In the urban dictionary, “peeps” are people — usually friends. But for birdwatchers, the peeps are five species of North American sandpipers.
Peeps and peeps could be found this weekend at the 2015 Wings ‘N’ Wetlands Festival. Birdwatchers from as far away as New Hampshire roosted at the Best Western Angus Inn Courtyard, migrating daily to the Kansas Wetlands Education Center, Cheyenne Bottoms and Quivira National Wildlife Refuge.
Some of the feathered peeps traveled much further, according to Professor Eugene Young at Northern Oklahoma College. He talked about shorebird identification Friday as the festival got underway.
“A lot of the shorebirds that you see here migrate to Russia, Canada and Alaska,” he said.
Birds change their appearance as they mature and go through the process of molting. Local and regional field guides can describe what the birds of a specific region are going to look like at different times of the year, Young said.
The peeps are all relatively small brown birds, but there are five species: The least sandpiper, Baird’s sandpaper, white-rumped sandpiper, western sandpiper and semipalmated (that is, half-webbed) sandpiper. The first thing to look at, if possible, is a sandpiper’s legs. If they are light yellow or orange, that’s a least sandpiper. If they are dark colored, it’s one of the four other peeps.
Out in the field, festival attendees would see much more than peeps. Ruth Palmer, from The Nature Conservancy in Topeka, saw a roadrunner and a raccoon on Friday.
Bill and Mary Kay DeBaets from Prospect Heights, Ill., have attended several of the Wings ‘N’ Wetlands Festivals, which are usually held on odd-numbered years. (The festival was canceled in 2013 because of the drought.)
“One bird I really want to see is a common poorwill,” Bill DeBaets said. The couple planned to take a side trip to Pawnee Rock, where there have been reported sightings of the nocturnal species.
Ten-year-old Jaren Aurand from Courtland (located 4 miles from the Kansas-Nebraska state line in Republic County), said he hoped to see a bittern, a bird in the heron family. Jaren and his mom, Marilyn Aurand, visited Cheyenne Bottoms earlier in the day.
“We saw 40 different species this afternoon,” Marilyn said.
Pam Martin from the Kansas Wetlands Education Center said she was excited to see more youths at this year’s Wings ‘N’ Wetlands Festival. Andrew and Zachary Dixon, ages 13 and 12, were part of a three-generation party that included their father Thomas Dixon and grandfather Dennis Dixon. All are from the Des Moines, Iowa, area.
“We saw a red tailed hawk, bald eagle and kestrels,” Dennis Dixon said of their visit Friday to Quivira National Wildlife Refuge. The bird both boys most wanted to see before the weekend was over: Peregrine Falcon.
Cheyenne Bottoms and Quivira are both listed as Wetlands of International Importance as defined by the Ramsar Convention. Hosts for the two-day Wings ‘N’ Wetlands Festival are the Kansas Wetlands Education Center, along with Kansas Department of Wildlife Parks & Tourism, The Nature Conservancy, Great Bend Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the Kansas Birding Festival Inc