Virginia Lake Island: Reno's only nesting colony for Double-crested Cormorants, California Gulls, and Snowy Egrets
Many may remember that the City of Reno initially prosed removing the island at Virginia Lake in the fall of 2014. As a result of public meetings and comments from Lahontan Audubon Society and others, the City reconsidered island removal and since 2014 is moving forward with a revised plan to improve Virginia Lake water quality with the island intact. LAS applauds the City of Reno in this decision and we want to share some great news and views of the nesting colony of birds at Virginia Lake as of June 15, 2016.
The Double-crested cormorants start arriving at the Virginia Lake island around the second or third week of February to set up housekeeping. Over the last few years, there have been 20-plus cormorant nests on the island. The cormorants are usually well into nesting by mid-March. By mid June, the youngsters are almost bigger than the adults, but they are still begging for food, as you can see in the photos below. By the time your are reading this, many may have abandoned their island nests and joined their parents in fishing at Virginia Lake and in the Truckee River.
The island also hosts a colony of California Gulls. By mid-June, the young gulls were almost as large as their parents and a few were already joining their parents in swimming at the lake away from the island (but returning to dry land on the island periodically). By the time you are reading this (June 26), may have already joined the non-breeding adults in the gull "loafing" areas along the lakeshores.
Snowy Egrets also nest on the island at Virginia Lake. This year, they started arriving at the island to nest around the middle of April. This year's count was 7 Snowy Egret nests with young. Check out the photos that accompany this note. The total number of egret chicks is difficult to determine because the adults were sitting so close on the nests and shading the youngsters, but at least one nest boasted 4 gangly young egrets.
Check out the island at Virginia Lake in the next several days before all the young have dispersed.
Next year, start watching around the middle of February for the cormorants, followed by the gulls, and then the egrets. The island at Virginia Lake is an amazing resource. No where else can you have the opportunity to see the nesting birds so up close and personal. The three species that nest at the island at Virginia Lake select islands for nesting that are cut off from the shores for protection. Normally these birds at their nest are tiny specks in your spotting scope because they are so far from shore. Here, in the middle of Reno, they are up close and personal. What a great resource.
Oh, and by the way, the latest count of the number of species recorded at Virginia Lake and its nearby habitats is over 150 species!! Quite a great diversity for a small urban lake.