Upper Wharfedale what to see in winter

Snowy scene of Upper Wharfedale in the Yorkshire Dales

When it's cold it can look as though all life has been taken away from Upper Wharfedale but that isn’t the case, you just need to look a little closer because there is still plenty to see in the winter months.

The trees have dropped their leaves and look bare but this just makes the birds easier to see. We have our resident birds all year round like blackbirds, blue tits and greater spotted woodpecker, but keep a closer eye out and you will see winter visitors escaping the extremes near the arctic circle, like fieldfare that flock in large numbers and waxwings feeding on the red hawthorn berries along hedgerows. In the riverside fields you'll see black headed gulls, without their distinctive black head they only have during breading season, pat on the ground to bring worms to the surface.

A fieldfare finds winter berries at Mottistone
A fieldfare sits on branches laden with red berries
A fieldfare finds winter berries at Mottistone

Along the banks of the River Wharfe as you walk the Dales Way you can find evidence of otters. Unfortunately this will probably be the most you will see of them as they’re more of a nocturnal creature and will be hidden away in a holt through the day. When it comes to tracking animals, mud will tell you a lot about what animals and birds there are in the area, even if you don’t get the chance to see them.

Will you spot otter tracks?
Otter tracks in the mud
Will you spot otter tracks?

At this time of year our upland farmers have finished their sheep sales in Hawes and Skipton and move onto planning next year’s lambing time in spring by putting the tups into the fields with the ewes, so from November onwards you’ll see ewes with different coloured bottoms. The final colour on the ewes bottom will show when she got pregnant and tell the farmer when the lamb will be born in spring.

Sheep in the snow at the top of White Horse Hill
Sheep in snow at White Horse Hill Oxfordshire
Sheep in the snow at the top of White Horse Hill

Then with spring just around the corner the plant life will start to stir. You’ll notice on the roadside between Buckden and Kettlewell the snowdrops and daffodils will begin pushing up through the ground as the snow and the ice withdraw.

Snow drops growing in winter woodland
Clump of snow drops in winter
Snow drops growing in winter woodland