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Animal Life

  When was the last time you saw a frog?  What becomes of frogs in the winter? 

  Under the logs in the woods, you may possibly still find a little red salamander.  The newt you found in the water last spring had a flattened tail.  Note shape of the tail of the red salamander.  Why should this difference exist ? 

  Under the stones in a meadow, you may find some small snakes.  How and where do they spend the winter? 

  Watch in a brook for trout which make nests over a gravelly bottom.  Is the nest hollowed out or built up?

  When was the last time you saw a woodchuck?

  Are chipmunks still active during the month of November? What becomes of them?

  After snow covers the ground, watch for the burrows of squirrels in snow banks.  See if you can find all of the entrances one squirrel has.  Do they use any one entrance more than others?

  Notice mouse burrows under the snow.  Are these used through November and December?

  How do cow tracks resemble pig tracks and how do they differ from horse tracks?  Are sheep tracks more nearly like horse tracks or cow tracks?  Why?


  Search the twigs of apple, cherry and peach trees for the eggs of tent caterpillars and destroy them. 

  Search the bark of trees for the egg masses of the tussock moth.  These are covered by a white substance that looks like froth.  Destroy them. 

  When digging in the fall, you may find a brown thing about two inches long.  It looks like a jug with a handle on it.  It is the pupa of a tomato worm.  Is any part of it movable?  Decide whether or not it injures your plants and whether you should destroy or protect it. 

  You may find also the cocoon of the cecropia moth.  It hangs from the twigs of trees and is often covered with leaves.  The cocoon contains the pupa.  Why do you suppose the tomato worm would not be likely to spin a cocoon while the cecropia moth did?  If you wish to keep these cocoons until the moths come out, do not keep them in a warm room.  Keep them hung up outside, or moisten them from time to time if you must keep them inside. 

  Under the leaves in the woods or on the lawn, you may find little, black-spotted, brown or red beetles.  These are ladybird beetles.  Are they found separately, or when you find one do you find many? 

  In the brook, you may find black scavenger beetles.  How do their under sides look under water? 

  How many other insects are active in the water, even after the ice forms? 

  Watch for black and brown woolly caterpillars hurrying to find a hiding place.  Do they form pupae before settling down for the winter? 


  Notice the round swellings on the stems of goldenrod.  Cut some of these open and find out what is inside of them.  Do these creatures spend the winter as active adults, like scavenger beetles; as inactive adults, like house flies; as eggs, like the tent caterpillars; or as pupae, like tomato worms?  Or do they spend the winter like the woolly-bear caterpillars?

  Look at the twigs of oaks or the fallen oak leaves and find other insect galls.  Are they all occupied?  Is there any way by which you can tell whether or not the insect making the, gall has come out even though you do not open it?

  Which of the following trees keep more of their leaves on than do others: oaks, birches, elms, or beeches?

  When the first snowfall comes, do the branches of trees bearing leaves have a greater load to hold than those whose leaves are shed?  Are trees bearing broad leaves more or less likely to shed their leaves than those bearing needle-like leaves?

  Photograph those plants you find bearing flowers after November 1st.  How many in the Troop can name at least five of these?  Do the plants bearing these flowers usually live through the winter?

  How many marsh plants still look in general as they did last summer?

  In the marsh, you may find Virginia smartweed plants with their small, bright brown, seed-like fruits.  Touch them and watch them fly.  How far can you make these go by touching them?

  In the woods, you may find red partridge berries and wintergreen berries.  How can you identify them?

  You may also find shelf fungi growing from the sides of trees and dead wood.  They are the fruiting bodies of plants that destroy living and dead wood.  Some of them have one surface covered with very fine holes.

  Watch the green pond scum in ponds and streams.  Do they continue to flourish in ponds after a freeze?  Is this true around springs?

  List the weed tops remaining above the snow.  These serve as natural kitchen counters for our winter birds. 

  Notice the peculiar bud-like flowers around the base of pansy plants.  You may not even recognize these as flowers, as they do not always open.  These are safeguards which nature makes to assure the production of seeds in case the more attractive flowers should fail.  Do violet plants have any flowers of this sort?


  Give the winter birds something to be thankful for; start a feeding box and shelter for them.  What kinds of birds visit your feeding box the most? 

  Notice in your feeding station that birds are picky about their food the same as we are.  Try mixtures of corn, buckwheat, sunflower, wheat, oats and weed seeds collected from the dry tops of pigweed.  See which of these seeds chickadees like best.  Don't forget some suet! 

  Watch for a little sparrow that may come around your feeding station.  This one has white bars on his wings and a very distinct single dark spot in the middle of his breast.  He is a tree sparrow and experts tell us that in one winter tree sparrows alone destroy about 875 tons of weed seeds in Iowa.  Do these sparrows like to have other birds with them at the feeding station?  Do they hop or walk? 

  Get acquainted with the English sparrow if you haven't already done so.  Remember that the female has no black necktie like that her mate wears.  About this time, some of their sons may begin to show their neckties.  Do these sparrows walk or hop?

  Goldfinches ought to be with you for at least a part of November and December.  They may fool you as they are becoming birds of a different color now.  If you learned their "per-chic-o-ree" song in the fall, you may recognize the quality of the call now even though they may not say the same thing.  When did you see them for the last time?

Water Plants

  Do plants under water or plants on land show the effect of cold weather more quickly?  Does air or water change its temperature more rapidly?  If you wished to heat your home quickly would a hot-air or a hot-water system be better?  If you wished to easily maintain a uniform temperature, would a hot-air or hot-water system be more desirable?

Plant-Eating Water Creatures

  When fishing, some of you may catch a sucker.  If you dress it, compare the length of its digestive system when stretched out, with the length of its body.  Creatures which live on plant material largely, commonly keep the food in the body longer than do flesh-eating creatures.

  From the fish themselves or from pictures, see if you can notice any difference in the shape of the mouths of suckers and bass.  How do these particular kinds of mouths help these fish to secure their chosen food?

Preying Water Creatures 

  In streams, you may find under stones, ferocious, greenish-black dobsons.  In ponds you may find large black and brown diving beetles.  Catch one of each of these and put it in an aquarium or jar of water.  Each has six legs.  Does each use these legs similarly while eating? If there is any difference you can figure out why it is, considering that one of these creatures lives in quiet water and one in swift water.

Scavengers Living in Water

  Make a collection of snail shells found in ponds.  Try to get at least three types.  One will be found in which the shell is coiled in a flat disk (the Planorbis type).  One will be found in which the opening is to the left when the top of the cone is away from you (the Physa type).  Another has the opening to the right with the top of the cone away from you (the Lymnaea type).  Keep these in separate aquaria to see if they act differently.  Compare the eggs that  the different types of snails will lay.

Economic Water Forms

  You may catch a pike, or a pickerel, or a bass.  DO the same with these as directed for the sucker in No. 42 of this list.  Are pike and pickerel and bass alike in their food habits, or is one like a sucker?  If so, which one?  

Woody Sugar Producers and Fleshy Fruits

  A twig of currant shows each year's growth.  if you look carefully you may also see where fruit was borne last year.  Do you find it most commonly on this year's wood, on last year's wood, or where?  What is the age of the oldest wood on which you find fruit remains?

Fat and Oil Producers: Nut Trees

  You may find trees with greenish twigs and richly colored, irregularly shaped leaves.  They are sassafras trees.  Boil some of the bark of the roots in water and sweeten with sugar.

  There is a hickory tree with yellow buds.  It is called the bitternut hickory.  The husks over the nuts are thinner than in the hickory nuts which you collect for food.  How many buds do you find at the base of each leaf or above each leaf scar? 

Timber and Pulp Producers

  Along streams and in damp places, you will find willows of all kinds.  How many bud scales are there on each bud?  Is this the same for all the willows you find ?

Ornamental Woody Plants

  Notice how many fleshy fruits are also brightly colored to attract animals.  Remember that not all of them are good to eat.  Make a collection.

Starch-Producing Herbs and Grasses

  Make a collection from mowed hay, or from the roadside, of as many different kinds of grass tops as you can find.  How are the leaves of grass fastened to the stems?  Are there more grasses or other kinds of plants in hay?

Protein-Producing Herbs

  White and yellow sweet clover (tall plants with small fragrant pea-like flowers) may continue to bloom into these months.  When do you last find them flowering?  How many seeds does each flower produce?

Mineral-Food Producers: Root-Crop-Like Plants

  Wild salsify plants may still be found in these months.  Those that have blue flowers have long (sometimes two inches or more) fruits or seeds and long, green parts to the flower cluster.  Those that have yellow flowers have shorter fruits and green parts.  Find each if you can.

Medicine Producers  

  In the woods you may find large leaves shaped like arrowheads or spearheads.  If these have a milky juice, they probably are rattlesnake-root.  Find some of the tall plants and decide how the fruits are distributed from place to place.

Fiber Producers

  On rocky places, you may find a peculiar, brownish plant from two to four feet high with slender pods borne in twos.  It is dogbane.  Which is the tougher, the bark or pith of these plants?  Is the tougher part stronger or weaker when twisted?  How are the seeds distributed from place to place?


  Asters will still be blooming in these months.  You may find white ones and blue ones but they will all distribute their fruits or seeds in the same manner.  How is this done?  Is it like or unlike goldenrod in this respect ?

Cover for Waste Land

  Mullein plants will still be conspicuous in the landscape.  Are the latest blooming flowers at the top or near the bottom of the flower stalk?

  A walk through the woods will usually load your clothing with a few of the fruits of avens.  Learn to know them so that you may avoid them.  How do they manage to stick to your clothing?

Waste Destroyers: Fungi 

  In the woods you will find numbers of standing or fallen small trees the bark of which bears the fruit bodies of the shelf fungi.  Break some of these dead trees and describe what effect the fungus has had on the wood.  Is this evident only near the fruit bodies or elsewhere in the tree?

  Dig in under the leaves in the woods and find broken parts of trees.  Are these as sound as tree parts above ground?  What would happen in a woodland after a while if the trees that died did not decay?  Think of at least one good thing done by things which cause decay.

Animals Living Among Trees and Shrubs 

  In the tops of trees after the leaves have gone, you may quite commonly find the nests of crows and of squirrels.  One of these nests may be used in winter, the other is not.  What difference in the materials used would tell you which would be the more useful in winter?  What is the difference between a crow's nest and a squirrel nest?

Animals Living on the Ground

  When you approach a wild rabbit from behind how does he know you are coming?  Does he see you, hear you, or feel you?  Do you turn your head and eyes to see behind you?  Does a rabbit?  Why does he or why does he not?

Animals Living Along Waterways

  In some parts of the country, Scouts may be able to see the work of live beavers.  Beavers cut down trees and use them to dam streams and make ponds. Do they seem to select particular kinds of trees?  What is the size of the largest tree you find cut by beavers ?

Preying Animals

  Dogs and cats make different kinds of tracks with their feet. One shows a claw track the other does not.  Which has the sharper claws and why are they sharper?

Animals Feeding on Waste

  Mice, rats, dogs, and cats all have whiskers.  Which of these have them the longest, considering their size?  Find out what the long whiskers are used for and decide why the one with the short whiskers does not need them so much.

Domestic Animals

  On the inside, near the top of a horse's front legs you may see grayish, spongy bodies.  These are strong scented, and are believed to leave a scent on the vegetation through which the animal passes so that others can follow.  Other animals have scent glands on other parts of the body, often on the soles of the feet.

  Run your finger along the inside of the lower jaw bone of a horse from the left side.  You will come to a place where you may feel the horse's pulse.  It ordinarily beats about 35 to 40 times a minute.

  Take the pulse of a cow standing on the left side and reaching over and taking it from the right jaw.  It ordinarily is higher than that of a horse. 

Insects Found on Trees and Shrubs

  The bark of an apple tree may contain the white cocoons of the tussock moth.  Destroy them.

  Under the bark of some dead tree, like a white birch, you may find the burrows of the larvae of wood-boring beetles.  Find some of the creatures which make these borings.  How do they differ one from another?

Insects Found on Low Plants

  Which do you hear calling later in the year, katydids which live in trees; grasshoppers which live in the tall grass; or the crickets which live close to the ground?  Why does one of these call later in the year than another?  Do most plants with leaves very close to the ground keep them a longer time or a shorter time than do the trees ?

Insects Preying Upon Other Insects

  By December it should be safe to make a collection of different kinds of hornets' nests.  Try to get one made of clay and one made of paper.  Which is the larger?  In the paper one are the openings of the comb downward or upward?

Insects of Direct Economic Interest

  Early in November is a good time to hunt for bee trees.  A saucer of syrup may attract some bees.  Watch the direction which most of them take after leaving it.  Go straight in this direction.  If you lose the trail, try again with the syrup.  If the bees go to a dead tree instead of a hive, you may have a real celebration.

Birds Feeding in Open Air

  In a silo or barn you may find the deserted nests of barn swallows.  These are made of clay.  Why do not the birds that built these nests stay with us during the winter?  Woodpeckers and chickadees and nuthatches stay.  Why don't the swallows?

Birds Found in Trees and Shrubs

  In low bushes or hedges you may find a small nest lined with horse hair.  This is the nest of the chipping sparrow.  Of what is the nest made?  These birds do not use these nests again so it is OK to collect them.

  Out near the end of branches of elm or some other slender-branched tree you may find a sack-like nest, hanging from the limbs.  This was made by an oriole.  Of what is it made?

Birds Found Commonly on the Ground

  In the fields you may still find in these months birds slightly larger than a robin which show white outer tail feathers when they fly.  These are meadow larks.  When do you last see them? Do you hear them sing during these months?

Birds Found Along Waterways

  A trip along a river or by a pond or a lake may show you a small duck-like bird that dives to escape; ducks fly or swim away to escape.  The bird is a helldiver or grebe.  Do they leave early in these months or do they wait until they are driven out by the ice?

  Larger black birds may also be seen diving in lakes.  These are loons.  About how long can they stay under water?  They feed upon fish and are not good to eat.

Preying Birds

  When is the latest time in the year that you see or hear a screech owl?  What do they eat?

Birds Feeding on Waste

  Crows may be found making tracks in the snow.  Which two toes on each foot are the closer together?  Where a crow lights or takes flight you may see other tracks than foot tracks on each side.  What makes these?

Domestic and Game Birds

  Are the neatest-appearing hens in your flock at home the best egg layers?  Try to find this out for yourself. 

  In a flock of white leghorns, notice if all are a uniform white color or if some are not yellowish.  It is said that the yellowish ones are the poorer egg layers.


  By the end of December there may be considerable snow and ice on the roofs.  Where the snow increases in amount on a gently sloping roof, see if there is any tendency for all of the snow to move down the roof.  If this does happen, you have a little glacier on the roof.  The first frozen water which fell on the roof was in the form of snow.  What is it like when your little glacier starts to move?  What might happen to any tar on a roof over which this little glacier moved?

  In a creek bed or gorge you may find round holes.  Here the water swirls around as it does in the cooking pots that you clean in camp.  When you wish to clean a really dirty pot, you use water, a scrubbing brush, a wire brush, or sometimes sand.  See if you can find anything like this in the bottom of the "pot hole" in the stream.   Would a rapid or a slow current usually make a pot hole more quickly?  Would this happen in a stream with a soft rock or a hard rock bottomed stream?  Would clean water, or muddy water, or sand-filled water make such a hole? 

  What happens to a pail if you let the water freeze in it?  Walk along the edge of some pond that has frozen over and see if there is any sign of a ridge of gravel made by the ice doing the same thing it did to the pail.  Does water take up more room or less room as ice than when it was just water? 

  What is good icicle weather?  Are the icicles larger when we have continual cold weather or when it thaws and freezes frequently? 

  Keep your record of the shadow of a pin on a ruler.  Measure the shadow each noon.  When during November and December is it the longest?  When is it the shortest? 

  Keep a weather chart marked on the calendar.  Here you might also mark the date upon which you first saw many of the interesting things mentioned.

Signs of Wildlife In January - March

See Also:

On Nature's Trail In:








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On Nature's Trail ] Animal Tracks ] Birds in Winter ] Birds Nest Collections ] Nature Collections ] Signs in Jan-March ] [ Signs: Nov-Dec ] Trees in Winter ] Animals in Winter ] Winter Tree List ] Tree Photography ]

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Last modified: October 15, 2016.