Welcome to Discover the James.
This website is your avenue to the James River near Richmond, Virginia where we focus our adventures on both the tidal and non-tidal sections of the James. The James River in many ways is as it has been for the last 15,000 years, but you have to look deep, or simply listen to find it. Through a combination of programs and adventures on the history, wildlife, and fishing, you too can get a glimpse of the River as it has been for centuries.
DiscovertheJames.com is a pathway for discovery of a historic river. Throughout these pages you will view images and read stories about the James while learning about our programs. I hope you enjoy this website as much as I enjoy maintaining it. Keep up on recent stories through the blog below and look for new programming from Discover the James, as our vision of programs and adventures continue to grow every season.
This home page also contains a blog about 'discovery' on the James through the people I meet, the wildlife, landscapes and history of this wonderful river.
For more information, to comment on this site, or to book an excursion, contact Capt Mike at Mike@DiscoverTheJames.com or 804-938-2350.
Photo credits: Above, right: This is Bandit, a resident bald eagle in Jefferson's Reach on the James. The photo was taken by Bob Jones Jr., on a recent Bald Eagle Tour. Bandit has an unusual story in that she has a band. Over time, we've gotten all the numbers of her band and now know much of her story. Her story begins in Alabama and continues in Virginia (with a short stop in Tennessee!).
Below, left: Again, this is Bandit. You can clearly see her band on her right foot. Photo taken by Mark East from Lynchburg. To see more of Mark's work, you can view his website at markeastphotography.com.
November 9, 2013. Yesterday evening we observed something interesting. At the downriver end of Jefferson's Reach, near Jones Neck, we saw five bald eagles ... none of them were resident eagles. There were three immature and one mature eagle, or very close to adult age. The fifth was inconclusive as it was pretty far off but looked to be another young eagle.
I believe the winter migration of bald eagles has started with the arrival of these birds yesterday. Usually, in the middle of November, when the first blast of cold air arrives, so do the migratory eagles from the north. This observation occurred on Friday evening, around 4:30pm, November 8, 2013.
Another interesting observation over the last month is the daily presence of osprey. In the middle of August, the summer resident female osprey began to leave the area, heading south on their annual fall migration. By early September, just about all the female osprey were gone and many of the male osprey had left. By the middle of September, the rest of the males and all their offspring were our of the area and on their migration.
There were no osprey sightings on the river for a couple of weeks ... then all of the sudden osprey were present again.
These late run osprey were probably migrating through the area. I assume they were from the New England area as well as Canadian osprey moving through, also heading south towards the Gulf of Mexico and South America. Interestingly, there have been osprey observed from the Discovery Barge II (my pontoon boat) nearly everyday I've been on the water over the last two weeks. Some days we saw up to three. Three of the last four years, one pair of osprey wintered over at the hot water discharge area behind Farrar's Island, also known as Henricus. Not sure they were there two years ago, but last year, three years ago, and four years ago they were present. I think it's pretty interesting osprey are still being observed on the tidal James ... and we saw one today, November 9, 2013, about 10am, on the east side of Varina Farms.
Personally, I can't wait for their return in the first week of March 2014.
To the left is a wonderful image of a resident eagle taken today by photographer Kay Rankin. A flurry of cowbirds swarmed around this eagle (named Varina) who just left her perch high on a bluff, from the top of a loblolly pine tree. Great shot Kay!!!
In this photo, Varina is in the process of expanding her territory.
Over the last year and a half, between November and early January, before the resident bald eagles lay their eggs, resident eagles have been testing their boundaries, looking to potentially expand where they can. It only happens where a large buffer zone is present between two occupied territories, or there is an unoccupied area next to an eagle's territory (there is only one of these unoccupied areas that I know of). I would have to say the difference between a 'large buffer zone' and an 'unoccupied territory' would simply be the size. A large buffer zone would not be large enough to become another eagle's territory where an unoccupied territory would be large enough to become home to another pair of mated eagles.
Varina is the female eagle that resides just east of the Varina-Enon Bridge and she was seen flying upriver, beyond the bridge and into the pine tree about 1/8 mile to the west of the bridge, beyond her normal boundary. This was observed today, November 9, 2013 around 10am and it's the first time I have seen Varina or her mate, Enon, "perch" on a tree west of the bridge. Late last year, early in January of this year, and over the last couple of weeks, Varina & Enon have been observed flying west of the bridge, outside of their normal territorial boundary. I believe they are in the process of extending their territory, west, towards the River's Bend Golf Course. There is a creek mouth on the James, and a creek that runs up into the golf course and leads to a lake. I do believe they are claiming this area as their territory. Technically, it's the east side of Bandit & the Duke's territory, but they never use it. They just do not fly that far east. So that area really is a 'Large Buffer Zone' between the two occupied territories.
As for whether or not Varina & Enon's territory will expand ... time will tell and I will keep my eyes out. Good stuff!!
Note: Baba & Pops, the resident pair of bald eagles near Deep Bottom, seem to be extending their territory downriver of Four Mile Creek. They are potentially expanding into an unoccupied territory. (More to come as both stories develop).
Sometimes you get an email that makes your day start off just right. I recieved this yesterday from a man who took a Bald Eagle Tour this past Sunday with his family ...
"I want to say thank you for a great time Sunday morning. Myself, my wife and my daughter had the pleasure of taking your Bald Eagle Tour Sunday morning. It far exceeded my expectations. Everything was perfect! We've lived in the Richmond area for 20+ years and the Bald Eagle Tour is easily in the Top 5 things to do around town. I haven't stopped telling people about it. I really appreciate everything."
July, 2013. To see a recent video of bald eagle images, Click here. A portion of the proceeds from all 8" x 10" print sales will go to support bald eagle research through the Center for Conservation Biology. Go to Shop.DiscovertheJames.com, or click here, for more information on print purchases.
The images were selected from a larger show of bald eagles which hung in a few locations around Richmond, VA in 2012 and 2013. The original images from the "Bald Eagles of the James River" were 16" x 20" canvas mounted prints. The show contains about 28 images, and are still available for hanging. Currently, Discover the James is looking for a location for a long term showing. If interested, please contact Discover the James at 804-938-2350 or Mike@DiscovertheJames.com. Thanks and see you on the river! --Capt. Mike
Photo Credit: "Bandit in Tree" by Marlene Frazier.
June 17, 2013. It's been an amazing spring on the James River. Plenty of activity. All the eaglets have fledged in Jefferson's Reach. As of today, I believe there are at least six new eagles flying around Jefferson's Reach. There are still two of the five pair of resident bald eagles that could still have additional eaglets that have not come out to the river's edge yet. Bandit, unfortunately does not have any offspring again. At eight years of age, she has had four breeding seasons with no success ...
Maybe next year.
There are great blue heron adults and young of the year at the river's edge ... hunting for fish. I'm also starting to notice a few new territorial heron on the river. There will never be a heron like Chuck, but it sure would be great to find another one or two to learn from. Osprey contiue to increase. There are at least four new opsrey nests in the between Hatcher Island and Presquile Island.
Seeing a few red fox, white-tailed deer and owls lately too. They are always welcome to see. Finding new kingfisher holes along the banks, and the miner bees returned about three weeks ago .... also found along the bluffs on the river ... by the thousands.
Also continue to meet and see plenty of great people on the river. Most are just viewed from the boat and are in all types of different vessels. Big boats, little boats. Kayaks, canoes and stand up paddleboards. Even a few homemade canoe/sailing vessels.
Lastly, I have to say one of my favorite moments was to see the first eaglet in Jefferson's Reach fledge. She flew from the nest on June 3, 2013 and her name is Lanie. The river is magical. --Capt. Mike
Photo Credit: Lanie, the first fledged eaglet of Jefferson's Reach, by Alan Polishuk.