Freezing temperatures aren’t all bad for British wildlife, perfectly adapted to long, cold winters, which until recently were the norm. Cold weather helps to “restore the balance of nature”:
- Hibernating creatures (bats, butterflies, bumblebees etc) are less likely to emerge and then get killed off by a cold snap, as has happened in the past few mild winters
- Birds are unlikely to start nesting too early (again, as happens in mild winters)
- Flowers are less likely to emerge and then get killed off by late frosts
- Viruses, parasites etc are killed off, which will benefit their hosts. (Again, mild winters tend to allow disease vectors to multiply)
In contrast mild winters such as those we’ve seen between 1986 and 2008 bring about:
- Early emergence of flowers and insects
- Early breeding of many birds (sometimes before Christmas).
- ‘Summer visitors’ overwintering (eg chiffchaff)
- A major fall in numbers of winter visitors (eg Bewick’s swan and white-fronted goose), as birds stay further east of the UK.
Snow Watch are also collecting wildlife stories from people from around the UK. Read them here.
I thought this post by John White was interesting:
We do have a visiting barn owl but have not seen or heard him for some weeks. We have had visiting redpolls and fieldfares taking all the holly berries. Interestingly there have been very few starlings and sparrows around, and a very plump pheasant is missing. I must admit that we do not encourage the larger birds i.e. rooks, crows, jackdaws and magpies, but they still come. It seems that the three squirrels that live in the holly tree have decided to keep warm in their dray, and have not put in an appearance for days. Badgers have taken to the compost for food. They were very active in the autumn feeding off of our fallen fruits and digging up the gardens for slugs etc. Swans and geese that frequent the reservoirs and canals seem to be staying put.