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Life on the Solomon River of north-central Kansas with Deb

Updated on April 5, 2015

The Kirwin National Wildlife Refuge in north-central Kansas is a stellar area for birds. This nearly 11,000 acres located in the valley of the North Fork of the Solomon River, is an important wildlife area. The rolling hills and narrow valley boast both tall- and short-grasses of prairies and plains, so a diverse section of both birds and wildlife are hosted here. Additionally, the area also includes cropland and wetlands, making it even more attractive to a large variety of birds, flora and fauna.

Incidentally, this is the first national wildlife refuge created in Kansas in 1954, and is a mecca for both spring and fall migratory birds. Even though I was not there at either of these times, I did not want for the diversity of wildlife that graced my presence throughout my short time here. My eyes were filled with wonder and my ears were inundated with the sounds of life that I rarely have heard anywhere else.

A Plethora of Sights

Driving into the area, and slowly down the dirt road, several Ring-necked Pheasant were flushed. Most of them were female, and when I saw my first male pheasant, I was awe-struck. Sadly I was unable to get a photograph of this remarkably gorgeous bird, but it will be in my mind’s eye for quite some time. The female is about two feet long, and is a mottled brown, chicken-like bird. The male is about three feet long with an easy one-foot long tail. He is quite colorful as well as iridescent, with scarlet wattles, smaller than those of a tom turkey. When these birds were flushed, more than once, I might add, they were extremely noisy in takeoff, as well as vocal. I had a short window of time to try to get a clear shot of the hen, but she was much too quick for me to get my camera focused.

Western Meadowlark
Western Meadowlark | Source

Meadowlarks

Also apparent were large numbers of both the Eastern and Western Meadowlark. I was able to hear the calls of both of them, nearly side by side, and easily learned that the calls of both species noticeably differ. At a glance, both birds look very similar, so it is difficult to tell the species apart. The western variety is a little lighter brown on the upperparts and flanks, and the yellow invades the malar(cheek) area behind the bill.

Sighting of Ducks from Reservoir of Kirwin Reservoir
Sighting of Ducks from Reservoir of Kirwin Reservoir | Source

The Sights and Sounds

Walking into the marshlands of the Kirwin Reservoir, I found large numbers of Mallards, Blue-winged Teal, Northern Pintails, Green-winged Teal, Canada Geese, and Great Blue Herons. On the banks near the water, I also observed evidence of the homes of the cavity-nesting Belted Kingfisher. I noticed one jackrabbit, and suspect that many more saw me.

This remarkable and diverse area is used as a co-operative farming program in season where milo, corn and wheat are grown. A portion of the crop is left to feed the migrant and resident birds. The habitat is so diverse here with an assortment of grasses and wildflowers in season, that the area is home to 234 bird species, 38 species of replies and amphibians, and 34 species of mammals.

Belted Kingfishers Nest in These Cavities
Belted Kingfishers Nest in These Cavities | Source

And For an Encore...

Seasonally, the grasslands provide nesting areas for Upland Sandpiper, the Greater Prairie Chicken, Grasshopper Sparrows, and Bobolink. May songbirds nest and summer there, and you could see a Burrowing Owl.

I will not tell you everything that makes home here, but you could find quail, coyote, black-tailed prairie dogs, several raptor species, water and shore birds, and if you’re lucky, some of the reptilian class.

Source

Let's Hear What You Have to Say

How would I rate this area? I haven’t seen it at its high points, but it has a lot going for it in the way of an assortment of habitat and amenities for birds and animals. It sounds like a top drawer hotel to me, but I’m going to let you be the judge of that for spring and fall migration, as well as the summer rush. Keep your eyes on the ground and your head in the clouds. Happy birding!

How Would You Rate Kirwin National Wildlife Refuge?

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Where Is Kirwin National Wildlife Refuge in Kirwin, KS?

© 2015 Deb Hirt

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    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks for sharing, thumbi7. It is the best way to help get the word out about the nature at our disposal.

    • thumbi7 profile image

      JR Krishna 2 years ago from India

      Beautiful description about wildlife. I would never have known this place without your hub

      Voted up and shared

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hey, vwriter! Thanks for reading. I haven't done any traveling in Iowa yet, so tell me what you have in your area. As long as it has water, that's all I need. With all the rain this spring, you should have plenty of seed and fruit eaters out and about.

    • vwriter profile image

      vwriter 2 years ago from US

      Wildlife parks are so very important. We have a nature preserve in our area and you can see wildlife and a lot of Iowa's wild flowers. Great article.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hey, Suhail! Thanks so much...this is a great place that everyone that cares about wildlife should visit at least once. I'd love to be on this river during migration.

    • Suhail and my dog profile image

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 2 years ago from Mississauga, ON

      Hi Deb,

      I am glad that you are now introducing new wetlands to us. I liked this wildlife report a lot.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Peg, nature holds a very distinct balance and really knows how to propagate and contain itself from within. When mankind disrupts things, by cutting down habitat, filling in marshes, and readjusting things to his liking, is when everything goes haywire. We have got to replace what we take, or the balance will be tipped in a direction that cannot recover. We still have time, so we'd best begin doing it. Nice to see that you have an eye for the creatures of the earth. To me, there is nothing more beautiful, nor eyecatching.

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      I loved your description of the pheasant in your mind's eye. There is someone near us who is raising them and I caught a glimpse of the male and female crossing our yard one time. They are really beautiful. Saw my roadrunner and his wife again this week for the first time in a while. That was a relief as I was getting worried about them.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hey, WillStar! A life without wildlife is a life devoid of the greatest pleasures of life.

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      So many of us live out our lives never having experienced all these wonders. I grew up on farms, so I was lucky to hear the meadowlarks and redwing blackbirds singing their songs on warm summer days as we worked the prairie fields.

      Beautiful Hub Deb!

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      I am doing my best, Akriti. There is always more to come.

    • Akriti Mattu profile image

      Akriti Mattu 2 years ago from Shimla, India

      Your posts are a great source of knowledge. Keep it up :)

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hey, Jaye! I guess I am taking you all with me on my adventures during the heat of the moment. I have a very distinct plan, so stick around and see what unfolds next.

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 2 years ago from Deep South, USA

      Thanks, Deb, for allowing us to accompany you on another journey to places where a rich assortment of birds and other wildlife abound. I felt as though I were riding along with you when the pheasants flushed. Meanwhile, you're adding to your skills as both a nature photographer and reporter.

      Voted Up++++

      Jaye

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hey, Mel! It was nice to finally meet the western variety. It is hard to tel them apart, until they belt out song.

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 2 years ago from San Diego California

      Wow, you've been busy and getting around. It would have been wonderful to hear the Eastern and Western Meadowlarks singing side by side. Great hub!

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      ChitrangadaSharan, as you know, these places always warm the cockles of my heart. You never know, you might find yourself there one of these days.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 2 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Beautiful place full of natural beauty! As usual your hubs introduce us to such places, which we long to see but do not get the opportunity to see normally. Thanks for sharing another wonderful place!

      Voted up!

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Yes, Nell, you can't beat the beauty of wildlife, in all its forms. Thanks for reading, and observing what nature has to offer.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Jackie, I am still learning photography. Thanks for the shares, as they help me teach others to watch over our animals.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 2 years ago from England

      Hi Deb, I love discovering new places that are awesome for wildlife, this was fascinating and once again I learned something new. I have been traveling around with my son recently taking in various villages that I haven't seen in years, and I was amazed at how much countryside we do have around my town, so many animals, from Pheasants, horses and sheep to lots of wild birds too, nell

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 2 years ago from The Beautiful South

      Just a little bit of Heaven on earth isn't it Deb? Maybe I will luck into a bird shot or two this summer but that is all I can hopeful. You are a real pro and it shows!

      Up ans sharing. ^+

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Alicia, you are so welcome. There's lots to do with wildlife in this country, which makes it nice for so many people to learn about what there is out there.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Johan, it is definitely well worth seeing. I'll be coming up with a couple more for you.

    • Johan Smulders profile image

      Johan Smulders 2 years ago from East London, South Africa

      Great article. Last time in USA we visited the Kansas Bottoms but now have a new place on our bucket list.Thanks.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you for teaching me about another fascinating area for wildlife, Deb. I enjoy being a virtual tourist very much!

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, Sha! Great Blue Heron can be seen nearly everywhere, except Alaska in the US. They go to the cooler climates of the states during the summer, but most of us have them year round.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 2 years ago from Central Florida

      I love hearing about your travels and what you see along the way, Deb. You've mentioned Great Blue Herons in several articles. We have them here in Central Florida but I had no idea their habitats are so widespread.

      Great photos!

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hey, Deergha! There are so many places in this country to enjoy. Some are obviously better than others, and believe me, this is one of the ones that I put right around the top of the list.

    • dghbrh profile image

      deergha 2 years ago from ...... a place beyond now and beyond here !!!

      Dear Deb...from the Boomer lake it's a change to another delightful read really. I mainly admire the informative aspect of your hubs. I was never aware about this place but your insightful hub has introduced me with an awesome wildlife park. Great work done dear friend. I love the photographs you shared here also.

      Hope you are enjoying your days dear friend. Take care and hugs your way

      Deergha

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Dr. Bill, that was my first time in KS, and what a wonderful visit it was. There is more to come, so do stay tuned.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Mary, Boomer Lake never stopped. It is now being published in my local paper. If you want to see it, friend me on Facebook or Google +.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      PS, I am so thrilled that you want to venture out to see birds. I can easily teach you how to do this. You could friend me on Facebook where you can read my Sunday newspaper column, Life at Boomer Lake. It will show you what I have across the street from my house in OK. If you don't have a birding guide, I suggest the Peterson Field Guide. Grab a camera or use your cell camera, if you have a decent one. Be as quiet as possible around the birds, and they will get used to you. The more they see you, the less they will fear you, and allow you closer. Thanks for all the shares, as that is how I get the word out on helping and protecting our birds.

    • DrBill-WmL-Smith profile image

      William Leverne Smith 2 years ago from Hollister, MO

      Love to see folks share the wonderful opportunities in Kansas! Thanks, so much! ;-)

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 2 years ago from New York

      What a great place. So full of wildlife. Seems you can see quite a bit in even one visit.

      As always your photos are superb and I love all the background information you provide us with.

      Waiting for the return of Boomer Lake as the weather is finally starting to show some progress toward spring.

      Voted up, useful, awesome, and interesting.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 2 years ago from sunny Florida

      Any time I can read about our experience spots such as these is a good thing. You writings inspire me to seek out the birdies more than just those in my yard. I have always been so fascinated but just have never done so. Your articles are encouraging me to make the plunge.

      Gorgeous little meadowlark. Voted up+++ and shared

      Angels are on the way to you this evening ps

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      No, Billy, I'm still at Boomer Lake, my home base. This is just a little vacation material for your perusal.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      So, is this a new series? Are you branching out from Boomer Lake? If so, this is a nice taste treat of things to come. Any land set aside to preserve nature is Aok by me, and your articles are always topnotch.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      All of the land set aside for nature is very special, Lawrence. If we don't protect and cherish it, who will? Thanks for reading, and let's all do what we can.

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 2 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      I haven't seen the area but Wildlife parks are special and important for their diversity. We live in town but just 100 meters from the Waikato River which is like a nature reserve in itself. The city has recognized how special the River is and while it's not a 'Park' as such it's amazing to see the plant and wildlife down there.

      Loved the hub. Voted up

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, whonu. It was fun.

    • whonunuwho profile image

      whonunuwho 2 years ago from United States

      Nice work my friend.whonu