One of the largest freshwater marshes in the United States, Horicon Marsh offers a plethora of wildlife. Located in the southeastern quadrant of Wisconsin, U.S.A., and covering 32,000 acres (12,949 ha), the marsh is a critical rest stop for migrating birds.
I love the solitude and beauty of this marsh, have written posts outlining how it was shaped: first by the glaciers, then by humans. But today I’m focusing just on the wildlife, because this is what I find so enchanting.
Previously written post: Horicon Marsh
One of the most elegant terns on earth, the black tern migrates to North America from South America, and breeds at the Horicon Marsh, as well as other sites in northern U.S. and Canada.
Forster’s terns also breed at the Horicon Marsh.
Trumpeter Swans nest here too. This bird nearly went extinct, but has had a successful reintroduction. In 1933, there were fewer than 70 trumpeters living; today there are approximately 46,000 (Wikipedia).
And cranes! There are only two crane species in North America, and I’ve seen them both here at this marsh. There are few places of which this can be said.
In summer, sandhill cranes can often be seen at the marsh or in nearby fields, most often in pairs. The wild whooping cranes, however, were a rare sighting; they are an endangered species.
In 1941 there were only 21 wild whooping cranes in existence. It has a been a long, hard struggle for this beautiful bird; but in 2015 the count was up to 603 individuals (including 161 captives) (Wikipedia).
Dragonflies abound, box turtles, butterflies, and over 300 species of birds.
Marsh birds are prevalent, like Canada geese, ducks, and herons.
Red-winged blackbirds, a healthy marsh staple, were everywhere; and one special siting that lasted about ten seconds: a yellow-headed blackbird.
Also saw numerous American White Pelicans. Wisconsinites are happy about the come-back of this bird. The pelicans were absent for about one hundred years, probably due to over-hunting. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife estimated, in 2002, that the Horicon Marsh numbers had risen to about 1,200 white pelicans.
It was a thrill to see several muskrats (locals call them “muskies”), especially the one that climbed out of the water–wonderful to see the whole body.
Marshes were once thought of as wasteland because they were not commercially enterprising. Part of the Horicon Marsh history includes those periods too, destruction and failed developments.
Fortunately residents and environmentalists changed that, saw its value, and preserved 32,000 acres. Today the benefits of wetlands are more widely known; they help moderate global climate conditions and play an integral role in watershed ecology. They also provide a productive ecosystem for countless living organisms.
How lucky for us.
All photos by Athena Alexander (except where noted)