Birders Wanted for Birding Festival
Strap on your binoculars! The Wings ‘N’ Wetlands Birding Festival comes to Great Bend, KS, April 24-25. The festival corresponds to the peak of the shorebird migration through central Kansas at the internationally known wetlands, Cheyenne Bottoms and Quivira National Wildlife Refuge. Participants have the chance to see sandpipers, plovers, rails, terns, and even Greater prairie-chickens.
“Many birders are listers,” explains Curtis Wolf, site manager of the Kansas Wetlands Education Center (KWEC). “Birdwatchers keep lists of the birds they see in their yard, in counties and states they visit, and over their lifetime. It becomes a friendly competition between birders to see who can document the most birds.”
In fact, Kansas Wildlife, Parks, & Tourism sponsors an annual Kansas Big Year competition, where birders can submit their annual Kansas list of birds for prizes.
One of the main draws of the Wings ‘N’ Wetlands Festival is the time spent birding in the field. Expert birders from across the state volunteer to guide festival-goers on at least three 4 to 5 hour birding fieldtrips over the two-day festival. With the number of birds migrating through the state during this time of year, participants can often record more than 125 species of birds during the festival.
Also, participants can sign up for a tour to visit a nearby Greater prairie-chicken lek to observe the unique behaviors of the birds on their breeding grounds.
Many of the guides are active Kansas Ornithological Society members (the formal birding organization in Kansas), and are excellent ambassadors of the study of birds. They are quick to help novice birders improve their identification skills and help advanced birders try to find rare species.
“We recruit about 20 guides, so we can keep groups small, and provide excellent one-on-one birding experiences,” explains Wolf.
This year’s festival is an event of the Kansas Birding Festival, Inc., with coordination from the KWEC, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, & Tourism, The Nature Conservancy, and the Great Bend Convention and Visitors Bureau. Registration, a schedule, and more information about the festival can be found at kansasbirdingfestival.org, the Wings ‘N’ Wetlands Facebook page, or by contacting the KWEC at 1-877-243-9268.