Sunday, 25 October 2009

Saturday strangeness

CFZ member Neil Arnold visited the Natural History Museum in London recently and took in some of its cryptozoological exhibits - two of which are relatively close to home for us!
The Museum holds several interesting exhibits including a marsupial Tasmanian Tiger (Thylacinus cynocephalus; Greek for "dog-headed pouched one") and a New Zealand Moa (Dinornis robustus), a 12ft flightless bird. He writes about his visit in Museum of Monsters for The Londonist. Read it here. Photo by Neil Arnold.

What do Kookaburras have in common with possums, or big cats?

Well might you ask!

We found out the hard way a few weeks back when a kookaburra collided with our ute in country NSW, smashing into the passenger window along the highway.

We'd been looking for big cats after receiving numerous reports from a location, but had only seen cattle, kangaroos - and now a kookaburra!

We circled back for the unlucky bird and found him - a forlorn heap of feathers, beak open in shock, eyes unblinking. We didn't hold out much hope for him but picked him up anyway to preserve him from opportunistic predators such as cats and foxes.

Halfway home he blinked his eye, and three quarters of the way home he sat up, looked around and seemed (almost) ready to fly the coop. We pulled over to release him but he couldn't go far and flopped around in the grass. Back into the car he went.

En route home we touched base with WIRES (Wildlife Information Rescue and Education Service) and left a message on their volunteer hotline. We got a call back just before we pulled into the driveway, giving us the details of a local WIRES volunteer who could help out.

Importantly, our helpful caller also told us we were lucky we hadn't released the kookaburra away from its home range. Kookaburras, she told us, didn't like interlopers and a family of kookaburras would have no problem swooping in and killing/dismembering a stranger. Yikes! For more excellent information about how to care for crook kookaburras, go here.

Possums are similar. many people in Australia try to have possums relocated away from their homes, after evicting them from roof cavities. This rarely works. What happens is the homeless possum often has to fight it out with a resident possum in a new territory, leaving them vulnerable to the attacks of cats and dogs. If you have a possum problem, it's much better to erect a possum box (a new house) on a tree for your problem possum, then everyone can (almost) peacefully co-exist.

After examining him for injuries/discharges (there were none), we brought the kookaburra inside and put him in a box with a towel over the top. We kept him overnight and the next morning,after taking the towel off, he hopped onto the edge of the box and took flight...straight into our kitchen window. K-thunk! Ouch! Well, at least we knew his wings were working...

Before we left we dribbled some water on his beak to make sure he wasn't dehydrated, then we popped him into the box and commenced our 300km drive BACK to where we had first encountered him. We pulled off the highway down a side road and set up the box in the grass, taking off the towel. Then we gently picked him up and perched him on the side of the box so he didn't hurt himself trying to get out.

It was all over in the blink of an eye. One minute he was there, the next he'd taken wing into the nearest tree. We heard other kookaburras 'laughing' (a common description for their cackling call, which sounds like raucous laughing) nearby and knew he'd found his family.

And yes, we did feel all warm and fuzzy (and mildly guilty for - unintentionally - driving into a startled bird's flight path). Hopefully next time he'll lift his trajectory!

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Aboriginal thylacine rock art uncovered

Two Aboriginal rock paintings of Tasmanian Tigers (Thylacine cynocephalus: dog-headed pouched-dog) have been found in a hidden art gallery in the Northern Territory.
The paintings were found within an "art gallery" spanning 20,000 square kilometres of Indigenous Jawoyn land from Katherine up to remote Arnhem land.
Jawoyn Association Cultural Manager Ray Whear is convinced it's the extinct animal. The paintings will be included in a database destined to be the largest indigenous rock art collection in the world.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Another thylacine sighting - Victoria 2009

Tasmanian tiger sighting claimed

Posted on June 2, 2009, 6:06pm

A Donovans man says he saw an animal on Monday afternoon that resembled a Tasmanian tiger.

Richard Elliott was driving along Dry Creek Road toward Princess Margaret Rose Cave when he observed the mystery animal near a pine plantation about 3.30pm.

"At first I thought it was a fox, but it was too long and gangly," Mr Elliott said. "It had a long tail; it definitely wasn't a fox."

Mr Elliott said the animal was definitely not a dog or a cat either. It moved into the bush too quickly for him to determine if it had stripes.

Mr Elliott said the animal was long and skinny, with exposed ribs.

The Tasmanian tiger, or Thylacine, is believed to have become extinct when a captured animal died in 1936.

There have been no officially verified sightings of a Thylacine in mainland Australia, but many unconfirmed sightings have been reported in the South East of South Australia, Western Victoria and South Gippsland.

Thylacine sighting - Victoria, 2005

Read about an Englishman's brush with a crypto legend:

On January 17, 2005, Richard Cooper saw a thylacine in the Great Dividing Range east of Melbourne.

"It was daylight, mid-afternoon. Fifty yards ahead of me an animal crossed the track slowly. It was Golden retriever size, as clear as day, and I could see the set of impressive stripes down its back. It was a Thylacine. I felt very fortunate enough to have seen it.”

Friday, 16 October 2009

Dingo headed the way of the Thylacine?

The purest strain of dingo in the world could become extinct if management of their habitat, Fraser Island, doesn't change, according to Hervey Bay MP Ted Sorenson.

At least 10 dingoes have been killed on the island after attacking people.

There's yowies in them thar hills!

A 1978 yowie encounter in the Northern Territory has inspired a play that is now touring the country.

"NT News stories about yowie sightings in Acacia Hills were in fact a key point of inspiration for the piece," she told the Northern Territory News.

The play is the brainchild of Ella Watson-Russell, and centres around the kidnap of a man by two "hairy sisters". Intriguing!

Writing the play has apparently turned Watson-Russell from a sceptic to a believer.

There have been numerous reports of yowies in the Acacia Hills area, most recently in the 1990s.

Qld monster fish swallows turtle

Ouch! When this whopping grouper fish washed up on Townsville Strand in Queensland this week, the government veterinary pathologist Dr Ian Anderson had a poke around inside and - wha-la! One sizeable (and sadly deceased) 40cm green turtle was tucked away inside. Obviously not more than a mouthful for this plucky predator!
The 150kg grouper was washed into the shallows and died shortly after. Dr Anderson is awaiting the results of tests to determine what killed the protected fish.

Photo credit: Qld DPI

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Charles Darwin book launch - Sydney

Book launch: A Natural Calling Life, Letters and Diaries of Charles Darwin and William Darwin Fox

9 October 2009

Come to the launch of the fascinating new book A Natural Calling: Life, Letters and Diaries of Charles Darwin and William Darwin Fox, by Professor Tony Larkum from the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Sydney.

The book provides new factual material on Charles Darwin, following many years of research into Darwin's relationship to his cousin William Darwin Fox. It is a biographical and historical account of the letters exchanged by these two men and the diaries of William Darwin Fox have never been accessed before.

The relationship between Darwin and Fox has been acknowledged as a major biographical source on Darwin. Here the life of Fox is carefully pieced together and compared and contrasted with that of Darwin. Since Darwin and Fox were undergraduates together at Christ's College, Cambridge, and corresponded with each other for the rest of their lives, dying within two years of each other, the diaries allow us a vivid insight into the unique relationship of these two naturalists and family friends.

Both were studying to be clergymen of the Church of England, when Darwin was offered a place on The Beagle. Thereafter their lives diverged, as Fox became the country parson that Darwin might have been. Never the less, Fox supplied many facts to Darwin, which were used in the Origin of Species and later books.

At the launch, hear Professor Larkum speak about his book, followed by readings of some of the letters in the book by professional actors, over drinks and nibbles. RSVP is essential for catering purposes.

Time: 4:30pm - 7.00pm

Location: Macleay Museum, Science Road, University of Sydney

Cost: Free (but RSVP is required)

Contact: Carla Avolio

Phone: 9351 4543


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