Country Life Today: Are hedgehogs in peril, or are we just looking out for them more carefully?

Hedgehogs, baby seals born amid bombing runs and the birth of a great literary career are celebrated in today's round-up.

‘Record-breaking flood of hedgehogs’ reported to RSPCA

Hedgehogs have been hit hard this year, according to the RSPCA, which is reporting that the number of hedgehogs they’ve been called upon to help is up by 22%.

‘It’s impossible to know exactly why we are seeing so many more hedgehogs this year,’ the RSPCA’s Evie Button told ITV, adding that number are set to break records. Possible causes cited are trouble finding food and changes in weather affecting the breeding season.

Yet according to Ms Button, the reason for the rise might actually be something a little more positive — namely, that ‘people are more aware and concerned about hedgehogs so are reporting them to us more often.’

Read more (ITV)


The strange bedfellows at Donna Nook: Baby seals and 21st century bombers

For 10 months of the year, the beach at Donna Nook in Lincolnshire shakes to the sound of bombs detonating — it’s a stretch of coastline owned by the Ministry of Defence, and used for target practice.

For a couple of months every autumn, however, a very different noise comes to the fore: that of baby seals and their mothers.

There is a nature reserve as well as an RAF bombing range in this corner of England, a few miles south of Grimsby, and it’s . An RAF Facebook page showing what’s going on at the bombing range even shared a post showing a helicopter crew taking the chance to have a closer look at the newborn pups.

See more about Donna Nook (Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust)


All the best pictures from Nature Photographer of the Year

Greeting the sun by Peter Cech

‘Greeting the sun’ by Peter Cech was the overall winner in the ‘Birds’ category.

The overall winner was a pair of dancing rabbits, but for our money there are some even more spectacular shots — such as this of a swan in morning mist.

Full story (Country Life)


‘Their world is disappearing — and we are the last generation who could save it’: The WWF’s Christmas advert

The impact of deforestation is at the centre of the WWF’s Christmas advert, featuring an animated jaguar, some terrifying machinery and a message exhorting us to do our part.

The ‘call to action’ message at the end refers to adopting a jaguar — perhaps not the first thing you might think of when it comes to saving the planet, but surprisingly important. ‘By adopting a jaguar, you aren’t just helping one animal – you’re protecting the rainforest and everything in it,’ the video description explains.

Read more (WWF)


On This Day: The birth of a great literary career

Jim Smiley, Simon Wheeler, and the frog Dan'l in the climactic race from Mark Twain's 'The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County'.

Jim Smiley, Simon Wheeler, and the frog Dan’l in the climactic race from Mark Twain’s ‘The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County’. Pic: Alamy

On this day in 1865 a failed riverboat pilot and miner-turned-journalist living in Nevada published a short story called Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog, which appeared in the New York Saturday Press. The story was a smash hit, being reprinted countless times across the country, mostly under the tweaked title The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County. Its success inspired its author to pursue a career in literature. Thus began the career of the great Mark Twain.

Read the full story (University of Virginia) and then take a look inside Mark Twain’s writing shed (Country Life)


And finally… an amazing aerial display