Out of the Past

Thoreau
January 19







and Other Natural History Essays



         

The snow and ice under the hemlocks is strewn with cones and seeds and tracked with birds and squirrels. What a bountiful supply of winter food is here provided for them! No sooner has fresh snow fallen and covered up the old crop than down comes a new supply all the more distinct on the spotless snow.

Here comes a little flock of chickadees, attracted by me as usual,
and perching close by boldly; then, descending to the snow and ice, I see them pick up the hemlock seed which lies all around them. Occasionally they take one to a twig and hammer at it there under their claws, perhaps to separate it from the wing, or even the shell.

The snowy ice and the snow on shore have been blackened with these fallen cones several times over this winter. The snow along the sides of the river is also all dusted over with birch and alder seed, and I see where little birds have picked up the alder seed.



At R. W. E.'s red oak I see a gray squirrel, which has been looking after acorns there, run across the river. The half-inch snow of yesterday morning shows its tracks plainly . They are much larger and more like a rabbit's than I expected.
1860

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