Celebrating the beauty of nature at Christmas

Mark Hamblin 2020Vision

Some say winter is lifeless. It’s anything but. It’s the toughest time of year, but even at this, the darkest, coldest and least promising time of year, life goes on.

In December as we approach the winter solstice, one of the largest common owls, the tawny owls establish their breeding grounds during the longer winter nights. So you are more likely to hear the 'twit-twoo' at this time of year, which is actually the “Kewick” call from the female Tawny owl followed by the ‘Hoo, hoo-hoo-hoo’ male reply.

With the shortest days of the year, it’s even more important to get outside in natural daylight during December mornings to keep healthy and happy. You can find beauty in nature even in winter.  Woodlands look wonderful with the intricate shapes of branches seen more starkly against the backdrop of a bright winter sky.  

The bare trees also make it easier to spot woodpeckers, robins, wrens and other woodland birds. Listen out for their songs, as robins and wrens sing loudly all through the winter and never fail to lift your spirits on a cold winter’s day.

Mistle Thrush -  Donald Sutherland

The mistle thrush helps mistletoe to thrive by spreading its seeds on the bark of a tree to clean its beak from the sticky residue and also disperses the seeds in its droppings.

While there are few flowers in bloom, you may spot golden yellow gorse in flower with its perfume of coconut and vanilla to lift your spirits.  There’s an old saying that ‘when gorse is out of bloom, kissing is out of season’.

But kissing is never out of season in December with the tradition of mistletoe adorning doorways and decorating hallways to celebrate the spirit of Christmas. This tradition goes back centuries to the predecessor of Christmas, the festival of Saturn, in Roman times in the 3rd century BCE. The tradition of kissing under the mistletoe however was first recorded in the 16th century.

Another lover of mistletoe is the mistle thrush, a large, upright songbird, which delights in the gooey white berries. It helps mistletoe to thrive by spreading its seeds on the bark of a tree to clean its beak from the sticky residue and also disperses the seeds in its droppings.

And if you’re out gathering holly, ivy or other natural Christmas decorations for your home during the festive season, remember to leave plenty behind for wildlife.  The evergreens help shelter birds during winter and the beautiful red holly berries provide a snack for many birds, especially those from the thrush family, robins, dunnocks and more. 

Holly

© Ross Hoddinott/2020VISION