Located near Stafford, KS, Quivira is less than 20 miles from my family's farm. It's a popular stopping point for birds who travel the Central Flyway. Because yesterday was such a beautiful fall day, Tim, my mom and I decided to visit the refuge to see who else had stopped by.
As early as 1929, biologists realized that the marshes of Quivira were an important layover for countless migrating waterfowl, but it wasn't until 1955 that the acquisition of the refuge's 5,000 acres was approved by the U.S. Department of the Interior. Today Quiver National Wildlife Refuge is one of a system of 550 refuges administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Of all the refuge's visitors yesterday, I doubt there were any more ill-equipped birdwatchers than we. Our binoculars were buried in a box somewhere within the crates of our belongings stored in my brother's basement. Our cell phone cameras were inadequate to the task of capturing birds in flight. And our collective knowledge of bird species is abysmal.
|The center black dots are a covey of small black birds that were roosting in these cattails.|
Still, November is prime migratory time. Almost any human visitor to the refuge will spot many feathered guests. More than 300 species of birds have been observed within the refuge. From September to December, up to 800,000 ducks and Canadian geese pass through Quivira NWR on their way to wintering grounds along the Gulf Coast and in Mexico.
Posted signs alerted us to the presence of endangered whooping cranes, but we failed to find them. The birds we did see outmaneuvered us whenever we attempted to photograph them.
|See the wakes left by the ducks who escaped my camera's shutter?|
The marshes of the refuge have receded due to the extreme drought of the past three years. Hopefully, the promised rain and snow of this winter's El Nino will change that. It would be a shame if this waterhole drains away.
Yesterday evening when we returned to the farm, I took our dog Chet for a walk. As we turned and headed home, five squadrons of geese flew over our heads in V-formation. It was an amazing sight and sound! You could hear them honking madly, making me think that several individuals in the flock were already asking "Are we there yet?" "I'm hungry!" and "When will we reach the next rest stop?"
For a more in-depth study of Quivira National Wildlife Refuge and for some terrific photos, visit my friend's blog, Kim's County Line.