Monday, October 01, 2007

Quivira National Wildlife Refuge

Quivira National Wildlife Refuge is one of my favorite places around here. It was established in 1955 and now has more than 22,000 acres.

There are 21 canals and other structures that divert water to 34 different wetlands - ranging in size from 10 to 1500 acres each - making  a total of more than 6000 acres of marshland, some of which I examined  on a previous trip. 

It's a big bird area. I've heard estimates that as many as 90% of migratory birds go through here over the course of a year. The bird pictured here is a very common one you see there.

Apparently, you can even see Whooping Cranes at Quivira - about 75% of the sighting in Kansas have been at Quivira or at Cheyenne Bottoms - as they migrate. Whooping cranes are endangered and the penalties are severe for killing one - a fine of up to $100,000 and up to one year in jail. There have been only five killed in hunting accidents since 1950.

However, considering how rare they are, five is substantial. Experts think that at one time there may have been as many 10,000 whopping cranes but in the winter of 1941-42 they were at an all time low of only 15-16. In 2005 they were up to 215. I think this year I'm going to try to see one. I've never been bird watching in my life, so I guess I might as well start with an endangered species there are fewer than 300 of.

Some things are plentiful - like ducks and geese...

There's plenty of other wildlife too. The other day I saw two different kinds of turtles - red eared sliders and this guy, which I don't recognize. I also saw snakes two different times from the car, a squirrel, deer, grouse and wild turkeys.

I like the opportunity to be surrounded by a different environment than what's right around Hutchinson, where I live. Quivira is only about a 30-40 minute drive away so it's easy to get to. I go down there a few times a year just to look around.

With all the wetlands, it's very different than right here.

I also walked the "Migrant Mile" trail I'd walked before, which is where I snapped this photo.

On the wildlife scenic drive, I spotted this tree, which I thought so perfectly illustrated the power of the Kansas wind for those of you who haven't experienced it. I've grown used to the look of trees that are growing bent because they've been bombarded by the wind from a young age. If you look closely, you'll see the horizon is straight - the tree really is that bent and it wasn't that windy of a day.

I saw this mix of plants on the hike over the migrant mile trail. I don't know what the puffy red stuff is and I couldn't get close enough to touch it. After getting bitten by a snake a couple of years ago, I don't wander out into such areas.

If you missed the snake bite saga of March 2005, go to and scroll down to the fence posts, then to to read all about it. Suffice it to say, I still have a little scar on my right ankle where fang marks once were.

So, I tend to stay on the trails now - you know, like all the signs tell you to do in the first place. And I watch where I walk much more carefully. I was very lucky in 2005 to have nothing more than some swelling, fever and tenderness at the location, and I think one snakebite gimme is probably all anyone is entitled to in a lifetime and I've already had mine.

I've talked before about the sound of the prairie. I took some video at Quivira the other day. I haven't had a chance to look at it yet, but when I do I may post some at you tube so everyone can hear the sound of the prairie. We'll see if it worked.

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