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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Monday, May 18, 2009

THIS IS ODD: Owl with luminous eyes

This is monumentally peculiar. I don't believe a word of it. But I have no idea how, or why this was made, or even what it is. Please enlighten me...

GLEN VAUDREY: The riddle of the Sumatran humming bird.

Glen is one of the newer additions to the bloggo family. He wrote to me out of the blue last year to ask wherther we wanted a Western Isles volume in our Mystery Animals of Britain series. We argeed that we did indeed want one, and commissioned him. What we were not expecting was such a bloody good writer and all round nice guy, who - by the way - is writing several other volumes for us...

The hummingbird (family Trochilidae) is famed for many things - not least their ability to fly backwards. Of course, not forgetting their small size; the world’s smallest known bird is the bee hummingbird (Mellisuga helenae) which measures in at just 2.24 inches.

What is less well reported is that the range where these magnificent flying marvels can be found? In case you don’t know there range is restricted to the Americas and the Caribbean, which makes the report of a sighting of a Sumatran humming bird all the more remarkable. You see Sumatra is part of Indonesia, and that is on the other side of the Pacific from where you would normally expect to find hummingbirds fluttering about the blooms.

It was in the late 1950’s when Otto and Nina Irrgang reported that they had sighted a new species of hummingbird, one that was only half the size of the bee hummingbird; at 1.5 inches it was a seriously short fellow. Luckily one of their sightings occurred when one bird hovered within a foot of their faces. Given this close encounter it is hardly surprising that the pair managed to get a good description of the mystery bird, describing it as having a stripped yellow back and with a brown underside.

As befitting a true mystery cryptid it is needless to say no known Indonesian bird fits the description neither sharing the colour pattern or the birds small size, for even the smallest bird in the island chain measures 3.5 inches at maturity.

So the question has to be asked is there really a Sumatran humming bird awaiting discovery or could this whole report be based on the sighting of an unidentified insect

Another mystery insect

I have commented before on these pages how things seem to happen in patterns, and if we understood why, we would be a damn sight closer to understanding the way that the omniverse works.

For the second time toiday, therefore, a mystery insect from Usenet, and for the second time today I don't know what it is....

THE BIG THREE: Alan Friswell


Alan first came to my notice when he turned up at our stall at last November's Unconvention. He was clutching a box that had once held a plastic Christmas Tree. He thrust it at me, and said "Here's your mermaid".

I vaguely remembered Richard F having said that one of his mates had offered to make us a feegee mermaid, but I had forgotten all about it. Sad to say, so many people offer to do stuff for us, and then fail to deliver, that I had got into the habit of treating all such offers cum grano salis, but the advent of Alan shows that I should not be such a cynical old sod. Now he has become a guest blogger, and furthermore a guest blogger who's output is often so elegantly macabre that I have started hassling him to write us a book..


Or to be specific, the surgeon’s photo. Yes, we all know that it’s a fake, but nevertheless, it can probably claim to have had more influence--and, it must be said, in a positive way--on Loch Ness research in the last 50-plus years, than any other piece of evidence, eye-witness statement or even sonar reading.

The surgeon’s photo inspired the legendary Tim Dinsdale to set up shop at the loch, and was therefore responsible, in a kind of serendipitous way, for the famous film that Dinsdale shot in 1960; this film of course, precipitating the majority of the investigative work that followed; everything from Robert Rines to Adrian Shine, and yes, even to Freeman and Downes.

I remember at the age of thirteen, discovering Dinsdale’s book The Story Of The Loch Ness Monster in W.H. Smiths. It was the start of the school summer holidays, and I read and re-read it during the first week. I already knew quite a bit about Loch Ness, of course, but Dinsdale’s book inspired me to trawl through libraries and bookshops, and do my own ‘research’ into the mystery, and I remember studying the plesiosaurs with great interest on one of the frequent trips with my mum and dad to the Natural History Museum, which became practically my second home from the ages of seven to eighteen.

I have enormous affection for those times, setting-up my own 'Loch Ness Investigation Centre' in Dagenham, and getting various friends involved; but none of this would have happened, if not for the surgeon’s photo which inspired Dinsdale to set up his studies, and write his books. It certainly proves to me, at any rate, that fake evidence, however ultimately undesirable, can, in rare situations, result in positive, as opposed to negative effects on the investigative community.

I’m sure that there is something in Loch Ness. Numerous sonar readings of large animate objects confirm that. Whether it is a sturgeon, a huge eel, some form of zooform phenomena, or even--and why not for old times sake--a plesiosaur that, while for reasons that we all know could not be resident in the loch, might perhaps be an ocean-dwelling species that may be able to negotiate the River Ness and find it’s way into the loch on occasion for reasons that we are as yet unaware.

So well done to those old surgeon’s photo fakers. From a purists point of view, I cannot condone their handiwork, but considering their contribution to the Loch Ness legend, and my own happy memories of reading Dinsdale’s book, and all that resulted from it, I cannot find it in my heart to condemn them too harshly either.


I’ve chosen big cats as my second cryptid, because of all the creatures in the pantheon of zoological anomalies, I consider these animals to be the most likely to be actually ‘discovered’ at some time in the--hopefully near--future. I’m not a zoologist, and I’m certainly not an expert on big cats, but there are some aspects to the mystery that invite comment, even from the layman.

I know that I’m going to be disagreed with here by quite a few CFZ bods who believe that mystery cats are a combination of escaped exotic species and possibly some cross-breed between feral cats and some new strain of large wild cat, but while this may well account for some of the sightings, I don’t see how an animal the size of a black panther can escape detection for the forty-plus years that they have supposedly been extant in the countryside.

We see numerous wildlife documentaries in which jaguars are routinely photographed in the depths of the South American rain forest, and snow leopards tracked down in the foothills of the Himalayas. Now Exmoor is a big place, I’ll grant you, but only relatively speaking. Compared to the Amazon jungle or the foothills of the Himalayas, Exmoor is about the comparative size of a postage stamp, and yet these giant cats seem to evade detection, capture, gunfire, even a truly conclusive photo with ease. How on earth do they manage it?

As I said, Exmoor is a big area, but one with, nevertheless, a finite number of topographical places of interest in which a big cat could hide out or nurture young. And if these creatures are really flesh-and-blood, then they would surely use the same shelters year in year out. The same goes for all the other locations in which big cats apparently thrive through generation after generation, while remaining untouchable by human intervention or interference.

I think that the only way that these creatures could successfully inhabit such comparatively small areas of territorial predation while remaining, to all intents and purposes invisible, would be if, at least some of the time, they are exactly that.

If these animals are real, surely there would have long since been a wildlife documentary on them, with the same kind of photography that we see in programmes about jaguars and snow leopards, maybe even one of them stuffed in the Natural History Museum--although I’d rather they remain a mystery, than to see one come to such a sorry end--or in the London Zoo.

I consider big cats to probably be some kind of zooform phenomena, but surely a conclusive search of Bodmin or Exmoor, with a careful mapping-out of the territory will result in a final answer. Perhaps I’ll be proved wrong, and parts of Britain really are inhabited by huge cats that can move amongst us with ninja-like stealth, but until that time, I think that we might be facing something a lot stranger…


Yes, I think dragons are great. I’m certain that Richard F could tell you a lot more about their history--both natural and unnatural--than I could, but dragons are the kind of creature that should exist, and actually might.

According to accepted zoological principle, a vertebrate animal cannot have more than four limbs, seemingly ruling-out the classic image of the dragon with four legs and wings, but evolution moves in mysterious ways, and while the fossil record has yet to throw up such a creature, that doesn’t mean that it never will.

Besides, it may well be that dragons exist in a different ‘reality’ to our own, more akin to zooform phenomena than permanently solid beasts, and like the tulpa manifestations of our subconscious, may inhabit our dreams from which they might derive their solidity and substance.

Most cinematic depictions of dragons are somewhat different from the classic model; in the film Dragonslayer, for example, the creature Verimthrax Pejorative was actually based on a small Jurassic pterosaur called rhamphorhynchus, while Ray Harryhausen’s dragon in The Seventh Voyage Of Sinbad was pretty close to the ideal, but minus the wings.

Is it possible, that some of the supposed pterosaur sightings reported by witnesses could actually be of dragon-type creatures? The ropen, for example, might be related to life-forms that can move in and out of our reality at will. Contemporary people with minds more geared to science than mythology expect to see pterodactyls rather than medieval monsters, so our skies are full of pteranodons, rather than giant airborne beasts with spines and claws, and mouths full of hellfire. Perhaps the dragon is an adaptable monster, appearing in the form that we wish. Although if they really are dependant upon us for their ‘reality’, perhaps we should think twice, or at least stand well back, before wishing one into existence….


As you know, Oll has been working on the archiving project since early February, and he has just started the Mystery Cat section. This second trenche is mostly from the mid 1990s, but with a few from much earlier, and mainly cover mystery cats from the south of England


NAOMI WEST: Vulture stories

Since moving out to the country here in Central Texas, I have encountered many creatures in places they shouldn’t be – a scorpion in the kitchen, a camel cricket in the tissue box, a gecko under the couch…But nothing prepared me for the large bird hanging out by the porch grill one day. It was a Turkey Vulture. My husband and I were astonished that it didn’t take flight when we approached for a closer look until we noticed that one wing was hanging crooked. It was clearly injured and couldn’t fly. After several unsuccessful phone calls for help, including one to the local game warden, we finally called our priest, Fr. Paul – not for the bird’s last rites, I might add, but because he is a falconer and familiar with birds of prey. He said to feed the bird some meat, and if it was still around the following day, he would come pick it up and take it to Last Chance Forever, a center in San Antonio that rehabilitates birds of prey.

The vulture disappeared before we could feed it, but returned the next day to peer into our living room window. We offered it a raw chicken breast, which it pinned down with one foot and eagerly devoured. Then it enjoyed an extremely long drink from a plastic bowl in the yard. I wondered how long the poor bird had been walking around searching for food and water. Its hunger had obviously surpassed its fear of humans. I offered some more chicken, but it seemed to have had its fill and disappeared again.

It reappeared the next day, and this time Fr. Paul arrived before it could leave again. My husband, my cousin, Fr. Paul, and I circled the vulture to prevent escape, then Fr. Paul, in two quick strides, grabbed it and even managed to expertly avoid the vomit that it spewed in defense. We were impressed. He took it home where he fed it rabbit – killed by his hawk, no doubt -- then took it to Last Chance Forever the following day.

I regret to say that the bird had to be put down. The break on its wing was an old one, and decay of the bone had already set in. I was heartbroken, my only comfort being that the bird had fallen into loving hands and been well fed before its passing.

Thereafter, I began to notice all the vultures, most of which are Turkey Vultures, in my area. I started researching Turkey Vultures and found fascinating facts to counter the common misperceptions of this much underappreciated bird.

There are two families of vultures: the New World vultures from the family Cathartidea, which inhabit the Americas, and the Old World vultures from the family Accipitridae, which are found in Europe, Asia and Africa. (Many people incorrectly refer to vultures as “buzzards,” a term which properly applies to hawks. This mistake likely originated with the early British Colonists, who had never seen a vulture before coming to the continent.)

Only the New World vultures have a sense of smell, with Turkey Vultures having the keenest. They are attracted to ethyl mercaptan, the gas of decaying meat. However, they prefer fresh meat, and there is a point at which they will consider a carcass too decayed to eat. Turkey Vultures also prefer the meat of herbivores, which is why they will eat a deer before they will touch a dead dog or cat.

While Black Vultures have been known to occasionally kill living prey, Turkey Vultures are non-aggressive. Their defense is their vomit, which contains a partially-digested piece of meat. The smell of the vomit is supposed to deter any predator, and can even distract the predator by serving as an edible offering.

Most people can identify a vulture by its bald head, but may not realize that the baldness prevents the accumulation of bacteria that feathers would otherwise collect from decaying flesh. What little bacteria that does adhere to the head will be destroyed by the sun. Another function of the bald head is thermoregulation, a process which helps control the body temperature.

Any bacteria and disease that a vulture ingests from a carcass will be destroyed in the digestive system. Moreover, its feces functions as a sanitizer for its legs, destroying any bacteria collected from stepping on a carcass. This disease-free feces poses no threat to humans.

Although vultures like to roost in high, open spaces such as radio towers and tall trees, they carve out nests in the soil of the ground or seek the shelter of caves, hollow logs, or old buildings. They lay a maximum of three eggs and raise only one brood a year.

Despite beliefs to the contrary, a circling vulture does not indicate the presence of a carcass; rather, a vulture will circle for hours on currents of air that keep it afloat without having to flap its wings. It may be looking for food or simply soaring at its leisure. When a vulture does spot a carcass, it will descend fairly quickly upon it.

I have found the most fascinating sight in this area to be the vultures congregating in the air. Being a very communal species, they will cluster together and circle lazily overhead by the scores. The sight is awe-inspiring, an unexpected blessing from a creature so often misunderstood and scorned. And while I am so sorry the vulture that showed up at our house could not be saved, I am eternally thankful he sparked my interest so I could discover his amazing species.

The pics are of the vulture that showed up at our house. He was apparently a juvenile, as his head had not yet turned red.

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday’s News Today


What happened yesterday in the world of cryptozoology? This happened:

Frogs airlifted to protect from deadly fungus
British couple travels 6,000km for purr-fect cat
How Neanderthals met a grisly fate: devoured by humans
Wolves' zoo return after absence

Continuing the old jokes theme from yesterday:

Why did the frog keep getting things wrong?It was always jumping to conclusions.