During the semester break, I visited family in Oklahoma. It is a long drive from NW Indiana to Oklahoma (about 900 miles) so I try to make the journey an adventure rather than stick to interstates which I find both boring and stressful.
The trip down didn’t contain fun thanks to feeling decidedly not well, the remains of an ice storm, and single digit or worse temperatures. The trip back was a different story and the drive to Quivira was sunny and bright with brilliant blue skies. I started the drive North about 9 a.m. and I headed due north with the plan to make a short side trip to Quivira National Wildlife Refuge. Along with Cheyenne Bottoms, the Refuge was named as one of the 8 Wonders of Kansas. Much of my trip to Oklahoma was overcast but The trip took me through open farmland and charming small towns. I found Pratt, Kansas to be especially nice.
The rural areas of south central provided a calming sense of being a very, very tiny speck in an enormous universe. It was a nice reminder to keep things in perspective — that the really big things in my own life are actually quite insignificant in the grand scheme of things. I caught glimpses of lots of hawks along the roadside and this one even tolerated a photo though it turned its back to me. This photo was taken a lovely and unexpected but greatly appreciated rest stop in Stafford County approximately 30 miles from the Refuge.
Quivira was founded in 1955 to provide resting places for birds migrating via th Central Flyway of North America as well as overwintering habitats. It also provides nesting area for prairie species. According the U.S. Fish and Wildlife page “The name “Quivira” comes from a Native American tribe that lived in the area when the explorer, Coronado, visited in 1541. It is believed to mean “raccoon eyes” in reference to tattoos that resembled a raccoon’s mask around the eyes of the area’s Native Americans.” The photos from the day don’t do justice the the beauty. In the photos the grasses appear gray but in the sunlight and breeze they were a dancing golden light show.
The refuge includes approximately 7,000 acres of wetlands (much of which are slightly salty). Unfortunately a good portion of the wetlands were iced over when I passed through the Refuge on December 31. I expect it is a much more interesting place in other seasons. Much of the open water was quite distant from the roads and viewing areas. I kept hoping unsuccessfully that the road would take me closer so that I could get a better look at this. The line of white in the water is neither snow nor ice. It is some combination of thousands of Ross and/or Snow Geese.
Though it was too late in the season to see the huge diversity of water birds that pass through Quivira, I did spot a number of Great Blue Herons. The continue to be my nemesis when it comes to photographing them. I also spotted a juvenile bald eagle standing on the ice, a fair number of mallards, a group of deer feeding in the tall grass, lots more hawks, and a few meadowlarks including this one hiding in the grass. In addition to birds there are a number of other animals that live in the park; this includes beaver (I saw evidence of those), raccoon, coyote, and even a colony of prairie dogs. Other than deer I didn’t see any of those except the deer but I did see a variety of droppings during the two short walks I took in the refuge.
The Refuge is a lovely place complete with handicap accessible viewing towers and two easy to reach photography blinds. I look forward to visiting again. I think there should be lots more to see when I pass that way in mid November. I liked it so much that I am seriously considering joining the Friends of Quivira as well as making this a regular part of my trips to Oklahoma.