field, then it crossed the road right in front of us".

Big cat seen near Barton
Luton Today
THE Luton News and its sister paper, The Dunstable Gazette, are being flooded with calls from readers who claim to have seen a big cat on the loose in the Bedfordshire countryside – but we're still waiting for photographic evidence!

HAUNTED SKIES: Times (The) 8.11.65


OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's News Today


On this day in 1618 Kepler discovered the third law of planetary motion (the space observatory in yesterday’s “on this day” was named after him if you’re wondering where you heard him mentioned recently in case that’s bugging you).

And now the news:

Anthropologists’ Work Prompts Republic of Congo to...
Predicting the Spread of Ticks Across Canada
Sloth bear and cubs saved from angry mob
Sawfish snout senses, swipes and stabs
Ant identification boosts blue butterflies
Last of red kites introduced to the Highlands dies...
The buck stops here: Proof that deer and birds liv...
Two hundred ancient woodlands at threat from devel...
River users threatening rare birds
Power plant threat to birds’ beach home
Saving the Kereru, New Zealand’s only native pigeo...
'Britain's biggest fox' killed
Sea Shepherd finds key whaling ship

You can’t stop the motion of the ocean:


WATCHER OF THE SKIES: The rarest visitors, and endangered raptors

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 afore-mentioned ones....

Pirate of the ocean blown off course
A magnificent frigatebird (Fregata magnificens) – also known as the man o’war as well as the pirate of the ocean due to its aerial mobbing for food off other birds - has found itself in the care of Chester Zoo. It is believed that this tropical seabird was disorientated by hurricane activity and pushed towards Britain, where it was found exhausted at a farm in Whitchurch, Shropshire.

"It is an amazing find here in the UK," said Mike Jordan the zoo's curator of birds and mammals. And it is an incredible coincidence that the bird should find its way to us here in Chester Zoo which is a major force in bird conservation," he added.

He said it was ironic that some of its zoo keepers were on tropical islands helping with the breeding of threatened birds.

Spring has sprung
The first osprey sighting for this year in the UK has heralded the arrival of spring. BTO migration blogs noted the arrival of one in Gloucestershire on 28th February, along with news of sand martins returning from wintering in sub-Saharan Africa, and – of course – the cuckoos that are heading back this way.
And according to Butterfly Conservation, January saw brimstone, red admiral, small tortoiseshell, peacock, comma and speckled wood.

Birdkillers are going unpunished – warns former RSPB investigator
According to a former RSPB investigator, birds of prey continued to be killed because Scottish landowners and the police undermine the laws that are meant to protect the birds. Dave Dick quit his job as head investigator for the RSPB in Scotland because he was “sick to the back teeth” of gamekeepers getting away with killing raptors. Based on his 25-year career (he quit in 2006) Mr Dick’s allegations include landowners committing perjury and police tipping off gamekeepers that they were about to pay a visit.

An act of 1981 allows six months in prison or a £5,000 fine for killing a wild bird, but 29 raptors were killed illegally in 2010 alone. Mr. Dick added that “the number of breeding pairs of golden eagles has dwindled to 442 while goshawks are down to 410.”

He said: “I am one of the few people who are willing to stick their heads above the parapet.

“When you try and explain it to people who haven’t been involved they think you’re exaggerating.”

The grouse shooting industry in Scotland alone is worth £240m a year and raptors often kill the game birds.

He has written a book which details how gamekeepers regularly escape prosecution for trapping, shooting or poisoning rare birds, and he claims that in one case a major landowner in the south-west of Scotland lied at the trial of a gamekeeper.

You can read more about this at:

City raptors
Peregrine falcons are noted for being the fastest animal alive, reaching speeds of up to 200 mph when stooping on prey. It is also the most widespread bird of prey; its breeding range includes land from the Arctic tundra to the tropics. Therefore, it may not come as too much of a surprise to find one flying around Nottingham City Centre, and nesting on top of the Newton building. Back in the early 1990s, staff from Nottingham Trent University noticed the birds had taken up residence and in the last five years the site has been successfully used to raise 16 chicks. Whilst last year a webcam was launched to track the birds, this year it is back with improvements: footage is now in HD, there is a roving camera plus the static camera on the nest, plus the addition of a microphone and infrared vision.
Visit the live NTU Falcon webcam
Visit the Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust website

The red kite (Milvus milvus) became extinct in England in 1872, but since the late 1980s and early 1990s it has been reintroduced in various parts of the country. They were once known as scavengers that not only lived off carrion but were also partial to garbage and although King James II of Scotland, in the mid-15th Century, declared they should be “killed wherever possible”, they remained protected for the next 100 years as they kept the streets free of rotting food and carrion.

Shakespeare referred to them in A Winter’s Tale thus: “when the kite builds, look to your lesser linen”, a reference to their preference of stealing smaller items of washing hung out to dry in the nesting season.

In 1999 the Yorkshire Red Kite Project released red kites at Harewood House and it is to be hoped that another city, Leeds, will soon have raptors circling overhead.


Egg collector ASBO

According to the RSPB, Matthew Gonshaw – a serial egg collector From Bow, London – is the first person in England to receive an Asbo for crimes against nature. He was handed the order due to damage he has wreaked on rare birds by taking their eggs.

He was also jailed for six months in December after admitting stealing hundreds of rare birds’ eggs; it was his fourth prison stay for the same crime. His Asbo will last for the maximum 10 year term and bans him from travelling to Scotland during Feb 1 to August 31 (the breeding season). He is also banned from visiting all RSPB and Wildlife Trust land for the same ten-year period.

Mark Thomas, of the RSPB, who was in court to hear the announcement, said: "Matthew Gonshaw has become a serial menace to birds, targeting the eggs of some of our rarest birds, such as avocet, red kite and peregrine falcon. Over decades he has plundered hundreds of birds' nests for a selfish desire to add to his egg collection.

"We're delighted at today's announcement. If Gonshaw breaks the Asbo's terms then he could return to prison for up to five years. Already being the only man in England to be denied the joy of visiting our nature reserves, he must surely realise that it's now time to give it up and leave the birds alone."

The RSPB said that Gonshaw is currently serving his fourth prison sentence for egg collecting and currently holds the record in the UK for the person who has spent the most time in prison for these crimes.

Read on: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ukpress/article/ALeqM5jk9--LzsrBO804ap5CaHZldIFNGg?docId=N0745081330111077643A

North Yorkshire gets rare visitor
A rare bird for the area, a cirl bunting, was spotted by avid birdwatcher David Watkins and his wife at Runswick Bay on 22nd February. The bird, very similar to a yellowhammer, is usually found much further south, on the south Devon coastline. They are European migrant birds, but unfortunately are not very good flyers and this one probably got a lift onboard a boat.

There are just 862 breeding pairs recorded in Britain, but Chris Collett from the RSPB said that one appearing on the Yorkshire coast was not “beyond the realms of possibility”.

He added: “Occasionally birds do creep up in unlikely places, but there’s no way it would have come from the south west.

“If he’s seen one it’s probably a migrant bird. Because they’re very poor fliers, if it’s a migrant from Europe it’s probably come across ‘ship-assisted’, meaning it hitched a lift on a boat. It’s very unusual but not completely unheard of.”