Marie Winn’s delightful book, Central Park in the Dark: More Mysteries of Urban Wildlife (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 2008) begins: “The first time I walked through the Ramble at night I was terrified. I had been there in the daytime often enough; that thirty-seven acre wilderness in the heart of central Park is where I first became a birdwatcher. But the very features that enchanted me by day — the winding paths, the thicket of trees blocking out the city in all directions, the rock formations cropping up out of nowhere, the secret coves, the rustic bridges and sylvan streams — all looked grotesque and menacing in the darkness . . .
. . . That was many years ago. Today the things that once made my heart start pounding are full of possibility. That rustling in the leaf litter could be a white-footed mouse; the odd yips and yowls — squabbling raccoons. Now I recognize the particular rocks and trees that cast ominous shadows on the path. Of course I keep my wits about me walking through the park at night, but not more than I do during the day. You learn to be jungle-smart living in New York.”
Curiosity and fascination with the mysteries of nature lured Marie Winn and her band of “nature lovers” into the “wilderness” of Central Park after dark beginning in 1995 and they found amazing things going on . . . creatures and events that would never be seen in daylight . . . “owls flying off to hunt, bats calling unheard as they circle at the water’s edge, spiders spinning elaborate webs, slugs embracing, cicadas unfolding their lacy green wings, hawks falling asleep in concealment, large, colorful moths arriving from the mysterious dark to feed on tree sap.”
Reading these tales of adventure make me wonder about wild nightlife in Golden Gate Park. Do we have bats, a moth tree that comes alive in the dark, mating slugs? Where do the birds sleep? I’m reminded of a trip I took once to the Pantanal, the world’s largest wetland which extends into parts of Brazil, Paraguay and Bolivia and is teaming with wildlife. One night, on a night hike, our guide pointed his flashlight beam out at a nearby marsh. Hundreds of pairs of yellow eyes shown up at us out of the dark grasses . . . Yacare Caiman (Caiman yacare)!
What wildlife would we startle out of the thickets of Golden Gate Park in the night? I’m guessing owls, raccoons, lots of rodents, bats . . . maybe a coyote?
For more photos Golden Gate Park at night by Chris MacArthur: http://www.sfweekly.com/slideshow/golden-gate-park-at-night-30643829/