Close Encounters of the Avian Kind

“Honk-honk-HONK!”  “AAAAAH!!!”

No, this is not an automobile accident waiting to happen.

Rather, Mother Goose is making a mad dash toward our son and daughter, who ventured a little closer to her goslings than she was comfortable with.  And our kids have turned tail, screaming and running toward us as fast as their short legs will carry them.

Horicon, Wisconsin

Fortunately, everyone walks away from this altercation with all fingers, toes, eyes, beaks, claws, tail feathers, and so on intact and all goslings accounted for.  Phew!

So goes a day at Wisconsin’s Horicon Marsh Wildlife Refuge, a wetland habitat for many birds, Canadian Geese included (in large abundance).


But that wasn’t our only close encounter of the avian kind. 

More recently, I lagged behind the rest of the family on a particularly hot and muggy afternoon hike along Quick’s Point Loop, where wetlands, prairie, and woodland habitats meet, swatting at bugs buzzing near my ears (MAJOR pet peeve).

Horicon Marsh, Wisconsin

Suddenly, that annoying “buzz” was replaced by a quick “woosh!”.  And then another, on the other side.

The swallows must have sensed my agitation with those darned insects and decided to lend a hand.  Or wing.  You know what I mean.  Or maybe it was just their lunchtime.  Either way, only inches away from my head, they dived past.  Fortunately their aim is excellent, although I cringed for a moment (ok maybe longer) in the off-chance any missed their teeny tiny targets and landed beak-first into my face by mistake.

The diversity of wildlife at Horicon Marsh draws me back again and again. 

How many places can you go for a walk and see a black-crowned night heron…

Horicon Marsh, Wisconsin

…turtles playing King of the Hill Log…

Horicon Marsh, Wisconsin

…colorful and fascinating insects (the kind that do NOT incessantly buzz in your ear)…

Bachhuber Loop, Horicon Marsh, Wisconsin

…a pair of Sandhill Cranes, their wingspans as wide as many humans are tall?

Bachhuber Loop, Horicon Marsh, Wisconsin

Right.  Not many.

5 Ways to Experience Horicon Marsh

  • The Horicon Marsh International Education Center is a great place to begin and learn about the area. With impressive floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the marsh, you’ll get a good lay of the land as well as an early start to your bird-watching with the handy-dandy telescope.
  • The Boardwalk to Indermuehle Island is a recent addition, complete with benches where you can quietly enjoy the marsh and its wildlife.  (Assuming that the mosquitoes let you, of course – bug spray is highly recommended!)

Horicon Marsh, Wisconsin

  • Bachhuber Loop is a 2.3 mile trail that leads you through the marsh, where wildlife abounds.  Keep your eyes peeled!

Horicon Marsh, Wisconsin

  • Quick’s Point Loop is a 1.9 mile detour off Bachhuber Loop.  We recently walked this trail for the first time, and what stands out is experiencing the intersection of three unique habitats: woodlands, wetlands, and prairie, all in such close proximity.

Horicon Marsh, Wisconsin

Horicon Marsh, Wisconsin

  • Bring your binoculars to Palmatory Street Overlook, and enjoy a panorama of the marsh from up high.

Horicon Marsh, Wisconsin

Just 60-65 miles from either Milwaukee or Madison and only 90 miles from Green Bay, Horicon Marsh is an outstanding choice for a day trip with the family. The price certainly cannot be beat; it’s completely free (however donations are welcomed!). For an alternate means of exploring the marsh we also recommend renting a canoe with Blue Heron Landing.  It’s a memorable way to experience the marsh and its inhabitants from a different perspective.

Blue Heron Landing, Horicon, Wisconsin, Lilypads

Lastly, no family outing would be complete without a refreshing ice cream cone to top off the day, so head to the Ice Cream Station in downtown Horicon.

Get out there and explore one of Wisconsin’s hidden natural treasures!

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