Marion Reservoir has become a popular backdrop for birdwatchers seeking to collect flocks of experience in their quests to see, hear, and check different species off their lists.
Even a veteran birdwatcher like 22-year-old state game warden Cody Morris, who has birded for three years, is impressed.
Morris started at the reservoir in October 2014 after graduating from Oklahoma State University, where he took an ornithology class that sparked his passion for birding.
“Marion Reservoir has surprised me,” Morris said. “It’s a popular spot for birders. You never know what you’ll see.”
Well-maintained roads allow for easy access to several coves around the reservoir.
Marion County’s location in the central flyway for migratory birds makes it an ideal place to view birds both common and rare.
“I think that is what draws younger birders, something different,” Morris said. “The reservoir has diverse terrains that attract all sorts of species.”
Multiple species of shore birds uncommon to the area frequent the waters to feed in spring.
“I had never seen the horned grebe until I moved up here,” Morris said. “Their plumage is gorgeous. I have seen them in the spring around dawn. Like many birds they migrate north through Kansas, and stop here because the reservoir is a good food source.”
The reliability of the presence of certain species also is a draw for birders.
Canada geese and bald eagles are routine winter visitors. Two pairs of eagles even built nests to hatch and raise their young there over the summer.
Scott Amos, a state biology technician for Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism at the reservoir, also is a birder.
“Everybody is going to have their favorite birds,” Amos said. “A lot of people look forward to seeing warblers in the spring. I like seeing the osprey. They’re a bigger, tough-looking fishing bird.”
He said it was common to see ospreys swoop down and scoop fish out of the water, then perch on tree branches and devour their catch.
When longtime birder Lloyd Davies of Marion sees birds rare to the area like Rufous hummingbirds or whooping cranes, he lets other birders know online.
He has talked to birders from all over the United States who have never seen a gobble of turkeys or a flock of white wing doves, both of which are common to the county.
The greater prairie chicken lux is a common species many birders travel to Marion County to see. Species of gulls, barn owls, red-shrouded hawks, and wood thrushes also can be viewed here.
“People just flock,” Davies said. “Sometime people call me and ask if they can drive by my house if I have seen something unusual at my bird feeder.”