Monday, October 19, 2009

"One would as soon expect to see seagulls in Kansas" Mark Twain (about Mono Lake)

Well, we discovered there ARE seagulls in Kansas, and lots of them. Also cormorants, white pelicans and phalaropes. Central Kansas has the largest inland wetlands in the country. It was truly a treat to cross miles of prairie and arrive at the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge (38°12', 98°30'), which was celebrating National Refuge Week. Blue skies had returned and many familiar birds from home were out on the slightly saline water. Quivira and neighboring
Cheyenne Bottoms (38°27'), provide critical habitat for migrating birds, a big expanse of surface water in the prairie landscape. Biologist Rachel Laubhan and Ranger Barry Jones welcomed us into their event, shared much information and even fed us a roasted pig dinner. Sunset at the northern edge of Quivira was especially magical. The white fronted geese were coming in for the night, ducks were settling, blackbirds massing, and all were honking, quacking, or singing. It was a privilege to be there, in their place, sharing the evening with the birds.
The next morning, we stopped at the new Kansas Wetlands Education Center at Cheyenne Bottoms, a showplace for environmental education, and a joint effort between Fort Hays State University and the Kansas Dept. of Wildlife and Parks. Some of the Bottoms is also managed by the Nature Conservancy. The Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network sign brought back fond memories of installing the same signs years ago at Mono Lake.
We headed out of Great Bend, Kansas (38°21', 98°45'), on the Arkansas River, and stopped to replace Janet's dead cellphone at a Verizon store. Lo and behold, we met greeter Keith Herl, who had just returned from teaching in Korea and had travel tips for our journeys next year!
(Next: The Arkansas River and Santa Fe Trail, wagon ruts and forts, plus Crossing the100th Meridian: importance and gloomy status of the Ogallala aquifer)

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