On Tuesday, January 24th, NVCT partnered with the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) and Stafford County for our annual Great Blue Heron nest count at Crow's Nest Natural Area Preserve. The Heron rookery, owned by NVCT and managed by DCR, is one of the east coast's largest and most concentrated areas for heron nesting each spring. Monitoring the nests and protecting wildlife habitat means being a good steward and keeping a keen eye on environmental changes affecting wildlife ecosystems.
This year, our count saw a slight overall decrease, with 180 nests compared to slightly over 200 for the prior four years. The drop could well be attributed to severe weather events over the past year. Still, Herons also rebuild many of their nests in the late winter, and the Trust plans to do further counting to assess whether the lower number is significant.
Despite Northern Virginia's everchanging weather patterns, the Great Blue Heron has successfully nested on the preserve for many years, and the ecosystem will hopefully remain vital for many more. Though the slim decrease in nests isn't a significant cause of concern at this time, NVCT Executive Director Alan Rowsome says that understanding trends is critical to anticipating a more substantial issue.
"Part of the reason we do the count is to track possible downward trends that have yet to reach a crisis point in case any actions can be taken to support the herons in the future."
Our partnerships with conservation champions and our community stakeholders ensure ecologically valuable land like the Potomac Creek Heronry at Crow's Nest Natural Area Preserve will continue to protect breeding bird habitat long into the future.