After leaving Konza, I headed in the direction of Great Bend and Quivera National Wildlife Refuge. I’d heard about a few Whooping Cranes being seen there that week and that it was one of the most likely spots to hear and possibly see a Black Rail.
Try as I might though I couldn’t find either but it has a wonderful driving tour, along quite a bit of water. Lakes, ponds, wet ditches, sedge and more make up this refuge. There were thousands of ducks, shovelers, teals, ruddy, mallards, gadwalls, scaups and wigeons. Along one flat I had many shorebirds, Wilsons Phalaropes, Avocets, Stilts, both Yellowlegs, Snowy Plovers, Bairds, White-rumped, Western, Least, Semi-palmed and a lone Piping Plover. I spent 3 hours driving through the Refuge, stopping often for photos. I tried unsuccessfully for Black Rail, it was a worthwhile longshot but I was a few weeks early. I left the refuge but I am sure I’ll return.
I now headed west into Colorado, to the town of Karval, which is the site of the yearly Mountain Plover Festival. The festival was started to help the local economy. Due to the drought conditions of the few past years, local’s have been forced to sell their livestock or go broke trying to feed them. They provide a wonderful weekend of wildlife viewing tours, entertainment, great food and of course Mountain Plovers. The tours are on private land which would normally be inaccessible. Contact Cherry and Carl Stogsdill at (719) 446-5354 or website www.karval.org
By now afer a few days I had to admit the weather was really taking its toll on me, overcast, windy and cold but the prospect of a snow storm April 16th made me change my plans, I called Carl and postponed my trip to his home and Karval.
Fast forward to the 19th, quite a bit of bad weather and many miles. I returned to Karval and met up with Carl at his ranch. We drove out into a field that was probably 1,000 acres of windblown dirt, not a bit of grass and started glassing for birds but no luck. Driving a mile or so from this field we entered another similar field. We quickly started seeing action, a burrowing owl, a few larks, and killdeer got our attention but still no Plovers.
Imagine trying to find a brown bird in a brown dirt field the size of Almonte but after much searching, we had a Mountain Plover in our sights. Carl really knows his birds, all we did was park the truck and the birds came to us, they are very inquisitive. Soon we had 3 birds within 100 yards of the truck.
I got some great views of these birds but for the life of me can’t figure out why they are called Mountain Plovers because they certainly don’t live or breed anywhere near mountains.
My thanks to Carl and Cherry Stogdill for their hospitality, I wished I’d had more time to stick around. I’d lost 2 days of my trip by this time due to weather and really had to get a move on.
Ciao for now