After a summer to remember, with heatwaves even overstaying their welcome, certain press publications are already peddling scare stories of a potentially harsh winter ahead, and yes, it’ll be the “harshest winter for almost a decade”! Now, as stereotypes go, the British being weather obsessed is, I think, aptly associated, so much so that weather scare stories alone are enough to shift newspapers - and don’t certain publications know it!
But we don’t need newspapers to tell us how bad this coming winter’s going to be - or our mobile phones at that matter. Some would say we just need to be more intuitive to natures activities, especially the animals, who are arguably more in tune with such things than us humans. We just need to know where to look, and more specifically, what animals to look out for.
There is in our woods and parks a barometer with a very bushy tail, and this canny critter is especially busy at this time of year. They’re darting about all over the place, some are stashing away nutty treasures, and some are blatantly stealing from the other. Yes, we’re talking Squirrels.
So what should you look out for in squirrel behaviour in order to gauge how fierce of mild a coming winter will be? Well, according to folklore, how high a squirrel builds their nest - or ‘dray’ as they are known - is a good indicator. As a rule the higher the dray the colder the winter, and the lower the dray the more milder the season will be.
Some people swear by the size of a squirrels tail. If, in autumn, a squirrels tail looks particularly bushy, then the animal is prepared for a very cold time ahead, where it’s lovely warm bushy tail will be an obvious asset. Another thing to watch out for is the pace at which the squirrel is going about their business. If they’re spending a lot of time just hanging out and grooming themselves, they’re obviously not sensing any urgency, but if they’re stashing nuts like there’s no tomorrow, then this could well mean that they’re all too aware of what looms over the horizon.
“Squirrels gathering nuts in a flurry,
Will cause snow to gather in a hurry.”
Regardless of whether the squirrels can predict the weather, you'd be nuts to miss their autumnal antics.
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With the exception of artists, inventors, and teenagers - we humans are diurnal daytime creatures on the whole, and although it’s one thing to be out and about during the night in a street lit urban environment, it’s a very different scenario if you find yourself in, say… oh, I don’t know, a forest per se. Where, if you’re lucky, you may hear the unmistakable cry or hoot of an Owl: natures very own nocturne, a stark reminder of the unknown peril of night, and a creature that has featured heavily in myth and folklore throughout the ages.