County Size: 900 square miles
County Checklist: 321 species
Google Maps for Ellis County
DeLorme Pages: 32, 33, 45 and 46
Best Birds: Anhinga (2007), Anna’s Hummingbird (2005), Lewis’s Woodpecker (1997), Pinyon Jay, Clark’s Nutcracker, Western Bluebird (2000), Connecticut Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler (2005), Black-throated Blue Warbler (2007), and Western Tanager
While the majority of Ellis County consists of agricultural fields and rangeland, three riparian corridors cross the county making for suitable habitat for nesting and transient woodland and edge species. This mix of habitats contributes to a diverse list of species totaling 318. Riparian habitat, coming into the county from the west, allows for movement of birds that are normally found as far west as the Rocky Mountains. Nearly all of the land in Ellis County is private, therefore birding is confined mainly to stream crossings and along public roads.
One of the few public birding sites in the county is on Big Creek at the south
edge of Hays along the 183 highway bypass. A corridor, approximately two miles
long, on the Fort Hays State University Campus and Frontier and Municipal Parks
have walking trails suitable for birding. This riparian habitat, including
large trees, is one of the best places to see nesting species such as Wood Duck,
Belted Kingfisher, Great Crested Flycatcher, Warbling Vireo, and Baltimore
Oriole. It is also an excellent location to bird during spring migration with
sightings including; Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Swainson’s Thrush, numerous species
of warblers, Black-headed and Rose-breasted Grosbeak, and Orchard Oriole.
Winter birding is a good time to see Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Black-capped
Chickadee, Red and White-breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, Winter Wren and Pine
Siskins (during eruption years).
DeLorme: 45, A9
2. Agricultural Research Center-Hays: Located just south of the 183 highway bypass at the south end of Main Street is the Agricultural Research Center-Hays. While the experimental fields are off-limits to the public, birding is permitted around the buildings on the main grounds. Please use judgment when birding around the two private residences on the grounds. Numerous plantings of pines and arborvitae make this a good location to see wintering species such as; Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Townsend’s Solitaire, and Red Crossbills (during eruption years). Pine and Palm Warblers have been sighted during spring migration. Delorme: 45, A9
3. Smoky Hill River: Ten miles south of Hays on highway 183 is the crossing of the Smoky Hill River. Just south of the river on the west side of the highway is an abandoned sand pit that often has a diversity of waterfowl during migration. Use caution as traffic can be heavy on the highway. North of the river one mile is the Smoky Hill River Road. Access to the river is limited as many of the county roads do not have crossings. One good crossing is located 4 miles west of the highway where the Smoky Hill River Road crosses 210th Ave. Another crossing is one-half mile south of the intersection of Norfolk Road and 180th Ave. Delorme: 45, C7-10 and 46, C1
4. Saline River: Transecting the county near its north border is the Saline River. The Saline area offers some of the best birding in the county, with a mix of riparian and prairie habitat. Summer residents include; Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Bell’s Vireo, Rock Wren, Grasshopper Sparrow, Black-headed Grosbeak, Blue Grosbeak and Orchard Oriole. Good access to the river is available by driving 14 miles north of I-70 on highway 183 to the Saline River Rd. When crossing the river on the highway, look for a large colony of Cliff Swallows during the summer months. Traveling east on the river road 3.5 miles to the Toulon Road and then .3 miles north is a small wetland on the east. The wetland provides suitable habitat for Marsh Wren, Common Yellowthroat and Swamp Sparrow. Several additional river crossings are available by proceeding east on the Saline River Road. West of highway 183 also provides numerous river crossings and expanses of grassland habitat. One-half mile west of the highway and 1.2 miles south on Dean Hill Road is a good location for Rock Wren around the rocky bluffs. West an additional 4.3 miles, on the north side of the road, is a small prairie dog town that houses Burrowing Owls most summers. An additional mile west is the intersection of 200th Ave. From this location one can travel on west on the Saline River Road or drive one mile south to the Riverview Road. Traveling west on either of these routes offers numerous river crossings and good birding habitat. Delorme: 45 and 46, G and F2-6.
Updated April 2013 - TSM
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