Tuesday 8 October 2013


I find it quite fun making up unofficial biological terms (many people don't know I coined the word 'ecologising', spelt the UK English way.) Sadly, the JS Agriculture team know me pretty well and, more often than not, I get called on it.

A snake 'hibernaculum' - Illustration by Larry Eifert (larryeifert.com) Demonstrating a pit
 filled with a mixture of rubble and deadwood, with a growing top layer of vegetation

I should stress though that hibernaculum is a real word; a place where beasties such as cold-blooded reptiles and amphibians like to bed down for the winter. These 'hibernacula' (as Jake pointed out is the pluralisation, not 'hibernaculars' ...thankyouverymuch) are structures which can be natural or created, even sometimes accidentally, as a refuge. It is based on very simple principles - a mound or pit filled with clean or natural materials with holes and gaps to squeeze/curl up amongst/wedge into, where the temperature remains fairly constant and the frost cannot get in.

 Expert Hibernacularist, Jake of JS Agriculture

A pit was dug on slightly sloping ground, about 30cm-90cm deep. The base was
 broken up with the pick, with sand and plenty of rubble added

'La belle monticule pour les amphibiens' - the concise French term for hibernaculum.
 (I may have made that up too)

The finished article is pictured above - 5 star luxury accommodation, bordered by a sunny mound for those short, opportunistic spring days of sunbathing. A rambling rose garden with bramble scrub is available for hiding away in should any birds of prey pass by, or pesky humans with their nosy dogs.

The next one is situated in a more wooded habitat, close to our newt ponds:

Lauren - our smallest but very enthusiastic hibernacularist 

A pile of broken bricks topped with deadwood, bark chips, logs and nearby brash

'Le hibernacle'. The actual and rather dull translation into French by Google

Another luxury 5 star winter holiday home available to rent; this one with more of a woodland character, containing a nice warming, rotting logpile and large pool just out the back. The varying locations of our hibernacula affect the decor: this one under more tree cover contains a larger amount of wood and vegetation, whereas the one in the grassland has more stone and turf. We will continue to add natural materials to these structures as our nearby habitat management continues.

1 comment :

  1. Hello, I was wondering if I may use your opening graphic in a hand out for Natural Neighbors program on constructing hibernaculum. I would be more than happy to credit you on the image in the handout and share with you a copy of the proposed handout. Thanks,