Apr 07, 2021 6:00 PM

Birds and people flocking to the wetlands in Central Kansas

Posted Apr 07, 2021 6:00 PM

Spring is always a busy time at the Kansas Wetlands Education Center northeast of Great Bend. This year is no exception. The Center's Director, Curtis Wolf, says there are a wide variety of birds migrating through the Cheyenne Bottoms wetlands.

"If you're wanting to go out and see Cheyenne Bottoms, this is the time," said Wolf. "The numbers of birds that we have right now are just great. The diversity is phenomenal, and that's only going to get better over the next month."

Wolf says that shorebirds have already arrived in the area and more are expected in the next few weeks. The shorebirds rely on insects and worms found on the wetlands' shores. He says other birds, like pelicans and great blue herons, eat small fish that populate the water. According to Wolf, the ducks that are passing through are also easy to spot.

"Very easily, you can go out there and see probably fourteen or fifteen species of ducks any day right now," Wolf explained. "They're everywhere. And numbers wise, I don't know. I don't even have a good estimate of how many ducks there are. I'm guessing there are 200,000 ducks that are out there right now. They're easy to find; there's no doubt."

Wolf says that whooping cranes are also passing through. He says 35 were seen on Sunday at The Quivera National Wildlife Refuge in Stafford County. Only about 800 whooping cranes exist in the world. Wolf says that 500 to 600 of them migrate through the Golden Belt. The tall, white birds usually arrive in the evening, rest and roost overnight, then head out the next morning.

The Wings and Wetland Birding Festival is a popular event held every other year at the Education Center. Concerns about Covid meant that it had to be done virtually this year. Wolf said that people from thirty states participated last month via Zoom. Presentations were made by expert birders. Small group break out sessions were also available to participants. Wolf says he hopes that many of the attendees will plan a trip to Barton County to view the Spring migration on their own.

The Education Center is open to the public seven days a week. Visitors are welcome from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday. On Sundays, the Center is open from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.