Saturday, May 10, 2008

Horicon Marsh, WI - 05 May 2008

10 am – I gave a talk entitled “Nanoscopic Characterization of PVC Plastisols Utilizing Scanning Electron Microscopy and Atomic Force Microscopy”. The poor moderator had a rough time not only reading my title, but my biography had the word “digiscoping” in it and he couldn’t pronounce it either.

11 am – The talk went well, and I then headed off toward Fond du Loc Co. and Horicon Marsh, the largest freshwater cattail marsh in the world. The expressway entrances were all closed down, so I had to drive around for about 30 minutes just to find an entrance – this is where GPS really helps, but also tries to direct you to entrances that are closed…
The Wisconsin farm country is just beautiful – clean, well groomed and plenty of open fields for grassland spp. However, as I drove the only birds I saw were scout Red-wing Blackbirds. I looked closely, however, to see if any birds may be a Lark Buntings, but it was not to be.
Arriving to County Rd Z north of Mayville and Kekoskee I headed toward the NWR Office and Visitor Center. Along the way I stopped as a male Northern Harrier was working the corn field to my left. I managed several keeper flight shots as it floated and dove, but lost many more when my lens jammed (it was half between manual and autofocus). Too bad, since he flew right past the car at close range, and I couldn’t focus fast enough. A Wild Turkey strutted across the road and down the ditch into the thickets.
As I sat there in the car I heard the distinct ‘zeeb-zeeb-zeeb’ of a Clay-colored Sparrow. I found it just up the road singing in a tree for a few moments before it flew off.

At the Visitor Center I inquired about Yellow-headed Blackbirds, and was told that some were seen along the north end of the marsh a few weeks ago, but not recently. With only an observation deck I stepped out back and scanned the expansive marsh. A half-dozen Sandhill Cranes were bugling and eight White Pelicans were swimming about a ¼-mile out – they had just arrived yesterday. Barn Swallows and Purple Martins were flying circles around me as I tried for a few flight pics. A martin house next to the centre was active with numerous birds flying in and out. The Barn Swallows were nesting under the eaves of the building.

Heading north along CR-Z I stopped at Ledge Rd and slowly made my way west toward the marsh. With wooded marsh to the south and open water marsh to the north I drove slowly, hearing Swamp Sparrows trilling, Soras calling in the distance, and seeing Yellow-rumped Warblers, Yellow Warblers, and Blue-gray Gnatcatchers flitting in the branches. A lovely female and male Gadwall made a nice portrait shot as did several pair of Blue-winged Teal (can’t even get near them in MI). The females are every bit as pretty as the males! A Solitary Sandpiper posed just long enough for me to get a shot through the passenger side window. American Coot were all over, and several Turkey Vultures were soaring in the bright skies. Song Sparrows ducked in an out of the cattails mingled with the Swamp Sparrows and several Common Yellowthroats. Another pair of Northern Harriers appeared overhead, and were soon joined by a Red-tailed Hawk. A large fire was burning off to the NW and the smoke attracted numerous vultures. I wasn’t sure but am guessing that they are controlled(?) burns. Returning to CR-Z I passed a gent who had just scared up an American Bittern, but I could not relocate it. A pair of Eastern Bluebirds wrestled with Tree Swallows for a lone nestbox at the end of the road.
Heading north to CR-49 I headed west and stopped at the Marsh Haven Nature Center. It was closed so I only wandered the parking lot. A Ground Squirrel posed for a few moments and some quick photos. Purple Martins were flying about as several houses had been put up on the front lawn. A bluebird trail hosted several active nest boxes with Eastern Bluebirds.
Just across the street and up a ways was a 3-mile auto tour of the marsh, so pulled in and changed memory cards. A bluebird posed in the severe backlit skies for a few moments just before a Red-tailed Hawk passed low over the car. As I drove I could hear more Soras and a single Virginia Rail. Several more pairs of BW-Teal swam in the duckweeds and provided nice photos among the resting Painted Turtles. Yellow Warblers were singing in force, and I could only grab a few distant shots of them through the trees. As I was pulling into the Egret Trail Boardwalk a Woodcock flew across the windshield close enough to make eye contact!

As I approached the boardwalk a small flock of Yellow-rumps and Palm Warblers were actively feeding close by in the small woodlot. I spent several minutes trying to grab shots of the birds as they chased each other and fed just a few feet away. One particularly stunning male was quite elusive. Several Blue-gray Gnatcatchers were among the birds, and I managed only a few record shots. The boardwalk was fairly quiet save for the RWBB, Canada Geese and Coot. I did manage a few pics of a nice Swamp Sparrow before returning to the woods on the other side. There a boisterous American Redstart sang its ‘tsee-tsee-tsee-O’. More Yellow-rumps, Palm Warblers, several House Wrens, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, and Least Flycatchers singing their ‘ch-beK’ songs entertained me as I walked among the White Trillium and May Apples. As I left the parking lot a Warbling Vireo popped into view for a moment and began singing its distinct song. A Northern Flicker and Indigo Bunting rounded out the tour.
Returning to Milwaukee I heard of traffic congestion and accidents on I-94 so I made a quick detour and headed to the Schlitz Audubon Nature Preserve in the town of Bayside. A Cooper’s Hawk flew across the front of the car as I drove along the road, and was followed shortly thereafter by another Red-tail. Unfortunately I arrived at 4:45 and the place closes its gates at 5 pm, so all I could do was make a quick loop through the park. It is definitely a place to check out again in the future, as it has several woodland trails along the Lake Michigan shoreline. A Gray Catbird and Black-throated Green Warbler sang in the distance as I left and returned to the hotel to pack for home.

1 comment:

troutbirder said...

Very nice. I think I need to visit Horicon sometime soon.

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