Volunteers Survey Birds in a National Park in Virginia

Documenting birds will help create a checklist and strengthen the case for conservation.

Beautiful Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts, in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C., is popular with those who love music, dance, and opera. It’s about time, then, to give the park’s feathered performers center stage.

Working with the National Park Service, volunteers from the Audubon Society of Northern Virginia are conducting the first-ever, year-round bird survey of the 65-acre park’s meadows, woodlands, streams, and wetlands. The volunteers venture out every week, and in 2014 they’ll compile a checklist reflecting seasonal abundance and nesting species.

Terrence Liercke, the Audubon Society of Northern Virginia’s president, explains that the decline of bird populations, including of the American kestrel and eastern meadowlark, in the surrounding suburbs lends an extra urgency to the checklist.

“Audubon citizen science is underscoring park managers’ conservation and restoration work and helping people see that Wolf Trap is more than a performance venue,” Liercke says. The bird list, a first step in assessing the park’s fauna, will complement an ongoing, informal survey of plants. For good measure, Audubon-led field trips will also introduce visitors to the park’s often-overlooked natural beauty.

This story originally ran in the November-December 2013 issue as "Showtime."

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