The male Wood Duck is one of the easiest ducks to identify. His spectacular plumage gives his identity away. Thoreau saw one swimming in a river and said, “What an ornament to a river to see that glowing gem floating in contact with its waters! As if the hummingbird should recline its ruby throat and its breast upon the water. Like dipping a glowing coal in water! It so affected me. . . . That duck was all jewels combined, showing different lusters as it turned on the unrippled element in various lights, now brilliant glossy green, now dusky violet, now a rich bronze, now the reflections that sleep in the ruby’s grain.” (The Journal of Henry David Thoreau, Volume 8) What happened to this one?
This is an eclipse male. He has begun to molt since it is after the breeding season. He still has his bright red eye and bright bill with a dark tip. He is unable to fly until he molts again and has a return of his handsome breeding plumage.
This painted turtle is greeting our next bird.
Check out those claws!
This bird took me a while to identify. She has a long, slender bill that is dark above and yellow below. She has a black and white striped patch of feathers and a white belly. The part that threw me is that she has a chestnut brown head but not much of a crest.
This is a female Hooded Merganser. A fascinating fact is that “Hooded Mergansers find their prey underwater by sight. They can actually change the refractive properties of their eyes to improve their underwater vision. In addition, they have an extra eyelid, which is transparent and helps protect the eye during swimming, like a pair of goggles.”
These gems were spotted along the auto tour off of Highway 49. Whether adorned with brilliant color, or having a more subtle beauty, the Horicon Marsh is filled with avian masterpieces.