Herring Gulls chip away at the icy surface of the Horicon Marsh to find frozen fish underneath. It is not a good idea to flaunt your fish filet.
This juvenile Herring Gull aggressively responds to a gull that got too close to its fishing hole.
The birds battle for open fishing holes. If a gull gets a large piece of fish, the rest of the flock gather around to try and steal some for themselves.
After chaotic flapping of wings and loud squawking, a victor eats the spoil.
Meanwhile, the Canada Geese were honking, hissing, and sticking out their tongues in their own displays of aggression.
They flare their wings and run offenders off of their turf, a muskrat house, in this case.
In contrast to the aggressive displays of the gulls and geese, the pretty House Sparrow is content to flit and perch in shrubs along the Marsh.
According to the American Museum of Natural History’s Birds of North America: Eastern Region, House Sparrows are a member of the Eurasian family called weaver-finches. The House Sparrow was first introduced in Brooklyn, New York in 1850 and is now one of North American’s most common birds.
The American Goldfinch perches peacefully with the House Sparrows.
Bird activity is increasing at the Horicon Marsh as we head into spring!
A small flock of American Goldfinches flitted among the shrubs this morning at the Horicon Marsh Education and Visitor Center. The nonbreeding plumage of the male is striking and a glimpse of its showy plumage to come this spring. American Goldfinches breed later than most North American birds. They wait until June when they can pluck the fluffy seeds of wild thistles to line their nests.
Canada Geese were flying and honking overhead. The Marsh is still covered in ice, but these are signs that spring is just around the corner.
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 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.
Here he is from the front.
Redheads are native only to North America. The largest nesting population east of the Mississippi River lives at the Horicon Marsh.
The goslings are growing and can be seen at multiple locations around the Marsh.
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.
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.
I took this photo on Highway Z on my drive to the Horicon Marsh. Autumn is so beautiful in Wisconsin.
The Trumpeter Swans are growing and continuing to enjoy swimming in an area near the auto tour.
Some of the trees are at their peak and putting on a spectacular show.
This Green-winged Teal looks a bit rough due to molting. The Green-winged Teal is the smallest dabbling duck in North America.
They also enjoy Ballet.
This is the pretty female Green-winged Teal.
I love the interaction between the Green-winged Teal and the Canada Goose.
I believe these are Adult nonbreeding Dowitchers. The tiger striping on their tales is an identifying feature. It is amazing that standing on one foot is restful!
This female Northern Pintail enjoys chatting and swimming.
Swimming only briefly, the Lesser Yellowlegs took off shortly after I arrived.
Autumn is a great time to view birds that are migrating through the Horicon Marsh. What do you think this one is?
Here is another view. I would love to hear what you think in the comments section.
Comment: Jerry asked a great question in the comments area. What is a dabbling duck? Dabblers feed on the surface of the water by opening their beaks to filter out tiny organisms. They may also tip up, leaving their legs and tails in the air. They don’t like to submerge their whole body. These include Canada Geese, Trumpeter Swans, and Wood Ducks. Divers, on the other hand, dive underwater to feed. These include Pied-billed Grebes and Ruddy Ducks.