Walking with Mary in Central Park: What is That Duck?

On Monday, the dog and I took a long walk in Central Park with my friend Mary, who is in town performing with Taylor Mac in a wonderful production of Bertolt Brecht’s The Good Person of Szechwan at the Public Theater. Go see it, if you can.

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The Pool, a lovely little body of water near West 103rd Street, was painted with autumn colors.

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Mallards bobbed and dabbled everywhere.

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Wait a minute, those aren’t all mallards. Check out that duck on the left, below.

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That ain’t no mallard. Let’s take a closer look.

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A beautiful reddish head, but definitely not a Redhead. A white breast and clean white markings curving up either side of the back of the neck. Very handsome. What is he? No clue. Well, we’ll look it up when we get back to the apartment.

We wandered on along the Loch and through the North Woods to the Conservatory Garden, which stretches from 106th Street to 103rd along the eastern edge of the Park. It’s actually three distinct, beautifully maintained gardens, one French, one Italian, and one English.

In the French Garden, the dog took a breather in front of a huge mass of brilliant, yet touchingly fading mums.

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In the English Garden, beneath the “Secret Garden” statues of a Pan-like Dicken and a rather nymph-like Mary Lennox, a koi and a water lily entered into an inter-species communion of color.

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The dog (or is it the mop?) mused on late-season flowers and the passing of time.

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Later, we looked for our duck in the bird books. He looked unmistakeably like a Northen Pintail – except that he had no pintail.  A visit to Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s  All About Birds reassured by saying that in eclipse (non-breeding) plumage the tail feathers are “much shorter and wider than in breeding plumage.”  That clinched it: a Northern Pintail.  A visit to a favorite site, Bruce Yolton’s Urban Hawks confirmed that on Sunday Bruce had photographed a Northern Pintail in the Pool, a sighting he called “unusual for the Park.”

Here is a last look at our handsome duck.

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To see more urban ducks, visit the archives of Out Walking the Dog. Better yet, try stopping by the Pool yourself. Or the Reservoir. Or the Harlem Meer. Or the Lake. Or the Pond. Or any body of water in any park anywhere near you.

Or hell, forget the ducks. Just go for a walk. It’s beautiful out there.

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6 Comments on “Walking with Mary in Central Park: What is That Duck?”


  1. […] Walking with Mary in Central Park: What is That Duck? (outwalkingthedog.wordpress.com) […]

  2. Sally Says:

    So pretty!!

  3. fojap Says:

    Is that a Northern Pintail? It looks like a duck a I couldn’t i.d. a couple of years ago.

  4. virginiafair Says:

    looks like Central Park is at its peak. Each picture was more breathtaking than the previous. I almost gasped at the mums. Also love the dog’s shaggy coat!

  5. Laurel Says:

    Gorgeous photography, Melissa! Like a Monet watercolor!

  6. Barbara Says:

    You really make me want to jump on a plane with my two big dogs and spend some time walking in Central Park with them Melissa… Great photos – love Esau’s musings – and the colour around the pool is certainly beautiful. Lucky you to find a pintail! Thanks for such a great virtual walk around.


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