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Annual Great Blue Heron Nest Count completed on Crow’s Nest Natural Area Preserve Heron Rookery

NVCT recently partnered with Stafford County and the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) to conduct its annual Great Blue Heron nest count on its 70-acre heron rookery within the Crow's Nest Natural Area Preserve. Despite some severe weather this past year that could have affected the nests, the total count held steady from last year with 224 visible nests.

Each winter, NVCT, Stafford County, and DCR traverse the marshy property together using detailed maps while aiming their gazes toward the highly-visible nests above them. They keep a meticulous tally of the total nests while assessing any tree damage and other factors that could affect these sensitive nesting sites.

This time of year is vital for the blue heron as they prepare to lay their eggs each March and can be vulnerable to disruption by human presence. Herons do their nesting and breeding in colonies called "rookeries," isolated in wooded swamps away from human activity and attempting to avoid their predatory foes: hawks, bears, eagles, and raccoons.

Female herons lay their eggs from mid-March to mid-June, with peak hatching season from mid-April to mid-July.

Great blue herons live approximately 15 years, and NVCT works to ensure that they have safe havens along the Potomac River and its tributaries where they thrive.


The Northern Virginia Conservation Trust (NVCT) is a regional, nonprofit land trust that forever conserves, manages and advocates for land that has natural, historical and cultural value to our Northern Virginia communities. NVCT works with conservation partners, local governments and private landowners to preserve, restore and steward land in Northern Virginia. Since its founding in 1994, NVCT has protected over 8,000 acres in urban and rural areas. To learn more, visit and follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

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