The tidal fresh reach of the James River included in this IBA extends from Brandon just above the mouth of the Chickahominy River to just above Dutch Gap. The area contains most of the tidal fresh reach of the James River, associated emergent and forested wetlands, and the surrounding rural landscape that includes extensive farmland and mixed forest. Land use is primarily farming with an increasing component of residential and urban development.

{link:For a fact sheet on this IBA, including a map, click here|http://www.audubon.org/bird/iba/virginia/Documents/Lower%20James%20River... }

{link:For IBA map, click here.|http://www.audubon.org/bird/iba/usibac/2009_P8/VA1997m_LowerJames09.pdf}

Ornithological Summary

This portion of the James supports the densest piscivorous bird community in Virginia. The area supports large and growing populations of breeding Bald Eagles, migrant Bald eagles, breeding Ospreys and breeding Great Blue Herons. The area is one of the most significant Bald Eagle areas along the Atlantic coast and supports one of the largest concentrationis of migrant Bald Eagles in eastern North America. The IBA also contains extensive forested wetlands that support significant populations of Prothonotary Warblers, Yellow-throated Vireos, and other species within the habitat suite. The surrounding uplands are composed of rural farmland that supports some of the largest grassland bird populations in the Coastal Plain. This area includes the last stronghold for wintering Loggerhead Shrikes in the coastal plain and provides important habitat for other priority species that depend on successional habitats such as the Northern Bobwhite, Prairie Warbler, and Field Sparrow. The largest known colony of Cliff Swallows in the state and one of the last remaining colonies of Bank Swallows on natural shoreline in coastal Virginia are also found here.

Conservation Issues

Three primary threats are currently of concern, including 1) contaminants within the fishery used by piscivorous birds, 2) conversion of open land to residential, and 3) expansion of recreational boating access to sensitive portions of the river. This portion of the river has a history of contaminant problems that led to the decline of all fish-eating birds within the lower James River. Because of the position of these birds within the food web, they will always be vulnerable to new contaminants entering the system. Due to the role that this location plays in the ecology of Bald Eagle populations along the entire Atlantic Coast, vigilance is warranted. The urban centers of Richmond, Williamsburg, Hopewell, and Petersburg have begun to coalesce and impact the rural lands surrounding the area. Waterfront property is particularly vulnerable to future development. Since many of the species that depend on this area are sensitive to development, caution is warranted. Bald Eagles have been shown to be very sensitive to boating activity. Increases in boating activity and the number of boat access points within this stretch of the river will negatively impact migrant eagles.

Ownership

An important portion of the IBA is owned and protected to meet conservation, management, and educational objectives. Much of the protected area is owned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in three separate land holdings (James River NWR, Presquile NWR, and Harrison Lake National Fish Hatchery). Portions of the upper reaches of the IBA are owned by Chesterfield County (Dutch Gap Conservation Area, Brown and Williamson Conservation Area) and Henrico County (Deep Bottom Park). Friend?s of Chesterfield?s Riverfront and the Virginia Outdoors Foundation co-hold the Brown and Williamson easement. The Department of Game and Inland Fisheries manages the Kittewan Wildlife Management Area on the eastern end of the IBA and Virginia Commonwealth University owns property (Rice Center) east of Presquile NWR. Several private plantations dot the shores of the James River within the IBA and provide large tracts of valuable bird habitat.

Habitat

Upland forest habitats are dominated by a mix of loblolly pine and hardwoods such as oaks, maples, ashes, hickories, and Bald Cypress. The extensive forested wetlands are composed primarily of Bald cypress and red maple. Tidal freshwater marshes contain Paltandra and wild rice. The majoriy of the grassland habitats within the IBA are the result of farming practices and exist in a mix of idle pasture and row crops such as cotton, soy beans, and corn.

Land Use

Land use within the IBA is primarily farming but is becoming increasingly residential. An important portion of the site is owned and protected to meet conservation, management, and educational objectives.

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