October is truly a season of change for our native flora and fauna. As the temperature drops, vegetation starts to die back and our days get shorter, our native amphibians and reptiles start to get ready to face the challenge of winter.
Why is winter so challenging for our native Dragons?! Amphibians and reptiles are both ectotherms, meaning that they rely on external sources of body heat compared to endotherms, such as mammals, which are capable and dependent on internal generation of heat. This means that amphibians and reptiles have to find a way to navigate through the drop in external temperature, frozen watery homes, reduction in water oxygen levels and, often unforgiving, winter weather.
Each species has clever adaptions and behavioural changes that they go through each year between September and November for them to survive this wintery challenge.
It is a common misconsception that all amphibians and reptiles hibernate over winter, even though they will all be seeking hibernacula at a similar time, the type they need can differ from species to species as well as if they hibernate or overwinter. For example, the common lizard will be spending October feeding on invertebrates in preparation for winter before hibernating, often in groups, amongst rocks or dead wood.
Whereas, our newt species overwinter and go dormant under rocks or buried in mud, but take advantage of milder weather to forage.
For more info on what individual species do over winter have a look at our fatastic amphibian and reptile fact files! Click here!
By early October most of our reptile species will have entered their winter hibernation. The majority of the UKs reptile species will have favoured hibernating sites, such as the Adder who will return to their wintering sites that they use each year. With Adders often basking in the last of the autumnal sunshine until the end of October when they become dormant for the colder months.
Some species, particularly slow-worms, common lizards and grass snakes, will make use of piles of dead logs, leaves or compost for the winter. It is important that reptiles are not disturbed during their hibernation period since it takes them longer to recover if they have to become active.
An amazing way to help our fantastic amphibians and reptiles is to consider them when planning your wildlife garden. One of my favourite things to do is create a hibernaculum, an amazing space for all amphibians and reptiles to hunt, forage and of course over winter. They are so simple to do and can make such a difference! If you are short on space you could also make a ‘toad home’!
Would you like to create more overwintering ad hibernating homes for wildlife? Create new habitats for emerging amphibians and reptiles in Spring?
Download our FREE Wildlife Pond Visualizer App, learn what you can do for nature and try out the fantastic Augmented Reality Feature!
We would love to see pictures of all your hard work! Send in your before and after photos or gardening selifes to firstname.lastname@example.org