Forster’s Terns perch on last year’s cattails along Highway 49 at the Horicon Marsh. English botanist Thomas Nuttall named this tern after Johann Reinhold Forster, a naturalist who accompanied the English explorer Captain Cook on his epic second voyage (1772-75), according to Birds of North America: Eastern Region. If you could have a bird named after you, what species would you choose? Share your choice in the comments section.
A pair of Blue-winged Teal swim in the water along the auto tour. They are usually skittish and fly away quickly when approached, but this pair was content to swim and eat while being photographed.
The female Blue-winged Teal looks similar to most other female dabbling ducks, but she is distinguished by a patch of blue on the upper wing coverts.
Schools of fish swim with their backs out of the water and their dorsal fins exposed. It may be related to shallow water in that area or it may be related to water temperature. Fish may swim near the surface in spring due to cooler temperatures. In summer, they may swim deeper where it’s cooler.
The Double-crested Cormorant swims with its body submerged and its bill in the air. It has beautiful blue eyes.
The yellow eye of the Northern Shoveler contrasts with its metallic greenish to purplish head feathers. Flocks of Shovelers continue to swim along Highway 49.
This female Red-winged Blackbird looks nothing like its mate. They like to nest among the cattails from March to June.
What type of gull do you think this is? Share your thoughts in the comments area.
Bird activity is picking up at the Horicon Marsh and many species are nesting. Be careful driving on Highway 49. You may need to wait for goslings crossing the road.
“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where Nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike.” –John Muir, naturalist and author
Little white fluff balls of cuteness bring cheer to the soul. Trumpeter Swans lead their cygnets in a swim on a warm Sunday afternoon.
No one was concerned about the hovering Black Tern. Thankfully, cygnets are not a part of his diet.
A female Redhead and her chicks raced through the water in a close-knit pack. It is amazing how fast their tiny webbed feet can paddle. The mother’s gray bill with black tip helped to identify them.
Speaking of feet, notice how this Cormorant grips the post with his entire webbed feet. He also has brilliant blue eyes. If you are looking for the beauty of nature, you will find it at the Horicon Marsh.
This Forster’s Tern expected to be waited on for dinner. She stayed perched on the post and made no attempt to dive for fish. Forster’s Terns look similar to Common Terns. Forster’s Terns have longer tail feathers than wing feathers. They have a large orange bill with a black tip, light gray feathers on their back, and white underparts. Common terns have shorter tail feathers than wing feathers, gray bodies that blend in with their gray backs, and reddish orange bills with black tips.
Instead of working for her dinner, she started calling. She quickly became more insistent, much like chicks do when they are begging for food.
Her valiant knight in shining feathers flew in with the gift of a fish.
This courtship feeding often occurs after the pair bond has formed. In terns, either sex may feed the other, but it is usually triggered by the female, according to the book Bird: The Definitive Visual Guide by Audubon.
She gratefully accepts the fish and swallows it whole. The ritual was repeated until her appetite was satisfied. It was a successful dinner date that strengthened their bond.
Another bird having dinner on the south side of Highway 49 at the Horicon Marsh was the American Bittern. His color pattern, especially the streaks on his neck, are effective camouflage. He stood very still, stretched his neck upward, and looked up to blend in with the vertical reeds.
He stretched his neck horizontally when he was getting ready to eat.
It only took a split second to pluck an unsuspecting fish from the water. He tossed it with his bill a couple of times before swallowing it whole.
The Double-crested Cormorant dives underwater until he is totally submerged. He also likes to eat fish. He can hold his breath for more than a minute. His blue eyes are stunning and unexpected.
This muddy duck is also a diver, which is no surprise by looking at him.
Here he is all cleaned up. His real name is Ruddy Duck. He dives for aquatic plants, insects, and crustaceans. It was a treat to watch the birds eating at the Horicon Marsh buffet.
The Killdeer has a companion with her today. They are both quietly standing near the nest. I’m surprised that they are not alarmed by my presence and trying to draw me away from the nest. I wonder if hatching is getting close, but I don’t see any cracks in the eggs.
I was trolling for pictures driving slowly along the shoulder of Highway 49 when I saw this spectacular Double-crested Cormorant sitting on a post on the south side of the road. Cormorants need to air dry their wings before they can fly after swimming. Water doesn’t run off of their backs and their plumage isn’t waterproof. I guess that’s why they use ducks, not cormorants, in the idiom “like water off a duck’s back.” Ducks have oily feathers. Plus, “like water off a cormorant’s back” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.
Hmmm…I’m not sure what this is all about.
I continued driving slowly when I spotted this colorful ball of feathers swimming in and out of the cattails close to the road.
In this case, maybe a picture really is worth a thousand words. Can you guess what it is?
Thankfully, he was swimming with mom so I was able to identify it as an American Coot.
 John Eastman, Birds of Lake, Pond and Marsh: Water and Wetland Birds of Eastern North America (Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 1999), 183.