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, September 16, 2009

Jon, Corinna and Max arrive in Ireland

...Graham monitors the phone at CFZ Central

I’ve now prepared the means by which I can record phone conversations on my computer, but that wasn’t complete at the time of Jon’s initial call. The option to do that will be handy when any reports are phoned in from Sumatra – or, indeed, any further reports from Ireland.

Wednesday night, Jon phoned in a very brief report and I scribbled hasty notes.

“The ferry arrived at 7am,” Jon said. “And we must have looked innocent despite the long hair because we didn’t get stopped for any checks.”

Jon described how, by way of contrast, a chap driving a posh E-type Jaguar had his vehicle subjected to a general search while the CFZ party were just waved past.

(I think Corinna has the longest hair of the three but there’s probably not much in it.)

Jon continued, “We arrived in County Kerry around lunchtime, and at Doc’s at 1pm and spent some time talking to him and his wife.”

Jon said that groovy things are happening, and that the rest of the afternoon was spent meeting various members of the Shiels clan.

I then gave Jon a brief update on how things are going at CFZ Central, and then the call concluded. If my recording set-up works OK, then next time I should be able to post a verbatim transcript on the Internet. Good stuff, eh.

The prodigal cat

Lars Thomas is one of the CFZ's oldest friends and most long-standing members. He lives in Copenhagen, Denmark and has helped us in the past by having our expedition samples' DNA tested. He is a leading expert in the cryptozoology of Scandinavia and is currently working on a book on these cryptids for the CFZ, which we are eagerly anticipating.

Being interested in mysterious phenomena ensures that you always get some rather strange letters and weird e-mails – and phone-calls, although they can be a bit of a drag, especially when some nutter calls you at four in the morning wanting to discuss the latest news from the dimension where he forgot his mind the last time he was on a picnic. But usually it is interesting and funny.

Today someone sent me a clipping from the Danish newspaper Ekstrabladet from June 25th concerning a cat that had been reunited with its owner. Nothing special there, I hear you cry, except for the fact that the cat disappeared from said owner 10 years ago.

The cat disappeared without a trace from its owner’s home in Egernsund in southern Denmark in 1999. But lo and behold, in the middle of June it was found in the town of Tinglev, about 40 kilometres from Tinglev. The owner had trouble recognising her cat, as it was in a rather poor condition, but a number tattooed inside the cat’s left ear clinched the matter. After ten years of absence, Emma the cat was home again.


Muirhead`s Mysteries is back after a bit of an absence and today we take a brief look at cat curiosities. I touched on this in issue 16 of Animals & Men in an article titled ` A Collection of Cat Curiosities.` My apologies to anyone who has already published this information without my knowledge.

This first case really interests me.

All I have is the following bare note: Naturalists Notebook 1868 p.318. 'Flying cat. Shot by Alexander Gibson at Punch Mehab and exhibited at last meeting of Bombay Asiatic Society. Called by Bhells pauca billee. 18 inches long and as broad when extended.

Mr Gibson really believes it to be a cat and not a bat o flying fox as some contend.'

The Sun of October 15th 1999 reported on Spike, Britain`s oldest moggie: 'A 29-year-old ginger and white tom-cat called Spike was yesterday crowned Britain`s oldest living moggie...She only discovered Spike was a record-breaker when she took him to a vet. She said: “ I`d no idea his age was that unusual but the vet was staggered so I called the record people.” Mo [his owner] added: "He must be lucky because he was bitten by a huge dog at 19. Vets didn`t think he`d live. “ Britain`s oldest ever cat died in Devon in 1957,aged 34.'

I have several pages of information from The Natural History of Northampton-shire with some account of the Antiquities,etc, etc.(1712 p.443), which includes the following information on wild cats (items of interest to me in my italics).

'Many Years ago we had wild cats in our Northamptonshire Woods; as appears by the Charter of King Richard I to the Abbot and Covent of Peterborough,giving them leave to hunt the Hare, the Fox,and the Wild Cat...And we now meet with them,tho` more rarely since the Woods have been thinned. These from their way of living,which is catching birds, on which chiefly they feed,are here called Birders. The wild Cat, that however of Whittlewood Forest, is generally larger Size, and has a Tail many Degrees bigger than the Tame. The wild Cats differ also in Colour from the common House-Cats…I mean in respect of the Colour, [of the Wild Cats] which for the main is a dusky Red or Yellow, and that in all of them; whereas in the Tame ones it is various and uncertain. The She Cats at Finshed, and the like Lone-Houses, do sometimes wander into the Neighbouring Woods and are gibb`d by the Wild ones there. `Tis a very difficult matter to the Wild Wood Cats, tho taken never so young into the House.

Thus concludes Muirhead`s Mysteries for this evening.


Coming soon to Still On The Track:
The Adventures of Marmaduke Wetherell, Adventurer Part II: A Turn For The Worse.

Special thanks to Andrew Perry for the picture.


Max spent most of the summer doing his A-levels, which is - I suppose - a perfectly valid reason for him not having done any bloggo stuff for yonks. However he has managed to sneak out a few times to sit in his car and listen to Tarkus with a peculiar look on his face, and occasionall to do a little bit of bird watching. He usually takes his camera with him, and over the last few months has built up a fantastic library of images of the wildlife of the Wells region of Somerset. Here are some of them...

There is little interesting or special about this series of photographs. All we have is a series of ducks and geese that I saw in about 10 minutes of photography at a local lake. Never mind.

We start with one of Britain’s most successful aliens, the Canada goose. A large duck, along its range in North America some populations can be half the weight of others, but some of the larger races were released here on separate occasions to make up our mixed race Canada geese. They are a pretty species; although apparently dull the body’s feathers look like they have been painted over with a light brush of cream paint to create the grizzled effect on the brown feathers.

Now a rarer species: the pochard. An uncommon duck, it is easily seen in wetland nature reserves, but rarely in town and garden lakes. A pretty duck, the chestnut head gives its presence away. They sit very upright in the water before diving down like their close relatives Tufted ducks to catch their food. They are slow to get off the water in flight, and often take a long runway along with furious flapping and surface running to get them airborne.

Mallards have been domesticated for centuries, and here is a feral cultivated variety. It is larger and heavier-bodied than a wild individual, and most obviously, a very different colour. It seemed to have paired with the female below, and both ducks were happy for me to get quite close to photograph them. Mallards are so ubiquitous they have become the default duck for modern times. They adapt easily to human presence and are as such a common feature in watercourses around the UK.

Dumpy, black and white, and Britain’s most common diving duck, Tufted ducks are amongst the cutest of our local ducks. The males are a striking two tone with a funny crest that they erect to display to females, but it is lost when they shed to eclipse plumage.

There - some common Anseriformes.


Well, I was quite pleased I managed to come up with something to write for yesterday’s editorial but pride was immediately drowned by the crushing realisation that I had to come up with something else for today! Gaaahh! As luck would have it, though, my Mum wanted to watch a film on More4 last night that turned out to be (vaguely) on topic.

Cat Dancers told the story of Ron and Joy Holiday, married ballet dancers who turned their act into a spectacular circus performance incorporating dance and trained big cats. Whether or not you approve of this use of wild beasts, the Holidays were popular, and eventually a third (human) member of the team was added, in shape of young circus performer Chuck Lizza – bizarrely the threesome (pun definitely intended) formed a sort of unofficial marriage later, exchanging rings in a private ceremony at the ranch where they lived with their menagerie. Sadly both Chuck and Joy were both killed within weeks of each other in 1998 by Jupiter, their white Bengal tiger.

Coincidentally, Ron and Joy met as children in their home town of Biddeford, Maine (U.S.).

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday’s News Today

More cryptozoology news for you today, as I’m sure you have come to expect, nay demand, by now. Oh, and it goes without saying that the pun at the end will leave a bad taste in your mouth:

Flying mice

Pet rabbit gets head stuck in car engine

Yoghurt pot hedgehog's cellar rampage

Snake with foot found in China

Bet you can’t guess the snake's name...

It's ‘Claude’.