Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Morton County, Kansas

Last Monday evening I packed up a rental car, kissed Maggie and hit the road. I wanted to get to the southwest corner of Kansas before a cold front was supposed to hit on Tuesday night. So with a 4-pack of Red Bull and Fellowship of the Ring on CD I was going to drive the 1000 miles and 16 hours straight through the night. The excitement of the road kept me going past midnight, but soon after, I had to start hitting the Red Bull. Red Bull had gotten me through an all-nighter from Portal, AZ to Garden City, KS in the pursuit of some Roseate Spoonbills, so I had confidence in its power.

I was also boosted by the lunar eclipse which started a little before four in the morning. I was in the Flint Hills when it was at its fullest coverage. It truly was an amazing experience (heightened by Rusted Root and Red Bull at this point). I pulled over at the cattle pens off of I-35 and tried taking a picture. Here is my attempt.

As I blearily made my way through western Kansas I came into Greensburg. Greensburg was hit by a tornado and was totally devastated. Maggie and I had driven through in the spring on our way to Santa Fe and we weren't allowed to go through town. We could see it had been flattened, but we could only see the outskirts of the devastation. I believe a lot of the rubble has been cleaned up so now there is little left except stripped trees.

Growing up in Kansas either leaves you terrified of tornadoes or makes you want to hop in the car and chase them down. I'm of the former!

When I pulled into Elkhart around noon I went straight to the Sewage Lagoons which I blogged about here. There were a few birds around. A flock of 15 American Avocets, many Blue-winged Teal and Northern Shovelers, Spotted Sandpipers, Solitary Sandpipers, Least Sandpipers, a flyover Long-billed Curlew, Black-billed Magpies, Black-crowned Night-Herons, and many Turkey Vultures roosting in the trees around the lagoons.

I then headed to my favorite spot in the Cimarron National Grasslands, Point of Rocks. Travelers on the Santa Fe Trail would stop here and survey the road ahead. Standing there, looking over the Cimarron river valley, I always feel steeped in history.

This has always been a great place to find western birds in Kansas. But this day there wasn't much except some Rock Wrens, Swainson's Hawks and Kestrels. But I never have had a bad time there.

Can you see the Rock Wren? He didn't care for me walking in his area! Click on the picture for a little closer look.

Below the point you can see the ruts from the Santa Fe Trail.
And before I completely crashed I checked the sewage lagoons one more time. I call this one Sunset Over Sewage. (Edit: I just took another look at this and it is actually a sunrise over sewage!)

I went a lot more places and saw more birds and country that I'll hopefully write about later.


Larry said...

Beautiful Sunset-better to see it than smell it I guess! I'm fascinated by Tornadoes-I'd like to see one from a safe distance some day.-I had a small northern one pass right by us but it wasn't much to see-hearing the toppling trees was neat though.-Pretty neat birds you are seeing!

cogresha said...

Yeah, I've never seen one because I go straight to the basement!