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Bird-watchers flock to see endangered cranes

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Friday, Nov. 6, 2009, at 10:52 a.m.
  • Updated Friday, Nov. 6, 2009, at 11:45 a.m.

Carloads of people arrived at Cheyenne Bottoms around sunrise today to watch whooping cranes pause on their fall migration.

The endangered 5-foot-tall white birds are migrating 2,500 miles from their summer nesting grounds in northern Canada to Texas' Aransas National Wildlife Refuge on the Gulf of Mexico.

The weather will determine how long the birds stay at Cheyenne Bottoms and Quivira National Wildlife Refuge. Brisk, warm winds from the south may cause them to linger.

Cheyenne Bottoms near Great Bend and Hoisington reported 18 whoopers Thursday; Quivira, near St. John and Stafford, reported 14.

To protect the birds, the Quivira Refuge has been closed to hunting until further notice. At Cheyenne Bottoms, hunting is prohibited on pools the birds are using.

Sunrise and sunset are the best times to see and hear the whooping cranes. Their movements and locations can change quickly.

People who see the birds are asked to remain at a distance and keep noise and movements to a minimum.

Both Cheyenne Bottoms and Quivera are free and open to the public.

Here's how to get there:

* Cheyenne Bottoms: Take U.S. 281 north from Great Bend for approximately 5 miles, then go east 2 miles on N.E. 60th, a county blacktop, to the headquarters.

* Quivira National Wildlife Refuge: Take K-96 to Hutchinson, then go west on U.S. 50 approximately 14 miles to K-14. Go 5 miles north to Fourth Avenue, turn left and go 17 miles west to refuge headquarters.

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