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.
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.
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.
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.
This view reveals more of his spots.
Speaking of spots, can you spot the 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-Herons must enjoy sultry evenings at the Horicon Marsh. I saw three in a row perched, strolling, or standing.
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.
Sunny Yellow Warblers flitted among the willows along the auto tour on the Horicon Marsh today. The annual bird festival is in full swing and multitudes of birders have traveled to the Marsh to enjoy the abundant spring birds. The weather is gorgeous and the plentiful sounds of cheery songbirds fill the air.
This Black-crowned Night-Heron paused among the broken reeds along Highway 49. Unlike the perky sounding songbirds, he emits a raspy squawk.
Canada Geese typically extend their neck forward and put their head down when they are aggressively encountering an enemy. Perhaps, they are giving the kids a lesson in how to protect their children some day. The goslings are taking it in with rapt attention.
This nesting box caught my attention from the road as I drove by early in the day. I came back this evening to take a closer look.
What an exciting discovery! The nesting box was probably toasty and the Eastern Screech-Owl popped her head out and napped. I imagine sitting on eggs for 30 days is a bit tiring. The male was most likely hiding in a nearby tree. He would hunt for food at night and bring it to her while she is nesting. There are likely 2-6 eggs. There is also a gray morph of this species.
I met a couple who were also checking on the owl. They came out from Madison and joined the morning birding bus tour for the bird festival. One hundred and twenty-five birds were identified this morning!
Fifteen painted turtles came out to enjoy the sunny, warm day.
Purple Martins look rather crabby, don’t you think? This fellow was perched on the martin houses on the Palmatory Street overlook. Purple Martins are the largest North American Swallow. They get all their food while flying by dining on flying insects.
These Female Purple Martins are checking up on one another. Spend a few minutes watching the birds at these houses, and it is evident they are quite social.
What a treat to see such a variety of birds at the Horicon Marsh annual bird festival!