An older gentleman walking his dog stopped and asked me: " What are you looking for?, eagles? " I thought about it for a moment and said that I would really like to get a look at a closer view of the Hooded Mergansers. "Oh-you mean those ducks with white spots on the side of their heads" he said. He then proceeded to give me directions to a nearby back road which crosses over a small brook. He said that he'd seen a bunch of "those ducks" right near the side of the road yesterday and added that there was also a cemetery on the same road where they've been finding owls. I thanked him and set out to find the location.
It turns out that the old timer was right on the money! There were a few Hooded Mergansers hanging out near the edge of a small brook. It just goes to show you that it doesn't always take an expert birder to know where the birds are. I've seen plenty of hoodies over the winter but this was the first time that I had a close view. I found out first hand that they do breed in Connecticut but they're difficult to find when they're hidden away in wooded wetlands during the nesting season.
It was great being out on a relatively warm (upper 40's), sunny, winter day for a change. I've been finding more Killdeer showing up around the state which is a promising sign that spring is just around the corner.
I sometimes ask the locals if they know of any "good" places in their area to see birds. You need to use discretion as to whether or not searching for a suggested location is worth the gamble. It's a strategy that could get you lost but the payoff is that it might lead you to a hidden gem-of-a birding spot that you never knew existed!