The Common may look very pretty as the frost and snow glitters in the winter sunshine
but do remember there are lots of animals that have to survive the cold out there.
Many of the smallest species, insects, spiders, snails and others, creep into sheltered
nooks and crannies and just shut down for the winter. They go into a special hibernating
state and secrete a form of anti-freeze in their bodies to prevent damaging ice crystals
forming in their tissues. Prolonged cold is best for these species as unseasonable
warm weather may fool them into coming out of hibernation only to be caught by the
next cold snap. Other species stay active throughout the winter becoming torpid
during the coldest weather but resuming their normal lives as soon as the temperature
rises again. Sheltered bottoms of hedges, drifts of dead leaves, decaying wood and
long tussocky grass all provide vital hiding places for these small animals and also
for shrews, voles and other small mammals. Birds search for food in these places
as well so let’s not make the Common (or our gardens) too tidy. Wildlife needs somewhere
to feed and shelter when the going gets tough.
See December’s Nature Notes
The Chilterns, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty - website: