It may seem a distant memory now but this New Year’s Day was the warmest on record and a couple of days later on 3rd January we were surprised to find a Red Admiral butterfly fluttering around in our garden. While the majority of this species are migrants that appear in late May and June there are now reports of them successfully overwintering in the UK as our one must have been attempting. Commas, Tortoiseshells, Brimstones and Peacocks will also hibernate over winter and may occasionally be seen during warm winter days. However, if the warm spell is followed by a return to colder conditions, they will have used up valuable energy reserves coming out of hibernation without being able to replace them due to the lack of nectar at this time of year, possibly with disastrous consequences. The return of these butterflies to our gardens is one of the very welcome signs of spring and it is always uplifting to see them. Do let us know when you spot one (firstname.lastname@example.org). Many other British butterfly species overwinter as caterpillars and with a keen eye these can sometimes be found or stumbled upon. Last Friday a bright green Dingy Skipper caterpillar was reported at our local WWT reserve Highclear Down.
Caterpillars are themselves an important food source for many birds and this week lots of us will have spent an hour watching the birds visiting our gardens for #BigGardenBirdWatch. Why is it that many of our regular but more exciting visitors seem to vanish the moment the count begins? We usually enjoy seeing Greenfinches and sometimes Long Tailed tits on our feeders but they took off the moment the binoculars and clipboard came out. One surprise highlight for us was a pair of Nuthatches which we have only seen a handful of times before on our feeders.
Beyond the village, a flock of Woodlark have continued to reside in a field just to the south and Marsh Tits have been very vocal around Loves Copse. Winter flocks of Golden Plover are also still present. Moths continue to hunker down in the cold weather and haven’t ventured out into our moth trap. Similarly, mammals have kept a fairly low profile. Please do let us know of any highlights from your #BigGardenBirdWatch or any other wildlife you have spotted which has given you pleasure.