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.
Itchy birds are the norm this evening at the Horicon Marsh. The heron family entertained with its avian antics. Great Egrets are a part of the heron family. They itched, stretched, and ate fish as they waded in the water along Highway 49.
They have tremendous balance as they stand on a single skinny leg.
Egrets have elegance,
and comical agility,
which is also shared by another member of the family, the Great Blue Heron. These family members like to scratch because they have unique modified feathers on their chests that continually grow and fray. These feathers disintegrate into a fine, white powder. Herons comb this powder down with their middle toes. The powder helps to remove fish slime and other residue.
It helps keep their plumage looking fabulous.
I have never seen a Sandhill Crane sitting down. Usually, they like to stroll through the marsh or nearby fields. Perhaps, he just had to sit down and enjoy the entertainment.
A large flock of American White Pelicans swim and scoop up fish for breakfast at the Horicon Marsh on this warm Monday morning. Grayish coloring on the head and neck is typical in the postbreeding adult.
A nonverbal bird social dynamic was evident. Two Great Egrets stood and watched as the flock of pelicans moved en masse toward them. In the avian game of chicken, the egrets decided to take off. When the game was played between the pelicans and a Great Blue Heron, the heron stood his ground. The pelicans swam within several feet of him and the entire flock made a 180 degree turn.
Pelicans soared overhead in a coordinated aerial display. Their wingspans can stretch over 9 and a half feet.
In contrast to the social pelicans, this petite female Hooded Merganser floated alone. She only weighs about a pound. Her nest would be in a tree cavity or nesting box. Hooded Mergansers are usually done nesting in June. The Hooded Merganser is the only Merganser restricted to North America.
The Merganser didn’t have any little ones nearby, but the Black-necked Stilts are still raising their broods. This juvenile had white-edged feathers in a scalloped pattern. He enjoyed wading along the auto tour.
His parent kept a watchful eye while he enjoyed his outing with his sibling.
You never know what you will see on an outing at the Horicon Marsh. If you have a Monday off, this is a relaxing place to spend it.
Barns Swallows chose a challenging spot to rest when they attempted to perch on a wide metal railing. A flock was flitting along the edge of the auto tour. I am puzzled as to why they chose such a slippery slope on which to land. The Barn Swallow’s feathers are a beautiful blend of blue and chestnut. Barn Swallows are the most abundant and widely distributed swallow species in the world.
When they tried to walk up the railing, their feet slipped, and they rapidly flapped their wings to stay on top. Picture the flailing of arms while walking on ice. It was comical to watch.
“The Swallows live in air and feed when flying, and so have undeveloped perching feet, unfitted for walking,” says Florence Merriam in her book Birds of Village and Field – A Bird Book for Beginners. They were persistent in trying to perch here though they were having difficulty holding on with their delicate feet.
“Although the killing of egrets is often cited for inspiring the U.S. conservation movement, it was the millinery (hat-making) trade’s impact on Barn Swallows that prompted naturalist George Bird Grinnell’s 1886 Forest & Stream editorial decrying the waste of bird life. His essay led to the founding of the first Audubon Society,” according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
The floating boardwalk at the Horicon National Wildlife Refuge is now open! The boardwalk has been rebuilt and is part of the Egret Trail. Access to the trail and parking are available part way through the auto tour off of Highway 49.
The boardwalk zigzags through the northern portion of the Horicon National Wildlife Refuge. The Egret Trail is comfortable walking and four tenths of a mile long. Birds are easily viewed from the boardwalk and in the woods at the end of the trail.
The auto tour is a paved road that is 3.2 miles long and is easy walking. A wide variety of birds can be viewed from the road. View abundant flora as you meander through prairie, wetland, and woodland.
A gazebo with benches and binoculars provides a place to rest and view the 22,000 acre federal portion of the Horicon Marsh. A stroll on the boardwalk is a relaxing way to spend your day at the Marsh.