Not only the Indian, but many wild birds and quadrupeds and insects, welcomed the apple tree to these shores. As it grew apace, the bluebird, robin, cherry-bird, kingbird, and many more came with a rush and built their nests in it, and so became orchard-birds. The woodpecker found such a savory morsel under its bark that he perforated it in a ring quite round the tree, a thing he had never done before. It did not take the partridge long to find out how sweet its buds were, and every winter day she flew and still flies from the wood to pluck them, much to the farmer’s sorrow. The rabbit too was not slow to learn the taste of its twigs and bark. The owl crept into the first one that became hollow, and fairly hooted with delight, finding it just the place for him. He settled down into it, and has remained there ever since. The lackey caterpillar saddled her eggs on the very first twig that was formed, and it has since divided her affections with the wild cherry; and the canker-worm also in a measure abandoned the elm to feed on it. And when the fruit was ripe, the squirrel half carried, half rolled, it to his hole, and even the musquash crept up the bank and greedily devoured it; and when it was frozen and thawed, the crow and jay did not disdain to peck it. And the beautiful wood duck, having made up her mind to stay a while longer with us, has concluded that there is no better place for her too.
Am again surprised to see a song sparrow sitting for hours on our wood-pile in the yard, in the midst of snow in the yard. It is unwilling to move. People go to the pump, and the cat and dog walk round the wood-pile without starting it. I examine it at my leisure through a glass. Remarkable that the coldest of all winters these summer birds should remain. Perhaps it is no more comfortable this season further south, where they are accustomed to abide. In the afternoon this sparrow joined a flock of tree sparrows on the bare ground west of the house. It was amusing to see the tree sparrows wash themselves, standing in the puddles and tossing the water over themselves. Minott says they wade in to where it is an inch deep and then “splutter, splutter,” throing the water over them. They have had no opportunity to wash for a month, perhaps, there having been no thaw. The song sparrow did not go off with them.
P. M. - To Walden.
Notice many heaps of leaves on snow on the hillside southwest of the pond, as usual. Probably the rain and thaw have brought down some of them.
P. M. - Walked on the river from the old stone to Derby’s Bridge. It is open a couple of rods under the stone bridge, but not a rod below it, and also for forty rods below the mouth of Loring’s Brook, along the west side, probably because this is a mill-stream. The only other open places within the limits mentioned yesterday are in one or two places close under the bank, and concealed by it, where warm springs issue, the river, after freezing, having shrunk and the ice settled a foot or eighteen inches there, so that you can see water over its edge.
The thousand fine points and tops of the trees delight me; they are the plumes and standards and bayonets of a host that march to victory over the earth. The trees are handsome towards the heavens as well as up their boles; they are good for other things than boards and shingles.
The hardest day to bear that we have had, for, beside being 5° at noon and at 4 P. M., there is a strong northwest wind. It is worse than when the thermometer was at zero all day. Pierce says it is the first day that he has not been able to work outdoors in the sun. The snow is now very dry and powdery, and, though so hard packed, drifts somewhat. The travellers I meet have red faces. Their ears covered. Pity those who have not thick mittens. No man could stand it to travel far toward this wind. It stiffens the whole face, and you feel a tingling sensation in your forehead. Much worse to bear than a still cold. I see no life abroad, no bird nor beast. What a stern, bleak, inhospitable aspect nature now wears! (I am off Clamshell Hill.) Where a few months since was a fertilizing river reflecting the sunset, and luxuriant meadows resounding with the hum of insects, is now a uniform crusted snow, with dry powdery snow drifting over it and confounding river and meadow. I make haste away, covering my ears, before I freeze there. The snow in the road has frozen dry, as dry as bran.
Even the dry leaves are gregarious, and they collect in little heaps in the hollows in the snow, or even on the plane surfaces, driven in flocks by the wind. How like shrinking maidens wrapping their scarfs about them they flutter along! The oaks are made thus to retain their leaves, that they may play over the snow-crust and add variety to the winter landscape. If you wished to collect leaves, you would only have to make holes in the snow for traps. I see that my tracks are often filled two feet deep with them. They are blown quite across Walden on the wavy snow. Two flitting along together by fits and starts, now one running ahead, then another, remind me of squirrels. Mostly white oak leaves, but the other oaks, especially red oaks, also. There is a certain refinement or cultivation, even feminineness, suggested by the rounded lobes, the scalloped edge, of the white oak leaf, compared with the wild, brusque points of the red and black and scarlet and shrub oaks.
When approaching the pond yesterday, through my bean-field, I saw where some fishermen had come away, and the tails of their string of pickerel had trailed on the deep snow where they sank in it. I afterward saw where they had been fishing that forenoon, the water just beginning to freeze, and also where some had fished the day before with red-finned minnows, which were frozen into an inch of ice; that these men had chewed tobacco and ate apples. All this I knew, though I saw neither man nor squirrel nor pickerel nor crow.
P. M. - To stone bridge, Loring’s Pond, Derby’s, and Nut Meadow.
It is a good lichen day, for the high wind has strewn the bark over the fields and the rain has made them very bright. In some places for fifteen rods the whole road is like a lake from three to fifteen inches deep. It is very exciting to see, where was so lately only ice and snow, dark wavy lakes, dashing in furious torrents through the commonly dry channels under the causeways, to hear only the rush and roar of waters and look down on mad billows where in summer is commonly only dry pebbles. Great cakes of ice lodged and sometimes tilted up against the causeway bridges, over which the water pours as over a dam. After their passage under these commonly dry bridges the crowding waters are at least six or eight inches higher than those of the surrounding meadow. What a tumult at the stone bridge, where cakes of ice a rod in diameter and a foot thick are carried round and round by the eddy in circles eight or ten rods in diameter, and rarely get a chance to go down-stream, while others are seen coming up edgewise from below in the midst of the torrent!