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Oregon to Oklahoma

June 2003

Part 5:  Cheyenne Bottoms

   

The next morning I headed into Kansas and arrived at Cheyenne Bottoms around 9:30, coming in from the north at Redwing.  Doing the stop-a-mile bit, the first thing I was inundated with was a Dickcissel every five feet!  Redwings were all over, of course, but in the scattered trees was treated to several eastern-type things, such as Baltimore Oriole and Brown Thrasher, while Chimney Swifts chittered overhead and a Bobwhite called in the distance.  Enjoyed both Eastern and Western Kingbirds and Meadowlarks, and a couple of Grasshopper Sparrows competed with the Dickies at one point.  In the wetter stuff had the expected Yellowthroats and Marsh Wrens, and while I stopped to chase down one of the orioles a big line of White Pelicans circled overhead! 

                       

L-R:  Dickcissel, Eastern Meadowlark, and Eastern Kingbirds

I came to a T in the road and just bore right, seeing as I didn't have a map and didn't want to get turned around on these dikes.  There was a large body of open area on the left where Franklin's Gulls flew past, and Black Terns batted around lower down.  A big flock of Cattle Egrets breezed by at one point, and beautiful Avocets showed up here and there.  But what really surprised me were oodles and oodles (in groups of about six to twelve, anyway) of White-rumped Sandpipers still hanging around!  If anyone has to see one or they're gonna die I'd send them here for sure, as they were all in nice, streaky breeding plumage!  Every once in awhile they'd spook and all fly in formation, showing their nice round white rumps!  Further down the road I had another surprise in with more Whiterumps: a breeding-plumaged Stilt Sandpiper!  What a striking bird!  Also striking was a female Wilson's Phalarope, but at least according to Sibley she was supposed to be here!

           

View of the wetlands with Stilt Sandpiper and White-rumped Sandpiper (both taken through the scope)

Eventually I made my way to headquarters, adding strangle-sounding Yellow-headed Blackbirds, crowing Pheasants, and a Wood Duck hanging with the Painted Turtles.  The guy there was very helpful and gave me maps and checklists to not only Cheyenne but Quivira NWR and the Nature Conservancy's portion of Cheyenne right next door!  After perusing the checklist, though, I started having my doubts: they had many species listed as "expected" (either abundant, common, or uncommon) that, according to Sibley, shouldn't even be there, like Western Sandpiper and Mottled Duck (the latter was even breeding, so they claimed)!  So while it gave me a reasonable idea of what to expect, I took a lot of it with a grain of salt.

The guy showed me where the start of the auto drive was (I came in at the middle) so I cruised back the way I came, stopping again when I spotted a large raft of ducks in the Big Pond: tallied Mallard, Blue-winged Teal, Shoveler, Gadwall, Pintail, and lots of Redhead in there.  But closer to the road in a little muddy area were three adorable little Snowy Plovers (with more Whiterumps, of course)!  Oh, and how could I forget about the most unusual sighting of all: three low overhead passes by a Stealth Bomber!  What a bizarre-looking aircraft!

More wetland habitat

                    

Left:  Wood Duck and Painted Turtles;  Right:  The most bizarre bird of the day (Stealth Bomber)   

Picking up the auto tour where I had come in, it was getting rather warm and things were quieting down.  Somewhere in here a Great-tailed Grackle flew across the road, and around the back side had a couple of baby Black-necked Stilts with Mom getting very upset, naturally!  Had several stilts along the course of the drive, not quite as "rare" as the checklist leads you to believe, apparently!  I passed another big lake, this one bigger than the last, with a close group of Double-crested Cormorants and another truly unusual sighting: a Western Grebe!  At the observation tower, with no trees within a million miles, was a Blue Jay checking out the joint!  At the entrance kiosk I spotted a snake making haste down the canal (yes, in the water), and according to the little brochure it was probably either a Diamond-backed Water or Northern Water Snake; it did have several black bands, but not having a reptile book handy, I have no idea which it was.

 

  Dike along one of the refuge’s huge lakes

        

Double-crested Cormorants and Western Grebe, the latter rather unusual around here

             

American Avocets like to nest in this stuff, and Water Snakes like to swim in it!

The dirt road crosses state route 156 at that point, but there was a luscious riparian woodland across the way, so I continued on and listened for a couple of minutes, adding House Wren, Catbird, Yellow Warbler, and Bell's and Warbling Vireo to the list here.  A knockout Orchard Oriole sat up as well.  The road eventually opens up into farmland which was pretty sterile (except for the omnipresent Dickies), but a big flash of white wing patches revealed a Red-headed Woodpecker at a farmhouse!  Horned Larks were singing in the barren fields, so it wasn't a total loss.

Headed into Grand Bend after that with a grand total of 60 species for the day (and that many for the Kansas list)!    

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