If you’re into birds, or even if you’re not but you have some time to burn downtown, this is the time of year to start keeping an eye on the great blue heron rookery in the James River.
Jim Alexander lives not far from the rookery, which is mostly on Vauxhall Island, near Pipeline Rapid. As Alexander writes, “quality viewing is had from along the North bank between 12th St. and 14th St. Stand on the overlook, walk along the inside of the flood wall, venture out onto the pipeline walking grate, or stoop through the rail down onto the river bank.”
The herons are in the process of fixing up their nests for mating and then laying eggs. Some have already begun mating. On February 26, Alexander sent this update: “Gorgeous morning for Great Blue Heron rookery watching. At 7:15 AM, I counted 74 birds in 25+ pairs. About 10 are settled in their nest on eggs – several are nest refurbishing – and a few courting. My count over the past weeks has been maxing at 58, so I must have caught them before they went out hunting for the day. Perfect low morning light for viewing. They started arriving the 1st week of Jan., with about 10 by week end. 1 stayed through the winter. No egrets or osprey as yet. We have about 12 more heron than we did on this day last year, yet there remains a surplus of nests.”
Since then, T-D environment reporter Rex Springston told me he and his wife saw a pair of ospreys down there as well.
The Friends of James River Park and Richmond Audubon Society are partnering to offer heron rookery tours on Saturdays in March. Check the Richmond Outside events calendar on those days for more information.