Life on the Solomon River of north-central Kansas with Deb
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
- Kirwin Natl Wildlife Refuge Kansas - YouTube
You have to look for this backroads place, but it's worth it to go there. Winter finds hundreds of thousands of waterfowl and other birds at Kirwin Natl Wild...
Where Is Kirwin National Wildlife Refuge in Kirwin, KS?
© 2015 Deb Hirt