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.
“Though the walk into the lake may be familiar,
It is never the same.”
Norbert Blei, a Door County author, penned this line in his book, Meditations on a Small Lake. He could have been writing about the Horicon Marsh. The clouds have changed from patterned puffs to watercolor wisps as autumn is fading into winter. The auto tour and other areas are closed unless we are wearing blaze orange due to deer hunting season.
Green-winged Teal rest before heading further south. Some will spend their winter in the Caribbean, which sounds like a great idea.
This female Ruddy Duck was either camera shy or very hungry. She frequently dove beneath the surface of the water. It was a challenge to find her when she resurfaced. Ruddy Ducks tend to migrate east or west to the coasts.
Large flocks of Sandhill Cranes found tasty treats in fields where farmers recently harvested their corn. Juvenile Sandhill Cranes lack the red patch on their head. They have small brown patches on their sides. Iron stained feathers are only present on the adults.
It was a peaceful evening and I would have stayed out longer but it was getting too dark to shoot (with my camera). There is comfort in the familiarity and excitement in seeing nature change.