Being a long-time bushman, Bob Skelton is a tad sceptical about sightings of the elusive and mysterious black panther.
"They're just big feral cats," said Bob, a Hunter bush poet nicknamed Minmi Magster.
"I reckon if they were around one would have been found as road kill by now or caught in a trap," the Magster said.
"When we were trapping rabbits at Main Creek in Dungog, we sometimes caught a tiger quoll, or tiger cat, as they called them way back then, but never a panther.
"I have hunted with hounds along the Sugarloaf range in the old days and I reckon the hounds would have treed one if there were any around."
Several sightings of the black panther have been reported at Mount Sugarloaf.
We reported a couple of weeks back that Chris Trees, 35, was riding his mountain bike when he spotted "a big, black cat" drop from a red gum tree.
"It was easily the size of a rottweiler. It had a big, black, bushy tail. It scared the shit out of me," said Chris, of Macquarie Hills.
Chris returned to the scene and photographed the tree in question, which had scratch marks on it.
Magster: "Why didn't they send someone to analyse the tree for claw marks and droppings?"
Topics: "Next time we'll call the Black Panther Detective Squad, for sure."
Magster: "I still reckon they're feral cats".
Topics: "Maybe they're spirit cats".
Jokes aside, we really have no reason to doubt the dozens of eyewitness reports of big black cats. Many of these witnesses invariably say something like "it definitely wasn't a feral cat".
Newcastle Herald readers have also reported panther sightings at Minmi, Wallsend, Munmorah, Swansea, Morisset, Wyee, Freemans Waterhole, Kurri Kurri, Cessnock, Dungog, Singleton, the Watagan Mountains, Medowie and Stroud.
Across the state and country, panther sightings are many and varied.
We also ran a story last week of a photo of a big pawprint out the back of Wollombi.
Magster: "It was in soft sand - that made the print look bigger. I say feral cat."
Topics: "What about Vaughan King? He's founder of the Australian Big Cat Research Group. He reckons three panther species exist in Australia: the leopard, jaguar and mountain lion. He told us they're "naturally wary, elusive and will almost always run when they are noticed". He said the mountain lion was "known by many hunters as the 'spirit cat' due to its elusiveness and seeming invisibility".
Like we said, a spirit cat.
Magster: "A few yowies have been seen round these parts too, usually by blokes on the way back from the pub, but never on the way to the pub".
Over Bloody Eighty
We're not going to let the Magster's panther cynicism get in the way of wishing him a happy birthday.
He's just turned 80. He reckons he deserves an "OBE" for this achievement because he's now "Over Bloody Eighty".
For his birthday, his twin brother Dave gave him a cast of a horse head with a ring through its nose for hitching horses.
Magster calls his twin "my old womb mate".
"His nickname is Damper Dave. The old man reckoned he was always needing dough. But he does make good damper. He's like the old man, he could make any bloody thing. A great craftsman and blacksmith."
Pimp My Mobility Scooter
This has to be the coolest mobility scooter we've ever seen.
A Topics spy photographed it in a corridor at the Mater hospital at Waratah.
"Wonder what it's like to ride a chopper mobility scooter?" our spy said.
This is getting us thinking. Perhaps there's a market for hotted-up mobility scooters.
Most scooters are a bit plain and boring, aren't they? Someone could make a senior version of the TV series, Pimp My Ride.
Whale of a Time
Kurri's Col Maybury spotted a whale on Sunday. He took a photo and sent it to friends, including those in Iceland.
"We are at Newcastle beach and a whale is jumping about one kilometre out. I thought about calling you Icelanders, but I don't have a knife and fork," he joked.