Cheyenne Bottoms

Central Kansas, April 28-May 1, 2008
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Kansas is a boring place most of the time. Sorry, it's true. But research indicated it's a hot spot for migrating shorebirds in the spring, so I spent a few days in the Great Bend area. Quivira NWR is to the southeast, and Cheyenne Bottoms state wildlife management area is to the northeast.

 
American Avocet

On the drive down I did a lap and a half around Squaw Creek NWR in northwest Missouri. There were a few shorebirds but the most interesting thing was the eagle's nest. The eagles have moved to a location which is more visible than where they were a few years ago. Photos would be best in morning light, so hopefully I'll get back there before the eaglet fledges.

Another stop was the Kansas Underground Salt Museum in Hutchinson. It took a couple of hours to do the tour of the 650-foot-deep mine. If you are ever stuck in Hutchinson for a few days, at least there are a couple of interesting things to see. First go to the Kansas Cosmosphere (one of the world's great space museums), then tour the salt mine.

Finally I made it to Quivira NWR. On the Wildlife Drive through the Big Salt Marsh, I saw a Great Horned Owl roosted in a tree across a pond. Eventually I figured out it was keeping watch on a chick nesting in a barrel a few yards off shore. They were too distant for decent images but I have included one wide shot.

On the southern end of the drive I found the best spot for seeing American Avocets, Wilson's Phalaropes, and Black-necked Stilts. This is the first time I've really set out to see shorebirds, and these three species provided the best shooting of the week.

I did a drive around Cheyenne Bottoms and there was plenty to see through binoculars, but the best imaging opportunities were at Quivira. The wind was blowing a gale most of the time, perhaps 35 mph. The weather deteriorated to an overcast by May 1, so I headed home a day early. It was a worthwhile drive and I got images of some species I hadn't gotten before, particularly Avocets.

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All photos 1998-2008 by Thomas O'Neil