The best of Dorset in words and pictures

Winter: pretty, but deadly

Colin Varndell looks at the effect of winter on wildlife

Icicles above a puddle on a road

Icicles above a puddle on a road

 

In December Andy Farrer looked at winter from the landscape photographer’s perspective; this month, we do so from that of Dorset’s wildlife.

A polecat emerges from a hole under a tree

A polecat emerges from a hole under a tree

 

A robin unknowingly carrying a seedhead. Robins are not just aggressively territorial during breeding, but especially over food.

A robin unknowingly carrying a seedhead. Robins are not just aggressively territorial during breeding, but especially over food.

In 2004 a British Trust for Ornithology survey mapped the almost identical charts of mean December-February temperatures and the famland and woodland wren

A pied wagtail makes the most of an unfrozen stream in a Dorset winter

A pied wagtail makes the most of an unfrozen stream in a Dorset winter

populations: in any year that mean winter temperatures dipped below 3°C populations crashed. The wrens couldn’t keep warm enough not to freeze to death.

The exposed Lewesdon Hill makes it an unattractive habitat for the less hardy

The exposed Lewesdon Hill makes it an unattractive habitat for the less hardy

The fox is one of nature's most adaptable mammals and it has a cast-iron constitution when food is in short supply. It will get bolder as it hunts for food as the temperatures drop.

The fox is one of nature’s most adaptable mammals and it has a cast-iron constitution when food is in short supply. It will get bolder as it hunts for food as the temperatures drop.

That challenge, although less extreme than for wrens, is the same for all wild creatures in winter.

Frozen ivy; plentiful ivy flowers are thought to be a harbinger of a hard winter

Frozen ivy; plentiful ivy flowers are thought to be a harbinger of a hard winter

This blackbird is making the most of these windfall apples to take on some much-needed energy

This blackbird is making the most of these windfall apples to take on some much-needed energy

Herbivores stuggle to find exposed plants and berries, predators struggle to find their prey in the open. Long before Game of Thrones, the phrase ‘Winter is Coming’ was larded with menace.

This frosty scene at Beaminster Down is evidence of a speedy freeze

This frosty scene at Beaminster Down is evidence of a speedy freeze

 

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