Many people think bird watchers are funny. Bird watchers are used to this but nevertheless do not like it because most bird watchers are serious, unsentimental people to whom the observation of nature and birds is a physical and intellectual challenge. Bird watchers get up early and walk great distances for disinterested reasons; this makes bird watching a sport—almost. "If people ever get initiated into bird watching, most come to love it," says Farida Wiley, who can prove her point by looking back on 25 years of bird and nature walks that she has conducted in New York's Central Park.
Miss Wiley, a lifelong ornithologist and honorary assistant at the Museum of Natural History, began her program in 1934, and it was a success from the start. Central Park is an 840-acre oasis of shrubs, trees, lakes and a bird sanctuary in the middle of Manhattan. Despite the city's soot and noise (and the park commissioner's persistent efforts to cement over unspoiled areas for shuffleboard addicts and parking lots), some 240 kinds of birds pass through in season. The group above, led by Miss Wiley, spotted bluejays, warblers, gnatcatchers, a female cardinal and a white-breasted nuthatch. In these winter weeks there are few resident birds, but Miss Wiley is preparing for their early-spring return and fresh opportunity for New Yorkers to roam through their park on beautifully conducted bird-watching tours.