27 August 2007

It looks as though the fight to preserve our remaining stocks of native crayfish is about to go mainstream.  Professor David Rogers of the University of Derby who has spent his career studying Austropotomobius pallipes has been commissioned to make two TV documentaries to be broadcast in the next few weeks.  One of these charts how he has reintroduced the white-clawed crayfish into the river Lathkill in Derbyshire.  Kingfisher Productions filmed Professor Rogers last year at various stages of the conservation project; at the river, at holding tanks for the crayfish and at laboratories at the University's Kedleston Road site.  The programme will be hosted by cricket commentator Jonathan Agnew and will be broadcast as part of Saving Planet Earth theme.  A second documentary for the BBC Nature in Britain programme will go out in September.  Given our own involvement with Neil Handy's similar project here on the Ribble these two programmes should make essential viewing.

Turning to things less aquatic my eye was caught by an article in Saturday's Telegraph magazine.  I have said it before many times but nature has a way of slapping you round the face with a fact that seems so bizarre it can only be true.  In a beautifully written piece about the forgotten wild places of Britain which is abstracted from his new book, Robert Macfarlane recounts a conversation he had with a friend about squirrels.  Robert was having difficulty phoning his friend at Walnut Tree Farm in Suffolk. Squirrels, his friend said.  Squirrels had been the problem.  His phone line had at first gone crackly, then dead, and he had called in the engineers.  The engineers had found that squirrels had been nibbling the phone line.  Apparently this was becoming a common occurrence.  Squirrels are highly intelligent, agile enough to tightrope-walk along telephone wires, and poor conductors of electricity.  Somehow they have realised that by biting through to the bare wires and short circuiting the 50 volts that run through them into their own bodies, they can  heat themselves up.  In this way each squirrel becomes a sort of low-voltage electric blanket – and will sit up on the wires with a stoned smile for hours.

As they say, don't try this at home.

We have another bright and sunny day here at Horton with little breeze and just a thin smear of cloud.  It's chilly though with just a hint of the coming autumn in the air.  The river is bare bones now so Tarn fishing is the best bet until we get some rain.


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