By Jonathan David Whitcomb
Let’s examine an individual sighting report and its credibility: an account of an apparent living pterosaur in Spain. (I’ve already written much about the overall honesty-credibility of the reports, so we’ll here concentrate on this individual account.) This brief examination is for identity credibility, to assess how likely this was an encounter with a pterosaur. In other words, was it a ropen or was it a bird or a bat?
The following comes from the fourth edition of my nonfiction paperback book Searching for Ropens and Finding God:
Now let’s travel with an Englishman to a music concert in Spain. I received the email in April of 2008. The sighting was in mid-2007: “I hope you are the Jonathan Whitcomb who has been investigating pterodactyl like animals in Papua New Guinea? I’m not sure who to tell this to, as it’s a bit strange, but I was researching ‘modern pterodactyls’ on the internet, following something I saw a bit closer to home in Spain, and your name cropped up quite a lot, so thought you might be interested in what I saw . . .
“Firstly, I assure you I am NOT LYING—I’ve got literally no interest in making something like this up. Apart from the two people with me at the time, I haven’t mentioned this to anyone (bar yourself now), simply because I realise it sounds odd, and can’t be bothered to have to defend myself on this. However, I firmly believe that anyone seeing something generally considered unbelievable should mention it to people who are actively researching the field . . .
“. . . last summer, some friends and I drove from England (where I live) to [Benicassim] (in East Spain—near [Desert de les Palmes] I think) for a music festival. One night, whilst sitting on the ground by the tents . . . I saw what I at first assumed was an owl gliding over the campsite (I assumed that because it was night time, and obviously no other birds would be out—bar things like nightjars which this was not!) – it passed right over us, probably about 30-40 ft high, and as I watched it, I realised it was definitely no owl I’d ever seen before.
“. . . looked like the same sort of texture as suede (i.e. no feathers), had a long thin tail, and didn’t flap once. I only saw it for a few seconds (as the campsite was lit up, illuminating it from beneath), but it fairly quickly passed into the dark, out of the reach of the light. It wasn’t as big as the ones you describe from Papua New Guinea, but was 100% not a bird.
“I entertained the notion it could have been a fruit bat (despite there being none in the Spanish ecosystem it would seem), but I haven’t been able to find any species of fruit bat ANYWHERE that has a long, straight tail, and I’m sure I’d recognise a fruit bat if I saw one.
“The animal didn’t have a crest or anything as far as I can tell, though it flew directly over us, so if it did have a crest, it may have been obscured by the head and underside of it—like I said, it was suede/sand/skin sort of colour, wingspan I’d estimate to be only 2-3 feet tip to tip, and was gliding for the whole time I saw it.
“The impression I got was a lot more bat-like than bird, except it had a beak—and I realise that owls have flat faces, and bats obviously don’t have beaks.
“The tail must have been close to a foot I guess, but tapered to a point, and I didn’t see a flare at the end as per actual pterodactyls—but I wasn’t expecting to see this animal, so didn’t have time to study every aspect of it (wish I had!).”
Could it Have Been an Owl?
Consider the following points about this sighting:
- “It had a long thin tail”
- It had a beak and was unlike the flat face of an owl
One of the above two points might be the result of a sighting error but not likely both of them. An owl-interpretation is eliminated as a likely possibility.
Was it a Bird Other Than an Owl?
Not many bird candidates jump out of us that appear to have no feathers, glide (with no wing flapping) at night, and have long thin tails.
Could it Have Been a Bat?
The above two points also make it very unlikely to have been an encounter with a large bat. In addition, the eyewitness reported that he would have recognized that it was a fruit bat if that is what was seen, but differed too greatly from that kind of bat.
It was more likely a ropen than anything else: The eyewitness probably saw a small ropen in Spain on that night near Desert de les Palmes, in the summer of 2007.
Pterosaur seen: Utah, Virginia, Mississippi, Maryland
Not every flying creature in Searching for Ropens and Finding God appears to be the same species. Most of the sighting reports suggest a Rhamphorhynchoid (long-tailed) pterosaur . . .
Peter Beach and Milt Marcy, both of the Portland area of Oregon, led an expedition in Papua New Guinea, in March and April of 2015, searching for a living pterosaur that previous American explorers had failed to see clearly. This time Americans did see, in daylight, the form and features of an apparent pterosaur.
A family saw an apparent pterosaur flying over the city of Edmonton (Alberta, Canada) recently, and the flying creature appeared to have been a ropen.