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Dr. Dan Witt
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I was privileged this past week to be a “involved observer” for the Christmas Bird Count at Quivira Refuge. My mentor for this event was Bob Gress, who recently retired from the Great Plains Nature Center in Wichita. His attributes include being a learned and very respected birder, and his photographic skills are well known to everyone who has seen the “Birds of Kansas” which he co-authored with David Seibel and Judd Patterson. They also have a web site-- “Birds in Focus” that is stunning.  There is a new edition available, and it  is an amazing book. I can’t carry water for these guys when it comes to bird photography.  They occupy “hero” status for me.
I have primarily been a hunter during my life and have not really been  connected with the bird watching community. That was a serious defect on my part. Since getting involved with photography at the Cheyenne Bottoms and Quivira Refuge, I have been privileged to meet these terrific people on their terms, and they have been kind enough to initiate my education into the world of birding. My friends Mike Cooper and Dodge Engleman have lived birding lives in addition to being great physicians. We have been friends for many years. Rob Penner who is the Avian Expert for the Nature Conserancy also tolerates my inexperience with good cheer. Curtis Wolf and Pam Martin at KWEC have also been helpful, as has Brian Hanzlick and Karl Grover and the staff at the Bottoms. I find smart birders in the photo club and other places around town also.  Mike Radar from Wildlife/Parks is their birding expert.  
If you get a chance to talk birds with any of these people, you will be in for a treat. I stay amazed most of the time.
The Christmas Bird Count is a very serious and traditional part of being a bird watcher.The process was initiated 113 years ago by a group of people whose mantra was the non-consumptive enjoyment of birds and nature. It was a formidable endeavor in that time when hunting was involved in feeding families and in the comraderie of  every day life for the majority of Americans. It has certainly changed status over the years and  is one of the first and largest “citizen science” programs with huge amounts of relevant data being retrieved.  Volunteer observers note the distribution and relative abundance of birds.  Long-term data reveals more things than this short column can divulge.More info is available at :
The Christmas Bird Counts are a huge part of the holiday season for these dedicated people.  David Seibel has been doing these counts for 44 years, and he is barely that old.... Old friends re-unite for counting and good cheer-- and our lives and birds in Kansas are much better off!  If you want to learn some new things and have a great day doing it-- join the counting groups next year.  It is a special event.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all my friends and folks that read this little column. Thanks for making my life so good and sharing this fun with me.
One special treat last week was seeing this snow bunting which is very seldom ever seen in Kansas.  It is a Arctic bird, and somehow got off his path. I was thrilled that Gress said this shot was “OK”....
Doc Witt is a retired physician.

hoi kl marsh musings