County Seat: Lakin
County Size: 872 square miles
County Checklist: 274 species
DeLorme pages: 54 & 55
Google Maps of Kearny County
Best Birds: Fulvous Whistling-Duck, Scaled Quail, Lewis's Woodpecker, Curve-billed Thasher
Kearny County is an underbirded county with a lot of potential to those who seek it out, although it is known as one of the notoriously difficult counties in southwest Kansas. Following these locations east to west through the county samples the best urban and rural, native and manmade, habitats the county has to offer.
Birding locations:1) Deerfield Feeders, DeLorme: Page 55, D9 – Located just west of the Finney County border, this has become one of the premier birding locations in Kearny County because of its reliable and easily viewable water source. Water birds are the fun here, and almost all shorebirds and dabbling ducks typical of western Kansas have been recorded here. From Hwy 50 and Coop Rd (the county line road) follow signs to Deerfield Feeders south on the blacktop road. This takes you through the Deerfield Feeder operation, so you can see blackbirds associating with the cattle here. Continue south and follow the blacktop road as it curves back to the west. You will first see water here at the south side of the road. Continue 0.6 miles east and a productive and large pool will also be on the north side of the road. NOTE: The truck and feedlot traffic here can be heavy at times. The workers and trucks ALWAYS have the right of way, so be sure to pull completely of the roadway when you stop!
2) Deerfield (town), DeLorme: Page 55, D8-9: Deerfield is a small town, and the city streets here have several mature Spruce and Pine trees, always holding interest on the High Plains in winter and in migration. The City Park on the northwest corner of Main St and 8th Street has mature deciduous trees and can act as a great migrant trap. Don’t miss the sewer ponds on the south side of town. In town, go south on Main St. and 0.2 miles south of the railroad crossing, you’ll see a drive on the east side of the road to the town brush pile. Drive in to the gated ponds, and plan on doing some creative climbing or car birding to see over the high berm. The brush piles here hosted a Palm Warbler during the KOS Spring field trip in 2015! Just south, a short 0.4 miles further south on Main St. is the Arkansas River crossing. Most trees along this stretch are dead, but you just never know in southwest Kansas!
3) Lake McKinney, DeLorme: Page 55, D8 – Historically, any birding stop in Kearny County begins at Lake McKinney. Although the lake went completely dry in the mid 2000’s, never since holding any water, good birding can still be had. When there was water present, it was a magnet for water birds. Presently, it’s notable for the mature trees along the former lakeshore and the surrounding bits of grassland habitat. From Rd. V5 and Hwy 50, turn north on Rd. V5 and continue north to the point where the road ends, and turn east, following the lake shore north and east. This is a great place to get out and walk along the road. The trees along this stretch can attract a variety of passerines at all seasons, especially in migration. The road goes all around the lake. On the northwest side of the lake, Rd. 178 has rural houses along it, but, for unknown reasons, always seems birdy. The weedy lake bed and surrounding areas along this route can be loaded with Sparrows in fall and winter.4) Lakin (town), DeLorme: Page 55, E7 – Lakin is the largest town in Kearny County. Of special note is the cemetery, located in the northeast part of town, on the north side of Hwy 50 near Cemetery Rd. The road on the west side of the cemetery and the denser conifer trees in the southwest side of the cemetery are particularly birdy. The sewer ponds on the southeast side of town are very productive as well. From Hwy 50 and Cemetery Rd, go south of Cemetery Rd. along the east side of town. At Russell Rd., 0.4 miles south of Hwy 50, turn east onto the dirt road. Follow this road east and south and cross the railroad tracks. Continue on the two track road back to the west, just across the railroad tracks, and view the sewer ponds on the south side of the road. A good place to turn around and re-trace footsteps is on the west side of the ponds at the pump house. An interesting side trip consists of going east on the unnamed road from the sewer ponds. It only goes about a mile to the east before it ends at a well marked private drive, but the brushy trees and sandsage prairie combine for a usually interesting diversity of birds. This is the most reliable place to observe Magpies in Kearny County. Any cruise through the streets and alleys during migration may be surprising. Specifically, County Heights Rd on the west part of town, and brushy area south of the Kearny County fairgrounds are interesting. Rufous Hummingbirds have been spotted at the row of Cannas across from the Presto at the southwest corner of the intersection of Hwy 50 and K-25 Hwy.
5) Beymer Park & Stotz Sandpit: Page 55, E7 – Beymer Park is located on the southwest corner of Kansas Hwy 25 and Rd. 26. You can drive around a series of deep former sandpit ponds. There are a number of scubby Cottonwood trees here that can attract birds to this isolated patch of habitat. Across the street, on the east side of K-25 Hwy, is the privately owned and operated Stotz Sandpit. People are welcomed to drive through the facility, although you should be aware that this is an active sand mining operation so it is best birded on weekends or after hours. The interest here is in the winter, when the deep water attracts diving ducks and perhaps even Bald Eagles. You can also observe both Bobwhite and Scaled Quail here. From Rd. 26 and Rd. O, travel north for 0.5 miles to an unmarked sandpit road going west. Follow this road along the southwest side of a large sandpit back to K-25 Hwy.
6) Kearny Co River Road, DeLorme: Page 54-55, E5-E7 – More or less from Kendall to Lakin, a well maintained route follows the route of the Sante Fe trail along the north bank of the Arkansas River. The sandsage prairie habitat found along this stretch is still intact, and the wildlife and unique wildflowers associated with these habitats can make for an awe-inspiring experience. Although it is called the River Road, much of the route is quite a distance from the riverbed. The journey can begin at the Kearny County Historical Museum (101 S Buffalo St). Follow the signs for the Santa Fe Trail route that go west on Railroad Street. Along the entire segment, be alert for Black-billed Magpies, Cassin’s Sparrows, Lark Buntings, and Golden Eagles (winter). Of special interest is the road to the Hartland Cemetery, 6.8 miles west of the Museum. The road leads to a private residence, but just north of the river road it crosses a small draw with a walking path going back to the east. This is a great place to stop and walk around, especially during migration. From Hartland Rd., continue west on the River Rd. for 1.1 miles. A sign will guide you west along the Sante Fe Trail route, and on the northeast corner is a private residence with a nice shelterbelt and evergreen trees close to the corner. Many birds use this greenbelt year round, especially in winter. Continue west for 4 miles on the River Rd. On the south side of the road, where the river is the closest, is the Lakin diversion dam. Although difficult to view from the road over the Amtrak rail, this is where water coming in from Colorado usually runs out. But, you can sometimes even see shorebirds and ducks flying along the river west of here! Continue west to Kendall, but be advised that Road A is the county line, and you are entering Hamilton County.
Updated April 2016 - JC
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