Out of the Past

Thoreau
February 14






and Other Natural History Essays



         

P.M. - Down railroad. A moist, thawing, cloudy afternoon, preparing to rain.

The telegraph resounds at every post. It is a harp with one string - the first strain from the American lyre.

In Stow's wood, by the Deep Cut, hear the gnah gnah of the white-breasted, black-capped nuthatch. I went up the bank and stood by the fence  A little family of titmice gathered about me, searching for their food both on the ground and on the trees,
with great industry and intentness, and now and then pursuing each other.




There were two nuthatches at least, talking to each other. One hung with his head down over a large pitch pine, pecking the bark for a long time - leaded blue above, with a black cap and white breast. It uttered almost constantly a faint but sharp quivet or creak, difficult to trace home, which appeared to be answered by a baser and louder gnah gnah from the other. A downy woodpecker also, with the red spot on his hind head and his cassock open behind, showing his white robe, kept up an incessant loud tapping on another pitch pine.

All at once an active little brown creeper makes its appearance, a small, rather slender bird, with a long tail and sparrow-colored back, and white beneath. It commences at the bottom of a tree and glides up very rapidly, then suddenly darts to the bottom of a new tree and repeats the same movement, not resting long in one place or on one tree.

These birds are all feeding and flitting along together, but the chickadees are the most numerous and the most confiding.

I cannot but think that this sprightly association and readiness
to burst into song has to do with the prospect of spring -- more light and warmth and thawing weather. 

1854

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