Natural Wonders of Western Kansas
The skies themselves seem to be in motion during spring and fall migration at Kirwin National Wildlife Refuge (15 miles southeast of Phillipsburg). Thousands of sandhill cranes and tens of thousands of geese—Canada, snow and white-fronted—settle at the refuge in February and March, and again in October and November. Occasionally, birders here thrill to the sight of a whooping crane, one of the most endangered birds in the nation.
The birds come to rest among 10,800 acres of prairie grasses, creeks and bottomlands. Visitors seek refuge in the landscape, too, biking on dirt roads and walking along dikes and interpretive nature trails, accompanied only by the trill of meadowlarks and the mutter of ducks. Many species make Kirwin their year-round home, including the greater prairie chicken and songbirds like Bell’s Vireo, Dickcissel and a variety of warblers. Overlooks and observation platforms with binocular stands provide good viewing opportunities. The best way to experience the beauty of this remnant prairie land is as the birds do—down among the waving grasses and wooded riverbanks.