We have had a very unusual winter so far, much milder than normal on many days, but also very changeable. Why do we think this is happening and what makes it so changeable?  

Well firstly wind has brought warmer weather from the south and the west giving us a mild winter when countries to the west and east are much colder.

temp mapOccasionally the winds have turned and brought cold arctic air to the UK and giving us the winter weather we would expect. Sussex has only received a brief dusting of snow so far this winter. There have also been far fewer days of ice and frost that usually prevails in the winter in Sussex.

Many freshwater creatures such as fish and some aquatic insects such as water boatman and dragonfly nymphs remain active in water habitats throughout the winter. When the weather is cold they lay dormant resting near the bottom of the pond and when a warm spell heats the water they become more active. This year the mild winter weather has meant that the water in the ponds and ditches have only frozen on a few occasions. Even when this happens, the pond life below the surface is quite safe.

Birds and mammals are also very well adapted to winter weather as they are able to generate their own body heat which is then trapped beneath feathers or fur. They have remained active during the winter but they too will take shelter during particular harsh weather.

Birds and mammals need food just keep warm, so they cannot rest for too long without venturing out to search for food. This is why bird feeding stations are such an important life line for birds in the winter. Our bird feeder is visited by a wide range of birds from blue tits to great spotted woodpecker.  

There are many insects that hibernate as adults or survive the winter as an egg or larva, because the food they eat is not available . By hibernating they need very little energy to stay alive.