I went on a field trip down with Andy Thompson to the southeastern tip of Chesterfield County this week to volunteer with the James River Association at Presquile Island. Big adventure time!
We met with several other volunteers from various environmental organizations and enjoyed a morning of work, education and soaking in nature. Read Andy’s column in today’s Richmond Times-Dispatch:
Less than a year ago, the James River Association’s dream of running an ecology school at the Presquile National Wildlife Refuge on an island in the tidal James still was hundreds of thousands of dollars from reality.
Today, with money in hand and construction nearing its final stages, that reality is almost tangible.
I’ve joined Gabe Silver, the JRA’s education and outreach manager, and a handful of volunteers on this 1,329-acre island fewer than 20 miles south of Richmond to help work on a wetlands-spanning boardwalk and to get an up-close look at the progress this project is making.
Andy did a little bit of volunteering, a little bit of work and a little bit of play. I did more volunteering and playing. We got to see some of Presquile Island in the fall, the good work that JRA is doing and plenty of nature.
The island itself is home to bald eagles, heron, barn owls, white-tailed deer, red fox, wild turkey, box turtles and more. We saw at least half of those.
On the pontoon boat ride to the island, we saw great blue heron and a buck with a big rack swimming across the James River. We also saw what we thought was the “Mallory” (boat that survived being sunk during Hurricane Irene) headed down the James (it wasn’t). While walking we saw a beautiful old box turtle.
On the paddle back (we took our kayaks for an early exit — parenting duties), we experienced the surge created by the tide coming in, survived a tugboat pushing a barge and got in a good workout. I also found cantaloupe-sized Osage-oranges (horse apples).
Finding them at Presquile was different than when we found them a few weeks earlier at Huguenot Flatwater. I knew what I was looking at, but the size of the fruit was about four times what I’d seen before. There were multiple trees along the banks of the island and we saw plenty more huge fruits floating or hanging on in the trees. I snagged two of them and tried to convince Andy that this was amazing. He wasn’t as impressed as I hoped, but my kids were at least amazed.