Hodgeman County

County Seat: Jetmore
County Size: 850 square miles
County Checklist: 244 species
DeLorme pages 57 & 58

Google Maps of Hodgeman County

Best Birds: White Ibis, Bohemian Waxwing

Donít be deterred by the limited list of ďBest BirdsĒ above. Hodgeman County is a birding jewel in the High Plains of southwest Kansas! Like most western counties, Hodgeman County is primarily cropland, but here the highly restricted and birder accessible mix of water and riparian woodland along Buckner Creek offer a good chance of discovery during each visit. Large swaths of quality CRP grassland can also be great places to search for some southwestern Kansas specialties in season, such as Lesser Prairie-Chickens and raptors.  Highway K 156 runs east to west through the county while US 283 runs north to south.

Birding Locations

1.      Horsethief Reservoir - Located 8.5 miles west of Jetmore on K-156, this lake has become the flagship destination for Hodgeman County birding. This site is so new that you will not even find it on your gazetteer in 2013, but it is impossible to miss while driving down the highway. This is a medium sized lake (225 acres), but for birds it is the most sizeable body of water in the region and thus acts as a magnet for aquatic and land birds alike. At the same time, the lake is small enough that it is relatively easy to survey every corner for birders.

One of the first areas to view is the main body of water along the dam on the east end of the parkís roads. Most aquatic species on the county checklist have been observed here. A spotting scope is required to view any birds swimming along the face of the dam, but binoculars can identify most birds even here where they are most distant. Donít forget to view the far northeast corner by the boat ramp, as some difficult to find ducks and shorebirds may be hiding here in the sheltered, shallow water. Further west, check the area of flooded timber and large sandbar seemingly standing in the middle of the lake. The expansive mudflats here make this a great spot to find shorebirds, and the White Ibis was seen most frequently perched in these dead trees. Straight south, across the lake, scan the cliffs for possible Peregrine Falcons or other species. The more secluded areas on the upper end, west side, of the reservoir can attract more passerines (primarily sparrows) and the shyer aquatic species. This more secluded area is worth exploring by foot, especially in the spring and fall. The upland areas of the lake can attract Long-billed Curlews (in fall migration July-Sept), Raptors (including Short-eared Owls some years), and passerines typical of the western Kansas plains. If birding the lake on a calm morning in early Spring, you may be lucky enough to hear booming Lesser Prairie-Chickens on nearby private ranches.

The bow and arrow range is located along Rd 210 a mile south of K156. This can serve as a place to scan the entire lake, although the road to and from the highway can often be birdy.

Note that there is a $7 daily use fee to enter the lake. This lake attracts large numbers skiers, fisherman, and campers and on fair weathered afternoons the traffic can be overwhelming, so plan your birding trip accordingly.  
DeLorme: 57, C7-C8

 2.      Buckner Valley Park - Buckner Valley Park is a state owned picnic area and primitive campground and is located along Buckner Creek, just south of K-156 and about 5.5 miles west of Jetmore. Although the creek may not always hold water, the riparian woodlands here are the attraction. This is hands down the spot to check for migrating passerines in Hodgeman County, with such unusual species as Townsendís Warbler and three species of Grosbeak and three species of Oriole found here. Cooperís Hawks are suspected to nest here (rare in the west), highlighting the list of breeding species. On years when the creek does hold water there is even more opportunity, especially in the winter. Some portions of the creek seem to hold water on the west end, even in the driest years. These spots can almost always produce a Green Heron in the summer months and dabbling ducks or shorebirds in appropriate seasons. Although you can drive around the entire section, it is often best to find a spot you like and do a bit of walking until you find a foraging flock. Do be aware of the cattle that also utilize the public land, and can sometimes make for a challenge when returning to your vehicle.
DeLorme: 57, C8

3.      Jetmore City Lake - This small lake doesnít offer much in the way of habitat, but again the open water can make for great birding in western Kansas. Often times, aquatic species missed at Horsethief Reservoir can be picked up here if youíre lucky! The shorebirds are closer here, and for some reason this can sometimes be the best spot for deeper water birds like Loons and Grebes, though the water is shallower. The shrubby woody area plays host to good numbers of sparrows in winter, and the brush along the far upper end can produce hundreds of sparrows, mostly American Tree, feeding on fallen weed seeds. To reach the city lake, take Highway K-156 west from Jetmore for three miles. Follow the signs south on Rd 215.
DeLorme: 57, C8-C9

4.      Fairmont Cemetery, Jetmore - Southwest of Jetmore along Hwy 283 is this large cemetery that harbors large evergreen trees. The extensive plantings of Junipers make this location one of the most reliable locations for Townsendís Solitaires in southwest Kansas during the winter, with up to 20 possible in good years. Other berry eating birds like Mountain Bluebirds, Robins, Waxwings, and Yellow-rumped Warblers can be numerous here on the right day and right year. Several people found their state Bohemian Waxwing here in 2004. Road M from Jetmore City Lake east to the cemetery is often very birdy, especially the sections where Buckner Creek is adjacent to the road. There is an unknown aspect to the woodland birds you may find along this stretch in migration and in winter. Summer birding here is sparse, but birds like Red-bellied Woodpecker start to reach the western extent of their regular breeding range.
DeLorme: 57, C9

5.      Jetmore City Park - Go into Jetmore on Hwy 283, and near the south part of town take Park Street west to where it dead ends at baseball fields. Some trails here wander through some thick timber on Buckner Creek. Donít forget to look and listen overhead for urban birds like Chimney Swift, Mississippi Kite, and Purple Martin, as they can be tough to find elsewhere in the county. This green space is most interesting during migration and in winter, although Cooperís Hawks may also nest here.
DeLorme: 57, C9

6.      Jetmore Lagoons - They are difficult to view, but Jetmore does have some lagoons just in case you didnít add the diving ducks and phalaropes to your lists from other locations. To reach the lagoons take Hwy 283 to the south end of Jetmore and turn west on Rd L. Follow this west for a mile and see lagoons on the south side of the road. It is possible to park here and walk to a higher vantage point on either the east or south side of the lagoons. The small stockyard here often holds Blackbirds, so donít forget those! Almost always, a Sayís Phoebe is at home on the wastewater pondís fence. DeLorme: 57, C9

7.      Roadside Spots of Interest - A few tributaries hold water year round and house woodland growth and if they are on your route can be quick and easy stops.  

A)     In the SW part of the county, south of Horsethief Reservoir and north of Dodge City, a roadside pond spans both side of the road along 210th just south of Rd I. Various land and water birds have been located here.
DeLorme: 57, E8

B)     In the SW part of the county, SE of Horsethief Reservoir, a pond at Rd 213 and Rd H holds migrating ducks and the timber here can be fun in addition. The rocky areas on all sides may have a Rock Wren.
DeLorme: 57, D8

C)     In the SE part of the county, anywhere along Saw Log Creek has some potential. A watershed pond along Rd B east of Rd 213 is a nifty spot.
DeLorme: 57, E9-E10

D)     In the NE part of the county, Rd O is just south of Hanston. Taking this road east past both Buckner and Saw Log Creek can be fun in good years. This road also goes by a feedlot and a watershed pond just east of Hanston. DeLorme: 58, B1

Updated June 2013 - JC

Back to home page