If you follow the James River on its bumpy course through Richmond, you can’t help but be struck by the weird mashup of urban landscape and wildlife. A fascinating example is the blue heron rookery at Vauxhall Island near the 14th Street Bridge. The island is situated just across the river from the James River Park Pipeline walkway. It’s the perfect vantage point to watch the activities of these large, beautful birds as they breed, nest and catch fish. Peter Solomon of 88.9 WCVE spoke with Ralph White, the retired park naturalist and manager of the James River Park system, to learn more about the herons and why they came to this part of the river.
If you want to see the herons’ nests, it’s helpful have a pair of binoculars or a spotting scope, although the birds are large enough to view with the naked eye. Also, it would be advisable to visit as soon as possible. The nests are only visible until full leaf-out, at which point they will be obscured by the vegetation.
The Richmond Audubon Society and the Virginia Audubon Council provide tours of the rookery. They always have knowledgeable people available to answer questions about the herons and they bring spotting scopes so that you can get a good close look at them. The Richmond Audubon Society website includes a listing of all the field trips and tours that they offer. They also have a dedicated site for the blue heron rookery.
There are six regional Audubon chapters in Virginia which form a coalition called the Virginia Audubon Council.
You can find information about the pipeline walkway and the many other parts of the James River Park system here.