Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Horicon National Wildlife Area

During my trek back home to Wisconsin, I met up with friend and naturalist Nancy Gill.  I think I first met Nancy through a former teacher of mine on Facebook.  So once again, Facebook is legit as a social network.  When and where would I have met Nancy otherwise?!  

Nancy discovers what may be a "fake goose".  Turns out, it was a sneaky juvenile Trumpeter Swan!  Excellent find!
Last year during our trek to Wisconsin, Nancy was so kind to share with me the wonders of her backyard!  And from that point forward, we have had a blast birding her farm and now Horicon Marsh State Wildlife Area. I even landed my lifer Eastern Screech-owl at their farm this past winter!  How cool is that?!

Red Milkweed Beetle
Nancy is all about responsible conservation on her farmland.  She was excited for a planned Monarch project next year on her farm.  Monarch numbers, as most of us know, continue to decrease in many areas.  She's hoping that by creating a larger Monarch friendly area, it will help contribute to a population increase around the farm.  And we did see quite a few Monarchs on their property while I was visiting.  The secret is milkweed, a plant necessary for their reproduction needs. The problem?  During my youth, fields of milkweed were wiped out for housing projects, factories and farmland.  Today, there is an effort to increase the monarchs to their once abundant numbers decades ago.  As a kid, I remember them everywhere!  But the fields that had the milkweed are all gone.  And so are most of the Monarch butterflies. I'm hoping we can reverse that trend. 

We then continued to talk about the Bald Eagle population in Wisconsin.  This winter I reported that I had seen them everywhere.  And while it is true that the Bald Eagle population has increased, it is now facing yet another decline due to feeding from carcasses that are left behind by hunters. The carcasses still contain the lead pellets which then poisons anything that feeds off the carcass.  In fact, Mother Nature asked this Eastern Wood-Pewee to point out what the Federal Government is doing about hunting at Horicon on their side.  However, the state is a different story. As reported before, California Condors face the same exact threats in AZ, CA and UT.  CA has banned lead bullets.  Arizona has a voluntary copper bullet rule. (lead spreads while copper does not but copper bullets are more expensive than lead)  I thought most hunters would ignore that suggestion but I was shocked to discover that most hunters are responsible and have adopted copper over lead here in AZ.  I actually sat in on a hunting lecture to get a little education and was quite happy about what they were saying.  So hopefully the state of Wisconsin will adopt similar measures (if they are not planning on doing so already).  

Eastern Wood-Pewee answers a question I had about lead bullets.  This is on the federally owned portion of Horicon
Horicon is one of Wisconsin's premiere birding hotspots.  One of my favorite birds is the Black Tern and I was thrilled to see them hunting over the waters in great numbers. 

Nancy showed me some areas around Horicon that Wisconsin birders normally explore.  Last time we were there, I tried figuring out a route on this massive wetland area and connected some of the dots.  In AZ, we have HUGE tracts of land that we lump into one birding list like the Santa Cruz Flats and the Cienegas Grasslands.  These stretches go on for miles and miles.  So where do birders normally stop for counts on these large tracts of land?  Nancy helped me figure out a route on our trek this time around.  It looks like there are two solid ways to spend your day! 

One of the areas that is pretty spectacular is called the Main Dike road. In this location, the birds like to stay hidden. However, the ones that are hiding are good ones and worth the search efforts:)

What can I tell you all about Wisconsin birding?  I know that when I'm here, I feel at peace.  I know that when I meet Wisconsin birders, I feel a connection.  Birding here is not the same edgy kind of birding found in Arizona.  I don't feel like my car is going to get broken into or that I'll die from heat exhaustion.  The birds are typical standard fare for the US.  Rarities?  Yes, there are some rarities but they are usually seen in Arizona.  So the edgy nature of finding some rare first-to-the US Mexican or ocean bird isn't there.  And it makes the birding super chill and fun.  

And I totally get why people get excited about going to Arizona.  We have some of the best birds in the world!  BUT, after my Grandma's passing, all I wanted to do was get lost in the reeds, listen to the waves and watch the gulls. Wisconsin is the way, I think, birding should be. And after every outing, it should be served with homemade blueberry pie and a side of vanilla ice cream.  On our day out, Nancy made delicious brownies for our trek.  THAT's Wisconsin.   

Oh by the way! Wisconsin doesn't have drinking fountains.  We have bubblers.  

We have McDonald's restaurants that proudly show off our natural wonders.  Sure, we may not be as edgy as the Grand Canyon but we have some of the best scenery in this country!  I've met a lot of people who take Wisconsin for granted. They've told me it's "boring" and "the same old; same old".  I thought the same thing once but not anymore. Nancy has known for years what I needed to figure out on my own.......that my hometown and state are truly special places. She has the most spectacular photography that captures the color and feel of Manitowoc County during any season. Winter.  Spring.  Summer. Fall. All beautiful. All special in their own way.

Spectacular flowers during the summer will make you stop and stare.  The crisp autumn air may carry the scent of pumpkin or apple pie as the leaves turn their colors. Each season has its moment. Each season brings with it a different Wisconsin dish.  And if you think I'm making that up, you haven't met a proper Wisconsinite!  We LOVE to drink and eat properly!

The Horicon Marsh and Wildlife Area is just a taste of the magical world of Wisconsin.  My next trek to Wisconsin and Minnesota will be up in the northern region towards Lake Superior.  This part of Wisconsin is known for its vast area of forests. Okay.....so I have a secret to admit.......

It rained like crazy at my Grandma's place! 
I love pickles and carrots and lots of farm fresh veggies!  Shoot!  I just remembered my mom bought some kohlrabi's we never ate!!!!  Maaaaaaaan!!!!  One of the hardest things to do was find an iconic thing that would remind me of my Grandma.  So I went one night to the house to find those several items that I could use with my kitchen ware.  I found a sugar bowl, a creamer, two "insignificant" salt and pepper shakers that have been with my grandparents since I was a kid and her infamous Chex mix bowl.  Well.  As I was digging around her pantry for those endless and classic Grandma Krause snacks, I found 3 cans of black olives!!! My grandma always held a secret stash of black olives for my sister.  Grandma learned early on that if she left the black olives out in the open, Bec would eat them all:)  Clearly, my sister did not find this stash of black olives and so I took the pic above and sent it to her:)  I know....pretty "sassy" as my Grandma would say.  Family is everything and I'm so glad that we had the time to be together. And I'd like to thank Nancy Gill and Jody Kuchar for a nice break from the funeral stuff.  So thank you both!!  Our Horicon report is here. Until next time....


  1. So neat that you have both Wisconsin and Arizona to do your birding --since they are such different states with so many different birds.... I'm sure you loved being with Nancy. Sounds like she has the PERFECT life....

    Sorry about your Grandma ---but all of those memories will be with you forever....

    Beautiful set of pictures.... Amazing how beautiful birds are and how different one is from another....


  2. Belle série ;-)
    Céline & Philippe

  3. i think in those 2 states you have all the birding you should want. Loved readng the whole post.

  4. A moving post Chris - so very sorry about your Grandma but your memories of her will always be there.

    Wonderful to read of a farmer doing so much to help wildlife and the Monarch butterflies - such a lovely set of beautiful photos too :)

    Had to smile re: the olives - my kids adore them :)

  5. What a sweet and interesting post, Chris! Enjoyed the conservationist info and the photos. Very cool what you found in your Grandma's cupboard.

  6. Solace in the reeds....yes. Nature seems very restorative...unless, as you mentioned for Arizona, heat stroke or exhaustion is also on the menu. Enjoyed your thoughtful post.


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