Shelley has just discovered that Lady Junco has once again chosen to nest in the Hosta Hotel.

This will be her second family for 2022. As she did once before, she has chosen a larger room than she had for her first brood. Will she lay more eggs? We will have to wait for a few more days to see what she is up to. Lady Junco has been building a new nest in the Hosta Hotel for several days now. Today there is one egg in the nest. If she follows her usual pattern, Lady Junco will lay one egg every day until she has anywhere from three to five eggs. She was right on target earlier with incubation lasting twelve to thirteen days. The young juncos fledged 11 to 12 days after hatching. It is not often we get to witness such an event close-up. Lady Junco has not been disturbed at any time. All photos have been taken when she leaves the nest of her own accord to feed or bring insects such as beetles, flies, and caterpillars to her babies after they hatch. Protein is what the need to grow up to be healthy adults. As an aside, according to the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, millet seems to be the seed of choice when dark-eyed juncos come to feeders.

Last year I was lucky enough to go on a “loonatic adventure.” I wrote about that wonderful experience. You may remember. The pair of common loons I visited raised two chicks on a remote lake that was also somewhat close to an urban environment. The loons have returned this year and set up housekeeping on an island in the middle of the lake. The chosen spot is a little risky because teenagers like to canoe or kayak over to the island to party. Last year’s nest site was safe as it was situated along the shoreline of the lake away from most disturbances. In addition, the chosen site is usually at the edge of the water where the water is deep. This allows them a quick escape from danger. Predators such as bald eagles, crows, and gulls have a particular interest in the loon chicks. They can pluck a common loon chick in a heartbeat from the nest or the water and carry it off. Raccoons are the most common loon egg predator.

The male common loon usually arrives at the breeding grounds in May, and as soon as the ice melts he lands on the lake to claim it as his territory. In a week or so, a female, his partner joins him to raise their family. Once the nest location has been settled on and the nest is built, she lays two, large, brown eggs which both parents take turns incubating. The eggs hatch after about 28 or 30 days and the chicks leave the nest within 24 hours of hatching, according to the Cornell Ornithological Lab.

Common loons return to the same lake year after year and often engage in combat with other loons who also want the territory. Combat usually means a lot of calling, chasing, and splashing. It is a dangerous game because loons are equipped with beaks that can kill.

Given the timing of arrival, I know that the eggs will hatch in the next week or two. At first, the chicks will be sticking close to their parents and will hitch rides on their backs. So far the family has not been disturbed by the party goers or any other predators.

The haunting call of the common loon and its exquisite beauty is with me still. I wish them well as they mature and grow and I wish them safe travels when they leave for the west coast in early September for the relative safety of the ocean. Happy Birding!

“Common Birds of the Long Beach Peninsula,” by Kalbach and Stauffer, is available from Bay Avenue Gallery, Time Enough Books and the Long Beach Peninsula Visitors Bureau.

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