Friday, March 6, 2009

Urban Wildlife - Great Blue Heron Rookery

Less than 5 minutes from this spot in busy downtown Richmond is an amazing bit of wildness - a great blue heron rookery.

Between winter weather, life, work, and most importantly, Team in Training workouts to run a half marathon in seven weeks, I have had precious little time for a hike. So I seized the moment today at lunch and took a quick hike along the James River in downtown Richmond. The objective was to get back to the great blue heron rookery that my friend Susan and I walked to a week ago, but this time with a camera. Here are some of the sights that I experienced on a beautiful spring-like day just 56 hours after 10 degree temperatures and just 4 days after nearly a foot of snow, which is now mostly gone.

At the Haxall Canal walk, there is this memorial to Christopher Newport, who led the first English expedition to what became Richmond, Virginia.
From there, the path leads along the Flood Wall. The fairly new condos in the left background (looking back from where I started) have great river and city views.
From here, climb down a short metal ladder and ...
... walk along the "trail", a metal catwalk over a large pipe under railroad tracks. To the right, everything is urban, to the left, you could almost be in the boondocks. Almost, except for some bridges and powerlines.
It is not the most scenic trail in the world, but after just a few hundred feet, the great blue heron rookery appears on an island in the river.
Great blue herons on their nests. There are about 40 nests on the island.
Wider view of the rookery, river, and bridges.
These rapids, which occur for several miles, are called the "Falls of the James" and are the reason Richmond exists where it does. The James River is not navigable from the sea above this point.
I walked up-river perhaps a quarter mile, and took this shot looking back downriver to the island with the rookery.
There were beaches and rocky areas. Here is a natural bench and a pot hole, both carved by time and the river. Imagine how many eons these took.
Another pothole, the front of which has collapsed into the river.
I sat on this "bench" and ate lunch. Talk about a comfortable spot to sit on a beautiful day, eating my peanut butter and jam sandwich. No king eating a 5 star lunch in a palace enjoyed their lunch more than I did today, listening to the river rushing past me and feeling the warmth of the sun.
Just days ago, these flowers, if even yet in bloom, would have been buried by snow.


  1. Nice! I saw a great blue heron at a park in Allentown today. They are so amazing. I can't imagine seeing 40 of them!

  2. What a wonderful walk that was and I enjoyed looking at all your photos. Those pot holes are really cool.
    I thought I was lucky to see three herons at one time, but 40 at one time must have been awesome!!
    Peanut butter and jelly lunch - my favorite!

  3. Thanks Anne and HappyOne - I am glad you enjoyed this. It was a great lunch break on a nice day. Tough to go back to work, though, I will say that! ;) But I did.