Seat: El Dorado
County Size: 1,446 square miles
County Checklist: 289 species
Google Map of Butler County
Dorado Reservoir – Nestled in the Flint Hills, El Dorado Reservoir offers a
variety of habitats, providing year-round birding opportunities. The lake itself
is best during the fall and winter months, when recreation is light compared
with the warmer months. Look for Scoters among the many waterfowl species. This
lake has been very popular for Bald Eagle viewing in years past, with the many
snags in the upper part of the lake providing places to perch. A scope will come
in handy to survey this large reservoir, and good vantage points include the
boat ramp at the NW end of the dam, the Boulder Bluff Camping Area, the SE end
of the dam, the Shady Creek Marina and Fisherman’s Point on Bluestem Point.
During breeding season a full day of fun can be had by driving around the lake.
Depending on the when the prairie was last burned, listen for Henslow’s Sparrow
along NE Teter Rd, the road into Bluestem Point (especially near the entrance)
and the Shady Creek Access road west of Hwy 177. Also along Teter Rd, look for
Upland Sandpiper, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher and Grasshopper Sparrow. Other
productive areas around the upper end of the lake include the boat ramp at the
east end of NE 60th, NE 85th (Painted Bunting) and the Chelsea area (Blue
Grosbeak). There are several trails in the park, the best being the Teter Nature
Trail. Near the parking area, look for Bell’s Vireo and Gray Catbird. The trail
descends into bottomland forest that includes Pawpaw trees (sustaining a
reliable population of Zebra Swallowtail butterflies). Look for Louisiana
Waterthrush and Prothonotary Warbler in the riparian areas, Northern Parula and
Kentucky Warbler in addition to the usual woodland species. The entire Walnut
River Area is excellent during migration, especially the Tall Oak campground.
Don’t overlook the wildlife areas on the east side of Hwy 177, especially Ellis
Rd north of NE 10th and also along NE 20th, which can be good any time and
especially during migration. In town, a productive walking path follows the West
Walnut River from Main St. near the Dillons store to Riverside Park off Hwy 54,
accessed from either location.
DeLorme: 63, F6
Augusta City Lake – This small lake located in the
city limits of Augusta provides good waterfowl viewing during the fall, winter
and spring. In addition to the expected dabbling and diving ducks, you may find
an occasional scoter (Surf Scoter in 2011, Black Scoter in 2012) or loon
(Pacific Loon in 1998). There is a dirt road that goes around the entire lake
that offers great views of every part of the lake. The best vantage point is
from a road onto a peninsula on the east side, from which the entire lake is
visible. There are three ways to access the lake, the easiest of which is the
park entrance off Ohio St. just south of SW 80th St. During dry years the lake
level can be down considerably, exposing mudflats that can be excellent for
shorebirds in spring or fall. The upper end of the lake can be weedy and good
for sparrows, and there is some timber where Elm Creek flows in, where other
passerines may be found (although access is limited). The summer months are not
as productive, although orioles and Yellow Warblers are plentiful and many of
the residents living on the lake have erected Purple Martin houses. Also while
in Augusta, make a stop at the Elmwood Cemetery. There are two entrances that
are isolated from one another and both are worth checking; off Ohio St. south of
12th St. and off 12th St. east of Ohio.
DeLorme: 62, H4
3. Butler County State Fishing Lake – Don’t expect great cell phone coverage at this public southern Flint Hills gem, but you can expect fun birding year round. The lake itself can attract waterfowl in winter, and in dry years the upper end is great for Shorebirds. The small marshy areas have attracted a Least Bittern once. In summer months the dawn chorus of Upland Sandpipers, Common Nighthawks, Eastern Meadowlarks, Grasshopper Sparrows, Dickcissels, and other Flint Hills wildlife can be a life-changing experience. In years when the grass has stood undisturbed for at least three years, Henslow’s Sparrows can be found inside the state land and along the road to the lake. The wooded areas on the upper end of the lake house residents typical of the area while the pristine Flint Hills surrounding the area offer grassland species. The woodland areas here can be a spot to see what looks and sings like Carolina Chickadees in Butler County, although their range here is still in question. To reach Butler SFL from the Wichita area, take 95th St South east the entire way. This road can prove to be birdy as well. The way to the lake is also well marked on Hwy 400.
DeLorme: 76, A2
4. Latham to Beaumont – This public road directs through a wind farm for part of the drive, but can be a scenic and birdy road. In early spring, large flocks of American Golden Plovers can be seen, especially in areas where there has been a recent burn. It is possible to hear Greater Prairie Chickens in early spring, although they are rare. Both Latham and Beaumont are towns in the sea of grass, and can produce birds at feeders and in yards. From Latham, take SE 190th St east and take Terrell Road north to Beaumont. A drive east in Elk County from here can also be enjoyable.
DeLorme: 76, A2 & 63, I8
5. Douglass – Douglass is on Highway 77 in southern Butler County. It is not quite east enough to be in the Flint Hills region, but the birds don’t mind the city life. The town has become a reliable place to find Mississippi Kites in summer months. The Douglass Cemetery (east of Hwy 77 on 8th St) has some plantings of Junipers and nice brush along the road and has attracted large numbers of birds in winter, although to date nothing rare has been encountered. The town lagoons are south of town about a mile on Maple Street. Yellow-headed Blackbirds, shorebirds, and ducks can be found here in season. Just west of town on the blacktop (SW 210th) is the Walnut River, and you can get decent access to roadside riparian woodlands on Adams Street south of SW 210th for a few miles. You can follow this road as long as you like, with an interesting bridge at SW 230th and other good roadside birding down to the Cowley County line. These roads can be a challenge when wet, but the breeding Northern Parulas, Pileated Woodpeckers, and Black-billed Cuckoos (2010) make this a fun drive.
DeLorme: 75, B9
Updated September 2013 - JC & KG
Back to home page