This morning, at the request of Chairman York, there was a fireworks test at the stadium to see exactly how loud the fireworks will be and what the impact would be on the Great Blue Herons.
We arrived at 9:30 and about 45 minutes later the first set of fireworks were set off. We watched the herons through binoculars and spotting scopes and did not see any signs of disturbance. This test was followed by two other tests – all conducted at the stadium.
For the final test, noise monitors were set up at the rookery to measure sound levels and the Supervisors and developer were present. Again we watched the herons for their reaction and the herons did not react.
We were happy with these results but did ask both the developer and the Supervisors if there was any chance that the fireworks would be set off any closer to where they were done today. They all said no.
We were especially eager to hear this response because the One Loudoun Property does stretch to an area across the street from the rookery and any locations closer than what we experienced today may not be acceptable.
So, in summary, we were satisfied with the test results as they were performed today at the stadium with the shell sizes used, but still want to see that specific geographic location with the distance to the rookery used in the today’s test specified in the proffers. Currently the proffers simply state that fireworks can be set off anywhere on the property and this leaves too much opportunity for them to be set off close to the rookery in the future.
If the developer and Supervisors are so sure that the fireworks will always be set off from the location used today, then they should not have a problem with making sure that is specified in the proffers.
We think this is critical because in 10 or 20 years from now, Supervisors and even owners of this development may move on and verbal agreements will be forgotten. The proffers, however, are binding documents and we believe having this specified in writing would assure the protection of the herons.
This rookery is a treasure of the County and it will continue to be a key stop on our late winter and spring bird walks as we watch the goings on at nests through our spotting scopes and continue to teach increasingly more people about this wonderful colony.
As the stadium opens next year, we will continue to monitor this site, gather data and make sure that there are indeed no adverse affects; and of course, we will continue to share our photos, videos and stories from the field so that you can stay engaged.
I went out yesterday to check out the Great Blue Heron Rookery off Loudoun County Parkway in Ashburn and was excited to count over 70 nests – with some herons still building nests, others standing on their masterpieces declaring their territories, and others clearly hunkered down likely sitting on eggs.
It was a windy chilly day and I was photographing through my spotting scope so the photos are not the best but do tell the story of this thriving rookery. We started observing this rookery in 2007 and back then there were 40-50 nests. It’s been wonderful to see the rookery expand and grow to its size today.
But what of its future?
As you know, the One Loudoun Stadium/the Hounds plan to set off fireworks during the nesting season and while we recommended that there be restrictions such that there would be no fireworks during the core nesting period of March 1 through June 30, the developer and President of the Hounds plans to proceed with them and we expect that on April 3rd, our Board of Supervisors will approve that.
It’s a shame because we’re quite sure that baseball fans are going to the games to enjoy baseball, and this small compromise would not diminish that experience. If you’re a baseball fan, let us know – would you still go to a baseball game from March though June if there were no fireworks? or is that a deal breaker for you? would you sacrifice fireworks for a few months knowing that you would be helping the birds of this rookery raise their young?
I think as a community we should consider these values.
While the rookery still thrives today, I’ll continue to go out with my spotting scope and watch these majestic birds as they build nests and raise young.
The photos I got yesterday were a little blurry due to the wind so I’ll head over again in the next day or so to try to do a better job at documenting this county treasure.
If you’re interested in seeing them, grab your binoculars (you need binoculars or a spotting scope to spy into their world) and drive over to Loudoun County Parkway. There’s a small pull-off where the parkway intersects with Marblehead Drive, and you can watch them from there. It’s a lot of fun.
Yesterday, the staff at Kincora held Heron Fest – a chance to view the Great Blue Heron Rookery from the back side from a hill. It’s a lovely viewing spot that is still far enough away from the nests that we don’t disturb the birds but at a location where we can have wonderful views to observe their activities.
Bill Brown was one of those who attended the fest:
We had nice weather and a good turnout. The herons were very active at their nests, and everyone really seemed to enjoy seeing them.
The Great Blue Herons that formed that great rookery in Ashburn are at it!
Nesting seemed to begin early this year (as did many things) with nest building and repairs starting in early January.
We went out last week to catch some video of their progress and you can watch a short video clip of it here. Some birds seem to be already sitting on eggs, while others continue to pair up, make nest repairs and jockey for the best nest spots.
Highlights at Bles were the warblers, including Prairie Warbler and American Redstart and the two male Scarlet Tanagers. We were able to get several of the birds in the scope and everyone was amazed at how beautiful the birds were.
Surprisingly low numbers of woodpeckers at Bles, as well as sparrows (saw a White-crowned there last Sunday). A pair of Ravens appear to be nesting somewhere out on the island, as they were spotted carrying food twice. The Bald Eagle was a 2nd or 3rd year bird.
We were at the rookery long enough to answer everyone’s questions and allow plenty of time on the scope. The Broadlands Mitigation Wetlands across from Harris Teeter right off the Greenway turned out to be just as fun as Bles. The birds there don’t pay much attention to people and it offered great opportunities for pictures.
There were several people in the group who had never been birding before and said they had a great time and wanted to do it again. We ran into the Raven Loonatics doing there Birdathon at Bles; they were pretty intense and said that they had picked up over 70 species at Algonkian in a little over two hours!
Canada Goose, Wood Duck, pair, Mallard, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Bald Eagle, Red-shouldered Hawk, Spotted Sandpiper, Mourning Dove, Ruby-throated Hummingbird (males on territory), Red-bellied Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Great Crested Flycatcher, Blue Jay, American Crow, Common Raven (pair carrying food), Tree Swallow (in nestboxes), Barn Swallow, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Blue-grey Gnatcatcher, Eastern Bluebird (in nestbox), American Robin, Grey Catbird (on territory), Northern Mockingbird (defending territory), Brown Thrasher, European Starling, Cedar Waxwing (several pairs, one we saw exchanging food), Yellow Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Prairie Warbler (on territory), American Redstart, Common Yellowthroat, Hooded Warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat (on territory), Scarlet Tanager, Field Sparrow, Northern Cardinal (male and female), Blue Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting, Red-winged Blackbird (male and female), Common Grackle, Orchard Oriole, House Finch, American Goldfinch, House Sparrow.
Great Blue Heron Rookery:
Great Blue Herons (numerous chicks in nests), Mockingbird, Common Grackle, Red-tailed Hawk, American Kestrel
Broadlands Wetland Mitigation near Harris Teeter on the Greenway:
Broad-winged Hawk, American Crow, Red-winged Blackbird (male and female), Orchard Oriole (male and female), Rough-winged Swallow pair, Tree Swallows (in nest boxes), Green Heron, Canada Goose with goslings, Mallard with ducklings, Killdeer, Solitary Sandpiper, Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, Eastern Bluebird.
Whew! Someone must have flipped the switch on springtime activities because nesting season has begun in full force at the Great Blue Heron Rookery in Ashburn!
There are well over 50 nests in the Sycamore trees that tower over that forest and more than half of those nests have already been claimed!
The herons we’re seeing on the nests are in full breeding plummage, which is gorgeous! They are staking out their nest territories, fighting each other off as they jockey for the highest nests in the trees.
Great Blue Herons reuse nests each year, adding on to existing nests, and building new ones as needed. They’re communal nesters which makes watching the rookery so fascinating!
If you want to watch these stories play out, grab your binoculars. There’s a tiny parking area at the intersection of Loudoun County Parkway and Marblehead Drive.
You can watch them making repairs to the nests by bringing in sticks and having little tiffs with each other.
What I am especially amazed by is how they can fly in and land on what looks like the lightest twig, and barely bend it!
Nesting season is a touchy time. It’s important that people stay a good distance away from the rookery so the birds are not spooked from their nests. Watching from this pull-off is the perfect spot – both for us and the Great Blue Herons. Binoculars are all you need and you’ll see all the action perfectly.
Watch our programs calendar for opportunities to go out with us to watch the Great Blue Herons. We’ll bring spotting scopes which make it that much more of an amazing sight.