Even blanketed in darkness, Manhattan’s crown jewel teems with fascinating wildlife.
So says Winn, though she admits that as a youngster she was terrified of Central Park after dark. Now, on balmy summer nights, the fearless author and her merry band of “night people” (including a man dressed as Dracula) can be found traversing the park’s leafy, serpentine pathways, armed with flashlights. They have rapturously observed moths rallying around a sap-dripping tree, rodents scampering through the underbrush and various owls on the wing. (The text devotes particular attention, compassion and emotion to these nocturnal fliers.) For Central Park’s “bioblitz,” a daylong census of all living things in specific areas of the park, Winn’s group intrepidly ensnared bats with a net to identify species and habitat. Inviting readers to share her love for animals in their natural habitat, the author mingles personal observations with a plethora of factual information: the echolocation abilities used by bats, distinguishing details of owls, etc. She also includes meticulously detailed notes sent to her by fellow explorers and a posthumous homage to nature-walk “accomplice” Charles Kennedy. Pale Male and Lola, the two hawks perched high above Fifth Avenue chronicled in Winn’s previous book (Red-Tails in Love: A Wildlife Drama in Central Park, 1998), make cameo appearances here. Her group turned its attention to insects at the Parks Department’s “Bug Night”; an entomologist pushing a portable generator to power his black light showed them a host of colorfully winged wonders (mostly moths) fluttering over the Ramble. Though she chronicles a few unsettling encounters with questionable characters lurking in the shadows, Winn does her best to mitigate our instinctive fear of after-dark jaunts in the urban jungle by showing what a breathtaking array of insects and animals it harbors.
Exuberantly illuminates Central Park’s vibrant, 843-acre nocturnal world.