I have fallen in love with Central Park, and all it took was a sparkling coat of snow. I arrived very early in the morning, when instead of the usual bustle of tourists, the park was awash with sparrow, jays, cardinals, geese, ducks and squirrels slipping and sliding around on a glittering white background. The thick blanket of snow absorbed a lot of the city noise, which was replaced with a far more pleasing cacophony of bird chatter. Ponds have taken on a bright new lustre, proudly showing off their icy surfaces, and waterfalls are busy forming dazzling displays of icicles. Winding pathways have left behind their shadowy, leaf-lined appearance and now glow eerily in the pale winter light. It is utterly delightful.
I took a northbound trail, and soon found a huge gaggle of geese, skedaddling across sheets of ice, taking hugely comic tumbles as their poor little webbed feet shot out from under them. Some of the braver (or more foolhardy) souls attempted dramatic landings on the slippery surfaces, only to shoot off the edge of the ice sheets and plummet face first into the water. At some point, most of them gave up and just hunkered down for a rest to watch a small group of birds huddled together in the water, swimming incessantly in one big, clustered, swirling circle. It was mesmerising to watch them. I don’t know how they didn’t get dizzy.
As I wandered deeper into the park, I passed a waterfall and noticed icy outcrops starting to form on rocks midstream. Upon closer inspection, I discovered cascades of icicles forming underneath the rocks lining the waterfall.
I then found my way to a small valley which was home to flocks of birds. There were traces of birdseed and peanuts scattered around, much to the delight of the sparrows, jays and squirrels, telling tales of earlier park visitors joyfully ignoring signs not to feed the wildlife. The wildlife seemed quite happy with the lawlessness of the situation.
Around the corner, another pond, lined with gorgeous red berries and rapidly freezing over. My eye was caught by a line of ice crystals beginning to form, and a frosty trail of thin ice over fast moving water that snaked its way through the thicker ice of slower moving waters.
And now it was time for the grand finale. I happened upon a spot heaped high with trunks and branches of downed trees, and the birdsong that emanated from the twiggy depths was overwhelming. I stood stock still to see who would come out to say hello. Less than a minute later, out popped the brightest, cheeriest birds imaginable – flashy red male northern cardinals, their subtler but just as stunning female counterparts and blue jays – and settled on the branches and railings right next to me, undeterred by my presence, despite (or perhaps because of) my bright yellow hat.
I suspect I shall spend quite a bit of time here this winter.