Nature Notes: Chilling Out

Nature Notes: Chilling Out

Nature Notes: Chilling Out

First published in Nature Notes Richmond and Twickenham Times: Photograph of the Author by

Over millennia, as a matter of survival, wildlife has evolved to cope and adapt in various ways when faced with winter.

The smaller the body, the faster the heat loss. Tiny animals like shrews must eat constantly to stay alive as do small birds such as goldcrests and wrens for bouts of freezing weather can prove fatal.

Badgers, whilst not actually hibernating may stay below ground in heavy snow when food is scarce and grey squirrels retire to their dreys for short periods. Female frogs, toads, newts and lizards spend the winter holed up under logs or tree roots, but male frogs enter a period of semi-torpor at the bottom of ponds. Fish also move to deeper water.

Queen bees, wasps, hornets, ants and many flies hibernate. Five species of butterfly also hibernate while others spend the colder months either as eggs, larvae or pupae.

Birds remain active all year and providing food for them greatly enhances chances of survival. Of course, birds have the ability to fly great distances so can escape cold weather altogether and migrate to warmer climes. Swans, geese, redwings, fieldfares and waxwings move south from the Arctic and Scandinavia to Britain which for them is warmer. Meanwhile, our swallows, swifts, terns, warblers and others fly even further south to Africa, thus never encountering snow and ice.

Even red admiral and painted lady butterflies head south to North Africa.

Iced up waterways can hinder fish eating birds such as herons and kingfishers but the latter may move to the coast and fish in tidal pools which do not freeze.

Think I'll just turn up the central heating.

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