Hear of a lady’s-slipper seen the 23d; how long? I saw the Nuphar advena above water and yellow in Shrewsbury the 23d.
P. M. - To hen-harrier’s nest and to Ledum Swamp.
Edward Emerson shows me the nest which he and another discovered. It is in the midst of the low wood, sometimes inundated, just southwest of Hubbard’s Bath, the island of wood in the meadow. The hawk rises when we approach and circles about over the wood, uttering a note singularly like the common one of the flicker. The nest is in a more bushy or open place in this low wood, and consists of a large mass of sedge and stubble with a very few small twigs, as it were accidentally intermingled. It is about twenty inches in diameter and remarkably flat, the slight depression in the middle not exceeding three quarters of an inch. The whole opening amid the low bushes is not more than two feet in diameter. The thickness of it raises the surface about four inches above the ground. The inner and upper part is uniformly rather fine and pale-brown sedge. There are two dirty, or rather dirtied, white eggs left (of four that were), one of them one and seven tenths inches long, and not “spherical,” as Brewer says, but broad in proportion to length.
Ledum, one flower out, but perhaps if Pratt had not plucked some last Sunday it might have bloomed here yesterday? It is decidedly leafing also. Andromeda Polifolia by the ditch well out, how long? I perceive the turpentine scent of the ledum in the air as I walk through it.
As I stand by the riverside some time after sundown, I see a light white mist rising here and there in wisps from the meadow, far and near, - less visible within a foot of me, - to the height of three or four or ten feet. It does not rise generally and evenly from every part of the meadow, but, as yet, over certain spots only, where there is some warm breath of the meadow turned into cloud.
Buttonwood, one tree, not for two or three days. Rubus triflorus, well out, at Calla Swamp, how long? Calla apparently in two or three or three or four days, the very earliest. Arethusa bulbosa, well out. Cornus Canadensis blooms apparently with C. florida; not quite yet. I mistook dense groves of little barberries in the droppings of cows in the Boulder Field for apple trees at first. So the cows eat barberries, and help disperse or disseminate them exactly as they do the apple! That helps account for the spread of the barberry, then. See the genista, winter-killed at top, some seven or eight rods north of the southernmost large boulder in the Boulder Field. Cannot find any large corydalis plants where it has been very plenty. A few of the Cornus florida buds by the pond have escaped after all.
Farmer describes an animal which he saw lately near Bateman’s Pond, which he thought would weigh fifty or sixty pounds, color of a she fox at this season, low but very long, and ran somewhat like a woodchuck. I think it must have been an otter, though they are described as dark glossy-brown.
Yesterday left my boat at the willow opposite this Cliff, the wind northwest. Now it is southeast, and I can sail back. Our quince open this morning, possibly yesterday; and some others, I believe, much earlier. Do I not hear a short snappish, rasping note from a yellow-throat vireo? I see a tanager, the most brilliant and tropical-looking bird we have, bright-scarlet with black wings, the scarlet appearing on the rump again between wing-tips. He brings heat, or heat him. A remarkable contrast with the green pines. At this distance he has the aspect and manners of a parrot, with a fullness about the head and throat and beak, indolently inspecting the limbs and twigs - leaning over to it - and sitting still a long time. The female, too, is a neat and handsome bird, with the same indolent ways, but very differently colored from the male; all yellow below with merely dusky wings, and a sort of clay (?) - color on back.
Fringilla melodia’s nest in midst of swamp, with four eggs, made partly of usnea; two stories i. e. upon an old nest, elevated one foot above the water; eggs with very dark blotches. Kalmia in prime, and phodora. Apparently the oldest-blossomed kalmia the palest. Saw probably a deer mouse jumping off by the side of the swamp; short leaps of apparently ten inches. The pyrus (smoth-leaved) out apparently a day or two. See men fishing, one or two, and often perceived the meadow fragrance.
My three kinds of birch sap have now become more acid, especially the white and canoe birch. The black birch is milder and more agreeable. With sugar it is an agreeable drink. I prefer it to cream-o’-tartar water. This is the real birch wine.
At the screech owl’s nest I now find two young slumbering, almost uniformly gray above, about five inches long, with little dark-grayish tufts for incipient horns (?) Their heads about as broad as their bodies. I handle them without their stirring or opening their eyes. There are the feathers of a small bird and the leg of the Mus leucopus in the nest.
The partridge which on the 12th had left three cold eggs covered up with oak leaves is now sitting on eight. She apparently deserted her nest for a time and covered it. Already the mouse-ear down begins to blow in the fields and whiten the grass, together with the bluets. In Conant’s thick wood on the White-Pond-ward lane, hear the evergreen-forest note, but commonly, at a distance, only the last notes - a fine sharp té té. The mountain laurel near scouring-rush apparently just begun to leaf. Trientales open. Do I not hear a tanager? See a beautiful blue-backed and long-tailed pigeon sitting daintily on a low white pine limb.
I found five arrowheads at Clamshell Hill. Saw, just before, on the flat meadow on the right, feeding on the edge of the meadow just left bare, along with the peetweets, a bird a size larger with an apparently light-brown back, a ring or crescent of black on its breast and side of neck, and a black patch including the eye. Can it be the Charadrius semipalmatus? or else Wilsonius? It looks like the latter in Wilsons’s larger plates. It reminded me of the piping plover, but was not so white; and of the killdeer, but was not so large.
The cooing of a dove reminded me of an owl this morning. Counted just fifty violets (pedata) in a little bunch, three and a half by five inches, and as many buds, there being six plants close together; on the hill where Billington climbed a tree.
A calabash at Pilgrim Hall nearly two feet high, in the form of a jar, showed what these fruits were made for. Nature’s jars and vases.
Holbrook says the Bufo Americanus is the most common in America and is our representative of the Bufo communis of Europe; speaks of its trill; deposts its spawn in pools.
Found in College Yard Trifolium procumbens, or yellow clover.
Concord. - Celandine in blossom, and horse-chestnut.
Sunday. Barn. - The distant woods are but the tassels of my eye.
Books are to be attended to as new sounds merely. Most would be put to a sore trial if the reader should assume the attitude of a listener. They are but a new note in the forest. To our lonely, sober thought the earth is a wild unexplored. Wildness as of the jay and muskrat reigns over the great part of nature. The ovenbird and plover are heard in the horizon. Here is a new book of heroes, come to me like the note of the chewink from over the fen, only over a deeper and wider fen. The pines are unrelenting sifters of thought; nothing petty leaks through them. Let me put my ear close, and hear the sough of the book, that I may know if any inspiration yet haunts it. There is always a later edition of every book than the printer wots of, no matter how recently it was published. All nature is a new impression every instant.
Saturday. On my way to Plymouth, looked at Audubon in the State-House. Saw painted the red berries of the Arum triphyllum. The pigeon is more red on the breast and more blue than the turtle dove. The female (and male?) wood thrush spotted the whole length of belly; the hermit thrush not so. The seringo-bird cannot be the Savannah sparrow. The piping plover has a big head, white breast, and ring neck.