Central Park – pets remembered at Christmas, owls and tobogganing

You may think that Central Park wouldn’t have much to offer in the depths of a cold winter. My experience is otherwise.

I first discovered Central Park on a frigid Sunday morning in January 2011 when I ventured out to join a birdwatching tour. I had arrived in Astoria in Queens a month before and figured that birdwatching might provide a good way of meeting people. At the same time I would be resurrecting an interest I developed as a kid in the UK but which had been pretty much dormant for 20 or so years.

The Secret Christmas Pets Memorial Tree

I was blown away by the variety of bird species I saw in freezing temperatures   – over 280 species have been recorded in the Park – and the beauty of the Park blanketed by snow and ice.

The Park has since become my regular sanctuary in the heart of Manhattan . It is a masterpiece of design with miles of paths, amazing trees, geology,  summer theatre and concerts – the list goes on.

Though I have spent a lot of time exploring the Park over the years, I continue to make new discoveries. A couple of weeks back I was walking in the Ramble, a woodland with a maze of winding pathways, great bird life and the odd raccoon, when I came across a Christmas tree decorated with mementos, ornaments and photos of departed pets.

Having grown up with two much-loved dogs I really connected with the sentiments expressed in the messages – reminiscing was a slightly sad but overall uplifting experience. What a great tradition! For more on the ‘secret’ Holiday Pets Memorial Tree see http://www.examiner.com/article/hidden-christmas-tree-central-park-memorializes-cherished-pets and http://rudedogs.wordpress.com/2007/12/17/december-16-2007-the-holiday-pets-memorial-tree/

Last Saturday (4th January) I took myself off to the Park for a walk and some birdwatching, though  temperatures  well below freezing were forecast.

Tobogganing - resized
Tobogganing in Central Park, 4th January 2014. Note the dads standing in front of the tree trunks to prevent their kids smashing into them.

It was a beautiful blue sky day. Despite the cold, the snow was sparkling and folk were enjoying the sunshine, cross-country skiing, dog walking and tobogganing.

Carving Bethesda Terrace - Owl - resized
Stone carving of an owl, Bethesda Terrace area

It turned out to be a great day for birding. The walk began with an early and excellent view of a Long-eared Owl roosting in a pine tree. To cap the walk off I came across a whimsical carving of an owl among other beautiful carvings in the Bethesda Terrace area.

All in all it was a great day and a reminder that the Park is a great place in which to spend time year round. If you like things a little quieter there are far fewer people around in winter than in the peak tourist season.

Restrooms and eateries remain open and you can always grab a snack from the many food carts set up along the popular walking paths. Just  make sure you rug up accordingly.

Food cart near the Mall in Central Park
Food cart near the Mall in Central Park

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