A photography haven close to home

With about 1 million geese, one of Kansas' top deer populations and myriad other wildlife, the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge offers world-class wildlife photography and viewing opportunities.

Here are some tips for the refuge that's about 90 minutes northwest of Wichita.

Take K-96 to Hutchinson, following it around the town's west side. Take the 4th Avenue exit and go west about 30 miles.

A sign will direct you to the refuge and visitor center. The center is open Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Maps are usually available outside the building at all times. The refuge is open seven days a week, daylight until dark.

Detours within the refuge have been common because of summer storms. Some roads can be slick after significant rainfall.

With the whitetail rut in full swing, deer may be visible any time of day, though early and late are best. Look for them in any prairie area. Deer are well camouflaged, so drive and look closely.

Also look for bald eagles, coyotes, bobcats and assorted hawks. At times swans, whooping cranes and golden eagles may be present.

The best waterfowl viewing is on the Wildlife Loop near the Big Salt Marsh at the northern part of the refuge. Expect to see thousands of snow, Canada and white-fronted geese. Large flocks of sandhill cranes are also present.

Parking on the western part of the wildlife loop in the late afternoon should give an opportunity to watch many of the birds take off toward feeding grounds on private lands.

Clear days should provide chances to shoot silhouette photos against the sunset.

Binoculars are a must since most of the birds will be well away from roads. A spotting scope of 15-power or more can be handy.

Cameras with telephoto lenses of 300 mm or more will help handle most photos.

There are no concessions or fuel sold on the refuge and only pit toilets. For more information, go to www.fws.gov/quivira, or call 620-486-2393.

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