East Lake Park is one of the best places in the Birmingham area to see birds, because it has a variety of natural features that provide food, water and shelter for a wide range of species. Using water from Roebuck Springs and Village Creek, this 45-acre lake is sheltered from the surrounding urban area by a 100-acre park. The mature hardwoods are home to many resident songbirds, as well as winter feeding flocks led by Yellow-rumped Warblers, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, and Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, as well as the usual winter finches. The same woods may also be worth checking for migrant songbirds in spring and fall. The woods sometimes offer shelter to nesting Barn Owls, which may be seen occasionally in the midnight hours, coursing over the short-grass fields to the northwest in search of rodents.
The lake is a reliable spot for waterfowl from late November through February, with occasional rarities seen outside that peak season. An island in the middle of the lake provides nest sites for a small rookery of herons, including Great Blue Herons and Yellow-crowned and Black-crowned Night-Herons. The island can be viewed from the shore, but an interesting view is also available from the pavilion located in the middle of the lake, reached by a short boardwalk from the south side of the lake. The lake is a good spot for Ring-necked Ducks, Canvasbacks, and Ruddy Ducks most winters, while other ducks and waterfowl are irregular visitors. You can see Wood Ducks, which nest here, throughout the year, as well as American Coots and Pied-billed Grebes. Rarities seen here include Common Loon, Red-breasted Merganser, Tundra Swan, and Ross’ Goose.
Follow the walking trail, which circles the lake, and survey the creek as it departs from the lake. This area is good for spotting songbirds and sparrows, and may attract wading herons and egrets.
From time to time, most of the eastern birds of prey can be seen at East Lake Park, from American Kestrels and Peregrine Falcons to Ospreys and Sharp-shinned Hawks. The most common raptors are Cooper’s Hawks and Red-tailed Hawks. The trees around and near the lake host Eastern Phoebes and Eastern Bluebirds all year, while Eastern Kingbirds and Great Crested Flycatchers can be found April through September.
GPS: 33.57149 -86.72582
East Lake Park
2400 1st Av. N
Birmingham, AL 35206
Amenities: Parking. restrooms (Shepherd Center), trail, picnic, fishing
The trail around the lake is paved and level and creates a nice, accessible 1.1 mile loop. Birds are easily viewed from the wide walkway, but you can also access a wooden plank pier to venture closer to the small island that houses Black-crowned Night-herons.
From I-59 in Birmingham (Jefferson County), take exit 132 (1st Avenue North) and proceed east on 1st Avenue to 84th Street. Turn left (north) on 84th Street to reach the park. Ample restaurants, service stations, and lodging are available in the vicinity.
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