Dark Eyed Junco

Dark Eyed Junco

A potted nest

We think of birds – and rabbits, and deer – as timid creatures, but really they are brave beyond measure

We’re thrilled… fingers crossed, breath held, thrilled.

A couple of weeks ago I looked up from the drive and spotted a dark eyed junco fluttering about the eves trough to our house. The bird landed, cocked its head, and gave me a once over. Then it ducked into the trough, scuttled along a few feet and popped up again.

I laughed, because it was obviously watching me as closely as I was watching her, or him. It repeated this amusing routine several times as it dawned on me she was hoping I would disappear between one of her jack-in-the-box cycles.

When I didn’t, she finally gave up and flitted down to the flower basket hanging above our balcony. She alighted, gave a quick glance about, and before my amazed eyes dove into the flowers, disappearing from view.

Then her mate showed up, his glance shifting between me and the basket. It appeared to me he had taken over sentry duty, keeping an eye on his partner in the basket, and me down below, as if I might be some kind of ungainly predator, ready to sprout wings and launch an attack.

We think of birds – and rabbits, and deer – as timid creatures, but really they are brave beyond measure, risking their lives every minute of every day, fulfilling the biological imperatives that drive all nature.

Satisfied I was merely human, they went about their business, confirming my suspicions not long afterward by showing up with lengths of straw in their beaks, and getting on with the business of nest building in earnest.

A couple of summers ago we were honoured to have a hummingbird pair nest outside our patio on Oliphant Street in Victoria, where we were living. From nesting, to hatching, to frantic feeding, to the agony of predation and deadly sibling rivalry, to successful fledging, we marvelled. Tiny as our adventure was, it topped National Geographic for wonder, delight and suspense.

Diana collected the tiny nest on its branch afterward, and we still have it ready for display – under its glass cover  – in our bookcase.

Our new adventure almost ended prematurely when the birds stopped visiting for a while, and Diana collected the nest. The next day, feeling inside the basket to check the moisture of the soil, she startled one of our juncos.

Humbled and aghast, we placed the nest back in its tiny arbor, and hoped for the best. The pair have returned, and Diana has done some research. Juncos lay five our six eggs within eleven or twelve days of nesting; and the young birds fledge about two weeks later.

Like I said, we’re thrilled… fingers crossed, breath held, thrilled.