While there seems to be a ritual about groundhogs and their shadows predicting the length of winter in the USA, in my area they use horses and their riders as an oracle. If the sun shines long enough at noon for a rider to saddle his (or her) horse, there will be such an extreme frost that the Baltic Sea will freeze over between the coast and the Isle of Fehmarn. While latter hasn’t happened for ages, there seems to be some truth in the saying. As far as I know there is a 70 percent chance of a long winter if there is sunny weather at the beginning of February.
It definitely held true last year. While it was unusually mild until mid-February, so that everybody thought winter was over, we all were surprised by huge amounts of snow and frost until Easter. As we had almost exactly the same weather last weekend, there is a big chance of this happening again. Aside from this myth, my favourite oracle are the fieldfares, a kind of greyish thrush that I have only seen here in strong winters. Coming from the east, they move about in flocks of about thirty or more birds, making a great deal of noise, thus bullying our ordinary thrushes, and eating any berries they can find. (Their favourite are said to be juniper berries, thus making them one of the rare fowl who provide for their own seasoning.) As I have seen them flying about the area since December there is a huge chance that winter is still to come.