Panshanger Park is 1,000 acres of countryside situated between Welwyn Garden City and Hertford. Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust is working with the park’s owners, Tarmac, and Herts County Council to manage the park for both people and wildlife.
It is almost the Winter solstice and light levels are low. However, something that has recently brightened things up at Panshanger Park is the blanket of snow! The very cold recent temperatures have turned our local landscapes into a Winter wonderland.
Some animals, such as bats and hedgehogs, may already be hibernating through the colder months, but others could possibly just be snoozing during this cold snap. Badgers tend to still be out and about throughout Winter, but during particularly cold weather they may enter a state of torpor, remaining in their setts for a few weeks whilst metabolising fat from their bodies’ reserves to keep them going.
The frozen ground makes it a little harder for the wildlife to find food. There have been quite a few robins active around Panshanger in recent weeks. Some are focussing their attention on the areas around the new fencing and recently dug earth, looking for any insects that have been disturbed, an approach that the gardeners amongst you may recognise.
Some small birds, such as blue tits, goldcrests and wrens, can lose up to 5% of their body weight during the cold Winter nights, so have to do a lot of their foraging during the day. If you are able to put out high energy seed mixes, sunflower hearts or suet balls over the Winter, then these feeding stations can really help the smaller birds through the cold weather. Please do remember to clean feeders and change water regularly.
Unlike other more mobile wildlife, trees are not able to shelter from the cold or forage for food. They are, however, prepared for it. As we see each Autumn, the deciduous tree species drop their leaves to reduce the water content in their branches and protect their extremities. Pine trees can produce sap that can act as an antifreeze during the cold weather. Whilst Evergreen trees can still be photosynthesising over Winter, as they maintain their leaves or needles.
Now is a good time to look at the various silhouettes of the trees, as different species can be quite distinct in their outline. The recent snow gave the Panshanger Great Oak silhouette a bright dusting, and this year – due to the mild November – some of the Autumn leaves are still hanging on!
The blanket of thick snow and frozen ground meant it became rather challenging to plant new trees! However, we are on track – weather permitting – to plant lots of trees in January.
If you would like more information about the new woodland, or to book onto any upcoming planting events, please go to panshangerpark.com/qgc.
Jo Whitaker is the Panshanger Park people and wildlife officer.
She works for Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust and her role is funded by Tarmac.
The Panshanger Phoenix wearing a Winter snow blanket
The Panshanger Great Oak with its snowy dusting