The State Memorial and Natural Preserve "Museum-estate of Leo Tolstoy "Yasnaya Polyana"
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November, a Pre-Winter Month

kosulyaIn November the dawn meets the twilight in the middle of the day

Day after day, the amount of daylight time is getting shorter and shorter, and the approach of winter is felt more often. There is a folk saying: “In November, winter fights with autumn.“ Indeed, if the beginning of the month is more often just autumn, its end is already the start of winter. Having begun with long rains, November creates a lot of slush, and following it, “white flies” of snow begin to appear. At first they melt right away, and only when it gets much colder do they cover the ground with their white sheet. 

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The snow will melt more than once or twice before the snow cover stays for the season. This year, it happened around November 20. Throughout the weekend a few snowflakes were flying around, but by Sunday night the temperature fell below freezing. The snowflakes now covered the ground all night long. That week started as if on a fresh clean page, and the snow has remained since then.

Our smallest deer – roe deer – still have a precarious time. Nothing impedes their movements around the estate. Their tracks can be seen everywhere except the central part of the estate. Also, the roe deer’s tracks are often accompanied by the tracks of dog packs. Last autumn, I had a chance to see a collective hunt of a dog pack living near the estate. All the five hunters perfectly knew and fulfilled their responsibilities. Two smaller dogs, one of which had a ringing piercing bark, played the role of the drivers. They were unhurriedly chasing a male roe deer, following exactly in his tracks, and barked from time to time. The other three larger dogs did not follow the tracks, but staying silent and following the voices of the drivers, tried to catch the animal. Fortunately for the roe streaking across the Kalinov meadow like an arrow, a man happened to be between them. Having noticed the pack, I began shouting at them and actively swinging my arms. That confused the dogs. They stopped, gathered all together, and ran back into the forest, following their own tracks. That time, the male roe was lucky, but unfortunately it is not always the case.

Hard-working beavers are safe from predators for a long time. As long as ice remains on the river, beavers live in their lodges. Only during long thaws, when the Voronka is partly open, they move to the riverside willow stands to enjoy fresh branches. In addition, in the summer and autumn beavers get stronger and are not so much afraid of being attacked. Respectable size and strong incisors are able to stop a fox or a modest-sized dog. In case it is not enough, the water is always near.

Some animals are safe due to their teeth and water, others, thanks to their fast legs, but birds have wings. One wingbeat, and the chaser on the ground is no danger. Only not so many birds are content with short November days and stay here for the winter. At the beginning of the month, it’s, first of all, titmice: the great tit, the marsh tit, and the Eurasian blue tit; the nuthatch, and woodpeckers. They are moving around all together looking for food along the edges of the forest. Their “leader” is the woodpecker. With its strong beak, it chips off whole pieces of bark, with insects and larvae hiding under it, from dried branches. The woodpecker eats the insects on the wood itself, and whatever remains on the bark that fell to the ground belongs to the titmice.

Another group that also moves around all the time behaves in a different way. It consists of goldcrests and long-tailed bushtits. Cheeping, they migrate within the forest, preferring the edges of the fir tree woods. Constantly in motion, goldcrests and bushtits don’t stay in one place for long; they search every leaf or needle for insects and their eggs and larvae. Unlike other titmice and nuthatches, these birds are not interested in the seeds of plants, so they don’t often visit bird feeders.

One doesn‘t often manage to watch another bird that stays here for the winter – the tree creeper. This bird is a little smaller than a sparrow, and has such a variegated plumage that as soon as it stops moving it becomes invisible on the bark of the tree where it is looking for prey. Unlike the nuthatch, which can freely move around on a tree trunk even with its head down, the tree creeper examines the trunk from bottom to top, climbing in a spiral motion.

In the middle of November, northern guests fly to the estate – bullfinches and waxwings. They are especially numerous in the years of an abundant crop growth of the rowan and hawthorn. Northern birds like our berries. Also, in such years with a rich harvest of berries the fieldfare stays here for the winter as well.

By the end of November, as a rule, the winter sets in. The ponds and the river are frozen. The forests, fields, and bodies of water are covered with snow, and the winter, which previously had to fight for its rights, becomes an absolute sovereign.

Andrei Deev

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