Translate

Thursday, 14 December 2017

INFRASOUND - How Low Can You Go?

Infrasound, is sound that is lower in frequency than 20 Hz, which for us humans is at the limitation of our normal hearing range. However, at certain high intensities, although we cannot hear it, we can feel the effects of infrasound vibrations upon our bodies. 

The purpose of infrasound in animals might be manifold or simply dependent on the needs of the particular species that uses it, but I would suspect that one of the main reasons for its use, is its ability to travel long distances.

There are only a few animals that use infrasound, with some of the better known examples being: the whale, elephant, hippopotamus, giraffe, okapi, rhinoceros and alligator; most of which having been scientifically observed and recorded exhibiting this strange ability.

It is interesting to note regarding this strange phenomenon, that some studies have also indicated that tigers also possess this capability and might even use it to paralyse or panic their prey. 

'Crouching Tiger' - by Eugene Delacroix, 1839.

It is this weaponised use of infrasound that coincides with a lesser known theory about Bigfoot, which tells of its possessing a type of infrasound to aid in predation or as a tool with which to drive away unwanted visitors from its habitation. 


In the world of Bigfoot witness reports and researchers encounters, there are many stories of people who describe feeling 'uneasy' or 'spooked out' for no apparent reason; or even of some people experiencing an 'inexplicable fear', seemingly coming from out of nowhere and defying logical explanation, taking place either, just before their Bigfoot sighting or in areas where a Bigfoot have been reported. 


At times this fear has been so strong as to cause people to leave an area altogether and in some cases many seasoned outdoorsman and hunters, have been too afraid to return to the area and yet cannot explain why. 


In the case of one of Britain’s most famous Bigfoot-like creatures, ‘The Big Grey Man' or 'Am Fear Liath Mor' as it's known in Scots Gaelic’, who is said to haunt the passes and the summit of Ben MacDhui, the tallest peak of Scotland's Cairngorm mountains. Many witnesses have described a mind enveloping fear, almost willing them to plunge off the mountainside to their deaths. 


There are also  alleged cases of people becoming mysteriously unwell for days or weeks after experiencing this 'creepy feeling'. 


What if these elusive beasts we know as Bigfoot or Sasquatch do in fact possess some form of powerful infrasound, that can not only cause us to become fearful enough to take leave of our logical process and leave an area without clear cause; but can also cause humans and other animals who encounter them to become physically unwell from the effects that this 'infrasound' has on organic forms? 


This is something that would certainly be a powerful weapon indeed, if it be real! 

I admit that the theory sounds quite far fetched, and to those who do not already hold to some conviction of the reality of this creature, ascribing yet another extraordinary facet to its abilities, might seem a little self-indulgent. Nevertheless, since there are cases recorded by the Fauna Communications Research Institute in North Carolina, where people have reported feeling the paralysing effects of infrasound from known animals like the tiger, then why could the same criteria not apply to a creature like the Bigfoot? 

Fourier transform of infrasound recording
Th Indblad - 2009

One well known British Bigfoot Researcher who has both managed to record an example of infrasound and has also had several British Bigfoot sightings, is Neil Young; who was featured in the U.K. episode of Finding Bigfoot. Neil has been kind enough to share some of his experiences of the British Bigfoot with me, including a sound recording he had made of a British Bigfoot possibly using infrasound. His encounter has been relayed here in his own words, so as to omit nothing in my translation or retelling of his story:

“I’ve had two possible sightings of The British Bigfoot, both in the same location, 8 years or so apart. The first sighting took place around 6am one morning as I was looking from my car across a section of clear cut. There was a mist and it was just starting to get light. I saw an upright figure walking through the clear cut and it climbed over the perimeter fence, the forestry commission erected to keep the roe deer out. It couldn't have been a person as we were the only chaps up there for sure. The second sighting happened on a forest track. After hearing the vocals they make, I got down and waited with the camera ready, then one walked across the track and back into the woods. As for what they are, only a body will tell us that, but I'm in the flesh and blood camp. They are also capable of producing infrasound bursts and I assume they have great nocturnal vision, perhaps with the same ocular capacity as a crocodile with double the available light bouncing around the retina, due to possible mirrored layers within their eyes. In my experience, they leave vertical sticks driven into the earth. It's their way of saying 'I inhabit this area'. They will often stalk you out of pure interest. If they think you're alone they'll come in close...ish.  If you're after a sighting, go in alone, but keep doing it as it's a ratio factor. By going to the same spot again and again and simply sitting there, they will smell you out. Regarding infrasound, we obtained a sound file. We used the Zoom H4N Recorder to pick this burst up. It's all bass so you need to listen with headphones, but it's very impressive. We only picked it out on the recording the following day as we decided to hike back out and sleep in the car as we felt very uneasy that night, so we left the recorder in camp. That's the only night we ever felt threatened. I can't explain it."  

I think it is very significant that individuals who have dedicated themselves to the search for Bigfoot in Britain, experienced a feeling that made them take leave of their logical impulse to discover a new creature and decide to abandon a significant research area in which they were hoping to find the animal. 

Having personally studied the recording of the 'alleged' infrasound; it seems plausible to assume that this sound was being used to drive Neil and his research partner away from a significant habituation and unbeknownst to them, until they heard the recording the following day, it seems to have worked.



Written by Andrew McGrath

'Beasts of Britain' is now available in Paperback and Kindle 


Follow 'Beasts of Britain' on Facebook & Twitter 

Friday, 1 December 2017

PEDDLING THE PARANORMAL - A DEFAULT EXCUSE FOR UNCOMFORTABLE TRUTHS!

1 BORN EVERY MINUTE
In our present age of tweets and memes, fake news and social media witch hunts, one can be forgiven for thinking that the generations that spring forth from this new cultural self-over-exposure, will be buffeted about on the winds of opinion, no strangers to a change of direction, if only enough righteous tweets and screets are aimed in their direction. It is this culture of amnesiac emotional and moral shifts where we currently find both judge and jury in full swing, operating outside of the authority and safety of the courtroom, where evidence is no longer king and the accused is guilty until proven innocent! This is now our de facto reality in our trial by twitter world! It is therefore no surprise that the philosophy one ascribes to, even in our very own slightly 'south of heaven' genre of the unknown, can make or break your acceptance into the higher echelons of the initiate opinion makers of cryptozoology and the paranormal. Historically those who have risked a defined opinion outside of this scope have been summarily discredited or ignored by a histrionic culture of mystery crusaders and paranormal propagandists. This can be seen in a reticence to identify reported cryptozoological creatures as defined animals,  based upon corroborative anecdotal, photographic and film evidence; and a default position which attempts to identify all uncomfortable creatures of cryptozoology as either monster imposters, or in cases where the eyewitness is very credible and descriptive, as paranormal in substance and therefore out of the scope of explanation by natural means. Thereby closing down all discussion upon the zoological nature of these creatures and effectively handing over the investigation to the department of the paranormal for further 'study'.

2 SIDES TO EVERY COIN
In fairness to the pursuers of the paranormal there are certainly enough mysterious reports out there to be rightly and justifiably 'passed' on to them and even some of the more ambiguous cases could easily belong to their camp. However, being of a practical nature myself and having grown up in a religious environment, I see clearly how one's personal philosophy, or faith, can have a significant effect on the perception of what one sees, or believes to see and how personal desire can imprint its own interpretation on to what we observe. In more ancient times, in the west at least, we projected our superstition on to the things around us and imbued their wondrous physiological traits with supernatural meaning. I personally lean towards the philosophical position that ancient societies spiritualised animal traits that they could not understand; and I see that in our modern times we have slid towards a position of selective belief in the unknown. This seems to manifest itself as either a desire to discredit those that witness creatures whose existence we do not accept ( i.e. - yes to Bigfoot, no to Nessie!) or conversely seeks to attach a personal spiritual or supernatural significance to their abilities (i.e - camouflage and infrasound as a spiritual power!) This particular DIY pseudo-spirituality being something that has seen a resurgence in recent years, due largely to the influential absence of organised religion on western societies.

3 SIDES TO EVERY STORY
As the old adage goes however, there are of course always 3 sides to every story, my side, your side and the truth! Therein enters the spectre of perspective and the ugly ogre of subjectivity to which every scientist and layman alike must give deference and bend the knee. Anyone who thinks he is above this particularity is simply fooling himself; and is hopelessly shackled to the notion of his fallacious philosophy as fact, which of course as we all know, is inadmissible evidence when it comes to explaining the unknown. 


HOW DO YOU DESCRIBE A SIGHT NEVER BEFORE SEEN?
When interpreting the extraordinary, we would do well to remember those dumbfounded souls who have gone before us and similarly to ourselves; have used a religious perspective to interpret the seemingly unexplainable sights that assailed their otherwise acute senses. One thinks of the Aztecs seeing the ships of Cortez in the distance and imagining them floating mountains or in their ruler Moctezuma the 2nd, who thought Cortes to be the god, Quetzalcoatl, returning from the east; and thus saw the arrival of Cortes and his men as sacred. This blind belief, sadly signalling the beginning of the end for the Aztec nation.

Moctezuma the 2nd meets Cortes

Yet another lesson in the paucity of perception can be found in the first descriptions of the former cryptid and original wildman of the woods, the Gorilla, which is a wonderful example of an ill fitting substitute being used to describe that, for which we have no applicable comparative reference in nature. This 'Hairy Man' of the forest, originally known to the Mpongwe people as the shy, yet ferocious  'Enge-ena', may in fact stand as a template for the modern day Bigfoot (Sasquatch, Wodewose, Yeren, Almas or Yeti) in that its folkloric reputation and characteristic ape-like features and behaviour, mimics those reputed to belong to our mysterious wood apes. Even the name Gorilla, meaning "tribe of hairy women" in ancient Greek, was reputed to have been given to a savage tribe, who confronted the Carthaginian, Hanno The Explorer, when he travelled to what is now Sierra Leone in 500 BC.

Da Chailu's capture of an infant Gorilla, 1859


INTERPOSING PERSONAL PREFERENCES ON 'PARANORMAL' PAREIDOLIA
Day after day I am pleased to receive correspondence from researchers and interested parties alike who are in the field, so to speak, searching for proof of our current cryptozoological Elvis, that has these last few years superceded 'Nessie' to become the number one most sought after and philosophised cryptid in our world. Starting with popular TV shows like Finding Bigfoot and its many comical spin offs (Killing Bigfoot) and then spreading out to various social media sole practitioners; The 'Squatch' truly has become a western hemispheric phenomenon! This in itself has brought to the field of 'Bigfootery' a rather divergent and loosely connected crowd, simultaneously incorporating many faiths, that includes anything from the underwhelmingly mystical to the overtly scientific and more besides, each in turn staking a claim to owning superior theory, but being just as reliant as the others on faithful disposition to prove their conclusions. I have, for example, lost count of just how many red circled blurry bushes I have had to stare at, out of politeness, whilst being fed some unlikely tale of a trusted daily communion with the alleged creature/s that somehow fails to yield any clear pictures! Or conversely, how many pseudo-empirical brush offs of corroborative physical and photographic evidence do we have to endure, to offer up a pleasing and scientific atonement, to prove the existence of what appears to be a very shy and intelligent animal?  Finally, the financial reward of chasing the beast that is Bigfoot seems to be too lucrative to dissuade the entrepreneurial kind from plundering the pockets of the naive or even just the nostalgic pilgrims of the paranormal, to whom the possibility of the unknown overrules the probable and paves the way to poorer probity.

WHO ARE WOO???
Again, the absence of corporate religion and the search for spiritual importance in our modern age has led to all types of paranormal pursuits that feel as though they have been forced upon cryptozoology like an ill fitting shoe. We hear much about Bigfoot 'cloaking', much like the creature, the Predator in the 1980's action movie turned franchise; and immediately have to wonder if indeed life apes film, or is it more likely to be vice versa; that our mentally ingested creatures of the stage and screen are brought forth in unusual and stressful circumstances, in which we find ourselves lacking a descriptive reference to provide an easy in an out explanation for what we have just experienced? Many animals that change their colour, camouflage or 'cloak', like the Octopus or Cuttlefish, are well within the boundaries of natural science, but may not have been perceived as such, by those uninitiate natives who first beheld their magical abilities centuries ago! 

INDELIBLY IMPRESSED UPON THE MIND, THE AWESOME INACCURACY OF ANECDOTE
So what can we conclude? Simply that anecdote is more oft than not an accurate portrayal of the experience of the witness, but fallible due to its subjectivity to the comparative mental library stored within the witness's own mind and of course their ability to respond and function in highly stressful and confusing situations. This is the reason that even witnesses of the same phenomena are treated piecemeal and preferably separated one from the other in order to gain an uncontaminated rendering of their experience. There are of course several threats to genuine reporting in the current climate of commercial cryptozoology, which undoubtedly pose a threat to unimpeded scientific study. Albeit, there is much that needs to be done to restore the credibility of the much maligned witness. I personally feel that a wholesale rejection of  'draw a circle around it' evidence and the fanciful fantasies of 'the monster whisperers'; who seem to be able to simply assert that they are chosen and perceptive and communicating on a higher plane, as proof beyond doubt that their blurry bush buddies are ultimately deserving of a red circle and a whole host of happy devotees, is at least a start on the road to real discovery. Regardless of whether those discoveries be of the conventional persuasion or the paranormal kind.


Written by Andrew McGrath

'Beasts of Britain' is now available in Paperback and Kindle 

Follow 'Beasts of Britain' on Facebook & Twitter 















Wednesday, 29 November 2017

BRITAIN'S 'CASUAL' BIG CATS


This week I received a report from an incredulous witness who observed a Big Cat at around 9:30pm, on Monday 27th November. The witness and her friend, who wish to remain anonymous, had just collected a hay order for their horses, from a supplier in Rusper, West Sussex;  and were leaving the property, when she briefly jumped out of her car to close the farm. As she made her way back to her vehicle, both she and her friend clearly saw, illuminated by their headlights, an enormous jet black cat walking towards them and looking at them. When the animal was about a 'bus length away'(45 feet) it stopped and licked its nose, before casually disappearing into a hedgerow.  Our witness, amazed by the sight of this creature, says that there can be no mistaking what she saw and said of the animal:

"It was huge and it's big eyes were shining back at us. It was unnerving to say the least. It didn't seem bothered by us at all. I had no idea at all that we had big cats in this country!!" She further described the creature saying: "It was about the size of a Great Dane, but much, much heavier built and definitely male. When it turned I could see its body was around 4ft long, and its tail was around 3ft long, the tail wasn't straight and almost touched the ground even though it curved at the end. The thickness of its tail was approximately as thick around as my wrist and it's legs were, well, stocky, thick or 'good boned' as we would say in horse terms; sturdy looking legs with a slinky walk for its size, moving effortlessly. It's ears were also strange, they were not pointed but round?! "

An interesting aspect of this case is that the witness said that she and her friend were late to collect their hay and would usually have arrived at the location earlier, which could indicate that the animal often frequents the area after hours and may not have expected a human presence to be there at that particular moment. The witness also said that the animal was staring right at her and seemed bold and unperturbed by her presence. As it sauntered towards her, its eyes, which were large and far apart, reflected yellow in the headlights of her Landrover Defender. As one might expect, she beat a hasty retreat back to her vehicle, before observing the animal disappear into a hedgerow; after which, herself and her friend sat motionless and stunned for 5 minutes, trying to figure out what it was they had seen.

It would appear that our witness did in fact have quite a close encounter with one of Britain's mysterious Big Cats, an experience that seems to be quite common these days. Our witness like many other people in the UK, who experience a sighting of one of these creatures, wanted to know how these out of place animals came to be roaming our countryside and was surprised to learn of the sheer scale and frequency of Big Cat sightings in Britain. For those readers unaware of this phenomenon, it is important to give a brief background of the possible cause of this unofficial population of predatory cats roaming our countryside. Probably the most popular theory and I think the most plausible, is that they were released by private owners after the introduction of the 'Dangerous Wild Animals Act' in 1976 , when people no longer felt they could afford to financially maintain them or were perhaps just unhappy with the restrictions placed upon them as owners. Since then it would seem that these creatures, or more properly their descendants, have thrived in relative isolation due to their nocturnal habits.

Black Panther,
Photo by Magnus Manske (wikimedia commons)
The reality of the Big Cat phenomenon is incrementally becoming one of unconscious acceptance amongst the British public. Sightings are so common and reports reach us so regularly through the press and social media, that your average Brit, in possession of even a modicum of mindful intelligence, can see quite clearly that we are looking at a widespread population of an indeterminate number of large, non indigenous predatory cats, that have managed to propagate successfully in the British countryside. The number of  reports is seemingly growing, not declining, and interactions with people and proximity to human habitation is becoming more and more commonplace.



Written by Andrew McGrath

'Beasts of Britain' is now available in Paperback and Kindle 

Follow 'Beasts of Britain' on Facebook & Twitter 


For people interested in Big Cat research and sightings I would suggest joining the following groups:

British Big Cats Society: Facebook

The CFZ Big Cat Study Group:Facebook






Tuesday, 14 November 2017

BEASTS IN OUR BACKYARD

Permanent Leave to Remain 

There are many species that have arrived and thrived in the UK. Becoming commonly sighted in many parts of the country and starting cautiously, in most cases, down the well travelled road of the Eastern Grey Squirrel, (the most common species of Squirrel in Britain, out competing and almost extinguishing our native species, The Red Squirrel, which now only exists in protected pockets of land around the country.) These soon to become residents, are not yet citizens at this point in their dispersion throughout our green land of grey skies and tree ringed parks; but certainly have been granted 'permanent leave to remain', application for citizenship pending.

Many of these invasive species probably started with a few specimens which had escaped from local zoos and wildlife parks or in some cases were intentionally released into the wild by private owners. As a  rule of settlement, if you have enough individuals released into an area in which the habitat is suitable or survivable, then a breeding population is possible. In myriad cases this seems to be what has been taking place and the 'alleged' warmer climate has made the proliferation of these infiltrators possible.

The following list is not meant to be exhaustive, but seeks only to demonstrate some notable examples of 'naturalised' exotic animals that are currently flourishing in our wild places.


Wallaby spotted by mother and son, Lucy and Josh Austin
In Bethersden, Kent. March 2017 
Wallaby
There is a healthy wallaby population living in Staffordshire that originated from five individuals that escaped from a private zoo during World War II. Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire The Peak District, East Sussex, West Sussex, Hampshire, Lancashire, Cambridge and Cornwall also have sustainable numbers of wallabies, some of which are thought to date back to the 1900's. There are long established populations in Scotland dating back to the 1970's and also a group on the Isle of Man that are descended from 1 pair that escaped from a wildlife park. Wallabies co-exist well with other native species and would definitely fit neatly in to the category of becoming a native species within the next 50 years.

Coypu 
The Coypu or “swamp beaver” is a very adaptable species of rodent from South America. Farmed in Britain for fur, escapees or 'fur trade survivors', adapted to our riverbank and streams with ease.The animal was officially eradicated in 1987 but it is believed that there is a small and growing population still extant in Norfolk.

Beaver: Quite recently a dog walker in Devon spotted the first wild beaver that has lived in England for over 800 years. While Scotland saw a successful reintroduction in 2009 via a five year ecological trial, which to my knowledge is still going strong, with reported sightings and beaver sign being seen as far south as Manchester. Beavers were hunted to extinction in Britain in the 13th Century, being prized for their fur and scent glands.

Wild Boar - Wild Boar seem to be spreading across the country rapidly, two hundred wild boars can be found inhabiting Kent,and East Sussex. A further fifteen hundred in Herefordshire and Gloucestershire and 100 animals in Dartmoor, Devon as well as 50 individuals in West Dorset. The male of the species can exceed 20 stone when fully grown, is aggressive if cornered or approached and is not afraid of humans. Their reestablishment, albeit in small pockets of the countryside embodies a most unwelcome return of a rather unpleasant and dangerous animal.

Chinese Mitten Crab
The Chinese Mitten Crab or Moon Crab inhabits tidal streams, rivers and estuaries. First recorded in the River Thames in 1935, it is now endemic in the rivers Thames, Humber, Medway, Tyne, Wharfe and Ouse. Adults migrate down rivers in the autumn to gather in estuaries to breed and can also cross dry land. Some specimens have even been found in in freshwater ponds, far from the sea. The ability of this species to travel large distances up river systems makes the threat of its nationwide spread, significant.

American Mink 
Native to North America this animal has had one of the most significant impacts on British Wildlife, especially vulnerable to this species are water voles, sea birds, domestic fowl and fish. Mostly nocturnal, it is usually found near rivers and lakes and occasionally in a coastal setting. The species was introduced in the 1920's for fur farming and quickly became established following numerous escapes. It is also suspected that there may have been several deliberate introductions of the species into the wild in order to establish a natural population from which to obtain fur products. it is currently an offence to release or allow the escape of these animals into the British countryside.

Canada Goose 
This next animal on this list is one I was surprised to find to be non-indigenous to the UK. First introduced from North America as an ornamental bird in the 17th century the Canada Goose, like the Eastern (Grey) Squirrel is a species so established in Britain, that it has become a natural part of the local fauna and no more out of place in our rivers, lakes and ponds than a swan or  mallard. The flocking and feeding habits of this bird are damaging to crops and grasslands and they are known to have a detrimental effect on riverbanks and on the nests of native species.

Raccoon
It is currently believed that there are just a few of these North American mammals roaming wild here. The animals have been spotted in Hampshire, Leicestershire, County Durham and west Berkshire. Although cute and 'cuddly' as babies, raccoons become very aggressive upon reaching sexual maturity, which often results in them being dumped by their owners. Although they are not thought to be an established species in the UK at present, it is admitted and feared that a few breeding pairs could lead to a population outbreak in a matter of years. Voracious predators and scavengers, they are considered to be a pest, Their colonisation of Britain would have severe ramifications for many native species. It has been illegal to keep a raccoon without a licence, since 2007.

By Brocken Inaglory
Eagle Owl 
A large and intimidating owl, with dark orange eyes, long ear tufts and brown plumage. Standing at 70 cm with a wingspan of 2 metres it is an impressive creature and not one likely to be easily mistaken for another. Kept in captivity since the 18th century, the species has regularly escaped in the UK, but at present there are only a few breeding pairs, most of which mainly inhabit northern England. If eagle owls were to spread in the UK, then some native species of birds of prey would suffer due to increased competition for food. The eagle owl is also very aggressive to humans and dogs near its nesting site and could inflict serious injury on pets and children.

Xenopus Toad 
The Xenopus Toad or African Clawed Toad is found in lowland ponds in Sub Saharan Africa.They have brown-grey mottled bodies with white undersides, powerful hind legs with webbed clawed feet, small front legs with splayed long fingers and small eyes. They are primarily aquatic although they can move across land to colonise other ponds. Their diet consists of water-fleas and terrestrial invertebrates. Populations have been found in Kent, the Isle of Wight and South Wales. As a child growing up in South Wales, I had two xenopus toads as pets for several years and could not have imagined then that there may have been, homegrown members of this species, existing naturally in the wild, in ponds and rivers somewhere nearby. The species can live up to 14 years in the wild. Populations may have been introduced as pets released into the wild or escaped from laboratories.

Rose Ringed Parakeet
If you live in or have ever visited some of the lovely towns and villages in Surrey, you will be familiar with this noisy, yet pretty bird. First introduced in the 19th century, but not firmly established until the early 70's it is a large all-green parakeet with a bright red bill and long tapering tail. There are estimated to be 50,000 Rose Ringed Parakeets in Greater London and Surrey, thousands of which reside in the capital.

Sika Deer
Sika deer were first introduced into Britain in 1860, later, several escapes from wildlife parks and private holdings led to them becoming established in many areas in the UK. The main populations are located in Scotland, Devon, Lancashire and Cumbria. Because Sika deer can hybridise with red deer, they pose an emerging conservation threat to native red deer which could incrementally be bred out of existence over time. An example of this can be found in Scotland where most of the Sika deer population are hybrids. The most common type of Sika deer in the UK is the Japanese subspecies which is significantly smaller than the Manchurian subspecies. a high population of Sika can have a detrimental impact on woodland vegetation and ground flora and poses a threat to road users through collision.

Western Green Lizard
There have been countless introductions of this lizard in the UK since the late 1800's, with populations existing in North Wales, Devon, Kent, Surrey, Bournemouth and Dorset.This lizard is much larger than native species and non-native lizards found in the UK and can reach 30-40 cm in length. It is green with a white or pale yellow underside and may pose a hazard to native lizards upon which it feeds along with invertebrates.

Terrapins 
Most adults of my generation can remember having one of these cute creatures as a pet sometime during their childhood, or if not so lucky as to have owned one, would surely have known a friend who did. Many Terrapins were bought at the height of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles craze in the latte 80s, and later dumped in our ponds, lakes and reservoirs when they grew too large. Many Individuals can be seen basking on lake islands in both Cardiff and London lakes. Terrapins can live for up to 40 years, and happily adapt to our climate.There have been several campaigns over the years to capture red-eared terrapins from our waterways, but the creatures seem to be present in sufficient numbers to absorb a dip in their population. conservationists fear the reptiles, which eat a varied diet of insects, fish, amphibians and even small waterfowl, could have a lasting effect on local ecosystems. it is not known whether the creatures are successfully breeding or whether we are seeing a surviving relict population from the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film in the 80's. Of course with the recent remake of the film in 2014, we could be seeing further releases of new terrapins for years to come!

Scorpions:
There are thought to be around 10,000 yellow-tailed scorpions living in the walls of Sheerness Docks, Kent. These venomous creatures have been residing in Sheerness docks for over 200 years, since first arriving in Britain in the early 1800's. Although, the yellow-tailed scorpion has a sting, similarly to bee stings, it can only kill a human if they happen to be allergic. These fearsome looking arachnids are insectivorous and feed on woodlice and other insects and are known to be cannibalistic when living in large colonies. There are reported to be other colonies of these scorpions living in Harwich docks, Pinner, Tilbury docks, Portsmouth docks and Southampton docks. It is not thought that they have the potential to spread throughout the country and throughout their 200 year history in Britain, they have rarely been seen away from their dockland enclaves.

Licensed to Kill
There are of also many exotic and dangerous wild animals kept by private owners under the 'Dangerous Wild Animals Actresiding behind closed doors and reinforced steel cages here in the UK. But, these beasts are known, at least to the local authorities and as can be seen from the recent numbers below, accessed from a freedom of information act, put forward by a national newspaper to ascertain their whereabouts; and in the meanwhile putting both the owners and their animals at risk of poachers and thieves; the interest and passion for keeping and caring for exotic animals in Britain is still going strong!
What the future of these animals holds in regards to the fidelity of their housing is concerned, no-one can know. What is clear, is that the bulk of invasive species in the UK and those random exotic individuals that are occasionally sighted are former captives, beloved pets or wildlife attractions that slipped away one day or were set free, never to be seen again by their owners and free to thrive or survive in an ever dwindling land.
These deadly menageries can be found in several major cities, including London, Swansea, Stoke, Sheffield, Hull, Portsmouth and Cornwall. Dangerous Wild Animal licences, which allow people to keep these deadly creatures as pets (as long as they have safety measures in place and pay a fee), have been issued for 3 tigers, 9 pumas, 8 leopards, 7 cheetahs, 7 lynx, 3 caiman, 2 alligators, 13 crocodiles, 2 lions, 145 ostriches, 115 lemurs, 412 bison, 6 wolves, 300 boar, and 300 venomous snakes to be kept as private pets.

Who knows how many of these beautiful, but deadly creatures will find their way out into the wilderness in years to come. Some of which, over time, may become just another regular , beast from abroad; roaming the wilds of our beautiful land.


Written by Andrew McGrath

'Beasts of Britain' is now available in Paperback and Kindle 

Follow 'Beasts of Britain' on Facebook & Twitter 

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO NICK TAYLOR?

'Croc Lomond?' an alleged photo of a crocodile-like Lake Monster
taken by Nick Taylor in 1997
Definitive Evidence?
In 1997 Edinburgh photo journalist Nick Taylor was featured on an episode of the now defunct U.S. paranormal series, 'Strange Universe', where he claimed to have photographed and filmed not one, but two British Lake Monsters, in Loch Lomond, Scotland and Llyn Aled, Wales. Both pieces of footage were quite remarkable in their professional clarity and for the natural and animal like movements of the creatures captured both photographically and on film.
I remember seeing the episode when it first aired and again years later on youtube, and thinking that it was possibly the most palpable, clear and convincing evidence of  plesiosaurid animals in British waters.

Here was evidence that could be studied, and used as a valid research tool for learning about the behavioural habits and the habitation of these animals in our waterlogged isles. However, much to my consternation and dismay, not only were the photographs and film footage never released for academic study, but they also disappeared from youtube and other paranormal websites altogether.

Definitely Missing
What could be the reason for such a wholesale withdrawal of such illuminating evidence? I have since searched tirelessly for any online evidence of the original footage and photos and now can only source 2 grainy photos, one of each 'monster' in Llyn Aled and Loch Lomond respectively. The removal of this evidence from the internet, nearly in its entirety does not seem to offer any financial incentive, and withholding such astonishing evidence for 20 years is tantamount to hiding or destroying, through absence, an important body of 'assumed' zoological evidence.

So, I began my search to find the missing footage of these plesiosaur-like creatures with the realisation that I must first find the man, if I am to have any hope of obtaining what could be a decisive win in the fight against the prehistoric extinction camp!

Nick Taylor was an Edinburgh freelance journalist, but where he was born and raised or any other detail of his life seems to be unobtainable or at least inaccessible from the current information that is known about him. Indeed, he strangely seems only to have been known for his discovery of these 2 elusive and previously unrecorded or at least photographically undocumented denizens of our inland waters.

In searching for a sign of his career I have corresponded with the N.U.J. (National Union of Journalists) and Reysher Entertainment who own the rights to ‘Strange Universe’ among others, but have observed a true absence of Nick and his monsters in every source and lead that I pursued. With footage of this kind, it is important to note that dispersion via social media, like YouTube, Facebook and twitter etc. would make deletion of this material from the internet nearly impossible, but as this footage was aired on a short lived American Paranormal show in the late 90's, the online sources available at that time for dispersion of this film and its photographic evidence were in short supply. 

In my search for evidence of this vanished capturer of Celtic Cryptids I have knocked on many digital doors, those of my peers, cryptozoology writers and researchers alike, who have served many real years in this arena, to ask them to empty out their memories and let me see if my quarry may lie somewhere inside. 

I have badgered cryptozoologists like Loren Coleman, Richard Freeman and also Dr Karl Shuker to seek confirmation of this missing journalist and his extraordinary footage. Yet, even among these noteworthy and experienced persons, the material itself and the journalist were barely known, now only residing somewhere on the outer edge of the collective memory, perhaps?  Symbolic of a time when content was transitory in nature, recorded in the memory (or on VHS) and shelved in a format that was unlikely to be viewed by anyone other than those known personally to oneself, and almost certainly in a format that would not be dispersed and shared around the world, in the way that it is now so readily available to anyone with access to a smartphone or computer.

Nonetheless, this only gives us the story of the missing man; and the man without ‘the evidence’ we seek is unfortunately, just another man. No more useful to my endeavours than any other stranger on the street. So, I went back to the web, to snoop and sneak and find the Nick I seek! But alas, either he is no more or his footage is lost for ever, for I could not find a trace of either.

Disturbing Disappearance
Nick lamentably is not alone, but joins a respectable list of people with convincing or at least 'worthy' video and photographic evidence, who have somehow disappeared from public view. This strange disappearance of compelling evidence or even a witness or two is not unusual in cryptozoology and Nick Taylor is just another crypto-witness who has disappeared off the face of the earth, so to speak, along with his 'conclusive' evidence.

Below is the account of the Loch Lomond Sighting

10th April 1997 - A mystery monster has been seen gobbling ducks in Loch Lomond. The 12ft long beast, now captured on video, has left scientists baffled. One even said it looked like a giant crocodile? SSPCA chiefs yesterday confirmed they had received several reports about the new Nessie. A five-minute film of the beast has been shot by pals making a pop video on the banks of 
Loch Lomond, near Rowardennan. Edinburgh freelance journalist Nick Taylor, who owns the film, said: "When the group were packing up they discovered this creature swimming in the water. The thing was gliding through the water slowly, but it often picked up speed and swam against the tide. They got quite a shock, especially when it started to swim towards them at one point. They thought it looked like some giant crocodile or alligator. They had never seen anything like it before.

The film was shown to  Dr. Andrew Kitchener, of the Royal Museum of Scotland. After viewing the tape he admitted that the creature it showed did appear to be a crocodile; however he made it clear that a crocodile would be unable to survive in Loch Lomond. Dr Kitchener was able to rule out a mink or an otter as the creature in the videos identity.

Croc Lomond of Loch Lomond
or the Denbigh Dinosaur of Llyn Aled ?
there is now some confusion over the location in
which each 'monster' photo was taken.
After reading the account of  the sighting at Loch Lomond, I suddenly read the name of a person that I recognised, who could hopefully be contacted. Thus, In a last ditch attempt to trace someone who may be a viable witness to this evidence I contacted Dr Andrew Kitchener, The Curator of Vertebrates, at the Royal Museum of Scotland, the only traceable person to have both seen and scientifically examined this footage. Dr Kitchener was kind enough to respond that he had seen the footage and remembered it well, and may still have a copy somewhere, but that it was on an unlabelled VHS (video tape) somewhere and that he did not have the means to check which tape it was on (i.e. -he did not have a VHS player!).

So started my attempt to obtain this footage by any means possible. It started with my request to receive the suspected VHS tapes on which the footage might be stored in order to view them on the appropriate equipment (a VHS tape player!) and have them professionally transferred onto a modern format and returned to the owner with the original.

I did of course besiege the good doctor for any information about the missing man himself, or any guidance that may lead to a direct contact but his contact with Mr Taylor had been limited and the journalist was not personally known to him. 1 week later I decided to harass the good doctor further with a phone call and was fortunate enough to speak to him. Dr Kitchener confirmed some rather important details about the footage he had seen and also cleared up some details that were misrepresented in his original analysis of the animal in the film. Dr Kitchener stated that he was approached by a band and Mr Taylor, who were making a music video when they claimed to have captured the beast on camera. However, rather than confirm that it was a crocodile as was claimed in the later newspaper article, he instead told them it appeared to be a dead sheep with the spinal column showing above the water.

Additionally,  Dr Kitchener informed me that although the creature appeared to swim from left to right several times in the original footage, He perceived a fishing line which can be clearly seen pulling the object. He was kind enough to inform the group and Nick at that time that there was no way the animal was a crocodile or lake monster, only to be told that they intended to report just the opposite to the papers anyway.

Needless to say, the sheep became a crocodile which then became a lake monster. Adding together these rather damning bits of testimony, the mysterious disappearance of the monster film/s becomes ever more telling, in that a dead sheep being pulled by a fishing line is unlikely to maintain its mystery in an age of digital analysis technology at the fingertips of every internet debunker. Dr Kitchener remains committed to finding the original footage if he indeed has it, and has promised me a copy in any eventuality, which I will undoubtedly and happily share with believers and sceptics alike.

One thing that does trouble me about his analysis is that in the photo still, taken from the 5 minute footage now thought to be that of the alleged 'Croc Lomond' and not 'The Denbigh Dinosaur', the creature does not appear to be skeletal at all, and if anything it has a reptilian head, with a large rounded bumpy hump protruding from the water, which is much too far away from its head to anatomically be that of a sheep, (unless 2 animals were used at the same time to give the effect of a long necked lake monster.)

That of course does nothing to explain the other lake monster photo, purportedly taken at Loch Lomond as well,  which quite clearly shows the crocodilian back and part of the tail of an unknown animal. Clearly in cases such as this, where the credibility of the progenitor of such controversial footage is in question and the footage unofficially missing, we are left with only our gut feeling to guide our conviction and conclusion.


Again, the answer to most fakes and hoaxes is usually a simple one and the more complicated the 'alleged' hoax is purported to be, the less likely a hoax it becomes! This mystery was one that I believed would endure for some time to come, but thanks to the people at Lake Monsters, the original footage has at least been found. We can now see that the animal/object in the footage of the Llyn Aled (Denbigh Dinosaur)  footage is not a dead sheep at all, but something quite unusual! This goes some way at least to exonerate the man himself, although the means of his journalistic demise are no clearer!


Written by Andrew McGrath

'Beasts of Britain' is now available in Paperback and Kindle 

Follow 'Beasts of Britain' on Facebook & Twitter 





Thursday, 5 October 2017

SOME 'FIN' STRANGE AT LOCH NESS!

Basking Shark Fin

At 4:30pm on Monday 2nd October, newlyweds Rebecca and Paul Stewart who were honeymooning at Fort Augustus at the south west end of Loch Ness, observed what appeared to be a strange 'Fin' like object for 5 minutes, as it travelled across the loch. The couple, who took several photos of the object were convinced it was the large fin of a shark, although admitting to being confused as to how such an animal could have travelled so far from the sea, surviving the change from saltwater to freshwater.

Rebecca Stewart said: "We only saw the shape clearly when we zoomed in on the photo. At the time we saw seagulls flying near it, but they were tiny in comparison to whatever it was. We were standing on the jetty at Fort Augustus and it was on the foyers side of the loch and We were on the west side of the loch. My opinion is it looks more like a shark shape, but I can't think of any shark that big that could survive in cold fresh water. There is access to the sea but it's a long way away. After about 5 minutes a big boat went towards it and it disappeared."

Mysterious 'Fin' at Fort Augustus.
(Close up) photo by Rebecca Stewart
October 2nd, 2017
Paul Stewart added: "In the pictures I took on my phone you can see the movement of whatever it was across the water. I couldn't clearly see the shape until Becky zoomed in on it. We weren't sure about the scale of it until a bird flew towards it, and it was small in comparison to the dark object. It had to be twice the size of the sea gull. It's a very big fin if indeed it is a fin!? I was then speculating that it could be a tree or debris of some sort, until it was disturbed by the noise of a boat leaving the Caledonian Canal and never resurfaced. That's when I had no other explanation as to what it could be, it had to be something big and very much alive!"

When asked if he too thought that the object could be the fin of a shark, he said: "We have watched documentaries about Greenland Sharks and Porpoises to see if it's possible they could be the culprit, but if this was a fin we saw, then I don't think it could be either of these animals as they 
Mysterious 'Fin' at Fort Augustus.
photo by Rebecca Stewart
October 2nd, 2017
only have quite small fins in proportion to their body size. I'm just so baffled now. I just don't see these animals having a fin as big as the one we saw."

I proposed to the witnesses that it could be some type of inanimate flotsam, but our witnesses were sure that the object was moving out into the Loch as other pieces of debris were being washed ashore. Additionally, what they perceived as the 'object' sinking, upon seeing a large boat entering the Loch from the Caledonian Canal, seems to indicate an animal-like instinct to hide and is unlikely to have been a coincidence.

Paul and Rebecca spoke about their sighting with some locals who are attempting to locate the skipper of the boat ,that was seen heading straight for the animal before it sank, to find out if he too had seen 'something'. Some of the chatter based upon the description of the vessel indicates that this is a temporary cruise boat in the service of  'Cruise loch Ness', until they have their new boat built.

The Stewarts however are not alone in their sighting, as the 'animal' was seen near the Castle just one day before swimming against a strong wind in a "side to side" motion; itself a very fish-like characteristic and one that excludes the possibility of the animal being a cetacean.

1:Series of 3 photos by witness Paul Stewart
showing the migration of the strange 'fin-like' object.

In opposition to other ill fitting candidates like the Greenland Shark(A Nessie explanation proposed by 'River Monsters', Jeremy Wade.)Sturgeon(a favourite of Adrian Shine and others) or Porpoise. I would propose that a Basking Shark's fin seems to offer a better fit to what we 'may' be seeing in these photos, but freely admit that it would be miraculous if one of these sharks managed to travel this far from the sea in freshwater; traversing the somewhat awkward route from the sea via Loch Linnhe and Loch Eil, The River Lochy, Loch Lochy, Ceann Loch, Loch Oich and the River Oich to Fort Augustus in Loch Ness. There is of course another route via the River Ness that would superficially appear to offer a more direct journey to Loch Ness from the sea, but in actuality it is rather shallow in places and has several weirs; as well it inconveniently running directly alongside the town of Inverness; making the likelihood of a sighting or a stranding more probable via this route.

The Stewart's are not alone in their strange sighting, as there are other historical sightings of what appear to be animate, 'Fin' like objects in this area, that may corroborate what the Stewart's believed they saw. One of these was occurred in the spring of 1958 when  Hugh Rowland, who was then running the Foyers Inn was sitting on the front lawn with his wife and two friends, when they saw an object they described as 'fin-like' when seen from the side. Mr Rowland upon seeing Tim Dinsdale's film in 1960, said his sighting was identical to what was captured in this now legendary footage. What is interesting is that both the Rowland sighting and Tim Dinsdale's film were in the same location, although 2 years apart. As recently as November 2014, there was another (anonymous) sighting reported by a couple from Lancashire, who claimed to have seen a large 'fin-like' object in the centre of the loch, about 1 mile from Fort Augustus and again in September 2016, when a curious photo resembling something akin to a dolphin shaped fin appeared in a national British newspaper. The odd ‘fin’ shaped object clearly visible in the photo seems to be of a greyish hue with a white tip, leading to some of the more seasoned commentators on this subject postulating that in any other location it would quickly have been dismissed as the fin of a dolphin. However, how such a creature could make its way into the loch from the sea seems to be out of the common remit of or beloved experts on the permissible species that are allowed to defeat the formidable borders of Loch Ness ;)

2:Series of 3 photos by witness Paul Stewart
showing the migration of the strange 'fin-like' object.
Some proponents of the plesiosaur theory, such as myself, have theorised that these 'fin-like' sightings could be the hump of the animal viewed side on, in an arched position/formation. There are many sightings which describe these creatures displaying some flexibility in their backs and in some cases they have been observed adopting this position and then 'straightening out' However, this particular sighting was shortly after, debunked; or as I prefer to term it ‘clarified’, when one of the crew of ‘Cruise Loch Ness’ handed in a photo of a ‘fin’ shaped piece of driftwood taken that same day as they were exiting the Caledonian canal!

3:Series of 3 photos by witness Paul Stewart
showing the migration of the strange 'fin-like' object.
Alas! the issue with loch Ness is that it is so vast and almost every sighting captured by any average person carrying a camera is always beyond the range of decent observation. However, I think this mysterious 'fin' sighting is significant because it hints at the possibility that large animals can travel from sea to loch and vice versa; which for some of us zealous believers in Nessie, creates a more plausible transient presence of the 'monster' in Loch Ness and its adjoining waters.











Written by Andrew McGrath

'Beasts of Britain' is now available in Paperback and Kindle 

Follow 'Beasts of Britain' on Facebook & Twitter