I’ll be teaching a birding course this spring at the Westfield Adult School, so I’m on the lookout for a good location for our capstone event, a Saturday field trip in early April. On Thursday I seized the chance offered by a springlike morning to visit Echo Lake Park, not far from Westfield in Union County.
The little series of artificial lakes was fairly empty, but still I was impressed to find the most abundant waterfowl species–a total of 14 individuals–to be Hooded Merganser. They’ll certainly be gone by Easter, but if it’s good enough for hoodies, it’s good enough for me.
One of the first land birds I encountered came swooping down the hillside at me just after I stepped out of the car.
Look hard behind those perfectly focused twigs and you’ll see a blurry Pileated Woodpecker looking over his shoulder. He uttered not a peep as he moved from tree to ground and back to tree, but there’s every chance that they–I assume there’s a “she” in the neighborhood, too–will be good and noisy by the time April comes around, increasing our chances of relocating them on our field trip.
What I was most looking for, of course, were common birds and habitat for common birds. The grass hosted a big flock of American Robins of both sexes, joined by a few Common Grackles, Red-winged Blackbirds, and Brown-headed Cowbirds. The woods were quieter, as expected this time of year, but the few White-throated Sparrows I did find should greatly increase in the next six weeks, and the woods look perfect for early parulids, or at least for kinglets.
There are still a few spaces left in the class, I think, so join us–and see what Echo Lake looks like in April!