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On Nature's Trail

Ed Bigelow 

It is a strange fact that in this month the muskrats begin to build their homes and gradually enlarge them by adding more material.  November is the month in which everything gets ready for winter, as in May everything gets ready for summer.  May is a beautiful month; so is November.

For enjoyable walking, the Scout knows no better month than November.  In some respects it is even better than May.  The air is more bracing and exhilarating.  It is the mellow, ripening month. 

It is a strange fact that in this month the muskrats begin to build their homes and gradually enlarge them by adding more material.

This is now a good time in which to study the young buds that will develop next spring, and especially the barks.  As the leaves drop, take the branch and examine the spot from which the leaf fell and observe the relation of the leaf scar to the buds for the next year.  Ernest Ingersoll, the well-known naturalist, speaks thus of the falling of the leaves:

"Old leaves fall, therefore, because their work is done, and they are pushed off by the growing buds slowly getting ready to take up the work of the next season.  Really, therefore, the beginning of the tree year is now rather than in spring; for when the vernal warmth arrives it finds the trees well started and ready to take advantage of the first 'growing weather.' "

Now is a good time too, to study the crickets.  The music that they play on some of the sunny days is admirable.  Hold a cricket in your hand and examine the music-making wings.  A pocket lens will show that the wing cover is provided with a faile and scraper by which, in the movement of the one wing on the other, the cricket chirps and trills.  

There is a beetle with a cow's face and a fur collar.  You would perhaps not notice this cow-like face and fur collar unless you should use a pocket lens, which every Scout should have.  Then you will find the Monohammus or Sawyer beetle extremely interesting.  These beautiful brown and gray beetles are, including the antennae, about an inch and a quarter long.  The antennae or feelers are as long as the body in the cage of the female, and twice as long in the male.  

Where shall you look for these curious beetles?  Search along the needle-like leaves of the pine and fir.  The larvae are found in the sound wood of these trees.  Sometimes the mature beetles occur in such numbers as to do real injury to the trees, but ordinarily they are not very plentiful, and most Scouts are not familiar with them, even where they are fairly abundant.

Every Scout knows the star cluster called the Pleiades. Just north of it, between Auriga (best known by its bright star Capella), and Queen Cassiopeia's Chair, in a brilliant part of the Milky Way, is Perseus, a rich and beautiful constellation.  It is a curving line of stars that extends from Cassiopeia to Capella, and has its concave side toward the Great Bear.  It has considerable resemblance of a fishhook.  Two streams of stars extending eastward we may imagine to be an angleworm dangling from this hook.  An old-time fancy compared the constellation to a champion strutting across the sky brandishing a sword in his right hand, holding the head of Medusa in his left, and wearing wings on his ankles. The most famous star of the constellation is Algol.

The star Algol is a famous variable.  This is really a slow or long-time winker.  Every three days, or to be more exact, every two days, twenty hours, forty-eight minutes and fifty-five seconds, it fades away.  When these periods occur in the evening, nothing in all the heavens is more interesting to watch.  The change sometimes occurs in the daytime, or at an inconveniently early morning hour.  The cause, according to the theory of certain astronomers, is that a dark satellite as big as our sun revolves, around Algol and intercepts a portion of its light.  Some astronomers even go as far as to tell us that Algol is a million miles in diameter, the satellite eight hundred thousand, and the distance between these enormous bodies three million miles.  This star has attracted much attention for many centuries. It is commonly known as the Demon, and similar words refer to its weird or supposedly devilish habit of winking from the sky at us.

In regard to its periods of varying brightness, John R. Kippaz says:

"It remains for the greater part of this time-that is for two days, eleven hours and thirty minutes at its maximum of nearly the second magnitude.  Suddenly it begins to fade, and in about four and a half hours loses three-fourths of its light.  When at minimum-its point of faintest brilliancy-it shines as a star but little brighter than the fourth magnitude.  In about eighteen minutes it begins to brighten again, and in about the next four and a half hours regains its normal brilliancy.  All of these variations are within the reach of the unassisted eye and the most convenient time to watch them is through the hours of the early evening in the autumn."

On Nature's Trail In:


Signs of Wildlife In:

November - December
January - March







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September ] October ] [ November ] December ] January ] February ] March ]

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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.