Britains’ Animals Braving the Winter

With winter in full approach and the temperatures lowering, attention is turning to preparing for a bitter winter. Many will remember the heavy snow seen in late February and March earlier this year, yet with the possibility of months of cold ahead I thought it fit to mention some animals who continuously brave Britain’s frost and all in their own unique ways.

Animals all have different and wonderful ways of keeping themselves inside the range of tolerance, some going far and wide to keep warm in the coldest times of the year, however these are just a few mentions of wildlife that took my interest!

One such bird is the Red Grouse. Known to travel very little, they therefore do not move to a lower altitude or fly elsewhere to avoid harsh weather like other birds. Instead, this game bird has a number of features that enable winter survival, for example feathered toes that allows them to navigate through loose snow. As well as this, seasonal shedding takes place in readiness for winter plumage, which covers the bird all over. It could be said that if history repeats itself, the Red Grouse will need more than feathered toes to get through next year’s snow.

Amongst shrubby grassland and woodland you might find a different type of winter warrior. The Brimstone Butterly naturally has the advantage of long proboscis which enables them to take nectar from flowers that remain beyond the reach of many other butterflies. The Brimstone takes the form of a dormant adult during the winter meaning it can still be found fluttering around in odd sunny days of February, more than tough for an organism that gets its heat externally.

One animal I have seen trotting around on my travels, the charming Exmoor Pony is another animal that is adapted to the cold, growing a thick and two-layered coat for the winter. Not only is this important to keeping the ponies safe from the cold but the coat is also waterproof, thanks to coarse and much greaser outer hairs. Exmoor Ponies also have what’s known as a ‘toad eye’, prominent flesh around the eye that acts as a defence against bitter weather.

Exmoor Ponies faced a bleak future in years past and researching them, it is especially interesting to hear about the ways these hoofed herbivorous mammals are adapted. A visit to Exmoor usually involves spotting these sturdy ponies and in November – March that doesn’t seems to change.

With many people setting sights for a ski holiday or even a snowy escape it can be nice to remember that many of Britain’s wildlife can still be seen here, in winter, offering a great alternative for people wanting to get closer to true cold climate survivors and know more about how they do it, year after year.

 

Sources:

https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/climate/uk/interesting/february2018-snow
https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/red-grouse/
https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Lagopus_lagopus/
https://butterfly-conservation.org/butterflies/brimstone
https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/visiting-woods/trees-woods-and-wildlife/animals/insects-and-invertebrates/butterflies/brimstone/
https://butterfly-conservation.org/news-and-blog/heating-and-hibernation
http://www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/Whats-Special/wildlife/exmoor-ponies
http://www.moorlandmousietrust.org.uk/characteristics.php

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Rosie Alice

Environmental Studies student in Winchester, UK.

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