How to describe animals

Rainbow Norfolk Rain rain go away...

The mere mention of a British summer invokes images straight out of a classic novel - vividly coloured butterflies, walks in wild flower meadows and lazy summer nights.

But the summer also brings with it many hidden mysteries based around our ancient landscape.

Many of these are described and explored through traditional folklore.

Here's BBC Nature's guide to five of the most popular.

St Swithun's day if thou dost rain, For forty days it will remain, St Swithun's day if thou be fair, For forty days 'twill rain nae mare.

Saint Swithun's day falls on the 15th July and the proverb forecasts the weather for the summer.

It dates to Anglo-Saxon times and the burial of St Swithun, the Bishop of Winchester Cathedral. One local legend suggests the proverb originates from the day the saint's remains where moved from the graveyard to a tomb. To show his displease with his new, more sheltered home the saint summoned a storm onto the town which held for 40 days.

While this obviously isn't based on scientific theory, there is some basis to the idea that the weather in mid-July can be used to predict the weather pattern over the next 40 days.

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Around this time the jet stream, one of the biggest influencing forces on our weather system, predictably takes one of two paths. If it sweeps southerly it will pull in cold air from the Arctic bringing with it cloud and rain. If the stream moves further north it will pull warm sub-tropical air from the south and lead to a sunny, warm summer.

In Germany, the equivalent day of 27th June is known as Siebenschläfertag. The weather on that day is supposed to determine the average weather of the next seven weeks. Though the day may be referred to as Edible Dormouse Day, it actually commemorates the legend of the Seven Sleepers, a group of young Christians who slept in a cave to avoid persecution.

Ash before oak the summer is all a soak, oak before ash the summer is but a splash.

This proverb refers to the start of spring budding season. If the ash tree shows buds before the oak then the summer will be a wash out. If, however, the oak buds before the ash tree then the summer will be drier.

A survey by the Woodland Trust put this proverb to the test. It found that the timings of the first buds to break were actually dependent on the springtime temperatures. Generally oak went first. Using data gathered over 250 years it showed that - rather unromantically - the proverb is no help in predicting summer rainfall.

Red sky at night shepherd's delight, red sky in the morning shepherd's warning

Most people are familiar with the 'red sky at night' proverb.

Before the invention of the barometer, people had to guess at the weather, which generally flows in a westerly to easterly direction in the UK, in order to achieve even the simplest things outdoors. Using the red hue of the sky at sunrise or sunset can give a relatively accurate prediction of the weather for the following day.

Red sky at night in Norfolk An ominous warning?

The red sky results from the scattering of sunlight, into its different wavelengths, on the underside of clouds. The green, blue and violet wavelengths are lost leaving the red wavelengths to illuminate the sky.

A red sky at night results from the light of the setting sun in the west scattering off clouds that are moving away to the east. A red sky in the morning results from the light of a rising sun in the east scattering off clouds that are coming in from the west having accumulated moisture from their journey across the ocean.

Don't eat blackberries after Old Michealmas

On Old Michaelmas Day (10th October) the Devil puts his foot on blackberries.

Weather sayings that are true

  • Six sayings about the weather that are backed by science, including "Three days rain will empty any sky"

Michaelmas is the date in the Christian calendar which celebrates the Archangel Michael's defeat of Lucifer (the Devil). On his expulsion from heaven, Lucifer landed in a thorny blackberry bush which he supposedly cursed and spat on. Hence you should not eat blackberries after this date.

From a scientific point of view, blackberries contain a high concentration of bitter tasting tannins which over time accumulate in the fruit.

Old Michaelmas day falls late in the blackberry season making berries picked around this time very bitter.

To make matters worse, as autumn arrives the weather becomes wetter meaning the fruit will contain more fungus spores. This will not improve the taste either.

Seagull, seagull sit on the sand. It's never good weather when you're on land

Love them or hate them, seagulls are regular seashore visitors and have inspired many a proverb.

Herring Gull: BBC Nature A sign of good weather?

Although in recent years many gulls have moved inshore in search of food, this weather lore is less of a prediction of future weather and more a statement of the current weather situation.

Seagulls love to be in flight or sat relaxing on a flat, calm sea. If the weather takes a turn for the worst they will retreat inland to avoid blustery winds.

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