This fluffy adult Killdeer keeps watch on the rocks along the edge of the Horicon Marsh. Two juvenile Killdeer are nearby. You can see one hiding in the rocks behind the adult.
This juvenile Killdeer has not developed the red eye ring yet. The double dark neck bands are becoming visible.
These little black fluff balls with red beaks and crowns are Common Moorhen Chicks. Their parent stays nearby and occasionally holds up a wad of marsh vegetation for the chicks to munch on.
It also uses marsh vegetation to build a platform for its nest.
Sandhill cranes tilt their heads back and call in between feeding. This was the only pair in the area.
The Great Egret prefers to quietly stroll in the shallow water.
This juvenile Tree Swallow prefers to perch higher. He hasn’t developed the bluish green upperparts and he has a partial breast band.
Perching even higher is this juvenile Peregrine Falcon. Peregrine Falcons may reach speeds of up to 200 mph when swooping or diving for prey according to Chris Earley in Hawks and Owls of Eastern North America.
Whether swimming, perching, or strolling, the diversity of birds at the Horicon Marsh is amazing!
Early blooming Crocuses signal the arrival of spring at the Horicon Marsh! The blossoms close at night or on cloudy days, like today.
Saffron, which is used to color and flavor food, is made from the dried stigmas of Crocus sativus. About 7,000 flowers are needed to produce 3 ounces of saffron, making it one of the most costly spices by weight.
The quintessential bird of spring is the American Robin. The male has a darker head than the female. He has a brick-red breast. American Robins can have three broods in one year. They typically eat earthworms early in the day and fruit later in the day. If they eat honeysuckle berries exclusively, they may become intoxicated. Thankfully, I can’t say I’ve seen that!
The head of the female American Robin blends in with the lighter gray back feathers. Her breast is orange with a bit of white. I talked to someone recently who lives in the city and he had no idea what a robin looks like. I was shocked. We are so blessed to have the Horicon Marsh with its plentiful birds and wildlife.
Ring-necked Ducks swim in the water near the auto tour. The auto tour, off of Highway 49, is still closed to vehicles. I passed another photographer as I was walking along the road. She said, “I love this place.” I do, too.
The photographer recognized the melodious whistle of the Meadowlark. He fans his tail as he sings. Eastern Meadowlarks can sing several variations of their song.
The Red-winged Blackbird fanned his wing showing his colors as he sang.
Pied-billed Grebes always look happy. They can trap water in their feathers, giving them great control over their buoyancy. They can sink deeply or stay just at or below the surface, exposing as much or as little of the body as they wish. They dive submerging their entire body to hide or to eat. He was spotted swimming alongside of Highway 49.
After checking out the auto tour, I headed to the Education and Visitor Center on Highway 28. This was a popular hang out for Killdeer today. This one found a bit of stick in the parking lot, which he ate. I’m guessing it didn’t digest too well.
Someone got their feathers ruffled.
Perhaps, it was because three can be a crowd.
This Milkweed was behind the building. I liked the texture.
I also liked the texture and color of the fence post the Song Sparrow used as his podium for singing. Often, Mondays are not our favorite day of the week. But if we get to spend it at the Horicon Marsh, it may be the best day of the week!
“I am grateful for what I am and have.
My thanksgiving is perpetual.”
Henry David Thoreau
I suppose it seems odd to be thankful for a marsh. The birds of the Horicon Marsh have been a source of joy,
There are moments when I have said, “Awwwww,”
out loud to myself when I looked through the viewfinder of my camera and was treated to incredible facets of nature. The Marsh has been a refuge where I have relaxed, discovered, and explored.
I am thankful for you, my readers. You both know who you are. I appreciate your encouragement and support.
This blog is a fun, creative outlet where I have the opportunity to share the wonder of nature at the Horicon Marsh. I have much for which to be thankful.
Note: The date of the post is usually the date the photos were taken. I think it is important to know when you might see certain things at the Marsh. Today’s photos are some of my favorites taken over the past couple of years on excursions to the Marsh.
The last time I checked the Killdeer nest it was Sunday evening. There were no signs of hatching. It is Tuesday morning and I’m looking at an empty pile of rocks! There are no Killdeer, no eggs, and no cute little chicks. When I was considering starting this blog, I thought the Killdeer story would be a great beginning. I expected the story to culminate in photos of the hatching and the chicks resting in the nest. How disappointing! Killdeer incubate their eggs for about 25 days, and then it only takes about 24 hours for the newly hatched chicks to leave the nest. So this little brood is already off to heavier cover and feasting on the abundant insects on the marsh. This was probably the second brood. Killdeer often have two broods with the first brood incubating as early as April. The female will start incubating a second brood while the male takes care of the first brood of chicks. Sadly, I will have to wait until next year for the opportunity to photograph Killdeer chicks.
But the marsh is always teeming with life, so I’m on to the next adventure!
 John Eastman, Birds of Field and Shore: Grassland and Shoreline Birds of Eastern North America (Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2000), 71.
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.
When I wrote my post about Sandhill Cranes on June 5, 2016, I thought the content was fascinating but the delivery lacked pizzazz. So I asked my brother, who is in the military, if he had some suggestions for making my writing more engaging. This is his version below.
While on my regular reconnaissance of the Marsh, I was shocked to see a formation of Sandhill Cranes conducting maneuvers with their chick. This small squad was patrolling through low vegetation in a farmer’s field on Highway Z as I drove my vehicle from a trip to the Marsh. The adults were probing the soil with their beaks and sharing seeds and insects with their eager chick. The chick actually walked underneath its parent to be as close as possible for its dinner rations.
What is wrong with this picture? Adult Sandhill Cranes have gray feathers. In the area surrounding the Horicon Marsh there is a lot of iron in the soil. When a crane brings its beak out of iron-rich soil and preens its feathers, it leaves a rusty residue on its feathers making them appear brown, which creates first-class camouflage helping the cranes to blend into the terrain.
In addition, Sandhill Cranes have a unique rolling call that can travel for miles and allows them to communicate with other squads. Their trachea, or windpipe, is an amazing 27 inches long! It takes a convoluted journey through the front of the chest on its way to the lungs. Part of this area of the chest is not solid bone but 2 frail plates. Our trachea, on the other hand, is a short 4 inches long. It starts at the top of our neck (below the larynx or voice box) and makes a straight shot to our lungs (the bronchi). If you would like to read more about this fascinating subject, check out the article “The Convolution of the Trachea in the Sandhill and Whooping Cranes” by Thomas S. Roberts written in 1880!
I snapped a few pictures of the cranes and continued my reconnaissance on Dike Road. A Killdeer moved a few yards from where it had been resting when it heard the crunch of the gravel under my car tires. I suspect she was sitting on a nest. I will come back soon to continue my surveillance and get a closer look.
I got a closer look of the Killdeer today and she is faithfully tending her nest. If you would like to read more of my brother’s captivating prose, you can check out his website at traughberdesign.com.
There is no photo today because it’s a dark and stormy day. It is ninety degrees with a deluge of rain. The Killdeer comes to mind. She is faithfully sitting on her eggs protecting them from the storm. Like most mothers, she is a picture of tenacity, perseverance, and devotion. In hot temperatures, Killdeer sometimes soak their bellies in water before sitting on the eggs to cool them down. That won’t be necessary today since everything is drenched.
John Eastman, Birds of Field and Shore: Grassland and Shoreline Birds of Eastern North America (Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2000), 71.
I am back on Dike Road to check on the Killdeer. Driving slowly and swerving frequently to avoid the potholes, I see the Killdeer quietly standing beside the road. I usually see Killdeer running here and there, barely pausing to bob their heads up and down. They can actually run up to 5 mph, which is pretty fast for a little 10 inch long bird. She is in the same area, just past the big shrub near the second big weed after the first turnout. I stop the car far enough away so that she is not alarmed at my presence. She waits, looks around, then returns to her nest and sits down. There are clearly 4 eggs, which is typical for a Killdeer. Her nest is a little scrape in the rocks beside the road. It looks pretty uncomfortable to be sitting on eggs and rocks with nothing lining the nest. The eggs are camouflaged with mottled brown coloring, hidden in plain sight.
 John Eastman, Birds of Field and Shore: Grassland and Shoreline Birds of Eastern North America (Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2000), 70.