They are not usually the first to spring to mind when a spot of weather forecasting is required but it appears the nation's stoats may know something the Met Office doesn't.
In the grounds of a ruined 600-year-old priory in North Yorkshire, the fur of the stoats has turned from brown to white much earlier than usual.
Last year their transformation came in January and they stayed white later than usual...which allowed them to benefit from their natural camouflage against predators when snow blew in over Easter.
Dreaming of a White Christmas: The stoats' coat is turning white much earlier than usual
Now experts at Mount Grace Priory, near Osmotherley, are wondering whether the appearance of the ermine-clad stoats is a sign of things to come or just a reflection of the recent icy weather.
Becky Wright, from English Heritage and a member of the Mammal Society, said: 'Some of the stoats went white after the last New Year and stayed that way for much longer than we'd expected.
'Then we had a snowy Easter, showing that they have a sixth sense about these things.
'On that basis, the stoats could be offering a sign that we may need to wrap up warm for quite a few more months. Perhaps they know a white Christmas is on the cards.'
Their colour change is controlled by the stoat's pituitary gland which reacts to temperature and day length and the resulting ermine has long been prized by kings and nobles who wore it on their robes.
But even the distinguished stoats at the old Carthusian priory, who featured in David Attenborough's Life of Mammals television series, are unlikely to sway the experts of the Met Office.
Trusting in science, the forecasters don't believe a white Christmas is on the cards.
A spokesman said: 'It looks as though high pressure will be firmly dominating at the moment. That would suggest an overnight fog and frost on Christmas Day, but that's about it.'
A white Christmas? Well the stoats seem to think so | Mail Online