Monthly Archives: May 2019

Native Plants at the Horicon Marsh

Shooting Star

The Shooting Star (Dodecatheon meadia) is a unique and beautiful native plant that grows in moist meadows, prairies, and open woods. Native plants occur naturally in an area without human introduction. I purchased my plant at the Horicon National Wildlife Refuge Wildflowers for Wildlife event. Native plants are an excellent choice for gardens around the Horicon Marsh because they attract bees, birds, and wildlife. They require less maintenance. You can find native plants for your area using the handy native plant finder at the National Wildlife Federation website.

Bees extract the pollen from the narrow tube by shaking their bodies against the tube to shake the pollen out. Shooting stars are also called Roosterheads and Prairie Pointers. They thrive in part shade, grow up to 18 inches tall, and bloom from May to June. They are a member of the Primrose family and can also be found with white flowers.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has compiled a list of nurseries that carry native plants for Wisconsin and adjacent states.

A Morning for Shorebirds


Shorebirds probed for insects in muddy areas left by receding water at the Horicon Marsh. The Dunlin is easy to identify during breeding season by the large black patch on its belly. Flocks of Dunlins spread across the Marsh on the north side of Highway 49.

Least Sandpiper

The Least Sandpiper is the smallest shorebird in the world. Small shorebirds are known as “peeps,” which gives new meaning to the sugary, marshmallow candy with the same name. The Least Sandpiper can be distinguished from the Semipalmated Sandpiper, which has dark legs, and the Pectoral Sandpiper, which has a heavily streaked breast and orange coloring at the base of the bill.

Semipalmated Plover

The Semipalmated Plover is the most common Plover seen during migration. This Plover looks similar to a Killdeer, but the Plover has a single black neck band. The Killdeer has two black neck bands. Semipalmated means the toes are webbed for only part of their length.

Barn Swallow

This Barn Swallow is masquerading as a shorebird by probing in the mud for food. Barn Swallows typically snatch insects from the air during flight. This Swallow was successful choosing an atypical menu.

Whooping Crane at the Horicon Marsh

Whooping Crane with Sandhill Crane

It is exciting to see a Whooping Crane at the Horicon Marsh. There are only 101 Whooping Cranes that follow the Eastern Migratory Route through Wisconsin and only 849 Whooping Cranes in the world, according to the International Crane Foundation. In the 1940s there were only 21 birds. Unique reintroduction methods have built up the crane population to its current number. Ultralight aircraft with crane-costumed pilots fly along the migration route to teach cranes bred in captivity their migration path. Currently, captive bred crane chicks are introduced to Whooping Cranes in the wild in the hopes that the adults will adopt the chick and teach it the migration route.

Whooping Cranes are the tallest bird in North America. It is one of only two cranes found in North America. Sandhill Cranes occasionally travel with Whooping Cranes. Notice the band on the leg of the bird shown above. Careful monitoring has helped to save this federally endangered bird from extinction.