We, in the northern hemisphere, all seem to be having snow, poor weather, storms or just plain cold, grey skies and thus feel gloomy and miserable .. as have our fluffy friends. I’ve been watching them recently really going for it – seemingly like a race for the Olympics .. stocking up on all the berries, seeds and insects possible.
The pair of squirrels, the blackbirds, the robin, the tits, the wrens, the glossy (not so popular) magpie and a few other birds then there’s all the little insects scrabbling around amongst the fallen leaves – as well as the fox who has just started to visit.. and as they dash about under the trees, sway on the branches, dart in and out of the bushes .. I’ve been thinking – do they know something we don’t. Nature is usually one step ahead of us humans, and this year that definitely seems to be correct: the trees and bushes have been bountifully endowed.
Robin: 1880 Engraving
The weather has gone from the warmest November day to the coldest November night, with the deepest recorded snowfall – this is in Yorkshire, but applies to us all across Britain. Once the woodlands cool down, the birds migrate into our gardens – which is why retaining our gardens are a vitally important for our wildlife.
The rich pickings in our hedgerows, the undergrowth retains lots of extras at this time of year for the foraging wildlife – seeds, berries, nesting materials, shelter from other predators, or from the winds, the freezing weather, snow and rain that is bedevilling us now.
The insects, snails, centipedes, ants et al .. all need to find an insulated spot away from the extremes of the weather .. under log stacks, pots, cracks in garden walls, amongst the cuttings pushed and left in parts of the garden; the pond too has a life under the ice – the Dragonfly and Damselfly feed on the daphnia – the water acting as a temperature buffer.
Daphnia: tiny aquatic crustaceans, commonly called water fleas
Birds have been migrating to find new feeding grounds with longer hours of daylight – so they come from the Arctic or Scandinavian regions to Britain, and go from our shores onto the continent and some on to Africa. I saw a northern lapwing this week – I was surprised to see it – but from its picture you can see how I was able to identify it: bird with a crest!
The robin continues to sing through winter – that surprised me. I’ve put out fat feeders, some peanuts and some wild bird seeds – and they are being gobbled up, especially as the snow has receded somewhat. I probably need to get some other feeders – but I am using those already in the garden, which needed to be restocked.
Animals adapt to their surrounds – the fox being particularly good at it. The adder, our only poisonous snake, hibernates the winter away; dormice can shut down for six months of the year; the harvest mouse is nocturnal once the winter sets in; the stoat gains his ermine – he turns white during the dark months; the hedgehog hibernates, it may come out if we have a warm spell to forage, but may have a problem getting back to its nest; while bats hibernate – but will almost certainly move to another roost feeding on the way.
Adders: normal and melanistic colour patterns
Our English dormouse is called the Hazel Dormouse after its predilection for hazel nuts – the native nuts found in our hedgerows ... the cobnuts, the commercial variety, have produced bumper crops – one farm where it normally takes four weeks to pick the nuts, this year needed six weeks. Birds too adapt to their surroundings .. and utilise the crushed nuts of beech (and pecan in the States) after the traffic has driven over them.
The Hazel Dormouse: our only native species
It’s really cold here – but berries still abound on the shrubs .. these yew seed cones are highly evolved – the fleshy outside is not poisonous and is eaten by the thrushes, waxwings and other birds, which disperse the hard poisonous seeds undamaged in their droppings. However the seeds can be split open by some birds and eaten harmlessly: the Hawfinches and Great Tits. Amazing this world of ours – the wonders of its evolving life.
European Yew shoot with mature and immature cones
Dear Mr Postman .. my mother has her days when she’s awake – we watched one of the Masters’ Tennis semi-finals on Saturday, which she thoroughly enjoyed. She was wide awake for Susie’s healing/massage visit yesterday – so that was excellent and seemed extremely cheerful – giving me a huge smile as I left.
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