Dec 212008
 

While walking George the dog today, I spotted an Egret in town! You can tell it’s an egret because nothing else is so brilliantly white. The seagulls and terns look dull in comparison!

This really shows the pace of global warming in my short lifetime.

When I first went to France in 1985 (after leaving Crawling Chaos in the lurch), I first spotted one of these gleaming birds on the salt-drying pans near Guerande.

The bird book I had, (The Hamlyn Guide to Birds of Britain and Europe: 1974 reprint), showed that this was it’s most northerly residence – and usually it was for summers only!  I’ve made a scan of the relevant entry from the page!  You can just see a tiny pink bit at the Loire Estuary…

Little Egret: Hamlyn

Since that time, I’ve spotted egrets in the Kingsbridge estuary in the South Hams of Devon, then on the nature reserve at Steart in summer, and now, near the centre of Bridgwater on the shortest day of the year!  Nowadays, the colony at Kingsbridge is thriving and taking up lots of the nest-sites of herons.  So it’s a bit of a puzzler for bird-fans what to do about it!

The northward march of the Egret that I’ve witnessed is in complete accord with the rapidly thinning and contracting North Polar ice sheet. The latest news (click on chart) is that the ice is going at a faster rate than even the best models have predicted. By the time I retire, there will be no ice, extrapolating by eye against the graph.
Of course, it means that anything that lives on or under the ice will die. i.e. polar bears etc on top and crabs and prawns underneath.

Something like this hasn’t happened since the Carboniferous era when trees grew as close to the poles as the 80° latitudes in both hemispheres!  The Earth became a hothouse for a time with raised oxygen levels giving rise to huge insects.  There then followed a period of extensive glaciation and mass extinctions.

We should all be afraid, very afraid. Climate can, and has done so in the past, flip very quickly between it’s stable states.

Further Reading:

The State of the Cryosphere.

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