I was excited to see a Virginia Rail on the south side of Highway 49. I had never seen one before. Apparently, this is not unusual. Ornithologist S. Dillon Ripley, a rail expert, said, “They are perhaps the most elusive birds on the continent.” They are also difficult to photograph as they dart over and around marsh vegetation without stopping.
The chicks are even more evasive as they stay hidden in the cattails. Check out their long toes! Their toes help them to get over and around marsh vegetation. They can also swim under water using their wings to propel themselves.
The Monarch butterfly doesn’t need long toes, but he does need his proboscis. You can see it here bent at a 90 degree angle so he can sip nectar from Joe-Pye Weed. The proboscis starts out as two strands that fuse together. It also contains muscles and a nerve. It is an amazingly intricate structure in a fine strand. The Horicon Marsh has so many fascinating things to see!
A drift of orange caught my eye as I drove along Highway 49. Many of you may enjoy having Day Lilies in your garden. Wild Day Lilies are a hybrid that reproduce from the roots. The colorful blossom lasts only a day. If you are out hiking and need a snack, every part of this plant is edible. According to the National Audubon Society Field Guide to Wildflowers: Eastern Region, the flower buds taste like green beans when cooked. Serve with butter. I will take their word for it.
This Monarch butterfly will pass on the green bean taste and go right for the nectar of the flower. The Monarch caterpillar eats only Milkweed. This butterfly is so popular it is the state butterfly of three states. Can you name them? The people of Kentucky chose the similarly colored Viceroy butterfly as their state butterfly. The Viceroy butterfly has a black line that crosses the veins on the hind wing. The Viceroy caterpillar feeds on trees in the willow family. Do you know Wisconsin’s state butterfly?
This Common Gallinule (formerly Common Moorhen) was resting in her nest and attentively watching her two growing chicks as they ate vegetation from the surface of the water. The chicks did not stray farther than ten feet. They were far enough to gain a bit of independence, but never out of her sight.
Mom Gallinule stepped out of the nest to take a stretch break.
Speaking of stretching, I’m not sure what this neck exercise does for birds, but it is a good one for humans. Neck retraction is an effective exercise for posture, neck pain, and disk related pain. Repeat five times every two hours. If it produces pain, then discontinue the exercise. Visit a physical therapist for further help.