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Life at Cheyenne Bottoms with Deb, between Great Bend and Hoisington, Kansas

Updated on April 8, 2015
Cheyenne Bottoms Marshes
Cheyenne Bottoms Marshes | Source

Cheyenne Bottoms, located in Kansas about two miles east of US 281 between Hoisington and Great Bend, is one of the few Ramsar wetlands of international importance. With a claim like this, it was a good idea to venture forth and see what this area had to offer. It is unusual in the fact that it has five controlled pools that can have the water raised and lowered at will, and even more rare is the fact that this area has either been a lake, dry or a mudflat.

This beautiful and diverse marsh habitat is for the use of migrating and breeding waterfowl and shorebirds. In 1925, this pristine land was developed by the Kansas Forestry, Fish and Game Commission. In 1937, funds became available to develop the bottoms for wildlife. This area received extensive renovations in the 1990s, which allowed the marshes to be more self-sustaining, although an adequate water supply and water level management still continue to have critical problems. I know that two years ago, it was nearly dry, but I saw it flourishing recently.

Whooping Crane
Whooping Crane | Source

Almost Half the Shorebirds in this Country Go Here

It has been noted that nearly 600.000 shorebirds from 39 species come through this area during spring migration and around 200,000 in the fall. Approximately forty-five percent of all shorebirds in North America use the area, including endangered species, like the Whooping Crane, but it is not limited to only these cranes. Three hundred forty species of birds have been observed in this 64 square mile wildlife oasis.

further further ado, I will give you the facts on what I observed, and enlighten you on the best times to be here. Waterfowl and Sandhill Cranes are in the area sometimes as early as February. Waders, like egrets and herons are on the scene in March and April. Most of the shorebirds arrive from late April to early May.

Ring-necked Duck Pair
Ring-necked Duck Pair | Source

My Observations

I was here prior to spring migration, but I was not in want. I observed the Eastern Phoebe, Northern Cardinals, Red-winged Blackbirds, Song and White-crowned Sparrows, and the House Finches. My favorites are the waterbirds, so I was glued to the pools. While I was there, water was getting pumped into the vicinity. There were Cinnamon-, Green-winged, and Blue-winged Teal, Mallards, Ring-necked Ducks, The Ruddy Duck, and Lesser Scaup.

Green-winged Teal Pair
Green-winged Teal Pair | Source

Spring and Fall Migration Information

Fall shorebird migration can start in July and into September and October. Other birds coming through have replaced their breeding plumage, so will not look the same as they did in the spring. Even though fall migration doesn’t have the numbers that spring does, it still is a most suitable area for viewing a number of species.

The peak time for ducks will be early- to mid-October, and waders will remain here until the marsh freezes. Whooping Cranes can be seen from late October to early November, which is a small window, but there is a good possibility that they will stop here. Bald Eagles will winter here and can be seen until late March.

Be Safe, Use Caution

A word of caution. Rattlesnakes can be seen in the warmer months, so dress accordingly and watch where you venture. Keep your eyes on the ground and your head in the clouds. Happy birding!

Eastern Phoebe
Eastern Phoebe | Source
Song Sparrow
Song Sparrow | Source
Wood Duck Pair
Wood Duck Pair | Source

© 2015 Deb Hirt


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    • aviannovice profile imageAUTHOR

      Deb Hirt 

      3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hey, Vellue! It really is quite a place, even for the uninitiated. I'll bet if you go, you won't forget it.

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 

      3 years ago from Dubai

      Cheyenne Bottoms seems like a great place for bird watching, loved your photos. Thank you for sharing.

    • aviannovice profile imageAUTHOR

      Deb Hirt 

      3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      You know, Dave, getting here was just half of it. This area has so much to offer wildlife with salt marshes, the farming of wheat and corn, and the large expanses of area for all these birds to rest in. There are so few places where they can relax and gain weight for a little while, then head out for the rest of their voyage.

    • aviannovice profile imageAUTHOR

      Deb Hirt 

      3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Alicia, it is a fabulous place for so much. I am still in awe regarding how many birds this area can serve. Considering the distance that they travel, they certainly need a great respite such as this.

    • D.A.L. profile image


      3 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      Hi Deb,Another interesting and informative hub. Not only learning about your birds but also the great places in your country . Excellent .

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This area sounds like a great place for both birds and bird watchers. Thanks for sharing the information, Deb.

    • aviannovice profile imageAUTHOR

      Deb Hirt 

      3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Jackie, it sure was a place of interest, no question. I'd like to be here for migration sometime.

    • aviannovice profile imageAUTHOR

      Deb Hirt 

      3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, Johan. It was a great place to be, and it has so much potential for spring migrations.

    • aviannovice profile imageAUTHOR

      Deb Hirt 

      3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hey, manatita! I was always going, publishing Life at Boomer Lake in my local paper, so it would be a conflict of interest on this site.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 

      3 years ago from The Beautiful South

      I bet this really was a thrill!

    • Johan Smulders profile image

      Johan Smulders 

      3 years ago from East London, South Africa

      Another great article.

    • manatita44 profile image


      3 years ago from london

      Very beautiful Deb. Good that you've got going again. Your Spring migration is so awesome. Truly noble work! Much peace.

    • aviannovice profile imageAUTHOR

      Deb Hirt 

      3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Billy, seriously, this is from my little vacation up north. There is another trip coming next week. Honestly, though, I can't wait to make my first trip out of the country for birding.

    • aviannovice profile imageAUTHOR

      Deb Hirt 

      3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hey, Mary! this is another superb hotspot, as well as an important stopover point for birds to rest and get up enough energy to continue to the remaining leg of their trips.

    • aviannovice profile imageAUTHOR

      Deb Hirt 

      3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hey, Sha! Most of the time they can be seen in pairs, and don't let Mallards fool you. Sometimes the females morph into male appearing characteristics, so don't always do a double take. MOST birds mate for life, but some just do it seasonally, like the heron clan.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      3 years ago from New York

      As always, your pictures are a delight. It's almost as if the birds are posing just for you!

      What an interesting place. What really takes my breath away is 600,000 birds! I realize it isn't at one time but still. Thanks for sharing.

      Voted up, useful, awesome, and interesting.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I love what you are doing, or what I surmise you are doing. This has all the earmarks of a series and I'm sure you are planning your pitch or you've already made it. I have no doubt you'll find someone to pick this column up, Deb.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      3 years ago from Central Florida

      Interesting hub, Deb and great photos. I love the fact that birds mate for life and can usually be seen in pairs.

    • aviannovice profile imageAUTHOR

      Deb Hirt 

      3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, whonu. There are so many interesting places in this country.

    • whonunuwho profile image


      3 years ago from United States

      Nice work my friend.whonu


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