Monthly Archives: March 2017

First Flowers and Spring Birds

Crocus Blossom at the Horicon Marsh

Crocus Blossom

Early blooming Crocuses signal the arrival of spring at the Horicon Marsh! The blossoms close at night or on cloudy days, like today.

Crocus Blossom at the Horicon Marsh

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.

Male American Robin at the Horicon Marsh

Male American Robin

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!

Female American Robin at the Horicon Marsh

Female American Robin

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 at the Horicon Marsh

Ring-necked Ducks

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.

Meadowlark at the Horicon Marsh

Eastern Meadowlark

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.

Red-winged Blackbird at the Horicon Marsh

Red-winged Blackbird

The Red-winged Blackbird fanned his wing showing his colors as he sang.

Pied-billed Grebe at the Horicon Marsh

Pied-billed Grebe

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.

Killdeer at the Horicon Marsh


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.

Killdeer at the Horicon Marsh

Someone got their feathers ruffled.

Killdeer at the Horicon Marsh

Perhaps, it was because three can be a crowd.

Milkweed at the Horicon Marsh


This Milkweed was behind the building.  I liked the texture.

Song Sparrow at the Horicon Marsh

Song Sparrow

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!

Spring is Arriving!


Tundra Swans at the Horicon Marsh

Tundra Swans

 A flock of eight Tundra Swans relaxes Sunday afternoon at the Horicon Marsh.  Their eye is distinct from their black bill and they have a yellow area on the lore (base of the bill).  These features distinguish them from the Trumpeter Swan.

Ring-necked Ducks at the Horicon Marsh

Ring-necked Ducks

Ring-necked Ducks stop by for a swim during spring migration.  “Ring-necked” seems like a misnomer, but up close, the male has a faint band of chestnut colored feathers around his neck.  He reminds me of a groomsman at a wedding who is wearing a tie to match the bridesmaid’s dress.  You can see the brown female Ring-necked Duck swimming further back.  They dive for dinner that includes underwater plants and invertebrates (snails, worms, dragonfly nymphs).  Unlike other diving ducks, they can take off without a running start.

Dike Road is still closed to travel by car.  Instead of following the gravel road when it turns left, we hiked to the right on the grassy path.  Both flocks were in this area.  Spring is arriving at the Horicon Marsh!

Deceptively Fierce Falcon

American Kestrel at the Horicon Marsh

Juvenile American Kestrel

This little cutie is actually a fierce predator.  The American Kestrel is North America’s smallest falcon.  It is one of the most colorful of all raptors.  This juvenile was perched along Highway TW near Dike Road.

Hundreds of Canada Geese spent a lazy Sunday afternoon in farmer’s fields surrounding the Horicon Marsh today.  Red-winged Blackbirds perched in shrubs and Sandhill Cranes strolled alongside the geese. Signs of spring are slowly arriving at the Marsh.

Two Handy Photo Tips



The texture and artistry in the leaves on the underside of this Sunflower intrigued me more than the blossom itself.  A kind and thoughtful person gave me a bouquet of colorful blooms.  Sunflowers will be blooming in late summer in the Horicon Marsh area.  If you traveled here this week, you would have seen this,

Hail at the Horicon Marsh

Hail Pummels an Evergreen Tree

and this,

Snow at the Horicon Marsh

Several Inches of Snow Fell Recently in the Horicon Marsh Area

and this.

Porch Railing Covered in Snow

Porch Railing Covered in Snow

I shot the Sunflower photo by a window for side lighting and used a floor lamp for overhead lighting.  I wanted more light on the underside of the blossom.  My “real” reflector was too large for my set up.  Aluminum foil wrapped around a piece of cardboard and taped to the back bounced light from the floor lamp up underneath the Sunflower.  The result was more even lighting. Little post processing was needed.

Handy Reflector

Handy and Easy to Make Reflector


Lighting Set Up

Lighting Set Up for Sunflower Photo

The handy Wimberley Plamp was used to demonstrate the set up.  One end has a sturdy clamp that can be used on most tripods.  You can also clamp it to other objects.  The other end has a lighter clamp that can be used to hold plants still for macro photography.  It spins 360 degrees and has a rubber cushion to protect the object it is holding.  It only holds lighter items.  Tension on the larger clamp can be adjusted by turning a screw.  The arm can be moved in any direction.  When you need three hands, the Wimberley Plamp may be just the help you are looking for.

Wimberley Plamp

Wimberley Plamp

I hope to be taking my Wimberley Plamp and reflector outside soon to photograph cheery spring blossoms at the Horicon Marsh.