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 14, 2012

WATCHER OF THE SKIES: Woodlarks, short eared owl, peregrines and more

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...

Royal Tunbridge Wells welcomes back the woodlark
9 March 2012
Thanks to the RSPB’s restoration efforts at Broadwater Warren nature reserve in the High Weald Area of Outstanding Beauty near to Royal Tunbridge Wells, woodlark have returned. This bird is the cousin of the skylark, which is the more familiar of the two, but the woodlark has a song that is as equally clear and melodious. Due to widespread conifer planting, this once familiar bird has seen its population decline in the area, and has become increasingly rare. Oddly enough, although its name suggests otherwise, it prefers open ground to woodland.

Picture Courtesy Wikipedia

RSPB Weald Sites Manager Steve Wheatley, said: “This is a wonderful moment for the new reserve. We hope the woodlark population will build and build. Not only that, we hope this is the start of a great return of wildlife to the area.”

“We’re only in the second year of a ten year restoration project, so it’s great to see and hear the wildlife responding so quickly. A big part of our job this summer is to help visitors enjoy these amazing birds and the other wildlife around the reserve.”

“We’ve got an interesting programme of events coming up this year at Broadwater Warren which includes dawn chorus walks, nightjar evenings, and events for children.”

To find out more visit: www.rspb.org.uk/broadwaterwarren
Sophie McCallum, Communications Manager, sophie.mccallum@rspb.org.uk


Goldfinch on the increase in gardens
James Meikle, guardian.co.uk 7th March 2012

According to the BTO (British Trust for Ornithology), the goldfinch has climbed up 10 places on the list of most commonly reported species in gardens since Garden Birdwatch began in 1995, and appears to have been enticed from farmland to our gardens. However, this news was coupled with the decline in the house sparrow, blackbird, wren, starling and greenfinch.
Tim Harrison, development officer of Garden BirdWatch, said: "Improved foods and feeder designs, coupled with feeding pressures in the wider countryside, appear to be driving (the rise of the goldfinch) and other farmland species ... into gardens."

“But for every success story there was a species doing less well, with the mistle thrush, for example, struggling. The percentage of gardens visited by the bird in 2011 was at its lowest point in the history of the survey.”


Swallows delay making the long flight back to Africa.....
.... and according to Niall Hatch of BirdWatch Ireland, some swallows have not bothered to migrate at all. They are usually the signal that winter is at an end when they return around April.

“We would expect a couple of winter sightings,” explained Mr Hatch. “The weather in Ireland was mild enough that they could have survived.” And he said “the first “reliable” swallow sighting in Ireland this year was near Clonakilty in Co Cork on Saturday, March 3rd.”


Peregrines at Derby Cathedral – mild winter prompts early mating
March 07, 2012
The mild winter has also seen peregrine falcons mating and nesting on the side of Derby Cathedral earlier than ever before.

Nick Moyes, working for Derbyshire Wildlife Trust as a consultant to the Derby Cathedral Peregrine Project, said: "Checking through the video recordings at the weekend, I discovered a sequence showing the birds mating.

"The previous earliest date for mating was March 8 in 2009, so this is a full week earlier and suggests we may have eggs well before the end of the month."
In 2006 an artificial nest platform was installed on the cathedral’s medieval tower and since then the footage has given interesting insights into the private lives of the falcon.

Mr Moyes said: "The project has exceeded all our expectations since the nest platform was put up back in 2006.

"Hits to the project's web cams and blog have now passed the two million mark since they were set up in 2007, with viewers watching our birds from over 70 different countries."

It was at Derby, also, that rare footage was captured showing that the falcons hunt at night, by using the city lights to guide them.

The cameras can be viewed at www.bit.ly/derbyblog

Bird hunting on your iPhone
Bird Hunting Mania! is a game for your iPhone. This is not to shoot or kill birds as the name may suggest – and perhaps it is not the best title to give it - it is to protect rare and endangered species on Earth by bringing back birds from a different planet.

The game features a wide variety of birds including hummingbirds, parrots, eagles, and even – wait for it – a phoenix!

You have to catch the birds in a net, which you have to buy with your in-game money.

There are 11 different types of birds in the game, which also has 3 different locations in which to play: mountains, waterfalls and forests. You can also get bonuses, ie magical eggs that are given when you catch a phoenix.

Bird Hunting Mania! is already the number one app in the Chinese app store and available for free awaiting your trial.


Red Owl about it!
The Forestry Commissions’ Hicks Lodge National Forest Cycle Centre near Ashby de la Zouch in Leicestershire has had some rare visitors of the feathered variety over the winter. After the Commission transformed the 168 hectare former opencast mine into a wildlife haven, five short-eared owls moved in. This species is uncommon in Leicestershire, and has only been seen a few times.
Forester Alan Dowell explained: "The birds arrived earlier in the winter and it wasn't long before birders were sending us reports and turning up with binoculars, cameras with long lenses and telescopes. They have been seen flying at either end of the day hunting for voles and mice. It shows that we are getting things right here in the National Forest. With areas of grassland, trees and a lake we have a very wildlife friendly location. The birds will soon fly off to their summer breeding grounds, but we hope they will return later in the year.”

The bird is on the Amber List due to conservation concerns and the RSPB estimate that there could be up to 3,500 breeding pairs in the UK.

Increase in rare birds at Moors Valley
Karen Bate, 3rd March
Moors Valley Country Park and Forest, Ashley Heath, Dorset has reported an increase in rare birds at the park. Spotted this year have been bullfinches (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) and gadwalls (Anas strepera), two species that have been in serious decline. The mild winter has also seen the early arrival of the hobby hawk (Falco subbuteo), which normally arrives in the UK in late April.
The Park has several nestcams in a number of different park locations which means that visitors can watch chicks grow and fledge.

For information visit moors-valley.co.uk.

MYSTERY CAT NEWS: From around the world

The hunt for British Big Cats attracts far more newspaper column inches than any other cryptozoological subject.

This column is primarily about British mystery cats, but it would be unrealistic to ignore the fact that there are analogous phenomena in many other countries. So here are some cryptozoological mystery cat stories from elsewhere in the globe.

The first one covers the efforts of CFZ Press author Scott Marlowe in Florida:

Tracking the Carrabelle Cat: Florida's black panther mystery San ...
By Chasing Shadows
Within the field of monster hunting (cryptozoology), much ado is made about such notable, enigmatic creatures as Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, and the Ch...

In India, the authorities have a thorny problem

Killer leopard conundrum: Captive big cat's future still uncertain
The Express Tribune
Officials could choose to send the big cat to a zoo or to Hazara University, where animal sciences are taught. By Our Correspondent Releasing the leopard in the jungle was not on the cards, but officials could choose to send the big cat to a zoo or to ...

There is a genuine cryptozoological mystery in Java where there is a burgeoning amount of evidence suggesting that the Javan Tiger is far from extinct:

Javan officials employ camera traps to find extinct tiger
To prove the big cat has not vanished for good, wildlife officials have installed five camera traps in the park, reports Antara News. This is not the first time camera traps have been used to attempt to prove the existence of the tiger on Java.

JON'S JOURNAL: Porriwiggles and pugmarks

This has been a remarkably busy week with all sorts of things happening, both good and bad: Dave B-P has been in hospital, a close friend is getting divorced, I have had various CFZ-related traumas and on top of this, my consultant has changed my medication and I am now floating around on a slightly spacy cloud, which is fun if a little disconcerting.

So I am a little behind on my nature diary.

Back on Sunday after we had all number of mild adventures on Northam Burrows (see HERE, and HERE and HERE) we went back to Huddisford to take Prudence for a walk. One cannot really let her out on the Burrows on a Sunday because there are too many other dogs - many not on leads - and she is a little unpredictable where her fellow canids are concerned.

There we noted that 'our' tadpoles had hatched and were developing nicely.

Actually, that is not quite true. We noted that they had hatched about ten days before, as you can see in this brace of pictures, which not only show the newly hatched porriwiggles, but also show a middle-aged Hawkwind fan filming them for next month's OTT:

The trackways, which provide entrance and egress to the woodland, were well used, especially this one, which shows deer tracks as well as the tracks of a sizeable carnivore. We were quite excited at first, but Richard F. says that they are a dog.

I Nibbled Britain out of Jaffa Cakes


It’s quite a big year for Britain with the olympics coming up soon. In celebration of this, McVitie’s challenged me to create some British themed creations using their Jaffa Cakes. I took my inspiration from friends who described their strange and unique methods of eating them. I started to nibble and pick away, going through 30 boxes of Jaffa Cakes to try to get shapes that fitted with my British themed ideas. One problem I had was when I got distracted by the radio and then looked back to see I had eaten the Loch Ness monster. See the video and pictures of what I came up with below.


BIG CAT NEWS: Down the little wooden hills again...

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

Wild cat 'big enough to pose a threat'
Luton Today
A DOG walker fears that a child may be put at risk after she came face to face with a mystery cougar that appears to be stalking Heath and Reach. On Saturday last week (March 3) Jane Banting was walking with her dog down a footpath off the Heath Road ...

These first two stories are basically the same, but I am including both, not just for the sake of completeness, but to illustrate how news stories get proliferated through chains of local publications. The sighting report is actually a particularly good one:

"The gait, body shape and tail convinced me that this was, in fact, a large wild cat of some description. I reported the sighting to the police when I got home and searched on the internet.

I couldn’t really find the animal I had seen until reading the paper just now. It appears that what I saw was a cougar. I had been misled because all the web images were of a light brown animal whereas the one I saw was dark brown and mottled in colour."

This perfectly illustrates the confusion that happens when witnesses find that the animal that they have seen is not an exact match for something that they have seen in the reference books.

Wild cat 'big enough to pose a threat'
Dunstable Today

Ahead of me I initially saw what I thought was a very large dark brown tabby cat. As I got closer I realised that the animal was much bigger, in fact bigger than my dog (a collie cross). “Thinking it was a dog I looked for the owner but then the animal ...

And then, also from Bedfordshire (which seems to be the new Gloucestershire in terms of big cat sightings) here is a rather neat little utility. I would like to have the same on our utilities....

See where big cats have been spotted in Beds
Luton Today
Following our story last week about the sighting near Barton, we've created a Big Cat Map where you can find out about other sightings of over-sized felines on the prowl. The creatures have been spotted near Leighton Buzzard and Dunstable, ...

HAUNTED SKIES: Daily Mirror 31.8.66

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's News Today


On this day in 44BC Julius Caesar was murdered by most of the Roman senate.

And now the news:

Fears 'entire clans' may be wiped out with badger ...
Big jump in kiwi numbers
Extraordinary spate of Common dolphins stranding a...
Carnivores pick meats over sweets
Hundreds of owl nest boxes go up in Somerset
Birds' diverse traits survive Amazon fires
Forest visitors warned of moth threat to Scots pin...
Japan says 'sabotage' hurt whaling hunt
Spider silk spun into violin strings
New hope for rare butterfly
Restoring Wales's climate-saving peatlands
The gloves are off at RSPB reserves

Cry Havoc!


CFZ PEOPLE: Dave Braund-Phillips

I spoke to David earlier, and he sounds considerably better. If all goes well, he should be going home after his ultrasound scan this afternoon.

KARL SHUKER: Mystery Cats in Showbusiness

The entertainment world may not be the most likely realm in which to encounter real-life mystery cats, but a number of intriguing examples have cropped up here from time to time, including the following two cases - neither of which has been resolved so far.

Read on...

DALE DRINNON: Devil Monkeys, Vagrant Kangaroos, Freshwater Monkeys, Benny's Blog on period cartoons, Tyler Stone on mystery primates and more

New at Frontiers of Zoology:
Deconstructing the category of Devil Monkeys:

An Overview On Vagrant Kangaroos:

And My Speculations on the Anatomy of Freshwater Monkeys:

Benny's blog has more Classic Hollywood as portrayed in Period Cartoons:




Tyler Stone has some new Updates of his own, Partially dovetailing with Mine:



-The last of which is the Dale-and-Tyler version for Mystery Primates of the World (Sort of)

Plus which, I have had a request for more information on Man-Eating Wels catfish from CFZ New Zealand and I shall probably have another blog posting on that forthcoming on the subject. Plus more on Giant Snakes.

CFZ NEW ZEALAND: Conserving Hutton's Shearwater

So many species of oceanic bird are becoming extinct or endangered it is truly heartwarming to realise that there are some people out there willing to do their part, whatever it takes to stop this happening.My sincere accolades to those of you who do this job and will be remembered by generations of the future.

Check it out...


What do you get when you combine a taxidermied badger with a theremin? You get the Badgermin. Yes, in this world of “if it can be done, why not try it?” somebody actually has created what is likely to be the first ever electronic instrument stuffed inside a dead animal.