Kansas has some of the best birding in the nation. Here are some of the best locations:
Chaplin Nature Center — West of Arkansas City, this 230-acre gem is owned by the Wichita Audubon Society and shared with the public. The Center includes prairie, riparian areas and sand bars on the Arkansas River. Trails are well-kept and educational materials abound.
Chautauqua Hills — This gorgeous region of hills and thick timber in southeast Kansas holds big-woods birds like pileated woodpeckers, red-shouldered hawks and brilliantly-colored painted buntings. It's a great place for warbler migrations in early May.
In the evenings you can listen to barred owls, chuck-wills-widows and whip-poor-wills. There is lots of public land, including Woodson State Fishing Lake and Cross Timbers State Park.
The 15-mile hiking trail at Elk City Lake lets you bird far from the crowds in stunning topography.
Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area — Miles of maintained roads let you drive only a few yards from great wetlands habitat. Now's prime-time for shore birds.
The Kansas Wetlands Education Center is there.
Cheney Lake — Most of Kansas' major lakes offer good birding opportunities. Cheney's patches of prairies and woodlands abound, as do places where you can watch birds that utilize shallow marshes and the sprawling main lake. Bald eagles are common in fall and winter.
Chisholm Creek Park — About 240 acres of mixed habitat within Wichita offers a variety of birds. Walking paths and bridges make access easy. A chance to tour the Great Plains Nature Center and check out their feeders and bird houses are added attractions.
Cimarron National Grassland — In Kansas' southwestern corner, these 108,000 acres are a great place to find birds of mountains and prairies. You'll probably need a field guide for western birds, too. Stops at Scott and Clark State fishing lakes are great ways to split the long drive and experience some of Kansas' most scenic public lakes.
El Dorado State Park —Much of the state park offers great birding for such prairie species as fly catchers, kingbirds, assorted sparrows, bobwhites, doves, and wild turkeys. It's easily birded from a car. You'll need to purchase a $4.20 daily vehicle permit.
Oak Park — This little oasis of mature trees west of 11th and Waco is a great place to find brilliant warblers this time of year. Many species of birds call the park home all year.
Quivira National Wildlife Refuge — Wildlife watchers from all over the globe have enjoyed the 22,000-acre refuge about 90 minutes northwest of Wichita. Quivira is a wonderful blend of wetlands and prairies. Shore birds are often in great supply.
Late October can be a time of whooping cranes. Mid-November is when skies may be filled with a million or more ducks, geese and sandhill cranes.
Sunset that time of year on Wildlife Drive is an American birding classic.
Your backyard — Head out at sunrise some quiet morning with binoculars and sit quietly and look and listen. You'll probably be surprised at all you find. A little habitat work, plus a few feeders and year-round water will help. Even if only looking through a window you can enjoy a little good birding every day.