Boxing day brought a sunny day and two unexpected visitors to the garden. The first was a single Long-tailed Tit, which appeared for about 5 minutes around the feeder station before flying off. This is a species that is very uncommon in our garden (previous sightings up to 5 Nov/Dec 2013; 5 Oct 2015 and 1 in Jan 2016).
However, the most surprising visitor was a Red Admiral Butterfly which fluttered through the garden mid-morning. They are known to over-winter in dry places such as sheds and can be enticed out if the temperature is mild enough during the winter.
Although most butterfly species over-winter as an egg, pupa or caterpillar, some species can survive the winter months as adults. These butterflies don’t actually hibernate, instead they go into a dormant state where they shut down their metabolism to a very low level. Red Admiral, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Comma and Brimstone can all survive through the winter as adults, waiting for the spring when they can breed. Red Admirals only achieve a partial dormancy and so are the most likely species to be seen on the wing on warm winter days.