Noses so pink they look like they have been painted with blush. Flushed cheeks, wisps of hair blowing in the icy breeze, the air so cold it catches your breath. Frost spiking the ground, reflecting the sun’s low winter glow, the trees shimmering in the light. The sound of your footsteps crunching on the surface of the cold, hard earth, accompanied by the tune of a robin, perched atop a tree. We are in the depth of winter.
As a season, winter can feel dark and bleak and sometimes even a bit lifeless, but if you look hard enough there is still an abundance of wildlife to be seen and the animals you do see are the ones who have adapted to survive this cold season. Take a look into your frozen pond, you might see some movement, it will most probably be a common frog who has emerged to seek oxygen. (Dan from Dreamscape Gardens tells us to place inflated balls or plastic bottles half full of pebbles in the pond to avoid freezing in the first place!) Frogs can slow down their metabolism and hibernate under the soft mud in the bottom of ponds. These amphibians may look vulnerable and small but they are hardy and are equipped to survive, much like another fascinating garden visitor; the black slug. Distinctive with its orange frill around the underneath of its body, these discerning gastropods can partially freeze if they are caught in a very cold spell but if the period isn’t too prolonged they are able to survive and will hibernate deep within the soil or amongst a log pile.
Early in the morning as the sun is rising, throughout the day and even up until the sun sets you may hear the melodious song of a neighbouring blackbird. These birds will be protecting their winter territory, which will likely have been their spring breeding ground. Birds will only stay if there is a food source – fortunately around towns and cities the temperature is slightly warmer, which enables birds to remain. Further out to the countryside, birds will travel south where the weather is slightly warmer. Blue tits, who during spring, summer and autumn are insectivores, will convert to consuming seeds and nuts. It is especially important for us to provide extra food during particularly cold snaps to make winter slightly easier for our feathered friends.
There is a silent, simple beauty about winter: the colour that the light casts across the bare trees; the sharp sounds of ice breaking beneath your feet as you step on a frozen puddle; the iridescent glow of icicles bestowing our windowsills; a glimpse of an urban fox skulking across the pavement as you shut your curtains for the night, blocking the moon’s light from illuminating your bedroom. Breathe in the new smells, take in the hushed tones, explore, and most of all enjoy winter.