We are proud to announce that we have a new habitat feature in our sensory garden, a hibernacula! Our Education Assistants have been hard at work, battling through the frosty January weather, to construct an underground home for reptiles and amphibians. The hibernacula will provide a place of hibernation in the winter and a place of refuge for the rest of the year. This new feature improves the habitat suitability for the many species of reptiles and amphibians we have on our site, such as the common lizard (Zootoca vivipara), slow worm (Anguis fragilis) and great crested newt (Triturus cristatus).
The hibernacula was made using logs, branches, bricks and other hard-core materials that would have otherwise been wasted. This habitat creation is easy to make and can be carried out by anyone!
To create your very own hibernacula all you need is some space in the garden, a spade and some woody or rocky materials. The latter creates gaps or chambers for the reptiles and amphibians to shelter inside.
Step 1: Dig a hole that’s approximately half a meter down - this can be any size or shape you like but generally no smaller than 2m length x 1m width.
Step 2: Fill the hole with materials until it makes a mound shape approximately 0.5m high.
Step 3: Place large concrete slabs on top of the mound or cover with a cotton sheet to prevent the next layer filling in the gaps that you have just created.
Step 4: Place soil and turf on top of the heap to keep the rain off. Make sure the reptiles and amphibians have an entrance facing south, which can be made of wood or other materials.
Hibernacula construction process (Top: Dig a hole, Middle: Infill with recycled materials, Bottom: Cover with cotton sheet, soil and turf)
What happens to the FSC Preston Montford hibernacula next? Our team have been covering the bare patches of soil made from constructing the hibernacula with wild flower seeds. This will not only be aesthetically pleasing, it will also increase floral diversity and create more cover for reptiles to travel. In the future we hope to monitor what goes in and out of the hibernacula with camera traps and record what species are using this space.
For more information why not take a look at our hibernacula’s interpretation boards? They explain more about the need for these unique habitats and the fascinating ecology of reptiles and amphibians.
A free map of the FSC Preston Montford estate can be found in reception – the hibernacula is located in our sensory garden, the Exploratorium.