Henry David Thoreau
What on Earth Is A Pout
The Wisdom of Thoreau
From the Journal of Henry David Thoreau
Thoreau and the Art of Life
Reflections on Nature and the Mystery of Existence
Walden Then & Now
An Alphabetical Tour of Henry Thoreau's Pond
Walden, or Life in the Woods
6" Display, U.S. & International Wireless
|Walden is very low, compared with itself for some years.
The bar between pond and Hubbard's pondhole is four feet wide, but the main bar is not bare. There is a shore at least sit feet wide inside the alders at my old shore, and what is remarkable, I find that not only Goose Pond also has fallen correspondingly within a month, but even the smaller pond-holes only four or five rods over, such as Little Goose Pond, shallow as they are.
I begin to suspect, therefore, that this rise and fall extending through a long series of years is not peculiar to the Walden system of ponds, but is true of ponds generally, and perhaps of rivers, though in their case it may be more difficult to detect. Even around little Goose Pond the shore is laid bare for a space even wider than at Walden, it being less abrupt. The Pout's Nest, also, has lost ten feet on all sides.
Those pouts' nests which I discovered in the spring are high and dry, six feet from the water. I overhauled one, ripping up the frozen roof with my hands. The roof was only three inches thick, then a cavity and a bottom of wet mud. In this mud I found two small frogs, one apparently a Rana palustris less than an inch long, the other apparently a young R. pipiens an inch and a half long. They were quite sluggish and had evidently gone into winter quarters there, but probably some mink would have got them.
The Pout's Nest was frozen just enough to bear, with two or three breathing-places left. The principal of these was a narrow opening about a rod long by eighteen inches wide within six feet of the southwest side of the pond-hole, and the immediately adjacent ice was darker and thinner than the rest, having formed quite recently. I observed that the water at this breathing-chink was all alive with pollywogs, mostly of large size, though some were small, which apparently had collected there chiefly, as the water-surface was steadily contracted, for the sake of the air (?). There [were] more than a hundred of them there, or ten or a dozen in a square foot, and many more under the ice. I saw one firmly frozen in and dead. One had legs, and his tail was half eaten off by some creature, yet he was alive. There were also one or two frogs stirring among them. Here was evidently warmer water, probably a spring, and they had crowded to it. Looking more attentively, I detected also a great many minnows about one inch long either floating dead there or frozen into the ice - at least fifty of them. They were shaped like bream, but had the transverse bars of perch. There were more pollywogs in other parts of the pond-hole, and at the north end I saw two perch about seven inches long, dead, close to the shore and turned a bright green - which are commonly yellow - as if poisoned by the water or something they had eaten. Perhaps the fishes had suffered by the falling of this pond-hole and consequent isolation from the main pond, which has left this part still more shallow and stagnant than before. It is full of the target-weed. If the pond continues to fall, undoubtedly all the fishes thus landlocked will die.
I noticed at the above-named chink tracks which looked like those of an otter, where some animal had entered and come out of the water, leaving weeds and fragments of ice at the edge of the hole. No doubt several creatures, like otter and mink and foxes, know where to resort for their food at this season. This is now a perfect otter's or mink's preserve. Perhaps such a mass of decaying weeds is fatal to the fishes here.
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