Here we have compiled some ideas of what the Yorkshire Dales National Park offers to inspire you to plan your winter excursions.
The short days and long dark nights of the Yorkshire Dales National Park in winter, might not seem the best time for nature spotting but the lack of leaves on trees means that birds are that much easier to spot, and a covering of snow overnight will show just how busy the countryside is when we are tucked up safe in bed.
Wildlife in Winter
Look out for the winter sun catching the speckled breast of a Mistle Thrush, singing its heart out from the top of a tree. It is often known as the storm thrush because of its habit of singing in that eerie light just before thunderclouds roll in. For interesting facts about the Mistle Thrush visit the RSPB website.
Flocks of blue tits, long-tailed tits, great tits, chaffinches, and the occasional nuthatch or tree creeper can be spotted flitting along hedges or through trees in mixed groups, twittering and fluttering about busily looking for insects hidden in nooks and crannies. Flocks of special winter visitors like fieldfares, or if you are lucky enough to see them, waxwings, come down from harsher northern climes to gorge on our hedgerow berries.
Visit the RSPB website for more information about these birds.
Spot an Otter
Keep an eye open for otter footprints in the snow along river banks – this shy animal has made a strong return in the Dales but you are very unlikely to see one as they are usually only out and about at night. Finding a set of footprints is almost as thrilling as seeing the animal, as it means the otter is thriving.
Enjoy the early snowdrops peeping through in the coldest weather. Many clumps have been naturalised alongside village walls and woodland edges. Some gardens have special open days for snowdrop viewing, such as Austwick Hall and Fountains Abbey.
Early in the morning, you might catch a glimpse of the white rump of a roe deer disappearing into the gloom of woodland. In Spain, they are known as the ghosts of the forest. If you startle one it might bark at you – an eerie sound echoing through the still winter air.
On a cloudless night and away from the lights of town, the Yorkshire Dales’ night skies are a wonder to behold. Turn off your torch and just stand and stare in amazement.
The Yorkshire Dales is home to some of the darkest skies in the country. We’re proud to have large areas of unpolluted night sky where it’s possible to see the Milky Way, planets, meteors, and even the Northern Lights.
This is one of the special qualities of the Yorkshire Dales, and why we’re thrilled to have gained international recognition as an official Dark Skies Reserve, which will help raise awareness, conserve and celebrate this special quality.
Check out our Dark Skies Festival page to find events and activities we have arranged for you to enjoy.
Why not download an augmented reality star chart app on your smartphone and you’ll be able to name the planets and constellations twinkling above you. For example, Star Walk for iPhone or Google Sky Map.