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All About Winter

There’s a lot of fun to be had in the great outdoors in winter! Crunching across frosty grass, smelling the crisp cold air, admiring the patterns on fallen leaves, spying sleepy ladybirds tucked under trees’ bark, jumping around in snow, and seeing how far your shadows stretch in the low winter sun... As long as you are well prepared, there’s so much to see and do at this time of year, whether on Bennachie or your local woodland, park, or even your garden.

Jock o' Bennachie has lots to tell you about what’s going on in winter! Check out his outdoor and indoor activities, there’s lots of fun stuff for you to enjoy!

He also has important advice for you on how to enjoy being outdoors in winter safely.

Bennachie In The Snow

Information and Activities

About Winter

Lets start with a flavour of winter with this wonderful video!

Winter lasts from December -March in the Northern Hemisphere, the upper half of the Earth, and from June-September in the Southern Hemisphere, the Earth’s lower half.

The name comes from an old Germanic word which means’ time of water’, and Jock certainly knows all about the rain, sleet and snow of Bennachie’s winters!

The Earth orbits round the Sun, taking 365 days to make its trip right around. While the Earth is orbiting the Sun it is tilted on its axis. During winter the Earth is tilted away from the Sun.

All this means that the Sun’s rays have further to travel before they reach the Earth’s surface. As it takes longer, the hours of daylight are shorter and the temperature is colder.

Many trees survive by losing their leaves and lying dormant, or inactive. Some animals like hedgehogs enter a deep sleep called hibernation to help them save energy to survive the cold months. Others, like pine martens, stay warm thanks to their thick winter coats. Some creatures like meadow pipits will move down from the top of Bennachie to farmland. Others like swallows migrate, or move to warmer climates.

In winter, legend has it that Jock spends much more time in his warm secret cave hidden on the slopes of Bennachie. On especially cold nights he often has a skulk of foxes (a group of foxes) to keep him company, warming his feet with their big fluffy tails!

Credit Alex Doig
(Select Image To See Larger Image)

When Does Winter Begin?

That’s a question which can have 2 answers!

The day in the calendar marking the first day of winter usually refers to the astronomical seasons, which are the result of the Earth’s axis and orbit round the Sun. This year, astronomical winter begins on 21st December and ends on 21st March 2021.

However, the Meteorological Office splits the year into 4 seasons, each lasting 3 months. By the meteorological calendar, winter always starts on 1st December and ends on 28th February (29th in a leap year).

What all of this means is the seasons we are familiar with by the calendar are astronomical, and the seasons the weatherman/lady talks about on the news are meteorological.

Check out these cool facts about winter, and let’s count our blessings, winter lasts 21 years on Uranus!

The Winter Solstice

It usually happens on 21 December or 22nd December, at the exact same second around the world.

Because less sunlight reaches the Earth, the winter solstice is the day of the year with the least amount of sunlight - the shortest day of the year! But don't be gloomy, every day afterwards will be a little longer till we reach the summer solstice - you guessed it, that’s the day of the year with the most hours of sunlight, usually 20-22 June.

Watch the video below where the BBC weatherman explains more.

Solstice: The Earth is Reaching the Turning Point
Jock o' Bennachie

Jock Says: On the winter solstice I always go outside at noon and look at my shadow - it’s the longest shadow I cast all year!

Changes on Bennachie in Winter

If you come to Bennachie in winter you will find the forest fairly quiet, but don't be fooled-there’s still lots going on!

The deciduous trees like birch, rowan and beech will have lost their leaves- that’s a smart move as the frost would freeze the water in their leaves, and the ice crystals would damage them. Although these trees have shut down for winter, they are still doing an important job-offering food and shelter for many woodland creatures. Bats may be hibernating in tree hollows or woodpecker holes, and some may be found in Jock’s cave!

Tree holes and crevices can fill up with dead leaves which centipedes and wood lice scoff! And in turn the tree creepers and woodpeckers love to scoff them!

Some moths and butterflies have laid their eggs on trees to overwinter till spring; others spend the winter as larvae, (caterpillars) and some as hibernating adults, such as small tortoiseshell and peacock butterflies are often found in houses. Decaying leaves offer a feast to some minibeasts, and fungi and bacteria are busy as nature’s recyclers.

A pile of leaves means a warm winter home for spiders, millipedes wood lice, larvae, and even ladybirds will snuggle down in a huddle in there for warmth to hibernate. This, in turn, is where hungry birds will look for food during the hard winter months. You may well hear a blackbird busily turning over the leaves looking for lunch. Frogs and toads hibernate in cool (not too cold) dark and damp shelter under leaves, logs and rocks. So don't be fooled, a pile of leaves could be home sweet home to loads of creatures!

With the bare branches and the vegetation dying down we get a chance to see the various types of lichens growing on the bark and on rocks. Lichens are a partnership between fungi and algae. They are sensitive to air quality and pollution. If you look carefully you will see the basic growth forms of lichens: Crustose- crustlike. This is a lichen which sticks closely to whatever it is growing on. Fruticose- like a branching shrub and looks like a bushy coral growing on rocks, trees and soil. Foliose- leafy shape and can be easily removed.

The Woodland Trust have lots to tell you about lichens - see What is lichen? Seven types of lichen found on trees.

Fruticose lichens-most of these here are commonly called old man’s beard (perhaps named after Jock’s beard!!)

There’s still plenty of greenery around Bennachie in winter with all the coniferous trees, like Scots pine. By holding on to their leaves, the evergreen plants provide valuable food and shelter for the animals who are facing the harsh winter conditions. They provide much needed places for birds to hide from the cold and give protection from the wind, rain, sleet and snow. Roe and red deer also shelter in the evergreens in winter, where they can rest and eat.

Needles, twigs, bark and seeds contained in the pine cones all provide nourishment for wildlife.

Squirrels and crossbills will eat seeds from pine cones, deer will snack on the needles, woodpeckers will peck into the soft wood of pine trees looking for larvae. Owls can be heard hooting from their roosts in evergreen trees. Holly trees are really important to many species of birds and small mammals, with their berries providing valuable winter food. These trees also offer valuable shelter for birds.

Cailleach

This is one of Jock's favourite stories about Winter!

This is the story of the Cailleach, the goddess of goddesses of Scotland.

Riding high in the sky from the freezing north, riding on icy blasts of shrieking wind she came, the Cailleach, Hag of the Ridges, Goddess of Winter, Queen of Ice, and with her nine ice hag maidens their wild hair steaming in the howling gale, they ride astride great drifts of snow like icy meteors dragged behind the Cailleach. And the Cailleach from her kreel - her great basket – dropped the clods of peat that made Scotland, her beloved land. And the greatest of these clods, the greatest of these rocks, she formed into Ben Nevis. And there in lofty crags and peaks she makes her winter home from Samhain until Imbolc – from the Celtic festival of Samhain in the freezing fog of November, until the rains of February.

She is lean and lank and bony thin, her skin blue, her eye red rimmed from the icy winds, her gaze sends shivers through the wind, and her breath strips leaves from trees and turns earth to iron. Her cauldron is the Corryvreckan whirlpool. And there she hurries and scurries from time to time to see if it yet boils and froths and fumes. And then for twenty miles around and three dark days and nights a howling gale flows over land and sea until it boils, and there she goes, throws in her great plaid and then in the seething frothing foam she watches, and when it is clean and bleached pure white she throws it over the mountain top, and sometimes over all the land.

The Cailleach keeps a prisoner; she keeps prisoner the beautiful bride, the goddess of spring, eyes blue as summer skies, and her gaze opens the buds on the trees, her breath wakens the frozen streams to splash and play again. Now from afar, from Tír na nÓg, from the land of the ever young, some say the Green Isle of the Great Deep, some say the Islands West of the Setting Sun, Angus, the youngest god of all, gazes in yearning and in longing towards Scotland, towards Bride. And each night Bride, the goddess, dreams of Angus, Angus Lord of Summer, Angus of the Primrose Hair, Angus whose voice is a song, Angus the Fearless who will one day free her from the ice clutch of the Cailleach.

From afar Angus gazes, and when the sun god gives him lengthening days he takes his way across the riding on a horse as white as marble. But the bone-thin Cailleach senses his coming, she gazes out, summons the nine hags, a nd with the weather of the seven elements; the rain, and sleet, and snow, and hail, lightning and howling winds they hurl in the face of Angus, and he retires to Tír na nÓg, the Isle of the Great Deep, and there he rests. Until from August he takes three warm days and once more rides across the ocean to free the goddess bride. But the Cailleach takes three days from darkest coldest winter, and on the high ridges of the Cullins they meet and clash; a fight fierce and ferocious as ever with Cuchulain, a great god, when he fought the daughter of the warrior queen of Skye. For three days the air is cold with rage, the battle fury torments the earth, storms rage in the sea, and then Angus Og defeats the Cailleach and she flees screetching to the Isle of Mull, and there she dies. And her husband, the great sea beast, laments and his tears are the first cold rains of spring.

Across the meadows of the morning walk bride and Angus towards one another, and when their eyes meet their love warms the earth, their laughter tickles the first buds to spring to leap from the trees like a little dance, her gaze wakens even the frozen streams to splash and play again. She is free, the earth is alive again.

But the Cailleach cannot die, she sleeps and waits and, once more, will put her cold clutch on her winter kingdom and her beloved land of Scotland. And some say that the Cailleach, Goddess of Winter, and Bride, the Goddess of Spring, are one.

Winter Gallery

Browse our Winter gallery and remember you can send in your own photographs.


Also see our other Galleries.

Winter Videos

A Day In The Life Of A Mountain Rescuer

A Day In The Life Of A Mountain Rescuer

Watch the BBC Newsround video to learn more about Naomi and the details of her life in the mountains.
Video Watch Winter

Adult White Hare In Snow

Bailies of Bennachie Video Watch Winter

An Introduction to the Tawny Owl

Birds Video Watch Winter

Animal Tracking from Prints

Video Watch Winter

Badger

Video Watch Winter

Badger - Mum with 3 Cubs

Bailies of Bennachie Video Watch Winter

Badger (January 2019)

Bailies of Bennachie Video Watch Winter

Badger - Mum with 3 Cubs

Bailies of Bennachie Video Watch Winter

Badger - Mum with 3 Cubs

Bailies of Bennachie Video Watch Winter

Fox Sounds Fox Pictures The Sound A Fox Makes Animal Sounds

Video Watch Winter

Identifying Badger Tracks

Video Watch Winter

Pine Marten, Cairngorms - Speyside Wildlife Hide

Video Watch Winter

Solstice: The Earth Is Reaching The Turning Point

Video Watch Winter

Tawny Owl Call - Three Different Calls

Birds Video Watch Winter

The British Winter | BBC Teach

Video Watch Winter

The Mountain Hare

Video Watch Winter

Two Adult White Hares

Video Watch Winter

Wildcat (February 2019)

Bailies of Bennachie Video Watch Winter

Wildcat February 2019a

Bailies of Bennachie Video Watch Winter

Wildcat February 2019b

Bailies of Bennachie Video Watch Winter

Wildcat May 2019a

Bailies of Bennachie Video Watch Winter

Also See

All About Winter

All About Winter

Jock o' Bennachie has lots to tell you about what’s going on in winter! Come and find out when Winter begins and just what is the Winter Solstice! What about the changes you might find on Bennachie in Winter?
Bennachie's Winter Wildlife

Bennachie's Winter Wildlife

Learn more about the Winter Wildlife on Bennachie and the surrounding areas, and how to spot it.
Becoming a Nature Detective

Becoming a Nature Detective

Wild creatures can be hard to spot, most are very shy, and many only come out at night. However, if you look closely you might see feed signs, tracks or droppings left behind.
Aberdeen Mountain Rescue Team

Aberdeen Mountain Rescue Team

Many people are surprised to discover that there is a Mountain Rescue Team based in Aberdeen.
Winter Activities

Winter Activities

Jock o' Bennachie has loads of fun winter activities for you to enjoy so start exploring!
Autumn Feeding Birds

Feeding Birds in Autumn

Give your birds a helping hand by feeding them, especially in autumn and winter.

Also see our Spring Programme 2021, Winter Programme 2020, Autumn Programme 2020 and Summer Programme 2020 information, and don't forget to enter our Competition.

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