I have a long standing fascination of the American Avocet. Much of it stems from the twenty or so years it took me to see an avocet in person. Still today, the upturned bill and seasonal color variations stir interest in the bird.
The deceptive personality of the American Avocet is also intriguing. Tall and slender, the avocet seems like a mild mannered ave. Yet it will strike at predators, challenging hawks and corvids alike.
The American Avocet also at times employs an interesting defensive technique. It will gradually change pitch in a series of calls to hamper the ability of predators to zone in on it’s location.
In the early 1800s, Easterners in America were told stories about the “Great American Desert” west of the Mississippi River. What are today Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska were described as forsaken, desolate areas unfit for cultivation or civilization.
My earlier posts about Quivira (landscapes and birds) gives the opposite impression of this unique area of central Kansas. It turns out the Little Salt Marsh was “under repair.” This meant draining much of the marsh, hence the drought-like landscapes. As seen below, there were interesting “drought resistant” plants.
I would like to return to Quivira when the Little Salt Marsh is again filled with (salt) water.
I introduced Quiriva National Wildlife Refuge in my previous post. By November the primary migration along the Central Flyway is declining. Yet we still saw thousands upon thousands of ducks, geese and Sandhill Cranes during a day visit.
I didn’t bring a telephoto lens on the trip, so I rented an older Nikon 50-400. Between a misfitted lens and generally overcast skies, the quality of photos is lacking. So be it. This was my first visit to Quivira.
A couple of days before our visit, migrating Whooping Cranes returned to Quivira. While we did not see the cranes, we found plenty of fellow birders looking for this endangered species.
There were plenty of waterfowl and shore birds, even if most were out of camera range.
Even though I live east of the Mississippi River, I consider Kansas my home state. So I have an emotional connection to the birds of the prairie. The Western Meadowlark is the Kansas state bird. The call of the Northern Bobwhite is iconic. I can only imagine the photo opportunities in the spring at Quivira for birds of the prairie.
Birds identified at Quivira National Wildlife Refuge November 5, 2016.
American Avocet, American Coot, American Robin, Bald Eagle, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Canada Goose, Dark-eyed Junco, European Starling, Field Sparrow, Great Blue Heron, Killdeer, Least Sandpiper, Lincoln’s Sparrow, Mallard, Marsh Wren, Northern Bobwhite, Northern Flicker, Northern Shoveler, Red-tailed Hawk, Red-winged Blackbird, Redhead, Ring-billed Gull, Ring-necked Pheasant, Ruddy Duck, Sandhill Crane, Savannah Sparrow, Snow Goose, Western Meadowlark, Yellow-rumped Warbler
In the heart of Kansas, more than 600 miles from Gulf of Mexico, there are sand dunes and salt marshes.
Sand dunes and salt marshes.
These unique geologic formations are at the convergence of the eastern tallgrass and western short-grass prairies. Today there are few human inhabitants in the area, just a handful of scattered farms. Since the salt marshes are along the Central Flyway, what you do find are birds. Depending on the time of year, tens of thousands of birds.
In 1955 more than 22,000 acres became Quivira National Wildlife Refuge. The region was already known as “Quivira”at the arrival of Spanish explorer Francisco Vasquez de Coronado in 1541, although the word’s meaning is lost to time.
The salt marshes are formed as water percolates up through subterranean salt deposits. Quivira has two primary marshes with other smaller ponds.
Wind blown grasses and reeds created interesting patterns. To no avail, I spent a good hour searching online for sources to identify endemic Kansas salt marsh plants.
The fauna between the ponds and marshes had its own pleasant yet muted colors and tones.
I’ll post the initial photographs of birds at Quivira later this week.