It took until the night of the 20th April to see a hedgehog this year … partly due to me not being out wandering around, but partly, also, due to hedgehogs taking a little longer to emerge from hibernation this year.
I had been giving a lecture to the Devon Mammal Group in Exeter – a great crowd filled with interesting questions (and also eager to buy books, I like that a lot) – and went to stay with my old friend Kelvin Boot. I met him when he was the presenter of the Natural History Programme and I was but a menial researcher … back in 1993. He is a great naturalist and is full of stories about the wildlife in his patch of Devon as well as the wider world. Just now he is involved with ocean acidification – ‘the other CO2 problem’.
Not sure whether hedgehogs will be affected by this for a while, but their namesakes, sea urchins, will be affected. As CO2 levels in the atmosphere increase, so the amount absorbed by the sea also increases. This creates an increase in the acidity of the water – which makes it harder for organisms that require calcium carbonate (ie all the ones with shells and bones … which is a lot of them) to gather it from the water. An extreme version of this is to drop something rich in calcium carbonate into vinegar … it will dissolve. Now, the sea is not going to turn to vinegar, but the changes will affect all marine life – and in turn, all life on the planet.
There are hard-nosed scientists out there who fear that this is a more serious problem than global warming/climate change. And some of them fear that it is already too late to change the course we have set.
Kelvin helped a school make this movie about the problem:
now that is homework I would like to have received.
And while out with Kelvin yesterday, we got to see Little Egrets and hear their courtship noises – a little like a dunk man trying to impersonate a turkey … not the sort of think one would expect from an elegant white bird. The RSPB have more info and a sound clip here.
Just to add to the great day, on the way back from the estuary where we had been watching the egrets, a stoat dashed across the road.
Now I need a hedgehog to visit my garden, it is only fair really!