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Photos: Eagles on the James

We got up early Saturday and joined Capt. Mike’s Discover the James Tours. We were lucky enough to see eagles, lots of eagles.

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Capt. Mike runs the Discover the James tours and on our expedition, we saw around 15 different eagles. There are quite a few nesting pairs that have staked out their territory along the James and this time of year there is an almost equal number of transitory eagles in the same area.

The James River runs through it … through the City of Richmond and just minutes downriver is an incredible opportunity to see resident bald eagles in their natural habitat. This 3-hour, pontoon boat tour takes you into the midst of an ecosystem rich with wildlife, history and beautiful scenery. Discover the James’ Bald Eagle Tour takes you through an six-mile stretch of the James River known as Jefferson’s Reach, encompassing eight territories of resident bald eagles.

The tour focuses on the sixteen resident bald eagles in Jefferson’s Reach. Resident eagles do not migrate and live within their territories all year long. During the year, two additional populations of bald eagles migrate into the area. In May, summer migratory bald eagles, from the south (mainly Florida), arrive and these eagles are gone by the end of September. In mid November, winter migratory eagles arrive from the north and stay into February, then begin their departure, returning to their breeding grounds.

The tour is currently operating under Covid-19 restrictions and limiting the number of folks on each tour and masks are required. More information on Facebook and here.

Eagles aren’t the only bird you’ll see.

This is Bandit and she has an amazing story of survival.

Read more about Bandit (aka Dolly) here.

Bandit enjoying lunch.

The wingspan of an adult Bald Eagle can reach 7.5 feet.

A juvenile Bald Eagle. It takes about 5 years to get full adult plumage.

 

A few more Bald Eagle facts from Cornell Lab.

  • Rather than do their own fishing, Bald Eagles often go after other creatures’ catches. A Bald Eagle will harass a hunting Osprey until the smaller raptor drops its prey in midair, where the eagle swoops it up. A Bald Eagle may even snatch a fish directly out of an Osprey’s talons. Fishing mammals (even people sometimes) can also lose prey to Bald Eagle piracy. See an example here.
  • Had Benjamin Franklin prevailed, the U.S. emblem might have been the Wild Turkey. In 1784, Franklin disparaged the national bird’s thieving tendencies and its vulnerability to harassment by small birds. “For my own part,” he wrote, “I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen the Representative of our Country. He is a Bird of bad moral Character. He does not get his Living honestly. … Besides he is a rank Coward: The little King Bird not bigger than a Sparrow attacks him boldly and drives him out of the District.”
  • Sometimes even the national bird has to cut loose. Bald Eagles have been known to play with plastic bottles and other objects pressed into service as toys. One observer witnessed six Bald Eagles passing sticks to each other in midair.
  • The largest Bald Eagle nest on record, in St. Petersburg, Florida, was 2.9 meters in diameter and 6.1 meters tall. Another famous nest—in Vermilion, Ohio—was shaped like a wine glass and weighed almost two metric tons. It was used for 34 years until the tree blew down.
  • Immature Bald Eagles spend the first four years of their lives in nomadic exploration of vast territories and can fly hundreds of miles per day. Some young birds from Florida have wandered north as far as Michigan, and birds from California have reached Alaska.
  • Bald Eagles occasionally hunt cooperatively, with one individual flushing prey towards another.
  • Bald Eagles can live a long time. The oldest recorded bird in the wild was at least 38 years old when it was hit and killed by a car in New York in 2015. It had been banded in the same state in 1977.

If you’re a fan of original content like those photos above be sure to give our Instagram and Dickie’s Backyard Bird Blind Bonanza on FB a follow and consider making a donation.




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Richard Hayes is the co-founder of RVAHub. When he isn't rounding up neighborhood news, he's likely watching soccer or chasing down the latest and greatest board game.

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Canadian and western wildfires bring hazardous smoke to Virginia

“It’s basically all over the state at this point,” said Virginia Department of Environmental Quality meteorologist Dan Salkovitz. “All the monitors that we’ve got in the state are elevated today.” 

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Massive wildfires near the Ontario-Minnesota border, as well as blazes farther west in Canada and the United States, are bringing smoke throughout Virginia, causing state officials to issue a health alert Wednesday morning due to high levels of particulate matter.

“It’s basically all over the state at this point,” said Virginia Department of Environmental Quality meteorologist Dan Salkovitz. “All the monitors that we’ve got in the state are elevated today.” 

State air quality monitors registered the highest levels of fine particulate matter in Winchester and the lowest in Hampton, although all of the reports were higher than normal. 

Particulate matter is a mixture of solid and liquid droplets in the air that can be inhaled. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, exposure to these particles can aggravate respiratory systems and heart function and can exacerbate existing conditions such as asthma. 

Much of the smoke seen in Virginia is coming from a plume generated by hundreds of fires in Ontario, said Salkovitz, although blazes along the West Coast are also contributing. While earlier this week the effects were mostly seen in hazy skies and brilliant sunsets, smoke began mixing with air closer to the earth’s surface today, driving down air quality. 

A cold front behind the plume is expected to bring clearer air, Salkovitz said, but “unfortunately that front is taking its sweet time to get here.” 

Smoke from the western and Canadian wildfires has caused problems throughout the East Coast this week, triggering officials in numerous states to issue health alerts. 

While wildfires are driven by a variety of factors, scientists have linked their increasing incidence and intensity in the West with climate change, which has been driving up temperatures and changing precipitation patterns.

Virginia residents can sign up to receive air quality alerts from DEQ here.

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Downtown

James River Park Trail Loop named one of America’s best running trails by Men’s Journal

Richmond’s trails were selected thanks to their top-notch views, rolling hills mixed in with a few steep climbs, creek and river crossings, and multiple access points and trailheads on either side of the river.

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The national health and fitness publication Men’s Journal recently published a list of the 15 best running trails in America, and the trails in Richmond’s James River Park System, including the North Bank and Buttermilk trails, were selected for the rankings, at number 11 overall.

Richmond’s trails were selected thanks to their top-notch views, rolling hills mixed in with a few steep climbs, creek and river crossings, and multiple access points and trailheads on either side of the river.

You can view the full list here.

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‘James River Relief’ returns to give hospital workers healing on the water

The James River Association & Outfitter Partners are offering free paddle trips to hospital workers as part of the program.

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Last summer, as Covid-19 quarantined the country and social gatherings were brought to an abrupt halt, healthcare workers carried on through unprecedented challenges, battling a global pandemic and putting their lives on the line daily.

As a small gesture of thanks for the incredible service of our Virginia healthcare heroes, the James River Association (JRA) launched James River Relief in June 2020, a program providing free paddle trips to hospital workers in the James River watershed. Within 24 hours of the program launch, the first round of 100 paddle trips had been given away, signaling a great demand for healthcare staff to find much-needed respite by connecting with the river.

James River Relief is back for the 2021 river season, thanks to the generosity of donors who gave funds to support the program. The program will again provide more than 100 paddle trips & rental options to doctors, nurses, and other hospital staff through partnering with several regional outfitters.

“We were thrilled to give away more than 100 trips last summer to hospital workers in the James River watershed” said Bill Street, CEO for the James River Association. “We are excited to bring this program back, and grateful to partner with several outfitters in various locations on the James, to provide a break on the water offering solace, relaxation, and enjoyment on our beautiful river.”

Outfitter partners include RVA Paddlesports and Crosswind Paddle Company in Richmond, James River Reeling & Rafting in Scottsville, and Rivanna River Company in Charlottesville. The program will also provide trips through JRA’s outfitter, James River Adventures in Lynchburg, and through JRA’s Connect with the James programs in Greater Richmond and James City County.

“We had a wonderful time floating”, said Leora Brown, a healthcare worker at Sentara Careplex Hospital who took a trip through the program at James River Reeling & Rafting last summer. “It was a much-needed break from work and the quarantine life for my family! We look forward to doing this again!”

Hospital workers can sign up for a free paddle by filling out a form on JRA’s website. They are asked to provide their name, address, and the hospital where they work. After they sign up, they are emailed with further details, plus a code to book their trip or rental for free.

To learn more about James River Relief and to share this opportunity with hospital workers in the James River watershed, visit thejamesriver.org/james-river-relief.

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