Saturday, August 24, 2013

Birding the C&O Canal Trail

Birding Riley’s Lock and the C&O Canal Trail
August 24, 2013

Most of my birding is done on the weekends and I have several places around Maryland that are my favorite places for birding. The C & O canal towpath is a great place for birding also a biking, jogging and hiking trail.  Walking along the trail you have beautiful views of the Potomac River. My photos below are of the birds seen along the river at various of the times of year.

 The Bald Eagle has a nest nearby also the Double-Crested Cormorants.

 This shot above was from a previous visit, it was neat seeing the Double-Crested Cormorant rookery.

The Great Blue Herons have a rookery in the trees that line the river.  Not the best shot of the Great Blue Heron, but I think it is amazing these large birds nest in the tree tops.

Along the trail and canal are many songbirds and one of my favorite birds is the Prothonotary Warbler. Nest boxes have been set up for the Prothonotary Warbler along the canal.

The Prothonotary Warbler is beautiful and their bright yellow color sometimes can be spotted easily.

Riley’s Lock and the C&O trail is my go to place when I want to see the Green Heron. This past Saturday I counted six Green Herons that were out in the open. Do you have a favorite birding spot, one you can depend on seeing your favorite bird? Well, this is my spot to see my favorite... the Green Heron.

Nothing could spook this Green Heron, he or she seemed pretty intent on staring at the water covered with duckweed.

We also saw groups of Wood Ducks mostly females and possibly some older juveniles. The Wood Ducks seemed to spook easily even though we were a good distance away.

Both the Turkey Vultures and the Black Vultures seem to be a common sight along the Potomac River.

A Black Vulture resting nearby as we walked over the Seneca Creek bridge.

I will end with a pretty shot of the Potomac River.

Below is a list of just some of the birds we saw during our walk along the C&O Canal trail.
Turkey Vultures
Black Vultures
Canada Geese
Mallard Duck
Wood Duck
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Green Heron
Great Egret
Pileated Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
American Crow
Prothonotary Warbler
Northern Cardinal
Tufted Titmouse
Carolina Chickadee
White-Breasted Nuthatch
Carolina Wren
House Wren
Acadian Flycatcher
Chipping Sparrow

Riley’s lock and the C&O trail is worth repeat visits thru-out the year to see various species of birds. If you are ever in the Maryland-Virginia area you should plan a visit or join in on one of the local bird club walks.

Happy Birding,


  1. It seems like a lovely area to do all the things you mention. That Green Heron really is a beautiful bird in the sun.

  2. It looks like a very lovely place Eileen. I wish I had wandered the trail when I lived back east. Love all of the images but especially the view of the Potomac River!

  3. You are a good Birdwatcher. Congratulations.

  4. You are a good Birdwatcher. Congratulations.

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  6. Great series of shots, my fave the majestic eagle of course!

  7. Wonderful series of photos, Eileen! I really like the Green Heron. Would love to see one some time (besides just in photos!)

    1. Thank you, Mona! I hope you get to see the Green Heron soon!

  8. love that green heron shot! gorgeous! so love that you get to see rookeries! and bald eagles!!!

  9. Wonderful group of photos, Eileen! That looks like a good spot for birding.

  10. Fantastic birds and great shots. Congrats..

  11. Hallo Eileen!!!You've seen so many and beautiful birds!!!
    Great shots as always!!!I like most the Bald Eagle and the green heron!!
    Yes!!You are a good Birdwatcher!!!I admire your work!!

  12. What a great trail to explore! Lots to see there! The nesting cormorants are really neat!

  13. Great hike!! Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

  14. You must be very good at spotting these birds! Great shots - the nesting cormorants were very interesting.

  15. Thanks for sharing! We at the C&O Canal Trust --- the official nonprofit partner of the C&O Canal National Historical Park --- are always interested in seeing pictures of the Canal. You might be interested in knowing that the Trust is sponsoring a Birdwalk at 8:00am on September 28th at Pennyfield Lock 22 (Mile Marker 20). And through our "Canal Quarters" program, birders can stay overnight at one of six restored lockhouses to maximize bird viewing time in the Park! To learn more about how you can help care for this national treasure, please visit

    1. Hello Mike, the birdwalk sounds great. I did not know about the Canal Quarters. It would be great to be at the trail first thing in the morning to see the early birds. Thank for your comment!

    2. Please spread the word among the birding community about our Canal Quarters program. It even has its own webpage,, to make it easy to reserve your lockhouse online for your stay. And there are six lockhouses to chose from all along different parts of this 184.5-mile National Park.

  16. Another great post, Eileen. Enjoyed the images, most of all the Green Heron. I have yet to see a Prothonotary Warbler - missed out on it when I was on Cape May.

  17. Wow, I really enjoyed seeing all of these birds! I have to say the eagle was my favorite. There's just something about them that I really love. Great post!

  18. You really had some great finds along the river here. This looks like an absolutely fantastic birdy outing! Any warbler seen in the wild is a cool one:) They are such tricky little devils when it comes time to capture on camera:)

  19. Eileen, thank you for being our tour guide on the C & O Trail. A most enjoyable post filled with beautiful photographs!