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James River Water Levels

Westham Gauge
Gauge Height: 6.26'
Flow: 9270 cfps

Trail Conditions: Richmond


Todays Tides: Richmond Locks

High Tide: 6:48am
Low Tide: 1:36am

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No Rookery Doesn’t Mean No Heron Action in RVA

Nick Kotula

June 4, 2015 10:34am
The downtown RVA heron rookery in its glory days. Credit: Nick Kotula

A section of the downtown RVA heron rookery in its glory days. Credit: Nick Kotula

Here are a few things that you should know about me before reading this: When I put together the words “Richmond” and “outside”, I immediately think of the James River. When I think of the James River, I immediately think of wildlife. And when I think of wildlife, I think of herons. I’ve been writing about the heronry (a rookery for herons) at Pipeline Rapids since 2012, primarily for the James River Association for their Today on the James blog. You can read my most recent article here, or you can waste a bit of time reading all of them here!

So, I really like birds. I especially like great blue herons (GBH for short). For the past few years downtown Richmond has been THE premiere spot in the area to view these birds as they court, copulate, and care for their young. In 2015, the Richmond heron world was rocked. Much like the purple martins (I love that that website still exists), the birds were a no show. At least no one had planned a Heron Festival, which actually surprises me, in retrospect.

Even with no rookery, this is a common sight along Pipeline Park. Credit: Nick Kotula

Even with no rookery, this is a common sight along Pipeline Park. Credit: Nick Kotula

Richmond Times-Dispatch even did a piece on the disappearance and questioned if they were just delayed or perhaps confused from our horrible winter.

In April I only found one lonely bird. Previously, if there were leaves on the trees, there were chicks in the nests. I returned to Pipeline in May, and I think we can safely say that there will be no heronry this year at Pipeline Rapids.

However, while the herons may have abandoned their previous home, they seem to remember where to find the best takeout in Richmond. The fall line was teaming with GBHs taking full advantage of the running shad and assorted other fish.

So, what does this mean? For you, it means Pipeline is still an excellent place to get in touch with nature. For the James, hunting herons are a great sign of water quality. For the usually solitary and territorial herons, the fact that they are still visiting the fall line en masse means that they are probably still nesting nearby. For me, that means further exploration and reporting on where they’ve taken up residence!

Few birds are more impressive than a heron in flight. Credit: Nick Kotula

Few birds are more impressive than a heron in flight. Credit: Nick Kotula

If you have never been, I highly recommend that you make a visit to Pipeline Park. Click here to find’s Pipeline park page, scroll down and look on the right side where you’ll find a green “Click for Directions” button. That should get you there!

Do you have a favorite spot on the James? Do you have any leads on where the herons are nesting? Let me know in the comments!

About Nick Kotula

Nick Kotula is an Air Force brat, but has been in Virginia most of his life. He decided to settle down with his wife in Richmond where he enjoys exploring the city and the surrounding nature. He's the proud father of one, and will almost always have a kid or camera on his back! (Sometimes both!)