A Variety of Finds

Hanging Woven Nest at the Horicon Marsh

Hanging 20-30 feet above the ground and suspended on a couple of twigs is an intricately woven home to a family of unknown birds.  “Without support from below, both attachment and construction rely on elaborate binding, weaving, and knotting to create a secure nest.  This produces some of the most extraordinary constructions in the natural world.”  Intricate knots and stitches weave together grass material to form the nest.  A typical nest might contain 10,000 stitches!  Hanging at the edge of a branch protects the nest from predators.[1]

Wild Cucumber at the Horicon Marsh

Wild cucumber vines dotted the edges of the auto tour.  Wild cucumber is a member of the gourd family.

Northern Shoveler at the Horicon Marsh

The Northern Shoveler held its large beak at the surface of the water as it swam.  Dabbling ducks have little comb-like projections inside their beak that filter out small food items in the water.  These projections are the densest in the Northern Shoveler so it can strain out smaller invertebrates.[2]  Dabblers feed at the surface and may stick their head in the water.  Divers go deeper with their whole body going under the water.

Dabblers at the Horicon Marsh

I sat in my car on the side of the road on the auto tour and the only sound was of the satisfied smacking of lips, or beaks, in this case.

Domestic Mallard at the Horicon Marsh

What was the dark, unusual duck swimming with the rest of the Mallards?  I pored over my field guides when I returned home.  Is it a rare find that flew in from an exotic location?  Finally, in The Sibley Guide to Birds, there is a reference to domestic Mallards.  The drawing looks exactly like this one except for the beak color.  Sibley says, “The common domestic forms [of Mallards] are found on farm ponds and in city parks.  Interbreeding produces a bewildering variety of plumages and sizes; some bear little resemblance to the parent species.”[3]

Gadwall at the Horicon Marsh

This Gadwall was swimming with a friend in the water along the auto tour.

Female American Wigeon

This female American Wigeon was swimming nearby.

Immature Male Red-winged Blackbird at the Horicon Marsh

Once again I had to do some research to find out the identity of this beautiful bird.  It wasn’t easy to find in my field guides.

Immature Male Red-winged Blackbird at the Horicon Marsh

This view from the back reveals the stunning markings.

Immature Male Red-winged Blackbird

This is a solid clue as to his identity.  I think he wanted me to know he is an immature male Red-winged Blackbird.

Sandhill Cranes at the Horicon Marsh

A multitude of Sandhill Cranes come in for a landing in the water at the Horicon Marsh along Highway 49.

Sandhill Cranes at the Horicon Marsh

They join the other Sandhill Cranes and Canada Geese that are already resting there.  It was another fun day at the Horicon Marsh!

 

[1]Peter Goodfellow, Avian Architecture:  How Birds Design, Engineer and Build (Princeton:  Princeton University Press, 2011), 94.

[2] Chris G. Earley, Waterfowl of Eastern North America (Buffalo:  Firefly Books, 2005), 50.

[3] David Allen Sibley, The Sibley Guide to Birds (New York:  Chanticleer Press, 2000), 89.

2 Comments

  1. Reply
    Jerry November 17, 2016

    Thanks for all the great photographs, Lisa. Those were awesome!

    • Reply
      Lisa November 20, 2016

      Thank you, Jerry!

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