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Horicon Marsh Bird Festival

The 25th annual Horicon Marsh Bird Festival is happening now! The Horicon Marsh Bird Club has a schedule of the events, which include hiking, biking, and paddling on the Marsh. The Horicon Marsh Education and Visitor Center, Marsh Haven Nature Center, and The Horicon National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters all have great viewing areas for birding. Don’t miss out on this year’s festival which runs through May 8.

A Horicon Marsh Haiku


Frosty door and brow

Fifty-five below wind chill

Still I love the Marsh

Frost at the Horicon Marsh

A foot of blowing and drifting snow enveloped the Horicon Marsh yesterday. Temperatures are dropping to historic lows. The expected wind chill tomorrow is fifty-five degrees below zero. Wildlife is hibernating at the Horicon Marsh. It is a good opportunity for us to hibernate, too. Heat up your favorite hot winter beverage, wrap up with a blanket, and take the opportunity to check out a field guide. Spring will be even sweeter after enduring the bitter cold.

Successful Conservation

Gadwall at the Horicon Marsh


I haven’t seen a lot of Gadwalls at the Horicon Marsh but “Gadwall have increased in numbers since the 1980s, partly because of conservation of wetlands and adjacent uplands in their breeding habitat through the Conservation Reserve Program and the North American Waterfowl Management Plan. Their habit of nesting on islands within marshes gives them some protection from predators,” according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. 

The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan in 1985.  It is the largest conservation program in the United States affecting private lands.  Farmers volunteer to remove land from agricultural production and plant species that improve the environment.  They receive a rental payment in exchange for taking the land out of farm use.  Contracts last 10-15 years.  The program has improved water quality, reduced soil erosion, and increased habitat for endangered and threatened species.  Wisconsin has five State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) projects.

Waterfowl populations were at historic lows in the 1980s.  The North American Waterfowl Management Plan was signed in 1986 by the United States and Canada.  It was signed in 1994 by Mexico. The scope of the plan is international and it is implemented at the regional level.  It is designed to restore and develop waterfowl habitat.

Gadwalls are one example of the success of these programs.

Common Yellowthroat at the Horicon Marsh

Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroats are more numerous that Gadwalls, but they may be harder to spot as they flit in and out of thick shrubs.  They have one of the largest breeding ranges of any North American warbler, spanning from southern Canada to Mexico.  Yellowthroats thrive near freshwater marshes, like the Horicon Marsh, salt marshes, and drier upland areas. This adaptability allows them to have such a wide breeding range.

Common Yellowthroat at the Horicon Marsh

Here he is from the front.

Redhead at the Horicon Marsh


Redheads are native only to North America.  The largest nesting population east of the Mississippi River lives at the Horicon Marsh.

Canada Goose Gosling at the Horicon Marsh

Canada Goose Gosling

The goslings are growing and can be seen at multiple locations around the Marsh.

Common Grackle at the Horicon Marsh

Common Grackle

A flock of Common Grackles forages in a marshy area along the auto tour.  Grackles are the number one threat to the corn crop, but today they are satisfied with insects.

Falcon at the Horicon Marsh

Juvenile Peregrine Falcon or Juvenile Prairie Falcon?

This falcon was perched high in a dead tree along Highway 49.  Do you think he is a juvenile Peregrine Falcon or a juvenile Prairie Falcon?  Tell us what you think in the comments area.

Prairie Falcons and Peregrine Falcons are about the same size.  Prairie Falcons have dark axillary feathers which can be seen in flight.  When this falcon took off from his perch, he did not have dark axillary feathers.  The underside of his wing had a uniform spotted and barred pattern.  Both juvenile Peregrine Falcons and juvenile Prairie Falcons have vertical stripes on the front.  A distinctive feature of the Peregrine Falcon is its white throat that extends to the sides of the neck.  The white area is divided by a vertical black band that descends below the yellow-rimmed eye.  It is more likely to see a Peregrine Falcon at the Horicon Marsh than it is to see a Prairie Falcon, according to several field guides.  If you answered “juvenile Peregrine Falcon,” the evidence is in your favor.

The role of conservation, the thrill of seeing a particular species of bird, and the challenge of identifying birds, are some of the reasons we enjoy the Horicon Marsh.

Getting Ready for Spring

Controlled Burning at the Horicon Marsh

Have you seen the black plumes of smoke wafting across the Horicon Marsh?  Controlled burning is taking place before nesting season.  Prescribed burning removes the dead cattails so birds migrating through the marsh in the spring have more opportunities for feeding and nesting.  Muskrats also enjoy more room to roam.

 A Cloud Forms on the Smoke

The plumes of smoke produced an interesting phenomenon.  The higher the warm air from the fire rose, the more it cooled until it reached a point where it condensed and formed a cloud at the top of the smoke plume.  The small size of the droplets in the cloud caused it to be brightest at the top.

Clouds on the Smoke at the Horicon Marsh

Clouds on Smoke


The Horicon Marsh is getting ready for spring!

Autumn Art

Autumn at the Horicon Marsh

Autumn Art on the Marsh is an annual event held in Horicon, Wisconsin.  Vendors from throughout the area come to a park in Horicon and sell a wide variety of artistic creations.

Autumn at the Horcion Marsh

On my drive through the Marsh today, I saw more autumn art on the marsh.

Autumn at the Horicon Marsh

These are from the Artist’s Yellow Series.

Autumn at the Horicon Marsh

Sun Halo

Sun Halo at the Horicon Marsh

Glimpses of a rainbow ring around the sun were an amazing sight as I drove through the Marsh today.  The phenomenon lasted several hours.

Sun Halo at the Horicon Marsh

Thin and wispy cirrus clouds are the culprit.  These clouds are higher than 20,000 feet and are composed of ice crystals.  Light passes through the crystals and is refracted, like light through a prism.  When the light bends at an angle of 22 degrees it causes a sun halo, also aptly called a 22 degree halo.

Sun Halo Reflection at the Horcion Marsh

It was colorful in the clouds and colorful reflected on the water.