The Cheyenne Bottoms Saw More Bird Species This Year

By Trish Svoboda

During winter, the National Audubon Society organizes hundreds of Christmas Bird Counts nationwide, including around 40 in Kansas. The Cheyenne Bottoms count, spanning a 15-mile radius touching most Barton County communities, took place on Dec. 18. Curtis Wolf, the Director of the Kansas Wetlands Education Center, or KWEC noted an increase from 61 to 77 species in this year’s count compared to last year.

This year 19 volunteers helped with the count, an increase from the previous year’s 16. More birds stayed in the area due to the mild winter, resulting in the counting of 15 waterfowl species and a total of 147,345 birds. A record snow geese count of 126,049, marks the highest in Cheyenne Bottoms count history. On the flip side, a count of 339 red-winged blackbirds, marking the second-lowest in the past 15 years, contributed to keeping the overall number lower.

The count revealed twenty-five bald eagles, along with five least sandpipers the third time it has made the count. A lesser black-backed gull appeared for the second time, and 30 rusty blackbirds marked their fifth year in the count. The count of 160 mourning doves set a new record. Additionally, fifty-five sandhill cranes flew over KWEC just after noon, and 626 meadowlarks were tallied, including several at KWEC. Notably absent from this year’s count were prairie falcons, loggerhead shrikes, and brown-headed cowbirds, among others.

Twenty-five bald eagles were counted, along with five least sandpipers, which made the count for just the third time. A lesser black-backed gull made an appearance for the second time, and 30 rusty blackbirds marked a fifth year in the count. The 160 mourning doves counted was the highest ever in the count. Fifty-five sandhill cranes flew over the KWEC just after noon, and 626 meadowlarks were counted throughout the day, including several at the KWEC.

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