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 and with the possibility of months of cold ahead, those who continuously brave Britain’s frost are readying for a potentially hard season.

Swallows and yellow wagtails along with many other birds will, come winter, migrate towards hotter climates, destined to escape the cold. The red grouse is an exception, known to travel very little, not even to a lower altitude to avoid harsh weather. Instead this game bird sheds seasonally and produces winter plumage that covers all over, while feathered toes allow them to navigate through loose snow to find heather amongst the frozen over shrubs. These adaptations keep the red grouse surviving through the winter season after season.

Amongst shrubby grassland and woodland is a different type of survivalist. The brimstone butterfly naturally has the advantage of long proboscis which enables them to take nectar from flowers that remain beyond the reach of many other butterflies. Brimstones take the form of a dormant adult during the winter and can still be found fluttering around in odd sunny days of February. More than tough for an organism that gets its heat externally.

The charming Exmoor pony is another animal adapted to the cold, growing a thick, two-layered coat for winter. Not only is this important for keeping the ponies warm, the coat is also waterproof, thanks to coarse and much greaser outer hairs. Exmoor ponies have what’s known as a ‘toad eye’, prominent flesh around the eye that acts as a defence, mainly against bitter weather. A visit to Exmoor usually involves spotting these sturdy ponies and in biting November – March that doesn’t seems to change.

With many people setting sights for a ski holiday or even a snow 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 climate survivors and know more about how they do it, year after year.


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Rosie Alice

Rosie Alice

Environmental writings and NGO volunteer
Rosie Alice

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