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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Sunday, July 22, 2012

LINDSAY SELBY: The water cow of St Mary's Loch

St Mary’s Loch

James Hogg (1770 – 1835) wrote in the ‘The Ettrick Shepherd’ about a water cow that lived in St Mary’s Loch. The Loch was created during the ice age and is the largest loch in the Borders area. According to local legend it is thought to be bottomless. It is situated on the A708 road between Selkirk and Moffat, and is approximately 3 miles(5 kilometres) long and half a mile (1 kilometre)wide. The Loch rarely freezes over and may be the coldest loch in Scotland.(NB the loch is unlikely to be bottomless and it was reported to be 150 feet ( 50 meters)deep by some people)

James Hogg wrote:
. "A farmer in Bowerhope once got a breed of her, which he kept for many years until they multiplied exceedingly; and he never had any cattle thrive so well, until once, on some outrage or disrespect on the farmer's part towards them, the old dam came out of the lake one pleasant March evening and gave such a roar that all the surrounding hills shook again, upon which her progeny, nineteen in number, followed her all quietly into the loch, and were never more seen”.

This story was repeated by James Mackinley in his Folklore of Scottish Lochs and Springs 1893.There is a statue of James Hogg near the Loch by a local Inn.

Was is interesting about this folktale is that the Loch sounds like so many others that are said to have lake monsters or water horses living here. All the lochs seem to be from the ice age, be very cold and rarely freeze and are deep. Could it be a creature did live in the loch and it ate the farmer’s cows? Could it be that some sort of aquatic creature has survived from the ice age in these lochs, many of which are in quite desolate and difficult to get to places? Loch Ness had no proper road until 1933(there are those who would argue its still not a very good road lol) and many of the lochs do not even have roads to them. So the mystery remains, I hope one day it will be solved if not it may be that in the future only in folklore we will learn about the mysterious beasties in the Lochs.

WATCHER OF THE SKIES: Cuckoos, cirl bunting, northern bald ibis, spoon-billed sandpipers, Dartford warbler, firecrest,

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...

BTO cuckoos all on their way back to Africa
14 birds with tags in 2012
July 2012. The BTO cuckoos, the two survivors from last year and a dozen newly tagged birds, have mostly set off on their migration southwards to Africa. Five birds were tagged in Scotland and five in Wales, including a female bird.

Despite their efforts to catch more females, it proved difficult and just one female bird was tagged in Wales. Unhappily, the female bird, having left Wales on 9th July she appeared in Surrey on 11th July, but was found in a garden with some injuries to her head and her wing, implying she had been attacked by another bird. She is currently recuperating in the Wildlife Aid Foundation hospital; it is hoped she will recover enough to continue her migration. BTO was very keen to track more female birds to see how their migration compared with their male counterparts.

The first cuckoo to leave this year was Chris, one of the birds tagged in 2011, who left on about 14th June after just 6 weeks in the UK. As of 16th July, only one other tagged cuckoo was still in the UK, a Scottish bird known as Wallace, who hasn't moved far at all from the spot he was tagged. The other birds are spread across Europe.


Dartford warbler decline

The Rare Breeding Birds Panel (RBBP), paints a bleak picture for the Dartford warbler (Sylvia undata) which appears to have declined substantially in the last few years, because of the harsh winters leading up to 2010.

The RBBP report shows that the robin-sized Dartford warbler, also more common further south in Europe, is showing signs of struggling in the UK because of the recent harsher winters. The report shows that in some parts of its range, the Dartford warbler has suffered particularly badly. For example, in 2004, there were almost 1000 pairs in the Thames Basin and Wealden Heaths, but in 2010 there were reports of just 50 pairs across these areas of Berkshire, Hampshire, Surrey and Sussex. Thankfully, however, those tiny outlying populations in counties like Norfolk and Staffordshire - away from the larger strongholds on the heathlands of southern England - seem to have survived, at least helping to preserve the bird's range in England and Wales.

Mark Eaton, RSPB scientist and RBBP chair, said: "Sadly, the Dartford warbler is currently a casualty of the combined double whammy of weather and climate: a changing climate in the south of its range is affecting it, with rapid declines in its Spanish and Portuguese heartlands. While in the north of its range, where the summer climate is improving, it is being badly affected by harsh wintry weather."

The RSPB has been working to help the Dartford warbler since the harsh winter of 1962/1963 when there were only a handful of these birds left in Britain. Extensive habitat management to regenerate and improve heathland had enabled a vital recovery of the Dartford warbler in England, but the impacts of further harsh winters are in danger of knocking the population back at some key sites.


Tiny bird - the firecrest - thriving in woodland areas of the East, says new report
Warmer summers are leading to booming numbers of one of Britain’s smallest birds in East Anglia, according to a new report.

The firecrest ( Regulus ignicapillus) which normally prefers life in Continental Europe, is becoming more common in woodland areas in Norfolk, say authors of the latest Rare Breeding Birds Panel (RBBP).

The tiny colourful bird first colonised the UK half a century ago, but the population has risen, and the latest reports suggests there may be over 1,000 pairs nesting in Britain. At least 116 of these nest in Norfolk, the majority of which are found in Thetford Forest.

Four firecrests weigh less than an ounce and the bird competes with the goldcrest for the title of Britain’s smallest bird.

In 2010, the latest year to be covered by the RBBP report, there were reports of at least 800 pairs of the tiny woodland bird. But experts believe there could be well in excess of 1,000 pairs now nesting in the UK, all in England and Wales, because of its resemblance to the goldcrest.

The warmer summers seen in recent decades favour the firecrest, and during the winter it leaves its nesting sites to winter along the coast of South West England or on Continental Europe.

Rare birds make home in nature reserve
The Westcountry has become home to a second nesting site of a bird more commonly seen in the southern of Europe, it has been confirmed.

Great white egrets (Ardea alba), a large heron-type bird, had not successfully bred in Britain until last year.
 Photo: Wikipedia

However, after one nest was established in June at Shapwick Heath National Nature Reserve in Somerset, Natural England has now confirmed the existence of a second there.

Natural England's project officer for the species, Kevin Anderson, said it was good news.
"This species has never bred in Britain before, so to have two successful nests in the first breeding year is remarkable," he said.

Volunteers have kept up a round-the-clock vigil to ensure that both nests have not been disturbed.

Mr Anderson added: "We'd like to thank our volunteers for their commitment and determination, especially during the continued wet weather, they've been brilliant."

Rare birds hatch at Slimbridge
More than a dozen spoon-billed sandpipers (Eurynorhynchus pygmeus), a critically endangered species, were hatched in captivity at WWT Slimbridge Wetland Centre this week, a first for the UK.

These latest chicks are part of an emergency conservation breeding mission to insure the species against imminent extinction in the wild.

A few more eggs are expected to hatch in the coming days and, if successful, will add to the flock of 12 already at the Centre, brought back from Russia last year.

WWT head of conservation breeding, Nigel Jarrett, said: "The spoon-billed sandpiper is a beautiful and unique bird, but whatever it looked like we couldn't stand by while it went extinct."

Fewer than 100 pairs of spoon-billed sandpiper are thought to remain.

In a flap: Rare African bird on the brink of extinction spotted in Manchester
Dozens of twitchers flocked to Hattersley to see a Northern bald ibis (Geronticus eremita). Experts are unsure if the bird, which is about the size of a heron, has flown thousands of miles off course or escaped from a private collection.

Only a few hundred birds are thought to live in the wild with a small number also kept in captivity around the world. Small colonies exist in Morocco and Syria and there have been schemes to reintroduce the ibis to Turkey, Austria and Spain.

Photo: Bird Life International

Gemma Lomas, a customer services assistant at the sports centre, told the Manchester Evening News: "We thought it looked unusual but we didn't think too much of it at the time.

"We then started getting bird watchers down here, setting up with their binoculars to get a glimpse of it.
"We also had a man from Salford University who told us a few facts and he said that there had been sightings in Cheshire and Staffordshire areas earlier in the year so it could be moving around. We've not seen it since the weekend and we're not sure if it's just moved on or been scared away."

Its numbers started to decline about 300 years ago - possibly due to hunting, loss of foraging habitat and more recently the use of pesticides.

Wildlife writer Sean Wood, who has seen the bird, said: "My first thoughts were, obviously, it's an escapee from a bird garden or zoo, but there were no rings or tags visible, and birds such as this normally have their wing feathers clipped so they can't fly off.

"This wonderful bird, once widespread across southern Europe and featuring in the hieroglyphics of the Egyptians, is quite literally on the brink - which also means the Hattersley bird is most likely an escapee, but you never know."

Professor spends 40 years studying rare guillemots on the stunning remote island 

Professor of behavioural ecology at the University of Sheffield, Tim Birkhead, has been dubbed the 'birdman of Skomer' after travelling to the remote island annually for the last 40 years to study its rare guillemots (Uria  aalge). He first set foot on the uninhabited National Nature Reserve off the coast of Wales back in 1972 aged just 22. 

It was on this initial trip he became fascinated with the diminishing colony of Amos guillemots living on the island that has kept him going back year after year. 

He told the Guardian: 'I love observing these birds. They are so garrulous, so dynamic. They fall out with each other and with neighbours. They have long-term relationships and flings. Just like humans, really.'

Professor Birkhead added that the birds have the ability to spot their partner from a distance even if they are surrounded by hundreds of other birds.

He made the discovery that guillemots are monogamous birds while watching a nest on the cliff of the island.

He said: 'The bird right in front of me stood up off the egg and made its greeting call. I looked out to sea, and among the myriad of birds flying backward and forwards this one bird was arrowing in from around 500m out.

'I was amazed that the bird on the nest had been able to pick out its partner from among all those hundreds of birds.'

When he first began his investigation - the longest-running of its kind - into the Amos guillemot colony he found there was a population of just 2,000.

This was a drastic reduction on the estimated colony of 100,000 situated on the island in the 1930s - possible due to oil pollution. 

A frequent boat service now brings hundreds of bird fans to the island every week during the breeding season - a stark contrast to Professor Birkhead's early trips to Skomer when he needed to charter a private boat to take him over.

There is accommodation for visitors and a study centre for scientists who research the other island birds such as the puffin. 

Cirl bunting reintroduction in Cornwall 'sustainable'

A close cousin of the yellowhammer, the cirl bunting (Emberiza cirlus) used to be found on farmland across the county, but disappeared in the early 1990s.

(Male) Photo: Wikipedia

The reintroduction started in 2006 and the charity hopes the population has reached a level where no further birds need to be released.

The RSPB said there are 43 pairs living in Cornwall.

The bird was seen across southern England but is now only found on coastlines in Devon and Cornwall.

Stuart Croft, from the RSPB, said at the start of the project that a population of up to 40 pairs was seen as sustainable.

Mr Croft said the chicks used for the reintroduction came from the Devon population.
The last release happened in 2011.

He said: "Because the population has reached the target we'll now be purely monitoring the birds to see how they're doing."

The RSPB said there were about 860 pairs breeding in the UK.

HAUNTED SKIES: Sun (The) 29.9.67.

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's News Today

On this day in 2011 Amy Winehouse died and became the latest high profile member of the 27 club (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/27_Club ).


And so another working week begins. Those eagle eyed amongst you will have noticed that I am doing these postings remarkably early. That is basically because I couldn't sleep last night and I haven't been to bed yet. I have a lot on my plate at the moment, and I couldn't settle. And as I was not really in the mood for a wrestling match with Prudence the dog for a few remnants of quilt, and didn't want to keep my poor dear wife awake, I came downstairs.

I need to talk to Graham before I go to bed, so I will probably wait until everyone else is up,and the postman has come and gone. However, there are lots of interesting bloggythings for you.

We start off in cracking fashion with a link to a competition where you can win a brace of tickets to see Hawkwind, Focus and various other stars of stage and screen at Clumber Park in the North of England next month. If it wasn't that it clashes with my own annual gig The Weird Weekend, I'd be tempted to go check it out.

Michael Des Barres is a cracking interviewee. I have interviewed him on a couple of occasions now, and he never fails to be interesting, amusing and thought-provoking. He also (like I think that I may have said before somewhere) has the knack of aying something new and interesting to each interviewer, rather than sounding like he is heartily sick of the whole publicity process as so many rock and roll stars sadly do. Today I am pleased to link to his last week's appearance on Blog Talk Radio..

Life gets confusing here at the Gonzo Daily. It has not been the best of weeks with a whole battery of family, health and computer issues with which to deal. But some things are a constant; Helen McCookerybook's prose can always bring a smile to my somewhat beleagured countenance. Which is why I am posting this excerpt from her must-read blog...

I don't usually mention politics in these hallowed pages. I know that the political views of our readers, and - indeed - those whom we write about are many and varied, and I also know that my politics which have essentially changed little since I first discovered Crass and their ilk some thirty years ago are hardly mainstream. But this story is heartwarming, is incontravertably rock and roll, and Brian May deserves our plaudits for his stand against the proposed badger cull. Well done mate - I owe you a beer!

Every day I post a witty digest of the Daily Gonzo stuff (the same thing that you can see on the Scoop-it page each day) to various Facebook groups and fora, and email out to those who ask for it (and some who don't). Six days I do them relatively sensibly, but on the 7th, for no particular reason I do them in bad verse. Why bad verse? That is simple. I am a lousy poet, and to be horribly honest I doubt whether my silly doggerel counts as poetry, but it amuses me, and it also amuses various Gonzofolk such as Erik Norlander, and the lovely Liz Lenten of Auburn. Now, Liz opened a real can of Pandora's boxlike worms the other week, because she sent me a poem in reply, and ever since then I make sure that there is a Lizstory every Sunday...

Somebody called 'Pondo' sent me this edition of Have I got News for You featuring the Caped Crusader himself. I'm not sure who 'Pondo' is. Actually, I haven't a clue who he is, but it seemed a damn good idea to post this jollity on a monday morning.

I hope that you will forgive me shamelessly plugging something of my own, but amongst the other things that I do, I am the editor of this rather fine UFO magazine. I was brought in a few months ago to mastermind the relaunch, and my first edition is now on sale through those jolly nice people at MagCloner. I am, actually rather proud of it!

And that, my dears, is that (for today at least). I was not well for most of last week, and you may have noticed that most of the Gonzo Daily was links to other people's stuff without the editorial smart-arse comments and asides which I enjoy so much. Thank you for putting up with me whilst my output was below par - it is jolly good to be back!