Archive for Sunday, March 23, 2008

Downy characters

New book makes bird-watching more accessible to Kansans

The Indigo bunting is found in woodlands, hedgerows and towns in the eastern two-third of Kansas from late April through mid-October.

The Indigo bunting is found in woodlands, hedgerows and towns in the eastern two-third of Kansas from late April through mid-October.

March 23, 2008


Birding Hot Spots

Good bird-watching locations in Kansas suggested by "The Guide to Kansas Birds and Birding Hot Spots" by Bob Gress and Pete Janzen, with background paraphrased from the book.

"The Guide to Kansas Birds and Birding Hot Spots" by Bob Gress and Pete Janzen

"The Guide to Kansas Birds and Birding Hot Spots" by Bob Gress and Pete Janzen

Pete Janzen is irritated that Kansans don't spend more time outdoors in their own state.

"It's just the whole interaction with nature thing, and society is really moving away from that," Janzen says. "People are worried about bugs and germs - the media makes you so nervous. People would rather stay home and play Nintendo or something."

Janzen, who lives in Wichita, is hoping a new book he co-wrote might help to inspire a few people to turn off the electronics and head outside.

The book is "The Guide to Kansas Birds and Birding Hot Spots," published by the University Press of Kansas, which has headquarters in Lawrence. Janzen wrote the book with photography by Bob Gress, another Wichitan who is director of the Great Plains Nature Center.

The guide, which took more than two years to put together, features photos and write-ups of nearly 300 avian species that can be found in Kansas. It also includes descriptions of more than 30 locations in the state that are good for bird watching.

It's meant to be an introduction to birding for Kansans.

"The niche is people who are interested in birds but aren't real familiar with them and are somewhat intimidated with the abundance of information thrown at them by a traditional field guide produced by a major national publisher," Janzen says. "A, we wanted it to be specific to Kansas, and B, we wanted it to be user-friendly."

Birder Bunny Watkins, who also is park manager at Perry Lake, says she thinks the guide has the potential to get a new group of people into bird-watching.

"I love it - I think it's great," she says. "It's nice because if you're a beginning birder, it has actual pictures. The more advanced guides have drawings."

Northeast strengths

Kansas, Watkins says, is prime birding territory. Around 470 species have been documented in the state, partly because of migration patterns.

"We're located along the central flyway, so we get some unique species," Watkins says.

In general, Janzen says, the eastern part of the state is good for watching a variety of birds that nest in woodlands and typically are found east of Kansas. Farther west in the state, there are more shorebirds.

But Janzen says short drives from Lawrence can put you in prime birding territory. Some examples:

¢ The Baker Wetlands, located south of 31st Street, has recorded 246 species of birds through the years. Those include a wide variety, from warblers to owls.

"That's one great place," Janzen says.

¢ Clinton Lake's causeway is a good spot for bald eagles and painted buntings, and Bloomington Beach offers shorebirds, gulls and terns.

¢ The Weston Bend Bottomlands at Fort Leavenworth offers the largest hardwood timber forest that remains along the Missouri River, where migratory warblers and other songbirds, among other species, can be found.

¢ Perry Lake offers good wetlands and other environments for a variety of birds.

Road trips

And for those wanting to hit the road, Janzen says there's one can't-miss spot in Kansas: the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge, located 30 miles west of Hutchinson in Stafford County.

The refuge is 21,000 acres that includes wetlands, sand prairie and wooded areas.

"It's known even nationally," Janzen says. "The king rail (a wading bird) is a good example. As a species, the population in the interior U.S. has completely collapsed over the last 100 years. The Quivira population has 50 breeding pairs. That makes it the most robust population of the species anywhere west of the Mississippi River."

Other good birding day trips include the Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area, near Great Bend; Cimarron National Grassland, in the far southwest corner of the state; and the Red Hills west of Medicine Lodge.

Janzen says he's hoping fellow birders - and new birders - use avian species as an excuse to get out and see the state's geography. He mentions how infrequently he runs into other birders at the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge, even during prime birding seasons.

"I'd be delighted to see more than 10 cars on any given day," he says. "I'd spot you a hundred dollar bill I'd never see that in the next five years. But to me, it's the most beautiful, unique place around."


Centerville 10 years, 2 months ago

What an odd way to start a story: someone kvetching because more people don't share his hobby.

Bob-RJ Burkhart 10 years, 2 months ago

This inter-regional Prairie Passage in Kansas initiative was inspired by retired KSDOT Landscape Architect - Fred Markham's masterful map showing Natural Kansas destinations ...

For related ALL-WinWin AGR-iTourism(cc) scenarios , please preview: plus ... Section 3: Dynamic Group Decision Support Systems January 14, 2008: Group Dynamics by Petty and Caccioppo at

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 10 years, 2 months ago

I've never seen the indigo bunting before and I've lived in Kansas all my life. There's always something new to discover. I'm going to have to go for a walk soon.

lelly 10 years, 2 months ago


I've seen them. Try the Levy trail east. I've had good luck there!

KansasPerson 10 years, 2 months ago

That is my absolute most favorite bird of all. It's such a thrill when you see one out in the woods. Thanks for a great picture!

George_Braziller 10 years, 2 months ago

I just saw my first Indigo Bunting last spring. They are an incredible color that the photograph doesn't really capture. They migrate through the area but I don't think that they summer here.

mmiller 10 years, 2 months ago

This is cool. It's a great way to encourage Kansans to venture out beyond his or her city and experience the beauty that encompasses our state.

I live in Jefferson County and love visiting Lake Perry. There's such a cornucopia of wildlife. It's a great way to decompress from the stressors of everyday life!

I recommend a drive through Perry State Park. It's on highway 237, just east of Highway 4 and west of Ferguson Road (sandwiched in between) in Jefferson County.

I also photographed a beautiful bald eagle about a month ago!

Check out the pix by clicking or copying/pasting the link:

Toto_the_great 10 years, 2 months ago

Kansas has a lot to offer in terms of wildlife. Too bad people cannot enjoy it more. You are labeled a tree-hugger if you enjoy bird watching, hiking, etc. The Baker Wetlands are a nice place... enough said about that. You also can rack up your life list at Quivira and Cheyenne Bottoms, which are just a few hours away. Something really fun and relaxing is fish watching. Not too many places near L-town to do it, but if you can find a clear stream, grab a snorkel and watch some of the most beautiful creatures on the planet... darters with their deep blues and oranges, the vibrant reds of minnows, iridescent sunfish, and the striking saddled markings on madtoms. There are a couple of fish watching books available.

Bookie 10 years, 2 months ago

We vacation in Yellowstone every 2 years. I spend nearly 3 weeks there just watching the wildlife and it's so serene. I come home finding myself still watching the hills along the highway, trying to spot a herd of this or that, or a bear; then the 'rat race' takes over again and it's life as usual. I'm going to take a que from this story and try to capture that serenity by bird-watching!

riverdrifter 10 years, 2 months ago

George_B: Indigos summer here. They nest in the very heaviest, viney cover they can find. You are right: photos don't come close to doing them justice: their blue color is off the scale.

ralphralph 10 years, 2 months ago

Hey, birders, is it too late to put out bluebird boxes? I've meant to do it the past several years, and forgot yet again. Any thoughts?

btw -- love the idea of the book, and will pick one up soon.

Flap Doodle 10 years, 2 months ago

Out in Jefferson County, I've seen a Bell's Vireo and a Spotted Towhee (formerly known as the Rufous-sided Towhee).

riverdrifter 10 years, 2 months ago

RR, No, but put them out now. Best thing is, don't take them down, just clean them out by, uh, before now.

BTW, I saw my first turkey vulture on the 20th. My usual residents are home the 22nd and lots of migrants are going by, specks in the sky.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.