This Rough-legged Hawk perches high in a dead tree along Highway 49 to survey the Horicon Marsh. Dark patches on the undersides of the wings were noticeable in flight. The tail feathers are white at the base and dark at the ends. These field marks, along with legs feathered to the toes, help to identify this hawk. Rough-legged Hawks nest in the arctic and visit the Marsh during the winter. Another sign of impending winter is the layer of ice on the Marsh. Three days ago, I drove on Highway 49 as I headed to Tom Dooley Orchards to buy some delicious apple squares from their bakery. There were hundreds of geese, swans, and ducks swimming in the water along Highway 49. Today, the geese are walking on the ice.
The auto tour off of Highway 49 will be closed to vehicles November 18-26 for gun deer season. Wear blaze orange if you plan to hike. Tom Dooley Orchards will be closed for the season on November 24th. You may want to stock your freezer with apple squares to tide yourself over until next season.
Tree Swallows could make a happy home from mid-May to July in this type of nest box in the Horicon Marsh area. Nest boxes should not be opened, like this one, during nesting season. If you are interested in building your own nest box, nestwatch.org is a website that is a part of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and it is loaded with information. The interactive home page allowed me to type in my region (“Great Lakes”) and my habitat (“Marsh”) which took me to a page listing 10 bird species whose numbers are declining in this area. I can download construction plans for a nesting box to encourage these birds to nest here. The site tells me how high I should put the nesting box, what I should attach it to, and what direction it should face. I can decide whether it is a project I want to tackle, because it lets me know if it is a complex or an easy box to build. I can also find out when each species is expected to nest in my region. What a great way to encourage declining bird species to nest at the Horicon Marsh!
This pair of Rough-legged Hawks was perched high in a tree on Highway 49. This type of hawk spends its summer in the arctic tundra and it travels south to our area in the winter. The name “Rough-legged” refers to the feathered legs. There are only two other American raptors that have feathered legs to the toes. Do you know what they are? In my previous post, we discussed the legs of raptors and one reason that they can perch for so long. Another reason is the structure of their tendons. Raptor tendons have a covering surrounding them called a sheath. This is similar to an electrical wire with insulation around it. Picture the wire with little bumps all over it. The insulation has ridges on the inside of it next to the wire. Stretching the tendon causes increased tension that presses the tendon and sheath together. The bumps on the tendon catch in between the ridges of the sheath producing a ratchet effect and preventing the tendons from sliding. The weight of a hawk’s body increases this effect when it perches. This adds to the ability of the hawk to stay perched for long periods of time without expending energy.
The bold black wing patch is a distinctive feature of the Rough-legged Hawk. This hawk has a gorgeous feather coloration pattern that is visible as it takes flight.
This residual tree stump embedded in barbed wire caught my eye. This could be a good metaphor. If you come up with one, I would love to hear it in the comment section.
Two male Ring-necked Pheasants were strolling in the tall grass along Dike Road.
I got to make the rounds today from Palmatory Street in Horicon to Highway 49 to Dike Road. It is always a fun adventure of discovery at the Horicon Marsh.