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, June 19, 2012

HAUNTED SKIES: Random musings

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's News Today

Yesterday’s News Today
On this day in 1909 actor Errol Flynn was born. Flynn was famous as one of Hollywood's most bankable leading men but after his death a biographer claimed he was a Nazi spy during World War 2 and that he was a Nazi cheerleader at home. However, this turned out to be complete rubbish as he was in fact a closet communist who counted Fidel Castro as a drinking buddy.
And now the news:

Flynn’s most famous role:


And so another day dawns at Gonzo Daily. Just in case you think this means that I have only just got out of bed, for once that's just not true. I have been in the office since about 8:30, but I have had a whole slew of things to do (mostly involving playing catch-up from the weekend) and the blogs are only just done. But they are good 'uns:

We start off with some pictures that I bootlegged from a bootleg site. They are of Jon Anderson with a youth orchestra and I think they are rather touching. But as I say on the page, I'm not going to tell you where I got them, because I am almost certain that the site is a bootleg download one:

Whilst on the subject of Yes alumni, here is a Rick Wakeman review which seems to totally get what the new live CD is all about:

We have sad news for Hawkwind buffs. One of the founder members has died:

We have Michael Des Barres in the LA Weekly:

We have a link to a Chris Thompson review:

And another one to a Genre Peak one:

And finally, it is nothing to do with Gonzo but the new PiL album is really very good:

You will notice a new feature on the blog side bar. It is a news aggregator thingy called Scoop-it. Can you check it out for me please, and tell me what you think of it?
See you tomorrow..


Always brimming with news of the weird and abnormal, Whitley Strieber appeared during the fist hour of Coast to Coast AM on Tuesday, June 12, 2012, to update listeners on the increasing number of odd occurrences happening throughout the world.

After giving a rather creepy recap of the Sidaya spider, an apparently new species of spider that's highly aggressive and can leap tall buildings in a single bound, Strieber switched to his next odd topic, an increase in Las Chupacabras sightings, all across the United States.
For more information see: Amazing El Chupacabras picture by Josh Crockett



The small tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae) is in a very sad decline. Whereas once it was one of our most common and best-loved garden butterflies, it is now in danger of following its cousin the large tortoiseshell (Nymphalis polychloros) into extinction in the UK at least. Hang on a bit, did I say extinction?

The thylacine was once described as being the healthiest extinct animal alive. The same could probably be said about the British large tortoiseshell. It has bred at least once in South Devon in recent years, and on 14th March one was seen and photographed in Central Park, Plymouth. This is not bad for an animal which has supposedly been extinct in the UK for the last 50 years.

A week or so ago another extremely rare visitor, the long-tailed blue (Lampides boeticus) was seen in Hampshire. These remarkably widespread butterflies are found around much of the globe and are known to be great travellers. Whereas many Nymphalid butterflies are known for migrating (red admirals and painted ladies for example) I believe that the tortoiseshell species are far more sedentary. Are the large tortoiseshells which are now seen every year in the southern part of the UK, vagrants like the long-tailed blue or are they the rump of the indigenous population? In recent years we have seen how pine martens and polecats, two species which were popularly believed to have been hunted to extinction over a century ago, not only are re-colonising their former haunts, but actually never left. Could the same be the case with the large tortoiseshell?

Or could they be the result of unofficial re-introduction programmes? If so, bravo to everybody who is responsible. Whilst on the subject of unofficial re-introductions, the latest edition of the Devon Butterfly Conservation Newsletter, from which I got hold of the Plymouth sightings, also describes – in passing – the sighting of a swallowtail in South Yorkshire in the early ‘60s. My friend and colleague Richard Freeman, who shows no great interest in butterflies, (they are not big enough, dangerous enough or gothic enough) tells me that he has seen them in both Leeds and Nuneaton. Are such sightings the results of another artificial introduction?

During my researches into the history of British butterflies it turns out that the swallowtails that used to live in the Thames Valley behave completely differently to those last remnants of Papilio maechon britannicus which are found to this day in East Anglia. They weren’t marsh dwellers, and they didn’t have such a specialised food plant. Is it possible that because:

a. we live in a society which is becoming increasingly urbanised and divorced from the natural world, and

b. because the concept that British swallowtails only live in East Anglian marshes is so ingrained in us that we don’t both to look for them anywhere else, that there might actually be a few isolated pockets of non marsh-dwelling swallowtail in the Midlands and north of England?

I think, now, you can see why I have been writing a cryptozoological tome on British butterflies for the last five years.

WATCHER OF THE SKIES: orphean warbler, choughs, European roller, corncrake, great bustard, lapwing,

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 warbler has crowds flocking

An orphean warbler (Sylvia hortensis) has been seen in Britain for only the sixth time – and even then the last visit was over 20 years ago. It was spotted at Hartlepool’s Headland at the end of May and should have been migrating from Africa to somewhere like Spain but clearly was a spring overshoot. 

Group hatches a plan to help rare great bustards to thrive
Eggs rather than chicks will be brought over from Russia for the first time in a bid to reinstate the world’s heaviest flying bird to the plains and levels of the west. Slowly establishing itself on Salisbury Plain, the great bustard (Otis tarda) is moving further south and west to Dorset and the Somerset Levels, but to establish a sustainable population, each year more birds need to be raised at secret locations in Wiltshire.
The first bustards to breed in Wiltshire produced their own chicks in 2009 and now a population of 18 is settled on Salisbury Plain.
The bird, which is the symbol of Wiltshire and appears on the county flag, was hunted to extinction in the 19th Century.
The Great Bustard Group now want to bring eggs rather than chicks over from Russia and hatch them here. David Waters, from the group, said it would be cheaper and easier to transport eggs, and less stressful for the birds.

Three species of farmland bird win protection at Donkey Sanctuary
The Donkey Sanctuary has announced a new set of initiatives to protect three species of rare birds that have recently been discovered living amongst the resident donkeys at Sidmouth.
Populations of the once common yellowhammer (Emberiza citronella), linnet (Carduelis cannabina) and skylark (Alauda arvensis) have all been designated "red" status by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) due to alarming declines but have been identified as breeding on Donkey Sanctuary farmland. The animal welfare charity has put measures in place to protect these vulnerable species during the summer breeding months.

James Chubb, wildlife expert at The Donkey Sanctuary, said: "What these birds need is minimal disturbance and good scruffy long grass in which to forage and nest. We will be allocating areas to be left to grow long to ensure ground nesting birds are not destroyed and we have put signage on public footpaths to ask people to keep dogs on leads and to stick to the marked routes."

Annie Brown, General Farms Manager, said: "James has worked with the farm staff so that they are able to identify these important birds and to learn more about their preferred habitat.
"We are delighted to see the birds living so happily alongside the donkeys and are now looking at ways of managing the hedgerows and banks to make them even more bird and mammal friendly".

By mindfully protecting these three important factors it is hoped that this 30-year decline can be halted, and even reversed, on The Donkey Sanctuary's seven farms


Rare corncrakes celebrated

One of Scotland's rarest and most elusive birds is to be celebrated in a new festival on the Western Isles.
 Picture: Wikipedia
Corncrakes (Crex crex) in the UK are almost exclusive to north and west Scotland after habitat loss in other areas.

RSPB Scotland said increases in numbers of the birds in recent times following years of decline should be celebrated.

The Uist Corncrake Festival will be held at the RSPB Balranald reserve on 22 and 23 June and will include origami and pin the beak on the corncrake.

Reserve manager Jamie Boyle said: "Corncrakes were once common across much of the UK, but changes in farming practices saw the population plummet, and by the early 90s, it became a globally-threatened species.

"But crofters and farmers here in the Hebrides, with support from agricultural schemes, have produced an increase in corncrake numbers in recent years, and that has to be worth celebrating."

Rare parrot stolen from Matlock Garden Centre

Staff at a garden centre in Matlock are concerned about the well being of a rare Jardine’s parrot (Poicephalus gulielmi) that was stolen from them. The bird is only 14 weeks old and arrived at the centre the day before it was stolen. 
Manager Nicki Doran said: “He seemed to be settling in well. He was eating.

“We cleaned the birds out this morning and they come out for a while, then they went back in the cages at 10am.
 Picture: Birds of Eden, Wikipedia

“At about 11.30am the two lads that work in that section said the parrot was gone.”

Concerned, Nicki rang the police to report the missing bird.

She and her staff then rang nearby pet stores to see if anyone had tried to sell it.

“Even if they are planning to keep it they will still need to buy a cage for it,” Nicki said.

“Our biggest worry is that it is only a baby and the person who has taken it might not know how to care for it properly.

“Even if someone had wanted to buy it I wouldn’t have let them have it yet because it had only just arrived here and it is stressful for them to be moved.”

The parrot was between eight and ten inches tall with dark green feathers and black tips on the wings. It is worth about £700.

Anyone with information about the parrot is urged to either contact the garden centre on 01629 580500 or Derbyshire Police on 101.

Buckfastleigh bird poisoning warning

WILDLIFE police in South Devon have appealed for vigilance over bird poisoning in the Buckfastleigh area.

Around this time last year Whitecleave Quarry became a target for the attempted poisonings of peregrine falcons, and police are, this year, asking members of the community around the area to be on the lookout for any suspicious activity.

Prior to 2011 a homing pigeon was wing-clipped and had poison spread on its back to make an easy target for peregrines to catch and be poisoned.

In that instance the pigeon failed to reach its target and was found within a child minder’s garden. A police spokesman said that had a child touched the pigeon it could have resulted in serious injury or death.

In particular they are advising anyone seeing a pigeon in distress or unable to fly not to approach the bird and to call police or the RSPB immediately.

Torquay-based Police Wildlife Officer PC Josh Marshall explained: “Last year a peregrine falcon was found poisoned within the quarry.

"It was confirmed to have within its body a banned poison called Carbufuran which is extremely toxic, no doubt having ingested the poison from bait.

“More seriously the banned substance is extremely harmful to humans and could easily kill children or pets from contact.”

“The falcons are protected species and in killing them anyone found responsible would be prosecuted and could face a fine of up to £5,000 or six months in prison.

PC Marshall said that he hoped the community of Buckfastleigh and surrounding areas would take some responsibility for helping the protected species.

“These falcons are still fairly rare and having a site of ornithological interest within the quarry is something to be embraced. We hope that local residents will do their bit and keep an eye out for anyone wishing to harm them.”

New ponds to attract rare birds at Malltraeth, Anglesey
A total of 27 new ponds have been dug on Anglesey to benefit rare and threatened bird species.
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) hopes to attract breeding lapwing (Vanellus vanellus), of which there are only an estimated 500 breeding pairs in Wales.

Funded through the Million Ponds Project, it is hoped the ponds will also provide a habitat for pillwort, a rare grass-like fern.
Picture: thewesternisles.co.uk
Ian Hawkins, RSPB Cymru site manager at Malltraeth, said: "We wanted to create ponds here for breeding lapwing for a long time, but didn't know where to start.
"The Million Ponds Project has been very helpful, helping us to make the best possible ponds to benefit these birds, and finding the money to pay for it."
The Million Ponds Project is led by the charity Ponds Conservation.
It says it aims to ensure there are once again 1m ponds in the UK, after many were lost.

Choughs spread their wings
After being extinct in England for the best part of a century, choughs  (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax) are increasing their West Country range and have now been spotted as far up the peninsula as the Exmoor coast. And the good news is that they've had another great breeding year, according to the team which is overseeing the rare bird's bid to re-colonise the region.
Picture: RSPB      

The Cornwall Chough Project – a partnership of RSPB, National Trust and Natural England staff – reports that five nests have successfully produced 16 youngsters this spring.
The birds first reappeared at the Lizard in Cornwall in 2001 after a 50-year absence – and since then RSPB experts have been pondering one question: would the choughs be able to keep their tenuous claw-hold?

"They have already expanded along the coast – though I won't say where," said Ms Mucklow, whose team set up annual round-the-clock rotas to protect the eggs and nesting sites. "We're optimistic – there's a lot of coast in Cornwall which they can colonise, and North Devon also has plenty of ideal locations. This year there have been records of a number of birds along the Exmoor coast, which is really exciting. Choughs tend to return to historic nest sites," she added. "They seek out really good sites surrounded by ideal habitat.

"The important thing for us is to work where we know choughs are already – then we look at where choughs nested historically.

"So, for example, we know they were in the Valley of Rocks on Exmoor before the choughs disappeared in Devon some time around 1910 – with a bit of tweaking to the existing habitat management there, they could easily return.

The project team relies on a growing number of volunteers who help keep track of all the birds, ensure their nests are undisturbed and run the Lizard observation point.

The Lizard choughs first nested in 2002 and the same pair is still producing chicks with a brood expected to take to the wing this week. The public is welcome to watch this special ornithological event from the local observation point, which will be open from 10am to 5pm every day until this Sunday, June 17, weather-permitting. The team is also organising a Wildlife Weekend at the Lizard on June 23-24. Visit www.cornishchoughs.org


A black-winged stilt (Himantopus himantopus) was spotted by wardens at the Hodbarrow Nature Reserve – the first recorded sighting in Cumbria.

She said: “I managed to catch up with the bird and it was unmistakable; black and white with bright red legs, a really nice thing to manage to see. Unfortunately, it wasn't around too long.”

Norman Holton, senior site manager for RSPB Cumbrian coastal reserves, was also present when the bird was spotted on May 28.

He said: “Having decided to have a quick look from the bird hide, a black-winged stilt was the last thing I was expecting to see.

“It is one of the most striking and elegant of our wading birds.

“With all of the habitat management work planned at Hodbarrow, hopefully the RSPB reserve will attract many more rare and wonderful birds in the future.”

The bird only stayed on the reserve for an hour, filling up on food before continuing its journey.

It is known to migrate to the Sahara for the winter months, before returning to Southern Europe and Asia in March/April.

The black-winged Stilt is not normally seen in the UK and this sighting was believed to be a Cumbrian first.

Rare European Roller
A rare European roller (Coracias garrulous) was spotted at Spurn Point before being seen on a country road just outside Aldbrough. Martin Garner, of the Spurn bird observatory, was running a guided tour when he spotted it near the coastguard cottages.
 Picture: Wikipedia
He said: "It was perched on the wires ready to drop down on an insect.

"The guy I was showing around from Cambridge was bowled over. He was so excited.

"It is one of the most popular birds to see at the minute and one of the rarest.

"The first thing I had to do was radio in about it. The other guys were jumping out of bed and rushing down to the site.

An RSPB spokesman said that it is the holy grail of the birds to see.  He said: "There were initially two in the area.

"The one near Aldbrough has been there for nearly a week. It is very rare for one to stay in the same place.

"It will have spent the winter in Africa and on its way to Eastern Europe to breed. It probably got blown off course and is confused and lost."