Friday, 19 December 2014

Wildlife in winter

During the winter months, as gardeners, we offer supplementary food and water for the birds visiting our gardens.  We provide boxes for birds to roost in during the colder months.  We leave log piles and compost heaps so hedgehogs have a secure spot to hibernate, along with mounds of leaves and other decaying matter which gives insects shelter and food at this time of the year.  A healthy garden has a wide range of wildlife, some good, some bad and some we are completely indifferent towards.  

It's often the creatures we don't regularly see at this time of the year that tend to be forgotten.  Here in the UK and I am sure it will be the same where ever in this world you are if you garden in a temperate climate , a few species of moths and butterflies will over winter as adults in the safety of our evergreen plants or even in our sheds and homes.  Evergreen trees, shrubs and plants are considered the backbone of the winter garden, providing interest and structure around the garden, however, to these Lepidopterans, they are vital for their survival.  So while you are out gathering greenery, hacking at the holly or infiltrating the Ivy - these evergreens, Ivy in particular - be vigilant and spare them a thought.   Your leafy table display - is their safety haven.

Species that overwinter, here in the UK, as dormant adults include the butterflies Brimstone, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock and Comma and moths such as the Twenty-plume Moth, Red-green Carpet, Tissue, Sword-grass, Herald and Bloxworth Snout.  If you come across a dormant moth or butterfly, providing it is in a dry sheltered spot, please leave it where it is.

Adult peacock butterfly in my garden winter 2012

Aglais io (European Peacock Butterfly)
summer 2012

25 comments:

  1. What a beautiful butterfly and such a lovely winter surprise! I leave piles of leaves and other debris all over my garden because I'm lazy. I'm glad that I can tell people that I'm doing it on purpose to create wildlife habitat!

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    1. It's good to have justification for one's laziness :)

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  2. It's ladybirds here, I find so many of them clustered in the junctions between stems and leaves. It's right that we should leave them alone.

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    1. I'd settle for a single ladybird Jessica, never mind clusters of them. I'd be guarding those ladybirds round the clock of they were in my garden.

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  3. Beautiful butterfly pics, Angie! I just put out fresh seed for the sparrows that are wintering here - unfortunately, the scrub jays and the squirrels think that's meant for them.

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    1. Toiling to keep the birds going this week Kris. Feeding the birds here in winter is an expensive hobby!
      I had no idea just what a scrub jay was and having looked it up - wow! It's gorgeous. I'm thankful that I don't have squirrels here. Mind you - I wouldn't say no to one of our native reds.

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  4. I've been thinking about getting some of that flowering ivy (Hedera helix) as I've heard it's good for butterflies, moths & similar creatures. Your post is a spur for me to add it to my 'want' list as I think about changes I want to make in my long shady border next year.

    A useful reminder, thanks Angie. Will tweet your post on Twitter (you must join twitter!)

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    1. Ivy is beneficial for a multitude of creatures Julieanne - it can be a thug in the garden though. I grow some in a large container so it doesn't spread around. Also, I'm sure I read somewhere that it needs full sun to flower. Worth checking if I'm right or not.
      I do have a twitter account but have never used it. Maybe something I can look into doing in the New Year. Thanks for sharing my post.

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    2. Thanks for that extra info. I do already have Hedera colchica 'Sulphur Heart', but that doesn't flower really.

      I shouldn't have harassed you about Twitter. I email subscribe to your posts, so I can keep up that way :)

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    3. I have both read and heard that Ivy doesn't flower until it reaches the top of the fence, wall, etc. that it is climbing then the leaves change and become larger and the flowers finally appear followed by the berries, but even while it is climbing without flowering it is said to be very important for wildlife, Frances

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  5. Thanks for the reminder, Angie! I'm amazed that some butterflies and moths overwinter here in various forms, but they do. They must have some type of internal antifreeze. Brrrr. Beautiful wreath at the beginning of your post!

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    1. Mother Nature is amazing isn't she Beth - the only creatures I am happy to suffer in the cold are the slugs and snails!
      Wreath is one on display at my favourite nursery. I don't put a wreath on the door because it's way too windy and it gets battered about.

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  6. Very timely, Ivy is a fantastic wildlife plant which at the moment is covered in berries for the birds as well as providing cover, Before that the flowers were a buzz with insects. And for us a lovely green backdrop all through winter.

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    1. I had no idea that the birds like the berries Sue - another reason to grow it.

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  7. What a treat to be able to see butterflies during the winter!

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    1. They get fooled on a warm sunny day and come out of dormancy in winter Alison. Proof in the pudding in the winter image. That was taken on a very warm day in February.

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  8. I never make my garden tidy in winter, leaves everywhere except on the grass, hedghogs overwinter in piles of leaves, birds are fed on the porch and yes I sometime discover a butterfly too. There is only one thing, the slugs and snails love this mess too and I should like to get rid of them.

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  9. I enjoyed your post. It is nice to hear that you are providing a welcoming environment for the butterfly population that seems to have been declining in the past few years. I have been trying to plant more butterfly friendly plants in my gardens over the past few years and have ivy growing on my back fence.

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  10. interesting post Angie, full of information, with the storms we have been having here I always worry about the wildlife and hope the trees and shrubs in my garden are of help to them, the problem here with a lot of evergreens is due to the salt laden winds they get windburnt and then the leaves drop my privet hedge is mostly brown after winter storms, I know they are not popular to many gardeners but now the leylandii I planted are starting to get established they are standing up to the winds well and still green, here I have found some moths over winter in the wild calluna in my garden, Frances

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  11. A very thoughtful post, Angie! Do you see many hedgehogs where you live? As we live in the middle of a wood and the boundaries of our garden are very wild there are lots of places creatures can shelter in. Merry christmas, Angie, and I look forward to following your blog in 2015 :)

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  12. I didn't realise that they overwinter as adults, Angie. I don't know what I thought did happen to
    them though ! Just the sight of them brings back the summer. Happy Christmas to you and yours

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  13. A lovely seasonal post. I always worry when I come across an overwintering butterfly, they seem so fragile and vulnerable.
    Have a very happy Christmas Angie.

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  14. Our Gardens are like a mini Nature Reserve this time of year providing protection and food for insects and birds.
    Happy Christmas Angie.

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  15. A wonderful post, reminder and a beautiful butterfly Angie! Merry Christmas!

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  16. My neighbour has a huge ivy covering an east facing wall, not much sun there so I don’t think they necessarily need any. The wood pigeons that permanently live on my roof are feasting on the ivy berries right now, they sit on that ivy every day eating from sunrise to sunset, and no doubt provide my garden with next year’s ivy seedlings. I usually pick up around 1000 ivy seedlings, they are one of just a few things that will grow in bark mulch!

    Loved your peacock butterflies, I have seen them in my garden too, but not for a couple of years.
    Merry Christmas to you and yours!

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