At the beginning of the 21st Century monsters still roam the remote, and sometimes not so remote, corners of our planet. It is our job to search for them. The Centre for Fortean Zoology [CFZ] is - we believe - the largest professional, scientific and full-time organisation in the world dedicated to cryptozoology - the study of unknown animals. Since 1992 the CFZ has carried out an unparalleled programme of research and investigation all over the world. Since 2009 we have been running the increasingly popular CFZ Blog Network, and although there has been an American branch of the CFZ for over ten years now, it is only now that it has a dedicated blog.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

PTEROSAURS? HERONS? ZACHARY MANN TAKES A LOOK

Days and Nights of Pterosaurs
         
          On October 10, 2013, a woman in Slidell, Louisiana, had a sighting of an unusual creature flying in the sky near her home. It was about the size of any normal looking bird, but it had a very unusual appearance. It had a long slender neck. She could see teeth inside the creature’s mouth. It was completely featherless: instead it had something that looked like hair.  As it flew it made a sound similar to a crow’s call.

Sometimes when you investigate reports of unusual animals, especially in your own back yard, it takes a reported sighting elsewhere in the country to get you up and going. To give you the re-energized feeling and passion that helps you go forward. Recently I was doing some research and I found an interesting story that lead to a couple of new sightings of a very strange beast in the Commonwealth.
In the summer of 2012 a local man had not one, but two encounters with a strange creature he saw as it flew over the highway. The first time he was alone, the second time he had his daughter with him. They said from their vantage point the creature was above the tree line, maybe 150-200 feet above the ground. It had featherless wings and, most notable of all, a long thin whip-like tail that ended in a diamond tip. They estimated the wing span to be between 6-10 feet. His daughter drew a couple of sketches of the creature with the most distinguishing thing being the tail.
These people were willing to come forward soon after their sightings, others are far more reluctant. This is due mainly because of the fear of ridicule - not just from strangers, but from their own friends and family members. Such is the case of a local man and his friend just outside of the state capital of Richmond. He and his friend are amateur astrologers. One night the two of them where looking up at the night sky with their telescope when they saw an unusual animal fly across the night sky silhouetted by the moon. They described it as a “Dinosaur Bird.”
Judging from their description, they obviously mean a pterosaur. These flying reptiles were not dinosaurs, but they did live in the same geological time period as them.  People familiar with Cryptozoology literature and history will know that creatures resembling pterosaurs have been reported for decades all over the world: from Zambia to Namibia, from New Guinea to New Zealand, and from Brazil all the way into Texas. Yet some reports are found throughout the rest of the United States, usually in the South. So looking around I found that there were some rather interesting sightings from areas in my home state that in addition to looking quite similar to each other had another trait in common, the majority tended to take place right near water.
In summer 1999 a couple was out swimming at night in a local reservoir when a strange creature flew just feet above their heads. It covered a great distance with only a few flaps of its wings before landing nearby. The witnesses where terrified by its appearance and got out of there as quickly as possible.
Another much more recent sighting took place in the Chesapeake Bay area on the boarder of Virginia and Maryland. A group of friends were inner tubing on the river. It was early afternoon when an unusual animal flew over their heads and perched in a nearby tree. The eyewitness said it was unlike anything he had ever seen.
These sightings sound interesting, but I have to admit being that so many sightings are close to water I think I might have a more logical explanation for them besides living pterosaurs. Here in Virginia we have a truly spectacular animal that is found around water, one with a disturbingly prehistoric look about it, the Great Blue Heron. These herons are huge birds. Looking at them from a boat or a car far away you can tell how big they are, but to truly realize just how awe inspiring they are you have to seem them up close. And I have.  
Those long slender legs, the long sharp beak, and the loud flapping sound they make when they fly, even the way the just stand while searching for fish is breathtaking. One look at them and you could easily think you were looking at something prehistoric. Since most of the eyewitnesses report them at night around water it is not too hard to imagine someone not expecting such a large bird to come flying right over them. It would give most people quite a shock. Add in the fact that they have smooth grayish blue feathers and from a distance, or at night, they would appear featherless.
As I was researching this I drove out to the local reservoir just to see what I could see. There along the shore line where three Great Blue Herons all huddled close together. It was an amazing sight. Their wings made a great whooshing as they lifted themselves high up into the air. I started to wonder are there such creatures like prehistoric pterosaurs still out there somewhere? I don’t know. What I do know is that as long as people venture out into the wilds they will return with stories of strange creatures and fascinating experiences. The only thing I know for certain, is that unless people start asking questions and really looking into the claimed sightings we will never know the answer.

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