During a brief sunny spell on 10th January, a red admiral butterfly flew overhead. It had been hibernating somewhere, probably where the sun had warmed its chosen location so ventured out to forage for vital nectar.

Unfortunately at this time of year nectar sources are very scarce but flowers in a garden centre can provide a  lifeline.

The photo shows a red admiral alighting on snowdrops but although the pendulous flowers are attractive to bees, the butterflies long proboscis makes it difficult to access the nectar unless it hangs below, so this photo is quite unique.

Danger arises for once out of hibernation the butterfly might not find a suitable alternative spot in which to continue its winter sleep and could perish when the day rapidly cooled.

Up until about thirty years ago few red admirals hibernated in Britain but climate change means that our winters are more amenable.

The painted lady is another species that until recently did not overwinter here but nowadays some are found most winters.

At the first sign of spring, usually on a fine February morning we may see our first yellow brimstone butterfly out and about. Small tortoiseshells, peacocks and commas will follow in late February or more likely in March, all having hibernated in tree holes, evergreen ivy and bramble or in the case of the comma, either openly on a tree trunk or below in leaf litter where its raggedly wings resemble a dead leaf.