Monday, January 14, 2008

Upcoming Event: C&O Canal Count

The 10th Annual C&O Canal Midwinter Bird Survey will take place next Saturday, January 19th. This count is coordinated by the DC Audubon Society with the help of several other bird clubs and numerous individuals. Each January, teams of observers fan out along the 184.5-mile canal to count birds along short sections of the towpath. Last year, at least 80 birders participated on count day. Somewhere between 100 and 150 birders have participated at least once during the past ten years.

The count was begun to monitor the winter birdlife in the C&O Canal National Historical Park, which follows the course of the Potomac River from Washington, DC, to Cumberland, Maryland. The park's biodiversity is impressive; volunteers have recorded 113 species over nine years, and over 80 species will be found in a typical year.

We hope that the bird survey may eventually reveal how some long term trends affect the park's birdlife. Counties of Maryland and Virginia west of DC have undergone a remarkable land use transformation in the past two decades. Former agricultural areas have been paved over to create suburbs and exurbs. In addition, climate change has altered migration patterns of many species, with some wintering farther north and others not coming south in lower numbers.

Most of the mile segments have been assigned, but there is still time for DC-area birders to sign up and participate. (Currently miles 30-33, 39, and 76-80 have no volunteers at all.) Just send an email to and let us know your skill level and what areas of the canal interest you the most.