On Monday, T-D environment reporter Rex Springston had an eye-opening look at the return of great blue herons on the James River and throughout the Chesapeake Bay. “A new survey, the first of its type in a decade,” he wrote, “found that herons in the Chesapeake Bay region – including the James River to downtown Richmond — have skyrocketed to 14,126 pairs in 407 communal nesting areas called colonies. That’s up from just a dozen colonies in the late 1960s.
The number of pairs was not reported back then.” The report comes from the Center for Conservation Biology at William and Mary and VCU. Center director Bryan Watts “and Bart Paxton, a biologist with the center, conducted the heron count during 200 hours of flying in May and June… Overall, the survey tallied colonies of 25 species of water birds. Among other findings, the survey showed that the number of great egrets – stately white birds that look a lot like blue herons – has gone up about threefold in the past three decades, to 1,775 pairs. Historically, egrets have nested mainly along the coast, but they are moving inland as their numbers grow.”
Great stuff from Springston (and the T-D photographers) and another great recovery story on the James, one that often gets overlooked in all the talk about bald eagle and osprey numbers skyrocketing. But like those birds, herons eat fish, so they suffered the same fate before DDT was banned in 1972. Now they’re back, and the fishing is good in Richmond.