Posts in Category: Insects

Macro Photography and Playing with Light


35 mm macro lens, ISO 200, 13 seconds at f18

I couldn’t resist taking macro shots of a beautiful bouquet of wildflowers my best friend gave me to cheer me. The sunflowers were spectacular!  I used a small aperture to increase depth of field.  I turned off the lights around the flowers. When the overhead light was on, the petals were overexposed and there were shadows in the center of the flower. I used a small flashlight to light the flower for this image.

Mini Maglite

Mini Maglite

The camera was on a tripod and set on the self-timer mode. During the 13 second exposure, I waved the light from the flashlight all over the flower.  The flower remained dark for the rest of the 13 seconds. I experimented with the amount of time the flashlight was lighting the flower until I got an image I was satisfied with.  This resulted in more even lighting in the final image.  It was so simple and fun!  You might enjoy trying this on a rainy day.

Lichen at the Horicon Marsh


My mood for macro continued and I discovered this lichen on a wood fence on Palmatory Street in Horicon.  Lichen is fungus plus algae or cyanobacteria.  Fungi cannot make their own food.  They need one of the other two substances.  Soil fertility is improved when fungus joins with cyanobacteria.  Lichen can colonize on almost any undisturbed surface.  I love the texture of the wood with the leafy lichen.  It grows less than 1 millimeter per year.  This lichen has been growing a very long time.

Lichen at the Horicon Marsh

I think the gray green color would be an excellent interior paint color.  I suppose “Lichen Gray” would probably not be a big seller.

Chicory at the Horicon Marsh


The subtle bluish-purple petals of Chicory delight the eye. If you can identify the insect, please let us know in the comments section.  I looked at hundreds of photos of bees and wasps and didn’t see an exact match. Chicory, intermingled with Queen Anne’s Lace, edging back roads is one of many reasons I am grateful to live in Wisconsin.

The Elusive Virginia Rail

Virginia Rail at the Horicon Marsh

Virginia Rail

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.

Virginia Rail Chick at the Horicon Marsh

Virginia Rail Chick

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.

Monarch Butterfly on Joe-Pye Weed at the Horicon Marsh

Monarch Butterfly on Joe-Pye Weed

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!

Diverse Beauty at the Horicon Marsh

Milkweed Tiger Moth Caterpillar

Milkweed Tiger Moth Caterpillar

You would think this colorful, tiger-striped caterpillar would turn into a beautiful Monarch butterfly, since it is eating Milkweed leaves, wouldn’t you?  This is a Milkweed Tiger Moth caterpillar or Milkweed Tussock Moth caterpillar.  He eats Milkweed just like a Monarch caterpillar eats.  This eye catching caterpillar turns into a drab beige Tiger Moth or Tussock Moth.

Milkweed Tiger Moth Caterpillar at the Horicon Marsh

Milkweed Tiger Moth caterpillars hang out in groups of up to 50 caterpillars.  They have quite an appetite and can decimate a Milkweed plant leaving only bare stems.

Milkweed Tiger Moth caterpillar at the Horicon Marsh

This group of caterpillars found the Milkweeds planted near the Education and Visitors Center on Highway 28 at the Horicon Marsh.

Dense Blazing Star Liatris with Queen Anne's Lace at the Horicon Marsh

Dense Blazing Star Liatris with Queen Anne’s Lace

Drifts of Dense Blazing Star Liatris beautifully complement Queen Anne’s Lace near the entrance of the Education and Visitor’s Center.  Queen Anne’s Lace is a distant relative of the garden carrot.  The first-year taproot can be cooked and eaten.

Prairie Plants at the Education and Visitors Center

Prairie Plants at the Education and Visitors Center

A sea of white, yellow, and purple wildflowers grows next to the Education and Visitors Center.  These prairie plants attract bees, butterflies, and birds.

Prairie Coneflower at the Horicon Marsh

Prairie Coneflower

Bright yellow Prairie Coneflowers  cheer the hearts of hikers along the Bachhuber Trail.  According to the National Audubon Society Field Guide to Wildflowers, if the center of the coneflower is bruised, it smells like anise.

Eastern Kingbird at the Horicon Marsh

Eastern Kingbird

After a refreshing visit at the Horicon Marsh State Wildlife Area, I drove north to the Horicon National Wildlife Refuge. Both areas form the Horicon Marsh. The Eastern Kingbird perched in a tree along Highway 49.

Eastern Kingbirds at the Horicon Marsh

Eastern Kingbirds

He had company.  Two more Kingbirds were assertively making sure they got his attention.

Eastern Kingbirds at the Horicon Marsh

I thought they were being aggressive and defending their territory, but they were begging for a tasty grasshopper treat.  Kingbirds feed their young for up to seven weeks.

Chipmunk at the Horicon Marsh


I entered the auto tour and a chipmunk scurried out of his grassy hole to investigate.

Chipmunk at the Horicon Marsh

He munched on a seed while watching the cars go by.  Check out those fingernails!

Eclipse Male Wood Duck

Eclipse Male Wood Duck

Eclipse Male Wood Ducks are seen in late summer after the breeding season.  They retain their bright red eye and red bill.

Female Wood Duck at the Horicon Marsh

Female Wood Duck

Female Wood Ducks have a large white eye patch and a gray bill.  There are a lot of Wood Ducks along the auto tour and Highway 49 lately.

Juvenile Gallinules at the Horicon Marsh

Juvenile Gallinules

Juvenile Gallinules find something interesting below the Duckweed on the water’s surface.

Mottled Ducks at the Horicon Marsh

Mottled Ducks

Do you find brown ducks hard to identify?  I find them difficult. I think this is a Mottled Duck.  A Black Duck has darker plumage that is not so well outlined as this pair.  A female Mallard has a dark area on the bill.  An eclipse Mallard has white on the tail.  A female Gadwall has a more slender bill.  What do you think?  Please join the discussion in the comment section.

Sunset at Palmatory Street

Sunset at Palmatory Street

I finished the evening at Palmatory Street watching the sunset until the mosquitos chased me away.  There are so many diverse things to see at the Horicon Marsh.

A Wetland of International Importance

Sandhill Cranes at the Horicon Marsh

Sandhill Cranes

Sandhill Cranes exemplify grace and beauty while preening beside the auto tour at the Horicon Marsh.  Ornithologists predicted their extinction in the early 1900s due to wetland drainage and unlimited hunting, according to Birds of Lake, Pond and Marsh: Water and Wetland Birds of Eastern North America by John Eastman.  They were classified as threatened until 1973.

Sandhill Crane at the Horicon Marsh

Thankfully, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 prohibited hunting Sandhill Cranes and other migratory birds which helped to save them from extinction.  Currently, the North American Waterbird Conservation Plan lists them as a Species of Low Concern.

Sandhill Cranes at the Horicon Marsh

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act is an agreement between the U.S. and Great Britain (for Canada), the U.S. and Mexico, the U.S. and Japan, and the U.S. and Russia.  The Treaty gives the Secretary of the Interior and individual states the authority to protect migratory birds, including their nests and eggs. Violations result in misdemeanor charges and fines up to $15,000.  Selling migratory birds, in violation of this law, constitutes a felony.  A treaty with Russia protects ecosystems against pollution and other environmental degradations that affect migratory birds.

Spotted Sandpiper at the Horicon Marsh

Spotted Sandpiper

The Spotted Sandpiper is the most widespread breeding sandpiper in North America. Its numbers have declined, but not to the extent of the Sandhill Crane. Loss of wetland habitat and the effects of herbicides and pesticides affect their ability to raise their young. The Horicon Marsh is a welcomed haven for them. The male takes the primary role in parental care, incubating the eggs and taking care of the chicks.

Spotted Sandpiper at the Horicon Marsh

This view reveals more of his spots.

Where is the Bird?

Where is the Bird?

Speaking of spots, can you spot the Black-crowned Night-Heron?

Black-crowned Night-Heron at the Horicon Marsh

Black-crowned Night-Heron

Tightly grasping a willow branch, he was tossed to and fro in the wind.  I was surprised he held on for so long as he whipped forward and back.

Black-crowned Night Heron

Black-crowned Night Heron

Black-crowned Night-Herons must enjoy sultry evenings at the Horicon Marsh.  I saw three in a row perched, strolling, or standing.

Black Saddlebags Skimmer

Black Saddlebags Skimmer

The Black Saddlebags Skimmer was drawn to this particular dead stalk.  There were many to choose from, but this was his favorite, for some unknown reason.  His name comes from the coloring of his wings that resembles saddlebags.  His body is black. Even though dragonflies have six legs, like other insects, they cannot walk.  They are predators of mosquitos.  This is a species we definitely want to protect!

The Horicon Marsh has been aptly recognized as a Wetland of International Importance.

Utility and Beauty

“Poetry is a fresh morning spider web telling a story of moonlit hours of weaving and waiting during a night.”

Carl Sandburg

Spider Web at the Horicon Marsh

“The difference between utility and utility plus beauty is the difference between telephone wires and the spider web.”

Edwin Way Teale

Spider Web at the Horicon Marsh


“Just imagine the banner headlines if a marine biologist were to discover a species of dolphin that wove large,

intricately meshed fishing nets, twenty dolphin-lengths in diameter! 

Yet we take a spider web for granted, as a nuisance in the house rather than as one of the wonders of the world.”

Richard Dawkins

Spider Web at the Horicon Marsh

“Do you understand how there could be any writing in a spider’s web?”

“Oh, no,” said Dr. Dorian.  “I don’t understand it.  But for that matter I don’t understand how a spider learned to spin a web in the first place.  When the words appeared, everyone said they were a miracle.  But nobody pointed out that the web itself is a miracle.”

“What’s miraculous about a spider’s web?” said Mrs. Arable.  “I don’t see why you say a web is a miracle–it’s just a web.”

“Ever try to spin one?” asked Dr. Dorian.

E. B. White, Charlotte’s Web

Spider Web at the Horicon Marsh