Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Top 5 Plants for Birds this Winter

by Amber Ellis, JRA's Watershed Restoration Associate/Volunteer Coordinator

Yellow-Rumped Warbler
Native trees and shrubs that produce berries are a must-have in your garden. Not only do they provide visual interest during the dreary winter, but by adding one or several of the plants below, you can help provide much needed nourishment for birds that stick around for the colder months. Plants were selected based on value to the birds, aesthetics, fruiting season, and general plant availability.

 Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana): This evergreen tree is easy to find and comes in a variety of different varieties. They are very tolerant and are easy to grow. Birds do not love the berries as much as others, but that makes it even more important! These berries will still be available after everything else has been picked over in late winter.  


American Robin
 Holly (Ilex spp.): Hollies are very easy to find and come in varieties of trees and shrubs, mostly evergreen, but there are a few deciduous such as Winterberry (Ilex verticillata). Some of the best evergreen holly shrubs are Yaupon Holly (Ilex vomitoria) and Inkberry (Ilex glabra). American Holly (Ilex opaca) is a native tree that is a great addition as a specimen tree or within a woodland garden. The berries are poisonous to humans, but birds love them!

Southern Bayberry (Myrica cerifera): This is a large shrub or small tree and is pretty common at nurseries. They are very easy to grow and the fragrant evergreen foliage provides shelter for birds. The berries are enjoyed by many species of birds and provide much needed fat and fiber in the winter.

Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina): This type of Sumac is a large deciduous shrub or small tree and is available at some nurseries. There are various native types of Sumac, but this one is the most commonly available. They are beautiful in the fall and the foliage has an almost tropical look. It will form colonies, so is not suitable for small gardens, but would be great if you have a large space to fill. The berries form in large cone clusters and are preferred by many types of birds in the winter.

Viburnum (Viburnum spp.): There are many varieties of Viburnums and almost all of them are great additions to the home landscape. They come in various heights, have beautiful blooms, and the berries come in reds and blues. Two of the best and most available are Southern Arrowwood (Viburnum dentatum) and Highbush Cranberry (Viburnum trilobum).

Northern Cardinal
Berries aren’t the only type of food that can be provided. Seedheads from grasses and perennials can also be a great source. This could include not cutting back your Black-Eyed Susan’s or Switchgrass until late winter/early spring. Remember, whether it is winter, spring, summer, or fall birds always need the three basic essentials: food, water and shelter.  In addition to planting one of the above, make sure to provide shelter (brush piles, dead trees, evergreen trees, etc.) and water (heated bird bath).


Other Resources

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 Highlights

By Justin Doyle, JRA’s Outreach Manager

Despite the train derailment and oil spill in Lynchburg on April 30th, 2014 was generally a good year for the James River. While reflecting on 2014 I decided to have some fun and highlight the more memorable moments from this past year.

Museum Exhibits
Three wonderful river-related exhibits opened in museums across the James River watershed this year:     


New Public River Access Sites
New public river access sites opened on the James River in the Town of Glasgow, on the Jackson River in the Town of Clifton Forge, and on the Chickahominy River at the Grapevine Bridge in eastern Henrico County! The success of all three projects is attributed to strong community support and the collaborative work of many partners.

Terrain360 Virtual Tour of the James River
This virtual tour of the James River is the first of its kind. All 340+ miles of the river were captured by an array of six cameras attached to a raft that floated from the Town of Clifton Forge to the mouth of the James River at the Chesapeake Bay.

Richmond Riverfront Plan
JRA and its partners led another successful advocacy effort to ensure implementation of the Richmond Riverfront plan progressed in 2014. Nearly $10M has been appropriated to the implementation, specifically the construction of the T. Tyler Potterfield Memorial Bridge, in recent years. The bridge will connect the north and south banks of the river and accommodate both pedestrians and cyclists. JRA publicly thanked Mayor Jones and City Council for their support of the plan at the James River Splash and Dash in July.

Our River at Risk

JRA launched an advocacy campaign titled “Our River at Risk” to protect the James River from toxic threats including rail transport, chemical storage, and coal ash storage ponds. To get involved in this campaign to protect the James River, join JRA’s Advocacy Network. Visit www.riveratrisk.org to learn more.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Restoring Habitat on Chapel Island

On Wednesday, October 22, 2014 volunteers braved the rain to help JRA remove invasive species and replant the understory on Chapel Island at Great Shiplock Park in Richmond. 

Thanks to the 22 volunteers that came out that day, piles of invasive plant species including Privet and Japanese Honeysuckle were removed from the island. This made room to plant nearly 300 native shrubs, grasses and perennial plants that provide habitat for wildlife and reduce stormwater runoff.

Some of the plants used in this project include Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis), Virginia Sweetspire (Itea virginica), Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnate), Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica) and River Oats (Chasmanthium latifolium). To find out more about native plants, visit www.jamesriverhero.org.

This project was inspired by the Envision the James' James River Wildlife and Landscape Conservation Initiative in partnership with the James River Park System, Chesapeake Conservancy, Capital Trees, Groundwork RVA and HandsOn Greater Richmond. It also compliments recent efforts to enhance Great Shiplock Park and Chapel Island. 

Thank you to the DuPont Clear into the Future grant for making this possible.


Another volunteer day is planned for Thursday, November 20, 2014. Join us on Chapel Island to help remove more invasive species and replant the understory with beautiful native plants. Register for the volunteer day here.


Friday, October 17, 2014

4th RiverRats Annual Raft-Up

By Amber Ellis, JRA Volunteer Coordinator

The 4th Annual RiverRats Raft-Up was held at the Natural Bridge Hotel in Natural Bridge on October 4-5, 2014. The weekend started with a talk on the Terrain 360 project on the James River by speakers Ryan Abrahamsen with Terrain 360 and Andy Thompson with Richmond Outside. The website is still being developed, but it’s going to be a great resource for river users.


RiverRats had the opportunity to choose from two advanced training options. The first option was “Planning and Planting a Riparian Buffer”, led by Amber Ellis, JRA’s Wastershed Associate and Rob Campbell, JRA’s Lynchburg Outreach Coordinator. Sediment continues to be an issue facing the health of the James River and hopefully our RiverRats are encouraged to take on buffer planting as their Action Projects.   

The second training option was focused on the emerging threats to the James River related to the train derailment and oil spill in Lynchburg in April 2014.  This training session was led by JRA’s Riverkeepers, Pat Calvert and Jamie Brunkow, and JRA’s Williamsburg Outreach Coordinator, Christiana Tambone.


After meeting and talking with other river lovers over lunch, the afternoon was spent paddling the James River from Buchanan to Arcadia! Some RiverRats brought their own boats, others went on kayaks provided by Twin River Outfitters. The fall colors had begun to show and the temperature definitely felt like fall!


That evening, four awards were given out to those RiverRats who have gone above and beyond their duties. The Upper James award went to Dale and Diane East, Middle James to Jennifer Styrsky, and Lower James to Jack Snell. Steve Forrest received an award for his overall commitment to helping the James River.

Some folks stayed the night in the cabins across the street from the hotel and got to enjoy a warm fire with local musicians Blake Shester, Burr Datz, and Chris McGrath. They call themselves The Fermenters.   


Sunday morning, everyone enjoyed a huge breakfast at the Natural Bridge Hotel. Then some of the braver folks went rafting from Glasgow to Snowden through Balcony Falls guided by Twin River Outfitters. The morning started off chilly, but everyone had an amazing time through this beautiful part of the James River.


 It was a great weekend to meet other RiverRats, explore what the upper James River has to offer, and learn a few things. The James River Association couldn’t do what it does without this hardworking and passionate group of RiverRats. All of them thanked JRA staff throughout the weekend for holding this event for them, but the bigger thanks goes to them for all they do for the James River! THANK YOU!


Monday, September 15, 2014

Help JRA do ‘Amazing’ things through Give Richmond’s Amazing Raise.

The Amazing Raise is a 36-hour giving campaign that takes place from 6 am, September 17 to 6 pm, September 18.  During this exciting 36-hour giving campaign more than 500 Richmond-area nonprofit organizations will collect donations and compete for the chance to win additional incentive prizes ranging from $500 to $15,000!  See complete list of prizes here.


Here’s how YOU can do something AMAZING for the James…
  •  Starting on September 17 at 6 am visit JRA’s website www.jrava.org and use the form to donate. Or you can revisit this blog and donate below. 
  • All donations must be made online by credit or debit card. Minimum donation is $25.
  • Only gifts made through the donation form between 6 am on September 17 and 6 pm on September 18  count toward JRA’s The Amazing Raise total.
  • You can make your gift in honor or memory of a loved one. And, you can track JRA’s progress on the realtime leaderboard here.

What AMAZING things has JRA done this past year?
Here are just a few examples. Thanks to the support of people like you, JRA has…
  • Helped build a new Chickahominy River access point.
  • Served 2,403 students through our Education Program.
  • Created the third artificial sturgeon spawning reef.
  •          Trained over 40 new JRA volunteer RiverRats. JRA currently has over 180 RiverRats who patrol 85% of the main-stem of the James River.

Help JRA do more AMAZING things to protect America’s Founding River through your donation of $50 or more during the Amazing Raise, 6 am September 17 to 6 pm September 18! Go to www.jrava.org to donate and learn more about the Amazing James!


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Stormwater Runoff Reduction in Petersburg

By Matthew Perry, JRA Intern

On July 22, JRA and the Center for Watershed Protection (CWP) trained the City of Petersburg’s executive staff on the importance of stormwater management. The training focused on how the City’s departments could work together to limit its stormwater runoff and how they could foster a sense of environmental stewardship in its communities. From the head of the Municipal Golf Course to the Police Chief, everyone in the meeting room remained engaged and involved during presentations from both JRA and CWP.

This was the inaugural training of JRA’s Promoting Green Infrastructure program, which is designed to increase the understanding and facilitate the implementation of green stormwater projects. The program focuses on three urban areas within the James River watershed: Lynchburg, Charlottesville, and Petersburg. In each locality, JRA will work to increase stormwater knowledge, engage local citizens on stormwater issues, and establish a “Walkable Watershed” in a neighborhood. The walkable watersheds will connect a community to a nearby creek or stream, establish safe passage routes for pedestrians and cyclists to schools and community centers, and contain watershed improvements that help slow, infiltrate, and clean rain water. Not only will the neighborhood that hosts the walkable watershed reduce its stormwater impact, it will also benefit from the beautification and community-building that comes from making green space an important component of their area. This concept was introduced to all attendees at the meeting and was met with considerable approval.

Although the implementation process has not yet begun in Petersburg, this meeting marked a crucial step in the program: getting government officials educated and involved. Every official left the meeting with a new understanding of stormwater issues and how to address them. By establishing an environmentally-friendly mentality in Petersburg, JRA can ensure that all government departments will work together to make green infrastructure a reality in their city. Citizens and city officials both share the motivation for pollution reduction and both are ready to meet the challenge with assistance from JRA and CWP. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Free Trees for Richmond City Residents

Do you live in the City of Richmond?  Are you interested in planting trees in your yard and becoming a River Hero Home?  If you answered yes to both of these questions JRA wants to give you free trees! 

During the fall planting season, JRA is offering free trees to Richmond City residents. You can receive up to a $200 reimbursement per home for trees planted on your property.

Trees are an important feature for any property because they reduce stormwater runoff and provide aesthetic value. Tree canopies capture and store rainfall and reduce soil erosion. They take up a large amount of water from the soil and provide important habitat for wildlife. Their shade can also help homeowners reduce the cost of cooling their home.

This tree incentive program is only open to City of Richmond residents and reimbursements are available September through November 2014. You must be an existing River Hero Home or submit an application to become a new River Hero Home to qualify.

River Hero Homes is JRA’s certification program that recognizes homeowners who are successfully taking steps to improve water quality by reducing the amount of stormwater and pollution leaving their property. To become certified, JRA requires homeowners to install a river-friendly practice, such as planting trees or installing a rain barrel, as well as following some simple everyday actions to reduce pollution. These actions, which include picking up after your pet or planting native plants, may seem small, but when adopted on a wide scale, can have a significant impact on local water quality.

Tree reimbursements are available on a first-come, first-serve basis and will be available until funding runs out. For more information about this program, and to find out if your property qualifies, go to www.jamesriverhero.org.