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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Unlike some of our competitors we are not going to try and blackmail you into donating by saying that we won't continue if you don't. That would just be vulgar, but our lives, and those of the animals which we look after, would be a damn sight easier if we receive more donations to our fighting fund. Donate via Paypal today...

Saturday, May 19, 2012

JON'S JOURNAL: Huddisford Tadpoles

The tadpoles up at Huddisford woods seem to be taking an awful long time to mature. They really are star-crossed this year. Of all the dozens of clumps of frogspawn we noted this year, there are only tadpoles in two places (and I suspect that one of these were by dint of human agency).
Next year I am going to be more rigorous in my investigations, and take proper notes...

WATCHER OF THE SKIES: golden oriole, egg thief, red kites, hen harrier, avocets, wild cranes, Chris Packham

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...

Rare gold bird back at reserve

Wintering in sub-Saharan Africa and India and breeding in Europe and western Asia, the golden oriole is a rare species of bird to our shores.   However, RSPB Lakenheath Fen nature reserve is the only known breeding site in Britain, and a male finally returned last Friday. Golden orioles have been visiting the site yearly for over 40 years, but the return date this year is amongst the latest on the reserve’s records.

Picture:  RSPB

Interestingly, however, although this is a rare visitor – the first record was made way back in medieval times. 

For more information visit the website:

Serial egg thief Matthew Gonshaw jailed and banned from Scotland

Police described Gonshaw's collection as an "obsession"

Matthew Gonshaw, 49, a serial egg thief from London has been jailed for six months and banned from entering Scotland for the rest of his life during bird breeding season.  He admitted stealing the eggs of several rare species on the Isle of Rum last year.

Jailing Gonshaw, Sheriff Margaret Neilson described him as a "wildlife destroyer".

Gonshaw has been jailed for similar offences in the past, and later a large collection of birds eggs, including were seven golden eagle eggs and eight osprey eggs, were found when officers searched his London flat.

The head of Scotland's wildlife and environmental crime unit at the Crown Office, Craig Harris, said: "Our wildlife is part of our national character.

"It improves our quality of life, underpins many livelihoods and supports the growing nature tourism industry.

"Wildlife crime is a blatant attack against all of these benefits."

Two red kites killed by poisoned carrion – appeal launched
THE RSPB has offered a £1,000 reward for information after two rare birds of prey were found poisoned. They were found dead in the Hexton area and toxicological tests showed they had been poisoned with a highly-toxic pesticide that is, in fact, banned. It is presumed that both the victims had been feeding off carrion illegal laced with the chemical and placed in the countryside.

Sgt Jamie Bartlett, rural wildlife and environmental crimes officer for Hertfordshire Police, said: ‘We are appealing to anybody who may have more information about the deaths of these birds.

“The use of poison in these circumstances is highly irresponsible and indiscriminate. The pesticide used is highly toxic and the potential for injury to members of the public or their pets could have been high.”

Red kites were saved from national extinction by one of the world’s longest running protection programmes, and have now been successfully re-introduced to England and Scotland.

Guy Shorrock, investigations officer with the RSPB, added: “The reintroduction of red kites has been a fantastic success story and the expansion of the population into Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire has allowed more people to see these amazing birds.

“Unfortunately, every year we get tragic incidents like this.

“Illegally placing poison in the countryside puts wildlife, domestic animals and potentially members of the public at risk.

“We would urge anyone with information about this or other wildlife crime to contact the police.”

Anyone with any information should contact Sgt Bartlett on the non-emergency number 101, or Crimestoppers 0800 555111.


Hotline opens to report sightings of hen harriers

An adult female hen harrier

People are being encouraged to report sightings of hen harriers, England’s rarest breeding bird of prey.  The RSPB is re-launching The Hen Harrier Hotline in the hope that they can discover more about where the birds are potentially breeding in northern England.

United Utilities’ Bowland Estate is known to be one of the bird’s few strongholds and it is thought that the heather moors of England have the potential to hold 320 pairs at least of nesting hen harriers.  However, in 2011 there were only four successful nests in this one area of Lancashire. The male hen harrier performs magnificent aerobatic courtship displays in spring, known as skydancing, and for also passing the female food in mid-air food passes.  Unfortunately hen harriers are subjected to illegal persecution and a review commissioned by the government concluded that illegal killing and disturbance are the biggest factors limiting the population in northern England.

The Harrier Hotline number is 0845 4600121 (calls charged at local rate). Reports can also be e-mailed to henharriers@rspb.org.uk. Reports of sightings should include the date and location of sighting, with a six-figure grid reference where possible.

The Hen Harrier Hotline is part of Skydancer, a four-year RSPB project aimed at protecting and conserving nesting hen harriers in the English uplands. For more information visit www.rspb.org.uk/skydancer

Slimbridge welcomes back breeding avocets
Due to habitat destruction, egg collectors, and skin collectors, the avocet was extinct in Britain for a long time.  Soon after World War II, however, they began breeding again on reclaimed land near The Wash.  The area had been returned to marshland as a defence against possible German invaders.  And since then, avocet numbers have slowly increased in the UK. 

                                                                  Photo credit James Lees.

However it is the first time that the bird has bred in Gloucestershire for some time, and a pair at WWT Slimbridge have successfully hatched two young.

"The next few days and weeks will be critical as they are very vulnerable before they grow a bit bigger. We will be keeping our fingers crossed for them and following their progress."

To find out how they are getting on visit our wildlife sightings page at: www.wwt.org.uk/slimbridge-sightings or come to Slimbridge to see the young family in person.

Wild cranes return to Slimbridge
Four wild cranes that were reared in 2010 and 2011 at WWT Slimbridge have returned – the first time they have done so since they were released into the wild on the Somerset levels as part of the Great Crane Project.

Nigel Jarrett, Head of Conservation Breeding, said: "Amy King, who is looking after the baby cranes, did not believe her senses when she first heard, then saw, four cranes flying overhead as she walked the youngsters. Time will tell how long they stay here. It is natural for young adult birds to explore, so even though we are 70 miles away from the release site in Somerset, it isn't a great distance for them to fly. We are delighted that they appear to be finding food easily and a safe place to sleep each evening."

The birds are Monty, Sedge, Ruby and Beatrice. Three were released in 2010 and one in 2011.
The Great Crane Project is a partnership between WWT, RSPB and Pensthorpe Conservation Trust, with major funding from Viridor Credits Environmental Company. Our aim is to restore healthy populations of wild cranes throughout the UK, so that people can once again experience these beautiful birds.

Springwatch presenter Chris Packham accuses council of “murdering” rare birds
After a council refused to remove all the spikes put up to deter rare birds from a building, Chris Packham has accused them of  “murdering” them.

The BBC Springwatch star claimed swifts and house martins were being killed by the spikes, and also nets.

The presenter tweeted: “This is a disgrace. Swifts are being murdered and excluded from traditional nest sites.

“House martins need a clear approach to secure eaves. They need to be rigorously looked after.”

New Forest District Council, which put up nesting boxes, said: “We worked closely with ecological consultants.

“Spikes were erected to encourage birds to breed in a safer place prior to the renovation.
"Where possible they were removed and this will be continued as stages of the work progress.”


Its sunday, regular readers know it,
that now I pretend I am a poet,
and each week if I have the time,
blog notifications are done in rhyme.

An exclusive here, we have part three
of my interview with the great Ant-Bee:

And it wouldn't be right to exclude the lords
so here's the Marquis D-B at the BMI awards:

And here is something cool for you,
a link to a great Hawkwind interview:

And another link to muse upon,
a review of Martin Stephenson:

And finally before it all gets out of hand,
an interview from the Netherlands,
with Merrell Fankhauser, truly a star,
and the King of the far-out surf guitar:

And that's quite enough blogging for yer average freak,
so enough of the rhymes, they'll be back next week...

DALE DRINNON: Jeff Meldrum, Cedar & Willow, and Tyler Stone

I have more blog postings under development for all of my blogs, but unfortunately I am still getting technical errors from blogger. This matter did just come up today and since it was fairly simple to assemble I pushed it through first:

New on the Frontiers of Zoology:

I was finally able to fight my way through technical problems and get the next installment of Cedar and Willow out: it was running too long so I broke it in half and added more videos at the end:


Tyler Stone just added a very interesting new article on Dogman and Beardog reports, and he may have made another significant advance in Cryptozoology in his assessment of the Beardogs category:


HAUNTED SKIES: A Spanish incident from 1972

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's News Today


On this day in 1896 the famous chandelier of Paris’ Palais Garnier opera house fell onto the audience crushing many and killing at least one person. Think that seems familiar from somewhere? Well, Gaston Leroux used the incident in his 1911 novel “The Phantom of the Opera” (you can get the novel for free on your kindle and I highly recommend it) which he had set in the Palais Garnier, and it is also recreated, just before the interval, in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical adaptation.

And now the news:

Wait for it… wait for it… wait some more… (nice song isn’t it?)…wait… CRASH:


MATTHEW AND EMMA: More on the new CFZ Fundraising initiative

How much does 50p Cost?
Absolutely nothing!
So sign up for EasySearch at http://www.easyfundraising.org.uk/causes/cfz and give CFZ 50p, and then if you use http://www.easyfundraising.org.uk/causes/cfz/ or install the easyfundraising toolbar to search each time it is worth 0.5p, ok not much but at 10 searches a day that is £20 a year, (and if you want to use your office time looking busy you could always search for random things just to raise some cash!)

You could be helping Centre For Fortean Zoology to raise money whenever you shop online.

It's very simple - just visit http://www.easyfundraising.org.uk/causes/cfz/ to register and shop with over 2000 well known retailers like Amazon, Argos, M&S, eBay and many more. Whenever I buy something, the retailer makes a donation to Centre For Fortean Zoology. They've helped other causes raise over £2,000,000 so it really does work.

I'd be really grateful if you could use easyfundraising too. It won't cost you a penny extra to shop through easyfundraising and you can even save money with special offers and voucher codes.

Plus, if you register before 1st June you'll automatically receive one entry into a free prize draw to win a Sony Playstation 3 and accessories worth over £400 – all courtesy of Viking!

So please make a difference to Centre For Fortean Zoology and take a look at easyfundraising today - http://www.easyfundraising.org.uk/causes/cfz/


JON'S JOURNAL: Wild Woolsery

Yesterday Neil Arnold made this comment to my post JON'S JOURNAL: The latest trailcam results

"Guys, if you're going to set up a trigger cam you MUST leave it in the same area for months at a time. Frequent visits to the camera will leave a scent that a cat would detect. It's a good idea to set cameras up relatively high, overlooking a game trail, because it's unlikely a cat will just walk up to a cam only two-feet off the ground. We've also found that the infra-red puts certain animals off - this was proven in Africa with a melanistic leopard that never seemed to come within 200 yards of the camera yet was seen on thermal imaging. If you're getting fox, deer etc, on the camera then that's a good start,as there's prey in the area but too many people keep moving there cam's out of frustration and this isn't the way forward".

He is - of course - perfectly correct. But we are not actually setting the trail cams predominantly to look for big cats. If we got a picture of one we would be overjoyed, but for starters we are trying to get a picture of what known species of animals are in the areas where we are carrying out investigations. This is partly so we can liaise with local landowners, and partly for a book project Wild Woolsery which will be aimed at the local kids.

We only have the four cameras at the moment, so are having to move them about. When we have more, some will be left in the field for three-six months...