At East Lake Park, you can see two groups of animals that are rare in the city – lake fishes and aquatic birds. You can also meet the people who are passionate about finding them.
This artificial lake provides fishing opportunities throughout the year. Catfish, bass, and bream (sunfish) are the most frequently hooked. Every June, the Birmingham Parks and Recreation Board sponsors the Family Fishing Rodeo, the largest community fishing event in the state. Before the rodeo, the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries stocks the pond with several tons of catfish. Thousands of area residents show up for the daylong rodeo, which features prizes, barbeque, arts and crafts stations, educational exhibits, and sometimes a petting zoo offered by the Birmingham Zoo.
Area birdwatchers regularly visit the park, which is one of several destinations in the metropolitan area featured on the Alabama Birding Trail. As one of the largest water-bodies in the area, the lake attracts birds that need open-water habitats. Because people are always at the park, many of these birds grow accustomed to people and can be viewed at close range. Great Blue Herons and both Yellow-crowned and Black-crowned Night Herons can be spotted all year. In late spring, the herons build nests in the trees on the lake’s island. Wood Ducks – arguably the most beautiful North American duck – are year-round residents.
Canada Geese are usually present, but their high flights can pose a threat to the aircraft that pass overhead when approaching or leaving the nearby airport (learn more). The geese breed along the lake shore, offering opportunities for visitors to study nesting behavior and young fledglings. In winter, the lake is populated by Pied-billed Grebes and American Coots. Grebes hunt fishes in the deep waters, while coots eat vegetation along the shoreline. Other aquatic bird types often stop by the park for a brief visit.
The wooded areas next to the lake are good for finding birds of prey, including Red-tailed Hawks, Red-shouldered Hawks, and Cooper’s Hawks. Look for Red-headed Woodpeckers and European Starlings using cavities in the older trees. A few forest bird species use the trees scattered throughout the park and the forest along the margins of Village Creek.
R. Scot Duncan