Lincoln County

County Seat: Lincoln
County Size: 720 square miles
County Checklist: 242 species
DeLorme pages 34 & 35

Google Maps of Lincoln County

Best Birds: Long-tailed Duck, Common Gallinule, Red Phalarope, Thayer’s Gull, Glaucous Gull, Snow Bunting

Lincoln County is located in central Kansas. It’s fairly easy to get to, with I-70 going through the county along the southern edge, K-18 Highway going through the heart of the county from east to west, K-181 goes through the western edge from Sylvan Grove into southwestern Mitchell Co., and K-14 transects the center of the county, north and south through Lincoln. The only major area with water is the small portion of Wilson Lake that is located in the very southwest corner. Lincoln County does have a diverse mix of upland habitats, with abundant native grass, supporting Greater Prairie Chickens and other grassland species. Riparian zones are common as well, giving the opportunity to do some birding in big trees along roads and creeks.

Birding locations:

1. Saline River – There is no public access to the river, but bridge crossings can be productive, especially around Sylvan Grove. The river flows out of Wilson Lake, so spending some time in this area will many times net some good waterfowl numbers as they fly out from the lake to feed or in to the lake from time in crops fields to the east.

2. Wilson Lake – A small sliver of Wilson Lake in the Hell Creek arm is actually located in Lincoln County and has been important in adding some species of water birds to the county checklist. Once you are familiar with where the line is where it transects the lake, birders can get some twofers pretty easily.  Trumpeter Swans and many other waterfowl and gull species like the upper end of the Hell Creek arm because it is a no-wake zone and boat traffic is limited and slower than on other portions of the reservoir. Some of the housing development on the big hills overlooking the lake are in Lincoln Co. and have been productive for Mountain Bluebird, winter finches, sparrows and hummingbirds at houses with feeders. Remember it is private property and access is confined to roads in those areas.

3. Creeks – There are numerous creeks throughout the county, with many small bridges and associated riparian areas that can be birded from the road right-of-ways. Good creeks include Hell Creek and Wolf Creek in the southeast corner and the complex of creeks in the northeast corner, near Barnard.

3. Farm ponds – The county has many farm ponds that can hold waterfowl during both spring and fall migration. There are a few large watershed ponds in the county that can be good for waterfowl in migration. There is a really good marshy area along K-14 Highway, just south of the Mitchell Co. line, north of Lincoln and west of Barnard, It’s been a great place to stop on trips up to Waconda Lake. Page #34 of the DeLorme shows many of the larger ponds in some detail.

4. County roads – Lincoln County can have some productive birding accomplished by driving county roads. With the mix of agricultural fields, pastures and other grasslands, and riparian areas, many birds can be seen on a day trip, especially raptors, sparrows, longspurs, etc.

5. Towns – Many species can be found in the towns of the county, including Lincoln, Sylvan Grove, Beverly, Westfall, Barnard and a few other tiny communities. Birding in some of these towns, especially Lincoln and Sylvan Grove can be productive, with many pines and other coniferous trees there to attract northern finches in winter. Lincoln has a great cemetery on the east side of town along K-18 Highway and a river bridge over the Saline on the south end of town on K-14 highway that should be checked out. Sylvan Grove has a really good sewer lagoon just south of town, along K-181 highway, that is easily seen from the road and has many species of waterfowl present during spring, fall and winter. The Saline River is close to the towns of Sylvan Grove, Lincoln and Beverly as well and can have good bridge crossings to bird. There are some bridge crossings between Wilson Lake and Sylvan Grove that can be good for birds and can be checked out on a trip to the lake.

Lincoln County is somewhat under-birded and probably could have quite a few more passerine bird species added to its list, if birders are there in prime migration. The water bird list is pretty good, Trumpeter Swan, all the expected geese and most of the ducks observed there at one time or another. Greater Prairie Chickens are abundant in this county and a drive into the rural areas with big pastures, CRP fields and grain production fields often provide the opportunity to see them.

Updated March 2013 - MR

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