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Life at Cheyenne Bottoms with Deb, between Great Bend and Hoisington, Kansas
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.
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.
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.
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!
© 2015 Deb Hirt