I was able to visit Kansas City, Kansas halfway through the first week of 2018. The trip was scheduled with the intention to primarily visit family and friends. However, I was able to get a little bit of birding in between visits.
My favorite locale to bird around Wyandotte County, Kansas, is Wyandotte County Lake. This is a fairly large body of water with a wooded park habitat all around it. I usually get a good mix of songbirds and waterfowl at the lake. Unfortunately, the temps during our visit stayed mostly below freezing. The temps had been like that for a while and most of the ponds and lakes were frozen over. I visited Wyandotte Lake on January 5th and found that most of the lake was in a similar condition. I found only a handful of songbirds working the entirely frozen southern part of the lake. Dark-eyed Juncos were flushed from the roadsides into trees and shrubs. Yellow-rumped Warblers called as the flew over the road, giving their distinctive “chup.” A cedar filled with American Robins, European Starlings, and Cedar Waxwings exploded when I drove by. Black-capped Chickadees and Tufted Titmice called from a nearby tree. They would often drop to ground, picking at already shelled hickory nuts while Eastern Bluebirds watched from an arboreal perch. The woods were full of woodpeckers. Several different drums and calls were heard: “chyuck” from the Red-bellieds, “pique” said the Downies, “pyuck” responded the Hairies, “wee-err” whined the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, and “keeyirr” screamed the Flickers.
I made it to the northern half of the lake to find that the lake had not completely frozen over. There was an extreme concentration of waterfowl where the water wasn’t frozen. There were tens of thousands of geese with ducks and swans mingling here and there. I estimated about 10,000 Snow Geese, 1,000 Canada Geese, 20 Cackling Geese, and 8 Ross’s Geese. This sight was quite stunning and attracted both birders and non-birders alike. Among the geese were about Mallards, Gadwall, Common Goldeneyes, and Ring-necked Ducks.
Also, several Trumpeter Swans swam in and out of the large rafts of geese. At the edge of the waterfowl conglomeration were Bald Eagles sitting on the ice with ducks they had nabbed. This congregation of geese and eagles had attracted birders and non-birders alike. I met several different Kansans viewing the hordes.
The day after my lake trip, I went on a special tour of a nearby park, looking for a specific sparrow. The American Tree Sparrow is a northern U.S./Canadian sparrow. It can occasionally be seen in central AR but mostly winters in the northern part of the state. I had never seen it before this trip. Kansas is in the heart of their wintering range, so I felt my odds were good of seeing one. I picked a nearby park, for they appeared to like open habitats with nearby woods, similar to their cousins, the Chipping Sparrows. It only took me a few seconds to flush up a mixed group of AT Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos into an oak tree. I got poor photos of a bird in the top of the oak. Later, walking along a wooded fence line that provided a barrier between the park and a grassy lot, I flushed up another AT Sparrow and got slightly better pics. This was a wonderful find, as I was able to get great views of this truly handsome sparrow.
This trips main purpose was to visit family, but I was able to see a decent variety of birds as well. A win-win.