Sunday, December 30, 2007

Happy New Years!

Graphic compliments of Anne's Place

May all your hopes, wishes, and aspirations for 2008 come to pass.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

2008 Calendar iv

The last of the calendar photos

Spirit Lake, Iowa

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At the entrance of one of the campgrounds at Pawnee Lake SRA

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Taken at Wildwood Lake

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Friday, December 28, 2007

2008 Calendar iii

Onward and upward with the calendar photos

Taken at Pawnee Lake SRA

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American White Pelicans taken at Merritt Reservoir, just south of Valentine

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Upland Sandpiper taken at Valentine NWR

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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Omaha World Herald Article

I checked in on the Nebraska hotline this evening. For some reason, I had never added a link to them in the sidebar. I have now corrected that. Anyway, there were some posts over there about an article that ran in the Omaha World Herald on Christmas eve. A couple of the regulars on the hotline were quoted.

From the article

Shortages of some seeds, nuts and berries in Canadian forests and along stretches of the Rocky Mountains are pushing northern and mountain birds farther afield, ornithologists say.

As a result, species of birds not typically seen in Nebraska and Iowa are showing up more often at feeders - and more varieties could be on the way.

The tiny red breasted nuthatch and the purple finch already are being seen in greater numbers than is normal, said Walker and Joel Jorgensen, a bird biologist, both with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

In the Nebraska Panhandle, the mountain chickadee is showing up more often, said Ross Silcock, an amateur ornithologist who compiles seasonal reports for Nebraska and regional birding publications.

Such shifts in a bird's territory are called irruptions, and the birding community is heating up with talk about the possibility of a notable irruption across a wide swath of the U.S. this winter.

Christopher Wood of the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology said a food shortage in the Rockies has contributed to what may be the largest recorded irruption of mountain chickadees into the Plains.

Matthew Medler, science coordinator for the Boreal Songbird Initiative, said northern U.S. states, from Minnesota to Maine, already are seeing signs of what could be a major irruption.

How much variety birding enthusiasts in Nebraska and Iowa will enjoy this winter depends upon the weather and food supplies here and elsewhere, Jorgensen said. "I wouldn't call it a major irruption yet, but it's been pretty decent. These birds are very nomadic."

Guess the prediction I cited in this post is holding true.

2008 Calendar ii

More of the 2008 calendar photos

Pink Dogwood taken at the University of Nebraska Arboretum in Lincoln

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Taken at Ft. Niobrara NWR, and yes those clouds turned into quite a thunderstorm!

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Western Grebe taken at Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area in Kansas

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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

2008 Calendar

I decided to do a calendar with my photography for the year of 2008. The friends that received copies were very complimentary. Thought I would feature the photographs I selected over the next few days. Some may have been already seen on this blog.

Abandoned house taken on my trip to Valentine in June

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Prairie Dog taken at Ft. Niobrara NWR

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Peter Cottontail

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Sunday, December 23, 2007

Merry Christmas!

This beautiful gingerbread house was made by the cook staff and residents at the retirement facility where my mother lives.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Update On Funding For Wildlife Refuges II

Again from Refuge Watch

According to a press release from the National Wildlife Refuge Association:

Last night, the Senate joined with the House and passed an omnibus-spending package for FY08, rolling eleven spending bills into one, including Interior. The package includes a critically-needed increase for the National Wildlife Refuge System (NWRS) with proposed funding at $434 million, $39 million more than last year. “This increase is a shot of adrenaline for an ailing Refuge System,” said Evan Hirsche, President of the National Wildlife Refuge Association. “Chairman Dicks and members of the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee gave the Refuge System a holiday gift that will keep on giving.”

…Over the past four years, refuges have had flat or declining budgets, forcing each Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) Region to implement strategic downsizing plans calling for a 20% reduction of the workforce nationwide, equating to 565 jobs. The Refuge System needs at least $15 million annually to keep up with the rising costs of inflation and, without it, refuges have been forced to close, while visitor programs such as environmental education have been sharply reduced.

There are things in the budget that none of us like, but at least there is one thing to cheer about.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Update On Funding For Wildlife Refuges I

On November 28 I posted about potential cutbacks to funding for National Wildlife Refuges. At the end of that post I exhorted you to call your elected officials and protest those cutbacks.

Today Refuge Watch posted, in part, the following

The National Wildlife Refuge Association — a nonprofit organization that acts as an advocate for the Refuge System — has just sent out an email alert that offers a promising update on the Capitol Hill budget deliberations:

This morning House leaders announced an omnibus spending package which included funding for the National Wildlife Refuge System (NWRS). Proposed funding for the NWRS is $434 million, a $39 million increase over FY07!

Thanks to your diligence and hard work, Congress has answered your calls for increased funding — and while perhaps not as high as we had hoped and advocated for, this is truly an enormous win in light of these tough budget times. However, there are still hurdles which must be cleared before the President signs this bill.

The House is expected to vote either tonight or tomorrow with the Senate following shortly thereafter. The Senate will add more spending and it will go back to the House for final approval before being sent to the President.

Please urge your U.S. Representative and Senators to support this bill –
the funding for refuges will likely mean a second round of refuge downsizing will not be necessary, or at least will be postponed. You can reach your members by calling the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121.

When Senator Reid pulled the FISA bill this evening, he cited constituent pressure as one of the reasons for pulling the bill. That is further confirmation that constituent calls, faxes, and letters do make a difference!

I'll post updates as they become available.

A Little Christmas Fun

You Are a Cranberry and Popcorn Strung Tree
Christmas is all about showcasing your creative talents.From cookies to nicely wrapped presents, your unique creations impress everyone.

Hmmm...made three batches of fudge this afternoon and the fudge is neatly put in cutesy Christmas tins...guess that qualifies as "from cookies to nicely wrapped presents".

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Even More Winter Pictures

Went to Pawnee Lake SRA yesterday

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Received more snow this morning...Probably about two more inches

UPDATE: 6:45pm CST. Pbase, my photography site, is having "issues". For whatever reason, the only photos affected on this site seem to be the ones I just posted. The vagaries of computers! Photos hopefully will show up later....

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Did You Know?

Recently I received a flyer soliticiting my purchase of the National Geographic's Birds of North America.

Amongst the nuggets of information imparted

Kettles, Murders, and More!
You've heard of a gaggle of geese and a covey of quail, but did you know these other collective nouns?

A kettle of vultures
A murder of crows
A parliament of owls
A charm of finches
A congregation of plovers
An exaltation of larks

I knew, or had heard of, most of them, but there's a couple of them that were new to me.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

More Winter Pictures

The first two pictures are on the road to Branched Oak Lake. During the summer these farm buildings are only partially visible from the road because of foliage.

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This gate is on the west side of the park

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Winter Wonderland

We received three or so inches of snow last Thursday. Yesterday morning I went out to Branched Oak Lake.

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I guess there has to be a joker in every crowd

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Wildlife Refuges

I believe that in another post I indicated that I had decided when I started this blog that I would not address politics. There are a gazillion blogs and other resources for politics, and they do it far better than I could ever hope to. However, on reflection, I'm going to amend my no politics rule, to read, unless it impacts or affects birding and nature.

I strongly believe that our national wildlife refuge system is one of the most wonderful assets of our country. A post over at Refuge Watch today torques my jaw sideways.

Back in 2003, the National Wildlife Refuge System celebrated its centennial anniversary with various events held around the country that showcased the amazing collection of 535+ refuges that formed the System. Many laudatory speeches were made at that time, including ones by former Secretary of Interior Gale Norton and President George W. Bush, during which they applauded the many benefits of the National Wildlife Refuge System. Now four years later, the Bush administration is pursuing its agenda to cut 565 jobs from the Refuge System — a 20% reduction — which will result in over 200 refuges having no staff at all and many visitor services and conservation programs ceasing to exist. (emphasis supplied)

This is a friggin' travesty. (yeah I know, why don't I say how I really feel about it?)

The article goes on to discuss the documented positive financial impact on the communities in the area of the wildlife refuges. The article ends by saying

Contact your representative and senators today, and remind them that you support a budget increase for the Refuge System. The annual increase that the Refuge System needs each year to keep up with inflation — $15 million — is what we spend in Iraq about every two hours. Americans can afford to invest more in this vital federal land system.

On my budget, and probably the budget of anyone reading this blog, $15 million sounds like a chunk of change. But in government spending it is less than the equivalent of whatever small change we might find in our pocket at any given moment.

I'll be calling my representative and senators in the morning, will you?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

Have a safe and enjoyable Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Local Paper

Presented in it's entirety from the Opinion Page of the Lincoln Journal Star

A spectacular success for the Platte River

Wednesday, Nov 14, 2007 - 12:13:28 am CST
Wildlife lovers in Nebraska have good reason to celebrate these days.

Efforts to restore habitat on the Platte River have provided an immediate and spectacular payoff.

Last year a 200-acre, mile-long stretch of the Platte River next to the Audubon Society’s Rowe Sanctuary near Gibbon was restored to its pre-dam condition.

Trees and other invasive plants were removed, river channels were reshaped and several bare nesting islands were created.

The work had been completed for only several weeks when three migrating whooping cranes roosted at the site, according to the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.

This summer the stretch scored another important success when 10 pairs of least terns and two pairs of piping plovers nested on the islands. Least terns are an endangered species. Piping plovers are listed as threatened.

The two species had been squeezed out of their natural nesting grounds when low water flow allowed trees and vegetation to take root on the sand islands where they previously nested.

Wildlife officials said the nesting was the first in the central Platte in the past decade.

Another cause for elation this fall was the sighting of five whooping cranes on the Niobrara River. The group is one of the 250 whoopers that migrate from their breeding grounds in Canada to wintering grounds on the Texas Gulf Coast.

Whooping cranes are part of one of the world’s most spectacular wildlife events, the seasonal migration of hundreds of thousands of sandhill cranes and other water fowl that draws thousands of tourists to Nebraska in the spring and fall.

One of the key stops on this journey is the central Platte River. A map of the central flyway migratory route looks like an hour glass, with the Platte River at the narrow part of the hour glass.

The restoration project used by the whoopers, least terns and piping plovers was part of the Nebraska Natural Legacy Project, which draws together a diverse group including farmers, hunters, birdwatchers in support of preserving the Platte River as a biologically unique landscape.

The project is funded by both private and public money, and covers last owned by nonprofit wildlife groups and private landowners.

“There’s not many examples nationally where you can take this federal money, match it with state and private money and boom, you’ve got a measurable result,” said Mark Humpert of the Game and Parks Commission.

Nebraskans can take pride at the recent victories in preserving the crucial Platte River stopping point for migrating birds. The success will be appreciated internationally.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Meet the Dawg

I've mentioned the dawg several times.... Her name is Mandy. She is 12+ years old. She's a Beagle......

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Difference A Knowledgeble Salesman Makes

I have never done, in the limited history of this blog, two posts in one day. But I guess I'm on a roll tonight. This post won't have anything to do with birds, or nature in general.

I've put up with an old clunky printer for quite some time. Couldn't print color with it for awhile because once upon a time I forced it to print a black and white document when the color cartridge was empty. I needed something printed and couldn't just run out and get a new color cartridge. After I replaced the cartridge, the printer told me in a rather nasty way that a head was broken. I love it when machines talk to me, thinking they are all-knowing.

A word about my present computer equipment is necessary to understand the rest of this monologue. My desktop is probably five or six years old. A dinosaur in many ways, but it was top of the line at the moment I bought it, and it has held up for far longer than I expected when I bought it. It has Windows XP. Wireless was not amongst it's capabilities. My internet connection is via the local cable company. I was the first kid on the block to have that kind of connection. My laptop is about six months old. It has Windows Vista. When I first brought the laptop home I was surprised to find I had a wifi connection. So I used it when I didn't want to settle in at the desktop. One day the connection disappeared. Apparently I was hacking into someone else's connection. So I got a router and had my own, which I protected so someone couldn't hack into my connection.

I have a little project that I want to do for my mother's upcoming birthday and I need a printer with color capabilities. I wanted a printer that I could use with both computers with a minimum of hassle. From a little reading on the subject, it sounded like a wireless printer would satisfy my needs. So off I went to see what there was to be had.

I stopped at one store just to check prices before I went on to where I always seem to end up buying my computer stuff. The clerk there said nopers, no way to use a wifi connected computer and a Ethernet connected computer on the same printer. I said hmmmm and headed down the road. Got to my usual store and the guy says the same thing. So, feeling defeated I was wandering around the computer area looking at gidgets and gadgets and saw something that looked like a flash drive that plugged into a USB port and purported to allow you to use it for a wireless connection. So I talked to another sales person. He says yuppers, just install the software and plug it in and your old computer is wireless. So I says does that mean that I can use a wireless printer with both computers? Yuppers, sure can.

I'm not a geek, just a dorky old dweeb. But because a salesperson knew the capabilities of the stuff in his department, I bought the wireless adapter and a wireless printer. If I had listened to the first two salespeople, I would have either come home empty handed, or with something that didn't meet my needs.

Tonight I have a laptop connected to a network, an old desktop connected wirelessly to that network AND a printer I can use with both computers. I guess the moral of the story is keep asking questions and most importantly, find a salesperson who knows what he/she is talking about.

Squaw Creek, Day Two

This is a belated post about the 2nd day at Squaw Creek. The day started out poorly. Took the dawg out for her morning constitutional and the door back into the motel wouldn't open. Had to put her in the car (she couldn't go in the lobby because the "continental breakfast" was there) and go to the front desk so they could open the back door. The rest of the day wasn't much better, and by the time we got home, both of us were very pleased to be there. In many ways it was a very forgettable day.

My last thought in the first post on Squaw Creek was that I had to do better taking more pictures. Well, I didn't. Don't remember ever taking so few pictures at a wildlife refuge.

Both days I heard and saw lots of Northern Cardinals. Most of them weren't interested in posing, but this guy did briefly

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These Great Egrets were sitting there so pretty until two cars went zooming past and they flew away. Fortunately, I had captured a couple of shots of them.

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The thing Squaw Creek is most well known for is the congregating Snow Geese in the latter part of November. They had already begun to congregate, though they certainly weren't there in the numbers they will be later in the month.

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All of the Squaw Creek photos are here.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Squaw Creek NWR

My original intent was to come down and spend at least two days in and around the area of Squaw Creek NWR. Then last weekend I had a budget busting visit by the dawg to the emergency vet clinic. I usually drop the dawg off at dawgie motel for these forays. In good conscience I could not take her out there, plus there was the budget busting factor. So I said oh well and forgot about it. Thursday night I decided she was well enough to come with me and called and made reservations at a motel for the two of us. She always used to come with me, but the last couple of years, as she's gotten older, she has seemed to not enjoy these jaunts. She has been really good and has appeared to enjoy the journey so far. (Phew)

It was a gorgeous day.

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Saw lot's of Northern Pintails

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I liked this photo of a Great Egret

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Didn't take many photos today...will have to do better tomorrow.

The rest of the days photos are here.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Another Exotic Bird

I've come to the conclusion that someone on the road that runs south and north along the west side of Branched Oak Lake must raise exotic birds. On September 12 I saw three Helmeted Guinea Fowls. On September 24 I saw four Chukars in the park in an area that would have been more or less directly east of where I saw the guinea fowls.

Today, I saw this lone Common Peafowl

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Isn't he/she pretty?

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Stuff From Other Blogs

There's a gal from the San Francisco area that often posts a birding diary on Daily Kos on Saturday mornings. This morning's diary was about birds returning to burned out areas after a wildfire such as we had in Southern California. The first returnees are

For a little while, the only avian visitors to the fire zone (and mostly the fringes, at that) will be the scavengers... vultures, some hawks, some corvids... In the hottest zones, there won’t be enough for even those guys to get by. But at the edges of the fire, there will be animals who were overcome by smoke or heat, but did not burn. The scavengers – avian, insect and mammalian – will feast. Soon thereafter, the animals that managed to survive in the fire zone will emerge, but they’ll have no cover and will make an easy meal for the predators moving back in. (Watch an agricultural burn someday – the fields are fringed with hawks waiting to pounce on the suddenly exposed rodents.)

The entire process is interesting and is well worth a read.

Another interesting tidbit was that a birdbander captured a Eurasian Kestral in Marin County (north of San Francisco) this week. It was the first recorded naturally occuring Eurasian Kestrel in California His pictures of the Kestrel are here.

Way down in the comments one of the commenters noted the wildfire damage to the Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge. Hopper Mountain is the home of the California Condor recovery program.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

An Osprey

After taking the pictures I posted last night, I headed off to Branched Oak Lake.

There has been an Osprey hanging around for about the last week. He graciously posed for me

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Monday, October 22, 2007

I Hit A Jackpot Today

Went to a lake today that isn't a part of the state system and got some really nice (I think) photos.

First up is a White-crowned Sparrow

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An immature White-crowned Sparrow

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A Harris's Sparrow

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A Song Sparrow

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A female Northern Cardinal

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And last but not least a Spotted Towhee

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Saturday, October 20, 2007

All's Well That Ends Well

Last night while the dawg was out for her evening constitutional, I decided to step out on the deck to see what I could see or hear. The potted plants on the deck are long past their prime, but I have left them thinking that the birds might enjoy what is left.

Much to my surprise a sparrow of some sort (probably a female House Sparrow) flew out of the foliage and through the open slider right into my dining/living room. While the bird bounced off the walls and ceiling, I pondered how to help it get back outside where it belongs. So every time it lit I rattled a newspaper and off it would fly. When it flew into the kitchen, I went and opened the door to the garage.

(The dawg has a dog door out the kitchen door into the garage, and another dog door out the side door of the garage into the back door.)

At just the moment the dawg came into the kitchen, the sparrow flew over her head out into the garage. Fortunately the dawg could care less about birds and was unfazed by a bird flying over her head. I quickly closed the dog door and went out into the garage. I stood there for a moment watching the sparrow, then opened the garage door. Instead of flying out through the open door the sparrow flew between the open garage door and the ceiling of the garage and lit on the open garage door close to the outside wall.

I stood there for a few moments pondering what to do next. I decided if I closed the garage door one of three things would happen. The sparrow would be pushed outside and our mutual adventure would be over, or it would fly back into the garage, or worst of all the little gal would get squished by the closing door. I decided the latter was highly unlikely. Soooo, I pushed the button to close the door. For a moment it looked like the sparrow would fly back into the garage, but then made the best choice and flew to freedom.

I hope the little gal found herself a nice roost and slept well the rest of the night!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Winter Finch Forecast

In my meanderings around the tubz and birding blogs specifically, I have noticed many comments that folks are seeing an unusual number of Red-breasted Nuthatches. I have also seen a couple of posts about Pine Siskins being seen in greater numbers.

On Sunday, a poster on the Nebraska bird hot-line posted a link to a Winter Finch Forecast published by the Ontario Field Ornithologists. A small portion of their report

Most coniferous and deciduous trees have very poor seed crops in much of Ontario and western Quebec.


...winter finches such as Pine Grosbeaks, Evening Grosbeaks, Purple Finches and redpolls are irrupting or will irrupt southward out of northern Ontario. See individual species accounts for details. In addition I comment on other irruptive passerines, such as the Red-breasted Nuthatch, whose movements are linked to cone crops.

They also include predictions on Red Crossbills, White-winged Crossbills, Pine Siskins, Bohemian Waxwings, Blue Jays, Gray Jays, Boreal Chickadees, and Northern Owls.

It may portend interesting birdwatching for many this winter.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Only Bird I Saw Today.....

Well...not really, but it's the only photograph I took today

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area

There are a plethora of websites for Cheyenne Bottoms. One of them begins:

"All wildlife watchers should make an annual pilgrimage to Cheyenne Bottoms…" say Bob Gress and George Potts, authors of Watching Kansas Wildlife.

While it has been several years since I visited Cheyenne Bottoms, I can hardly disagree with that statement.

More from the same site:

Cheyenne Bottoms is a 41,000-acre lowland located six miles northeast of Great Bend, Kansas. The Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks operates 19,857 acres as a wildlife management area. The Nature Conservancy owns and manages 7,300 acres adjacent to Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area.

For the most part, the roads through the area are atop the dikes that separate the area, so you look down into the water at the birds.

Other websites are here, here, and here. Some photographs of the area are here.

I saw what is most likely to have been a White-faced Ibis, though it took me awhile to settle on that. This is a cropped photo

A white faced is supposed to have a white and red face and red eyes. The Glossy Ibis has a brown face and brown eyes. However, in non-breeding plumage they both have brown eyes. Since a glossy is not supposed to be in Kansas, I have to go with white-faced. I did really hope it was a glossy, as that would have been a lifer for me.

My Cheyenne Bottoms photos are here.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Quivira NWR

A few words about Quivira NWR tonight. Quivira is located about 35 miles southeast of Great Bend, Kansas.

The name of the refuge comes from a Native American tribe that lived in the area. It is a major stopover point for northward and southward migrations for thousands of bird.

From the Quivira NWR website

As part of the National Wildlife Refuge System, Quivira National Wildlife Refuge offers opportunities for wildlife observation and photography, environmental education and interpretation and hunting, and fishing. Bird watching and wildlife viewing opportunities abound at Quivira NWR. Quivira NWR has two large salt marshes, and both are excellent places to look for birds such as mallards, wood ducks, pintails, white pelicans, shorebirds and more. Additionally, bobcats, coyotes, and other mammals are often seen lurking about during the heat of the afternoon. For a wonderful wildlife opportunity, Quivira offers an experience you won't find anywhere else in Kansas.

I was a bit late for the shorebirds, though there were some around, and a little early for great numbers of waterfowl. In the two days I was there I did see a difference in the number of birds. On Wednesday I didn't see any gulls, Thurdsay there was a good number of gulls. Would love to go again in a couple of weeks. Will have to see....

Was suprised to see some Greater White-fronted Geese mixed in amongst the Canada Geese

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All of the Quivira photos I took are here.

I'll do a post on Cheyenne Bottoms tomorrow.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Day Two at Quivira NWR and Cheyenne WA

I'm tired just a few of my favorite photos from today and yesterday

There was a beautiful sunrise this morning. This was taken just west of Quivira

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There were lots of Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets and a few Cattle Egrets at Quivira. I really like this photo of a Cattle Egret

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This is, I believe, a Least Sandpiper

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Took this photo of a Western Grebe at Cheyenne Bottoms

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Heading home tomorrow, whether I want to or not.