Birding in Kansas
November 16, 2018

A salt marsh in the middle of the Kansas prairie?

Yes, at Quivira National Wildlife Refuge, near Stafford, Kansas.

Quivira has over 22,000 acres of mixed-grass prairie and wetlands. Beneath the refuge, water percolates upward through underground salt layers, producing a saline environment similar to coastal areas and bringing many shorebirds to stop over here in their migrations or to live here year round.

Here the rare whooping cranes stop to feed as they make their 2,500-mile migration between their summer nesting area in the Northwest Territories of Canada, and their wintering area in the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge on the southern coast of Texas.

I was at Quivira on October 19, 2018, and the ranger at the office said that three whooping cranes had been spotted earlier in the day in the northern section of the refuge. So, I made my way there, and sure enough, I spotted the three. Spotted them at a great distance, over a quarter of a mile away! Across salt marsh that is off limits to human visitors. Here is what my cell phone camera recorded.

Can you see three white spots in the distance? Likely not, but those are the cranes! Of course, I wish I could have gotten a much closer view, but that was not possible. But I was glad for the positive identification, and with that, I increased my life list of bird species to 668.

For a pictorial view of these striking birds, you may go to the display area at the refuge office.

The most abundant birds I saw that day were northern shovelers (ducks) and American coots.

Here is another photo I took at Quivira.

Foam swirls on the marsh water with grass.

Inanimate and living, so many beautiful things in our world.