There were still snow geese at Cheyenne Bottoms this past week, but Curtis Wolf, site manager of Fort Hays State University’s Kansas Wetlands Education Center, said they will be heading out any day.
Wolf spoke at Wednesday’s Great Bend Kiwanis Club meeting.
Kiwanian Dan Soeken, a member of the Central Kansas Photography Club, said snow geese have been seen in record numbers.
“It’s really neat to watch,” Soeken said. For the first week of March, the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks & Tourism (KDWPT) estimated there were 250,000 ducks at Cheyenne Bottom, and probably an equal number of geese, he said.
While large numbers of geese may damage the emerging wheat crop, they don’t create blue-green algae problems at the wetlands, as they do with small bodies of water such as the Veterans Memorial Lake in Great Bend.
“Wetlands are very good at filtering those things out and processing the nutrients,” Wolf said.
With spring just around the corner, KWEC and other sponsors are gearing up for the Wings N Wetlands Birding Festival, held every other year at Cheyenne Bottoms and the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge. This year’s festival is set for April 24-25.
This is also the time of year for the spring migration of shore birds at Cheyenne Bottoms. According to the KWEC webiste, Cheyenne Bottoms hosts approximately 45 percent of all nesting shorebirds in North America as they make their way northward, up to 600,000 birds from at least 39 species.
“If you’ve never been to a wetland, you might never be aware shore birds exist in Kansas,” Wolf said. Water birds that make their homes on beaches use the central Kansas wetlands as a stopover. Sandpipers, plovers, herons and gulls are among the shore birds typically seen at the wetlands.
Sandpipers, for example, spend the winter as far south as Argentina and fly to Alaska’s arctic circle to breed. They may fly hundreds of miles a day – sometimes even 1,000 miles, Wolf said.
In addition to the feathered visitors that fly to Cheyenne Bottoms every year, there are thousands of human visitors – including hunters, photographers and bird watchers. They are able to learn more about the area by visiting the Kansas Wetlands Education Center, which opened in 2009. In 2014, KWED made more than 23,000 contacts, including 8,000 drop-in visitors, as well as programs and events.
Other upcoming events include a free craft class on recycling old T-Shirts into rag rugs on March 29, the Perseid meteor shower viewing in April, and a photography workshop on May 30. For more information visit kansaswetlandscenter.fhsu.edu on the Internet.
In addition to KWEC, the Wings N Wetlands Festival is hosted by the KDWPT, Great Bend Convention & Visitors Bureau, the Kansas Birding Festival, Cheyenne Bottoms and Quivira National Wildlife Refuge.