Fifty-six “birds” traveled the Wetlands and Wildlife Scenic Byway this past weekend, for the Great Migration Rally. The event assigned bird species to human participants, who migrated from the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge to the Kansas Wetlands Education Center near Cheyenne Bottoms.
There were plenty of stops along the way, at walking trails and scenic overlooks, the historic Peace Church and Cemeteries, and Dozier Winery.
Participants received cards at each stop to describe their fate as migrating birds. Those who drew favorable cards earned points for the prizes that were awarded at the end of the journey. A card that read, “Water management has led to more available habitat, providing additional food and shelter,” was worth three points. On the other hand, “A freeze causes food to become scarce, forcing you to take more time finding food before continuing,” resulted in negative points. Birds also had to avoid bad storms and hungry cats.
The stops included games and learning opportunities, such as bird species identification. At the Wetlands Education Center, Ken Lockwood from the Eagle Valley Raptor Center near Cheney (www.eaglevalleyraptorcenter.org) displayed several live birds of prey, including a barn owl. Their favorite habitat is barns, but with the number of family farms declining, their habitat is shrinking.
Lockwood said his raptor rehabilitation center took in 18 baby Great Horned Owls after the Wichita tornado.
Curtis Wolf, site manager of the center, which is operated by Fort Hays State University, said the Great Migration Rally is held every other year. “We had people migrate in here from Colorado and Oklahoma,” as well as several Kansas cities, he said.
KWEC Education Pam Martin said the event was sponsored by Quivira National Wildlife Refuge and the center, with the Friends of Quivira providing lunch. Friends of Cheyenne Bottoms also helped, and prizes were donated by First Kansas Bank, Sunflower Bank, Cabela’s, Gander Mountain, Great Bend Walmart, and Jansport. Retired refuge manager Dave Hilley donated three ceramics pieces, Carol McNickle, Friend of Quivira board member, donated a wood carving, and Eloise Winkelman, Ellinwood, donated a butterfly wall hanging.
During the day volunteers were banding birds at the center. They tagged two Baltimore orioles, an Orchard oriole, brown thrasher and four house wrens.