Horicon Marsh – the Dark Side

I discovered the joys of Horicon Marsh just four or five years ago and have been back nearly a dozen times in those years.  Horicon Marsh is located northeast of Madison in south-central Wisconsin.  The marsh is part state refuge and also part of the National Wildlife Refuge system.

The problem is that the marsh attracts tons of birds including many many Canda Geese.  This would be great if there was a buffer around the marsh but the northern part butts right up to a busy highway.  The birds that stop by to rest and feed on their way to places further south and also the resident birds have to face this deadly highway.  And sadly, many birds become statistics on the wildlife killed list.  The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has an excellent article about what they are trying to do to help this problem.

According to the article over 4,000 animals have been killed along Highway 49 in the last four years.  I guess that doesn’t seem like a lot when you consider how many thousands of birds pass through the area.  But remember, each of these roadkilled animals did not need to die that way.  There are things that can be done (as the article states) but I think one of the easiest partial solutions would be to decrease the speed limit on that stretch of road to 35 mph.  Not only is it scary to be birding on the side of a road (at least they have wide shoulders) when an 18-wheeler goes by at 50 or 60 mph but it is downright dangerous when you have thirty or more cars lining the shoulders and there’s heavy traffic on both sides.

I would hate to hear about a birder (or anyone) getting killed just because people can’t slow down.  That said, I think everyone should make a trip to Horicon.  In a way it is the Cape May, Southeast Arizona or Rio Grande Valley of the Midwest.  I’ve picked up tons of lifers at the Marsh and completed my “wren list” (all U.S. Wrens) with Marsh and Sedge.

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Great Egret

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Sandhill Cranes (taller than our car)

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Northern Harrier hovering above the marsh

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Marsh Wren, peaking out of his nest.  I didn’t realize all Wrens love to scold!

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