66. Dutch Gap Conservation Area, Chester, Virginia
Find Yellow-throated and Prothonotary Warblers, Orchard Oriole, Bald Eagle, Summer Tanager, Pileated Woodpecker, and American Bittern at this county park 20 miles south of Richmond
Published: April 24, 2009
|Central Virginia birders consider Dutch Gap one of the most productive sites in the area year-round. It's reliable for winter waterfowl as well as spring and early summer songbirds. I usually find my first seasonal Yellow-throated Warbler here, a species that heralds the return of many passerines.|
Dutch Gap is located adjacent to Henricus Historical Park, the site of the second English-speaking settlement in the New World. The outdoor living history museum is worth a visit, especially after a morning at Dutch Gap.
The conservation area is best explored on foot along a 3.5-mile loop trail that meanders alongside an old river oxbow channel with tidal lagoons, heron rookeries, brushy meadows, and stands of mixed hardwood and bald cypress. It's the site of a spring banding station near an old farm site, and a local ornithologist and Virginia Commonwealth University professor, Bob Reilly, manages a network of 200-plus nest boxes for Prothonotary Warblers. The nationally declining species has become abundant once again along the James River fall line.
-- Jerry Uhlman
Jerry Uhlman writes a birding column for the Richmond Times-Dispatch and is the author of a birdfinding guide to central Virginia.
Dutch Gap Conservation Area is an 800-acre county park located about 20 miles south of Richmond. From north- or southbound I-95, take Exit 61A (Rt. 10). Go east 0.33 mile to Rt. 732 (Old Stage Rd.) and turn left. Drive 2 miles to Rt. 615 (Coxendale Rd.), turn right, and drive 0.7 mile to Henricus Park Rd. Follow it 1.25 miles to the visitor center.
|At a glance|
Click on the coordinates below to view location:
Wetlands, marsh, riverfront, tidal lagoons and coves, brushy meadows, and fenced-in industrial fly-ash pit with pond at adjacent power plant.
Flat, winding. A well-maintained 3.5-mile loop walking trail and several short linear side trails that may be overgrown during winter months.
Fall and winter: Ring-necked Duck, Gadwall, Mallard, Northern Shoveler, and Northern Pintail, occasional shorebirds on lagoon mudflats, and Pileated, Hairy, Downy, Red-headed, and Red-bellied Woodpeckers. Spring and summer: Bald Eagle, Osprey, nesting Orchard Orioles and Summer Tanagers along with the following warblers: Yellow, Yellow-throated, Pine, Prairie, Black-and-White, and American Redstart. American Bittern found in marsh along entrance drive. Wilson's Warbler and Painted Bunting have appeared in past years.
When to go
Late April to early June. Avoid late June, July, and August, except for early morning hours. Winter waterfowl arrive in late September and October.
Henricus Historical Park with a Living History Museum open Tuesday-Sunday, 10-5. Visitor center with restrooms. Richmond Audubon Society leads field trips.
County park. Trail loop through Dutch Gap is free; tickets to Living History Museum (available at visitor center) $7. Trailhead located behind visitor center. Dutch Gap open every day 8-8:30, except during winter when the hours are 8-5:30.
Look for Prothonotary Warblers along swamp boardwalk on Henricus Park trail.
For more info
Dutch Gap Conservation Area, (804) 706-9690.
Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail.