The traditional May Count, organized by the Maryland Ornithological Society for the past 50 years, is yet another casualty of COVID-19. The May Count is something that many birders in our area look forward to, as a chance to get out and go birding with friends during one of the best times of the year. And it is a chance to contribute to science, by adding your sightings to the 50 years of observations of the passage of the wave of migrants through our area.

Although we can’t hold a traditional May Count this year, MOS invites you to a special weekend of birding, the C-Free May Count. During the weekend of May 9-10, get outside by sitting in your backyard, or by taking to your feet or bicycle, and go birding in the Carbon-free, COVID-free May Count. Go out and see the passage of the spring wave of warblers! And share what you have seen with MOS and the birding community, on the MOS Facebook page or the MDBirding Google group. You can also submit your observations to MOS via eBird, email, or even telephone. Complete instructions can be found at C-Free May Count.pdf. There is but one rule for the C-Free May Count: Go Birding!

If you do join the C-Free May Count, remember that May 9th is also Cornell Lab’s Global Big Day, so any eBird checklist submitted for that day will be included in the Big Day totals. And it is a prime time to contribute to the third Maryland-DC Breeding Bird Atlas, too, which has started collecting breeding bird observations just this year!

Celebrate the arrival of spring and the annual migration of the colorful warblers by going birding on the C-Free May Count!

John McKitterick
Vice President, MOS


The May Count is held officially on the second Saturday in May, with several additional counts on the following Sunday or the weekend preceding. Maryland birders have conducted this survey of the bird populations in the state in the first half of May for over five decades. By the second week in May, many of the species that nest in Maryland have returned to their breeding grounds and they are temporarily joined by an array of Warblers, Vireos, and other migrating species whose numbers peak in the state around this time.

Because species diversity is at its highest point, plumages are the brightest, and bird songs fill the air, there is no better time in Maryland to bird than the first half of May. If you are willing to slap on some sun screen and insect repellent, you will be rewarded with a great day of birding. More volunteers mean better coverage is achieved. For those who are interested in participating for the first time, each County has an assigned compiler, who can provide you with maps of territories that need coverage and pair you up with experienced birders who will show you the ropes. You will learn new spots to bird that you didn’t know existed. Being part of a group is really important since warblers are often fast moving and higher in the tree canopy so many pairs of eyes are crucial, especially for the novice. Please contact the May Count coordinator for more information or contact your local chapter coordinator to learn how you can help. A list of the most recent County Compilers is available below along with other resources for the count.

2020 Checklist – AOU Order  (spreadsheet format)

2020 Checklist – AOU Order (PDF format)