Winter World: Animals in Red

Winter world.

Winter world.

As the dog and I step off the sidewalk into a narrow path dug between snow mounds at the corner of Broadway and 108th Street, the sound of distant honking stops me in my tracks. Not the usual traffic sounds of Broadway, but the calls of wild geese. I shade my eyes and look up in time to see a large flock of Canada geese – an uneven, dark V, followed closely by a long single line – disappearing to the southwest over the solid old apartment buildings of Riverside Drive. “Oh,” I say out loud, struck by beauty.

At the top of the stone staircase that leads into Riverside Park, the dog pauses to show off his red shoes.

The red shoes: Dance, little dog, dance.

The red shoes: Dance, little dog, dance.

We descend the staircase, and enter the white winter world of a snowy city park. Everything is strangely quiet.


Central Park after a snowfall.

Only a couple of dogs are playing in the 105th Street dog run.


Down by the river, a solitary runner runs.


But where are the rest of the animals?


We retrace our steps to the path above, where a squirrel scoots across the top of the snow and leaps onto a tree trunk.


The little creature leaves behind a scribble-scrabble of footprints in the snow, the record of many such forays out of the safety of the trees. Three crows call from the top of the plane trees, then fly, one at a time, out of the park toward Riverside Drive. Two house sparrows chirp.

And that’s it. No hawks, no juncos, no woodpeckers, no robins, no flocks of sparrows, no chickadees, no titmice. Where is everyone?

And then we hear a high-pitched call: “Tsip, tsip, tsip.”

Winter’s bare branches make it easy to find the caller: a female cardinal, perched in a tangle of branches beneath the retaining wall. Although I usually see cardinals in pairs, today the brilliantly colored male is nowhere to be seen.  The lovely bird kept just outside the range of my iPhone, so here is a photo from last winter of two females picking up spilled seed beneath a bird feeder on eastern Long Island.


The Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) stays with us year-round, and even in the depths of winter, the male keeps his brilliant plumage. (Thank you, Rob Pavlin, for the beautiful photo below.)

Cardinal in Central Park by Rob Pavlin

Cardinal in Central Park. Photo: Rob Pavlin

Cardinals are particularly stunning against a snowy background, but they’re gorgeous birds in any season.


Cardinal in autumn in Central Park’s Conservatory Gardens. Photo: Melissa Cooper

Just look at that red.

Cardinal in Central Park, early winter 2012. Photo: Rob Pavlin.

You don’t often see animals in winter sporting such flashy colors.

Still, it’s not unheard of, is it?

The red shoes.

The red shoes ride the elevator home.

This post is for Nick and Zuri.
Explore posts in the same categories: 2014, Birds, dogs, Domestic animals, In the City, NYC Parks, Riverside Park, Seasons, Wildlife/Natural History, Winter

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13 Comments on “Winter World: Animals in Red”

  1. theresagreen Says:

    The Park looks beautiful with a snowy mantle, poor little Cardinal birds have nowhere to hide though!

  2. theresagreen Says:

    The beautiful Cardinal birds have nowhere to hide in that snow! The Park looks beautiful.

  3. Charlotte Says:

    Love this! thanks for posting again Melissa. Winter is long, and levity helps (not that i’m suffering cold climes here in LA, only with the drought.)

  4. Big Buster the Buckeye Says:

    She’s back!

  5. virginiafair Says:

    Iit’s very impressive that Esau will put up with wearing his boots, Maybe he realizes he has a responsibility to protect his feet. After all, if he gets sore feet and cannot go for a walk, how can a blog named “Out Walking the Dog” go on?

  6. Barbara Says:

    Wonderful blog Melissa – such a treat to see Esau and the red slippers! and the cardinals in all their finery – and New York city decked out in bridal white! Thanks for sharing your city as you always do and it’s always wonderful.

  7. Mr. Mantooth Says:

    What a relief to have you back.
    We need you!
    But I have always imagined Esau wearing jackboots, if any boots at all, and certainly NOT little red ones.
    I love all the photos but the third one down is particular ravishing.

  8. Red makes quite a statement against winter’s white coat. Esau wears his snow shoes with panache. The photos of the Arctic freeze from the blogging fraternity up there in the north are quite extraordinary! The landscape is so transformed; such beauty although it must be playing havoc with day to day living…..

    • Yes, the brilliant against white was irresistible. Our snow is pretty much gone now, except in the parks and the evil piles in the curb. It has been a tough winter for so many people, but … so beautiful when the snow is fresh and falling.

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