Does it Fit the Bill?

Spotted Touch-me-not at the Horicon Marsh

Spotted Touch-me-not

The Spotted Touch-me-not, or Jewelweed, is blooming in scattered patches along the auto tour off of Highway 49.  It develops fruit that is a swollen capsule.  If you touch it when it is ripe, the capsule may explode, projecting its seeds.  Thus, touch it not.  The sap of the stem and leaves soothes itchy rashes like poison ivy.  It also has fungicidal properties and has been used to treat athlete’s foot.

Woodland Sunflowers at the Horicon Marsh

Woodland Sunflowers

Woodland Sunflowers thrive in the dappled sunlight beneath the Birch trees on a corner of the auto tour.

Eastern Phoebe at the Horicon Marsh

Eastern Phoebe

This little Eastern Phoebe was perched at eye level at the edge of the main parking lot for the auto tour.  In 1804, the Eastern Phoebe became the first banded bird in North America. John James Audubon attached silver thread to an Eastern Phoebe’s leg to track its return in successive years.[1]  The dark bill distinguishes the Eastern Phoebe from the Eastern Wood-pewee which has a lighter colored lower bill.  The Wood-pewee also has distinct wing bars.  A similar bird is the Willow Flycatcher which also has a pale lower beak, wing bars, and a narrow white eye ring.

Trumpeter Swan at the Horicon Marsh

Trumpeter Swan

The Trumpeter Swan is our largest native waterfowl.  The males are North America’s heaviest flying bird.  Their black bill has a red line on the lower bill.  The eye is not distinct from the bill.  Tundra Swans may have a yellow area in front of the eye (the lore) and the eye is distinct from the bill.

Trumpeter Swan at the Horicon Marsh

Mad Trumpeter Swan

This bill may also be used to let you know you should move out of its way.

Northern Shoveler at the Horicon Marsh

Female Northern Shoveler

The large, heavy bill of the Northern Shoveler is a distinguishing feature of this bird.  If you invert it, it could be used as a small spatula or shovel.

A bird’s bill is a helpful clue to its identity.  Does its description in your field guide fit the bill?

 

[1] https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Eastern_Phoebe/lifehistory

2 Comments

  1. Reply
    Jerry October 17, 2016

    Excellent photography, Lisa. I especially liked the sunflowers.

    • Reply
      Lisa October 17, 2016

      Thanks Jerry! I appreciate your encouraging feedback!

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