Irwin National Wildlife Refuge in Phillips County

(Deb) You know Kansas is right smack dab in the middle of a lot of flight patterns and not just airplanes, but birds. And this was one of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen – my daughter Noel and I were headed back from Lincoln Days in Lincoln, Kansas, and we must have been on Highway 18. So we stopped along the highway because as we were driving for 5 miles, 10 miles, we could see a flock of birds from the highway. When we got up there, they were still crossing the highway, and we pulled off into a driveway there and we watched them until we got tired of watching them. So, 15 to 20 minutes. There was no end in sight, on either horizon! I don’t know what they were, they were some little small dark bird, I’m not smart enough, I don’t know if they were starlings, or I don’t know what they were. I’ve never seen anything like that, Frank. And they were maybe 40 feet above us, 40, 50 feet above us and maybe their column was 30, 40 feet wide. And so millions of birds, millions of birds! And because Kansas is smack dab in the middle of this migratory path, we’ve got a lot of places – Cheyenne Bottoms – that are designed to help take care of that migratory bird population. But Kirwin National Wildlife Refuge in Phillips County is just spectacular. And if you’ve never been to Phillips County to see this, and Phillips County is beautiful anyway, its just this rolling countryside – its just gorgeous. But the refuge is amazing. If you’re a photographer, I’m telling you this is the place to be because everywhere you look is a photo op. Its magnificent. (Frank) …and there’s never anything going on in Kansas, right? (Deb) Nope, nope. Nothing happens here, drive on by.
Kirwin National Wildlife Refuge was established to conserve, maintain, and manage wildlife and habitat for migratory birds. The nearly 11 thousand-acre Kirwin Refuge is located in the rolling hills and narrow valley of the North Fork of the Solomon River in Phillips County. The Refuge lies in an area where the tall grass prairies of the east meet the short grass plains of the west. As a result of this merging of prairies and plains, grasses and wildlife common to both habitats are found on the Refuge. Over 10,000 migrating waterfowl can be seen on the Refuge during fall through early winter. Other migratory birds, including the endangered whooping crane, can be found on the Refuge. Since the emphasis is on migratory birds, the Refuge provides food, shelter, and nesting areas for migratory birds such as grassland dependents, tree-dwelling neotropical, waterfowl and shorebirds. Depending on reservoir water levels, Refuge staff use a variety of management practices. Corn, wheat, and milo are grown through a cooperative farming program with a portion of the crop left in the field to provide food for migrating waterfowl and resident wildlife. Other management tools include grazing, brush control, haying, mowing, and controlled burning. To minimize disturbance to wildlife and to comply with Federal laws, policies and regulations, these activities are prohibited on the Refuge: camping, fires, water skiing, personal watercraft like jet skis, speed boating, swimming, collecting plants, animals, including antlers, or historical artifacts, fireworks, dogs and other pets must be on a leash, littering, disorderly conduct, intoxication and commercial use, including guiding. The list of don’ts is long because the number of birds depending on this site is so long. Respect the property and its purpose, take the kids and do some amazing bird gazing!

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