2022-08-10 A Taste of Kansas

Mississippi Kite - Ictinia mississippiensis
The day after my first meeting with the Mississippi Kite on McPherson, I met another only a mile from where I stayed with friends in Herington Kansas.
House Wren - Troglodytes aedon
My friends in Herington Kansas bought an old farm, where I enjoyed a few hours chasing birds. House Wrens were among the feathered friends I met there.

My tour of Kansas came to an end, but I spent only a little time with my camera on the birds. The primary obstacles to my birding endeavors were the hot weather and the lull that birders sometimes call the “Summer Doldrums”. By now, most of the nesting activity had passed, and the younger birds were beginning to forage on their own. Their activities during this time of the year keeps them out of easy viewing, with not much singing going on to help locate them.

During spring migration, Kansas is supposed to be epic. But if you ask folks scattered throughout North America, most will make the same claim. If only I could clone myself and magically appear in many places at once, I’d be able to see it all. But being a slave to the physical realm, I can only pick on one region at a time. This year it was western Canada that I explored. I spent the past two springs in south Texas. Next year I’m hoping to explore eastern Canada, but perhaps I can take a route through the Heartland, and spend some quality time in Kansas while en route.

My first field trip to hunt birds in Kansas required an hour’s drive from Herington to some wetlands near McPherson. Because my visit coincided with the so-called “Summer Doldrums”, I didn’t find much going on with the birds. But there was one highlight I enjoyed when a Mississippi Kite posed on a power line. I normally find little enthusiasm for birds on power lines or power poles, but if my subject is one I’ve not met before, I will take what I can get. The harsh midday sun did not help with my photographic efforts, and a later review of the images made me wish I’d done better.

My good friends in Herington bought a farm a few miles out of town. The house and out-buildings were weathered and suffered from tornado attacks, but the wild habitat they showed me seemed promising for bird meetings. I left the McPherson Wetlands and drove to the farm and spent the rest of the day there.

It was scorching hot when I arrived, so I parked and hid from the heat until the sun drifted closer to the horizon. I gathered up my gear and stepped out into the still sweltering afternoon air. I could hear a Yellow-Billed Cuckoo singing to the south of me, and Northern Bobwhites calling from the north. Neither of these birds presented themselves to my camera, but that should be no surprise to anyone who has met these shy species. However, Black-Capped Chickadees, Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers, House Wrens, Downy Woodpeckers, and Northern Cardinals showed up, and I captured the images they offered me. Such as it was, I considered this meeting a mere taste of Kansas, and it whetted my appetite for a return one day.

Back in the town of Herington the next morning, it was my good fortune to meet another Mississippi Kite. And though it was again perched on a power line, the warm morning sun favored better images, and I was much happier with the results.

With fall migration fast approaching, I knew it was time to continue my journey south to Texas. With my leisurely driving style, it would surely take three or four days to reach the Gulf Coast. I targeted Aransas NWR as my first destination before continuing south to the Lower Rio Grande Valley.

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