While you might consider a spot on the beach a basking site, many wildlife species require basking sites a little less exotic. For them, a basking site is simply a warm sunny spot where they can raise their body temperature before venturing out for the day.
Unlike mammals, many animal species are unable to control their body temperatures. These animals are commonly referred to as "cold blooded" species. This means that their body temperature is controlled by their surroundings.
Such creatures as toads, frogs, turtles, snakes, and insects are cold blooded. They are most active when the temperatures are warm and move slower as the temperatures drop in the evening and early morning hours. In northern climates, these animals hibernate or migrate to avoid the harsh winter temperatures.
Basking sites do not need to be elaborate. In the garden, the basking site can be a few rocks that warm quickly in the morning sun. In addition to providing a spot for animals to warm their bodies, a small pile of rocks also can provide shelter from predators.
In a garden pond, a rock or a log can provide a basking site for frogs and turtles. Butterflies, as well as insects, are cold blooded and move very slowly when the temperatures are low. Butterflies tend to be active on sunny days and inactive when it is cloudy. In the early morning and on cool days, butterflies often can be seen with their wings open soaking up the heat. They must increase their body temperature before they are capable of strong flight. A light-colored rock or garden ornament placed to catch the early morning sun, can be used as a site for butterflies to perch on while waiting for their body temperatures to rise.
In addition to serving as basking sites, rocks, old logs, and small brush piles can benefit other wildlife. Rocks and logs placed in shade can provide relief and shelter from the mid-day heat of summer. Many species also seek winter shelter in rock piles, old logs, and brush piles. The common Ladybug Beetle is one insect that will congregate by the thousands under rocks, bark, and even leaves to overwinter in northern climates.
When planning your backyard habitat, be sure to include basking sites. Rocks and logs not only provide needed habitat for wildlife, but can be used to create interest and diversity of texture in the garden.