Feeling bruised after an expensive and somewhat painful dental appointment, I took a detour into Central Park to lighten my spirits.  Walking by the pond by 59th Street and 5th Avenue, in the shadow of the Plaza Hotel, I noticed a crowd pressed at the edge of the water, cameras and binoculars in hand.  Then I noticed several photographers with heavy tripods and very long telephoto lenses, and suddenly realized they were there to view the rare Mandarin duck that showed up in the Park in October – the newest Manhattan celebrity.

I totally forgot about my numb lip as I rushed to the water.  There he was in regal splendor, a show-off with bright blue, white, violet and magenta plumage, not five feet from the bank and obviously basking in the attention.  As he swam off hugging the shoreline the excited crowd followed him, tripping over the rocks and trampling the fenced-off lawn.

A native of Asia, no one knows how he got there.  Perhaps he was a zoo escapee or a liberated pet.  Because the Mandarin duck is monogamous and has elaborate courtship rituals, the bird is a symbol of love and healthy relationships.  He looked comfortable in the company of the native mallards and wood ducks which looked quite ordinary in comparison to the Mandarin’s flashy plumage.

This is why I love Manhattan.  Anything can happen and it always does, and the environment is constantly changing.  People from all over the world come and go, and the seasons always bring new surprises. This princely little animal, an unexpected visitor, became a local celebrity attracting tourists, wildlife photographers, and nature lovers.  Uplifted and with a transformed spirit, I headed to the subway to return to my workday.

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