Sightings

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On this page, we like to share some of the interesting natural events we have witnessed.  Mother Nature's show never ends, and it is all wonderful, but sometimes you see something that is just pretty darned cool!   Here are a few of those sightings.
- All photos and images by Jim Mason -

June 9, 2003

We have received several reports from trail walkers lately about a Bobcat in the park!  This is not totally unexpected, but the number of reports of daytime activity for this bold feline are pretty exceptional.  If its brazen antics keep up, we may get a photo of this critter soon!

November 28, 2001

immature Ross' goose
Immature white phase Ross' Goose

You can tell this is a youngster by the grey wash on the top of the head.  Adults have a solid white head.  Immature snow geese have much more grey on their head and shoulders and a grey bill, in addition to being larger birds.  A Ross' goose is about the same size as a mallard.

More fun at the feeder!  A Ross' Goose showed up for breakfast today, along with the usual Canada geese and mallards.

This species is very uncommon in the Wichita area.  Although they regularly show up on the Christmas bird count here, only a handful will be seen.

Ross' geese breed in the high Arctic and usually migrate with the snow geese to destinations further south.

What brought this bird here is a mystery never to be unraveled, but we sure hope to see it again!

April 23, 2001

During spring migration this year, like last year, we were lucky to be visited by some Yellow-headed Blackbirds.

The males are unmistakable with their vivid yellow head and bib.  A tree-full of these looks like Christmas in April!

Yellow-headed blackbirds
Male Yellow-headed blackbird on left
Male Red-winged blackbird on right

February 23, 2001:

We enjoy the show at our bird feeders.  You never can tell what will happen!  The Canada Goose flock that hangs out around here in the winter likes to get the free chow as much as the sparrows and house finches. This hungry honker decided to nibble directly out of the feeder rather than picking its breakfast up off the ground!

What are YOU looking at?!

February 13, 2001:

A Ringtail Cat (Bassiriscus astutus) showed up in the attic of a house here in Wichita.   How she got there is a mystery!  While the species is known to occur this far north on the plains, it's not common here by any means.  We have located a mate for her at the Hutchinson Zoo.

This species has many names, including Ringtail, Miner's Cat and Cacomistle.  They are not cats at all, but in the same family as the Raccoon and Coatimundi.

For more information about them, see the Mammals of Texas online.

Ringtail close-up

ringtail paw close-up
A ringtail's claws are semi-retractable.
Very unusual indeed!

Ringtail Cat
It's tail is longer than the rest of its body.  Overall length is up to 31 inches (80 cm.)

February 8, 2001:

Every year, male Whitetail Deer shed their antlers.  These are hard to find, because rodents will eat them for the calcium and minerals they contain.  While it is unusual to find one antler, it is even harder to find both antlers from the same animal.

Now, here's the REAL unusual part.  We have a good-sized whitetail buck that lives in Chisholm Creek Park.  We have seen this handsome fellow several times.  Perhaps he wants to enforce his bragging rights with us, however, because he dropped both his antlers right next to each other just outside our building!   One of the inner tines is broken, but otherwise this is a fine 10-point rack.

Whitetail rack

September 2, 2000:

On the Saturday during our Grand Opening Weekend we spotted an adult Bald Eagle hovering over the park.  Many people got to see it from our wildlife observatory and while hiking on the trails.  Although we see them regularly every winter along the river, it was extraordinary to find one in town on a hot day in early September - and a long ways from the river too!  Our feeling is that we got a special blessing from the natural community for our Grand Opening.  Our thanks go to whoever arranged this!

August, 1998:

We often get calls from the public seeking identification of some animal or plant.  These are very difficult to do over the phone in the best of circumstances.   We got a real doozy one day when a woman called with a tape recording of an odd sound coming from a tree in her back yard.  It was a very clear recording, but that did not help.  NO ONE COULD FIGURE IT OUT!  Other than the fact it was obviously not from around here, that is.  Some of us went to the site and heard it, but we could not see what it was.  It was in a large cottonwood tree that had a tangle of big vines on the side.   It called mainly at dusk.

It had been calling from the same tree all summer, but called more frequently in June.  The woman once thought she saw something about a foot long that looked like a lizard.  We suspected a stray exotic pet, but a lizard??  How many talking lizards are there in the world?  On a return visit, it was spotted peeking out from under the eaves of the house.  It was indeed a big noisy lizard - a Tokay Gecko, as it turns out.  It was captured eventually and turned over to the Herpetarium at the Sedgwick County Zoo.  Click here if you want to hear what it sounded like!

 

Questions or comments?  Send Email to Jim Mason Spidey
Or write us at: 
Great Plains Nature Center
6232 E. 29th Street North
Wichita, KS 67220-2200             Call:  316-683-5499            Fax:  316-688-9555