Tuesday, May 26, 2009

More hens

I've been on a roll lately, with many wonderful experiences in natural history. These experiences, they are piling up like withered leaves after an October windstorm. So many, indeed, that I must do a very rare two-blog day. Without much effort, it could be a Three Blog Night, in fact. And if you missed the charming little murderous chap in the preceding post, be sure to check the Lilliputian furry pyscho out a bit of the way down the page.

And wait until you see the click beetle and the Chuck-will's-widow on its nest!

But none of those things are why we are here, now. We are here to look at an odd chicken-like bird that skulks in the reeds and booms out very loud jungle-like sounds.

This is a Common Moorhen, and I am not alone in lamenting its name change of some time back, robbing the bird of the moniker "Common Gallinule. But whatever you call it, the bird stays the same. The one above was haunting the wetlands at Metzger Marsh Wildlife Area, and proved surprisingly cooperative. Moorhens are sort of zooted up coots, tipped with an extraordinary bill of brilliant red, capped with lemon yellow. Nice.

Moorhens are responsible for a good deal of the bizarre noise that booms from Ohio's marshes, at least the larger, better ones. It is as if the sound track from a Tarzan flick was being pumped from the muskrat lodges, attracting one and all's attention. Get one moorhen fired up, and often all of its brethren will chime in, creating a grunting, cackling, chuckling cacophony.
Too bad they aren't nearly as frequent as at one time. Common Moorhens, like all of our marsh birds, have declined considerably since pre-settlement times, as in a short 200 or so years we humanoids have managed to destroy at least 90% of Ohio's marshes, swamps, fens, bogs, prairie potholes and other watered habitats.

A short vid of a moorhen boating about. It, or at least this video, carries a botanical message. Note the curious reedlike plant with the strange spherical flower heads at the end of the video. It's Giant Bur-reed, Sparganium eurycarpum, which used to be a major dominant in our marshes and provides invaluable habitat for marsh birds, both breeders and migrants. Invasive plants such as Purple Loosestrife and Phragmites have greatly reduced its frequency.
Metzger Marsh is in the western Lake Erie marsh region, one of the true cradles of biodiversity in the Great Lakes region. It's good to know that we still have places where wondrous swamp beasts like moorhens can still be admired.


Jana said...

I like the videos. I wish you had one of the cute baby mink.

Anonymous said...

Fabulous shots of the moorhen!

Janet Creamer Martin said...

Three Blog night, huh?

Jeremiah was a moorhen, was a good friend of mine...

The bird is black, its butt is white...the beautiful sight!

Eastern Cottontail courtship dance

This jumbo Eastern Cottontail hangs out in my yard, along with another. I like rabbits, and they're welcome here. Even when they nip off...