Eastern Birding Begins... in Central Kansas?
Updated: Jul 22, 2019
I hear a snippet of bird song as I awaken in pre-dawn Salina, KS, approximately 400 miles east of Colorado Springs, where this journey began yesterday morning. My just-waking-up brain, struggles to identify this bird that I know I should know. However, the context of central Kansas, means it takes a few minutes and a step outside to figure this out. Finally, aha…Carolina Wren. As the day breaks, I can barely spot the singer atop a tree across the street from our AirBnB in this suburban neighborhood. I’m more familiar with this bird singing in the cypress swamps of south Florida, yet there it is.
Sure enough the range map shows me that I’m just inside the western edge of its year round range. Last night’s humidity and lightning bug show should have given me a clue that I wasn’t in Colorado anymore. It turns out there are many birds that I think of as eastern species, that have ranges that extend as far west as Kansas. As this is just one state to the east of my adopted home of Colorado, it’s a game changer!
Birding isn’t the focus of this trip, but my wife and I still manage to see a Baltimore Oriole and many singing birds, presumably on their nesting territories; Northern Cardinal, Red-eyed Vireo, Field Sparrow, Eastern Meadowlark and Summer Tanager.
The highlight for me was watching a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher sallying forth from a fence line to catch insects in the air. Even perched the bird is impressive, but when flying you see it gracefully deploy those amazing black and white tail feathers. Its breeding range is actually the south central part of the country but it’s another example of a birding jewel to be found in Kansas!
I found the Scissor-tailed flycatcher at Cheyenne Bottoms, a place I have long wanted to visit. Spring migration, especially for shorebirds, is supposed to be epic here. I hungrily perused the signage at the Kansas Wetlands Education Center (http://wetlandscenter.fhsu.edu/). Next Spring I plan on a return trip to Kansas!