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Recent entries


Through the Lens

World Migratory Bird Day – Horicon Marsh NWR

Tue, May 13, 2014

Late last September while in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin for the Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers annual conference I was introduced to Horicon Marsh. As an avid waterfowler I had heard of Horicon, I had read about Horicon, but nothing prepared me for the wonder that is Horicon Marsh. I knew then, that the single day I spent there would never be enough. 

The Wisconsin DNR representatives that so graciously escorted me about the area (and gave me my first sighting of a whooping crane feeding in the wild!) encouraged me strongly to return during peak spring migration for the Horicon Marsh Bird Festival. The festival is always held the second weekend in May in conjunction with World Migratory Bird Day. The weekend is filled with events for everyone interested in birds, bird watching, waterfowl and waterfowl hunting.

Horicon Marsh was established in 1941 to provide an undisturbed sanctuary for a number of migratory birds and waterfowl especially the redhead duck; as well as to provide opportunities for people to connect with nature through multiple activities such as wildlife observation, photography, environmental education and interpretation, fishing and hunting.  Horicon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge holds the honor of being considered a Wetland of International Importance as it is one of largest intact freshwater marshes in U.S. and the staging area for 80% of Mississippi flyway population of Canada geese; the refuge contains three ecological zones (marsh, pothole wetlands, shallow lakes).

Horicon boasts that over 300 different species of birds have been sighted at the marsh and provides visitors with a handy list, courtesy of the Horicon Marsh Bird Club for recording ones sightings during a visit. The list gives information regarding when the birds can be seen, if they are rare, unusual, common, etc. It makes a great way to keep track of things, and just for fun I used it to see just how many different birds I could log during my visit. To my surprise, I recorded 92 different species. Some that are certainly not possible for me to see here in southern Illinois.

Many of the visitors to Horicon that encountered were there especially for waterfowl, warblers, and terns – all were everywhere one looked! I was especially enthralled by the number of Sandhill and Whooping Cranes. Although I wasn’t able to photograph the Whooping cranes this visit – I was able to see and photograph the Sandhills a number of times. One group of birders that I joined for a portion of the day on Saturday was particularly excited about the big find of a Black-Throated Blue Warbler. It seems this is life list bird for many bird enthusiasts and was considered “the sighting of the day” by group leader Jeff Bahls of the Horicon Marsh Bird Club.

Horicon is conveniently located in Southeast Wisconsin, and a very easy drive from Fond du Lac. I strongly encourage all of those in the heartland community to plan a family visit, a long weekend, or better yet a family vacation to see and experience Horicon Marsh NWR. Plan to use Fond du Lac as your base of operations, and you have the added bonus of all the great fishing activity on Lake Winnebago in Fond du Lac.

If you can visit during peak migration periods or World Migratory Bird weekend – even better. You will not be disappointed. The spring walleye bite on Lake Winnebago is hot and the same time as peak bird migration, making World Migratory Bird Day, The Horicon Bird Festival excellent times for the entire family to enjoy the little piece of heaven that is Lake Winnebago, Fond du Lac, and Horicon Marsh!

Wandering around the marsh I truly felt this must be what heaven is like for a waterfowl lover – ducks and geese constantly filled the marsh and the skies. The chorus of quacking, honking, and chatter was never ending. Frankly – I didn’t want to come home!

I’m dead serious when I tell you this is a place you have to put on your must visit list, and when you begin to plan you visit to Horicon Marsh and the surrounding area, consider contacting the Fond du Lac Convention and Visitors Bureau – the staff there are most helpful and will certainly help you maximize your time there for utmost in outdoor activities and enjoyment!