Birding Sites Near Lawrence
Area Map: Stars are Lawrence area birding hot spots
Description: Wide graveled paths and two boardwalks welcome nature lovers to explore this diverse patchwork of habitat on the south side of the city.
General Habitat: Restored wetland, wet prairie, marsh, old field, and riparian woodland
Main Species: Marsh birds, shorebirds, wading birds, sparrows, warblers
Notable Species: Virginia Rail, Sora, American Bittern, Sedge Wren, Marsh Wren, Great-tailed Grackle, Yellow-breasted Chat, Le Conte’s Sparrow
Best Time to Go: The Baker Wetlands is one of the best year-round birding sites in the Lawrence area. It attracts large numbers of neotropical migrants in the spring, hosts a diversity of breeding wetland species, and, in the fall, features almost every sparrow species that passes through eastern Kansas. Bird habitat is strongly affected by water levels in wetlands, which fluctuates seasonally but also with overall weather trends.
Directions: The main wetland area can be accessed from a small parking area on the south side of 31st Street in between Louisiana and Haskell Streets. The levee trails can also be accessed from Haskell Road at 35th Street but parking space is very limited. The wetland restoration area is west of Louisiana Street, with a parking area and information kiosk off of N 1250 Road.
Map (Entrances and parking areas marked with stars). Also go to http://www.bakeru.edu/baker-wetlands for detailed maps and information.
Description: The Baldwin Woods is considered one of the westernmost examples of an eastern deciduous forest in the state. With mature oaks and hickories and a well-developed understory, the area is quite distinct from other wooded areas in the county.
General Habitat: Deciduous forest
Main Species: Warblers, vireos, thrushes, flycatchers, woodpeckers
Notable Species: Kentucky Warbler, Louisiana Waterthrush, Summer Tanager, Pileated Woodpecker, Acadian Flycatcher
Best Time to Go: Spring brings pulses of migrants through the area and the fall features some of the best autumn colors to be found in Douglas County. Be warned, however, about the period from late May until the first fall frost because ticks are abundant.
Directions: E 1700 Road passes right through the woods two miles north of Baldwin City. The Baldwin Woods includes several protected areas and the Ivan L. Boyd Woods and Douglas State Fishing Lake are accessible to the public. The Ivan L. Boyd Woods is between E 1700 Road and E 1750 Road on the south side of N 500 Road. The Douglas State Fishing Lake is just to the east and can be accessed via E 1814 Road off of N 500 Road.
Description: This city park attracts woodland migrants and breeders with tall trees on the south bank of the Kansas River. A foot path follows the bank of the river and birders can also walk the forest edges along the railroad tracks and power line corridors.
General Habitat: Riparian forest
Main Species: Woodland birds including warblers, vireos, orioles, and flycatchers
Notable Species: Prothonotary Warbler, Eastern Wood-peewee, Great-crested Flycatcher, Red-eyed Vireo, Pileated Woodpecker
Best Time to Go: Burcham Park birding is at its best during the spring migration, but many neotropical migrants remain in the park to breed in the summer months.
Directions: The main entrance to the park is off of Indiana Street in between 2nd and 3rd Street. The park can also be accessed from Powerhouse Road, just west of the Kansas River Bridge.
Description: This large reservoir just west of Lawrence has several public parks along its shores and birders can find pockets of specialized habitat all around the lake. The tower along the dam has a pull-off area that allows for excellent views of the shoreline and center of the lake. The road below the dam is bordered by open fields that are attractive to raptors. This road also leads a model airplane flying field and wet prairie restoration. Bloomington Park on the southwest shore also has good views of the lake and the marina area and swimming beach attract shorebirds and roosting pelicans and gulls.
General Habitat: Reservoir, shoreline, park lands, open fields
Main Species: Waterfowl, gulls, raptors, shorebirds
Notable Species: Bald Eagle, Osprey, Short-eared Owl, Common Loon, Horned and Eared Grebe, Franklin’s Gull, American White Pelican
Best Time to Go: The lake attracts birds year-round with spikes in activity during the spring and fall. The large size of the lake means that particular species accumulate in exceptional numbers. In the fall, birders can see 10,000s of Franklin’s Gulls or American Coots as they migrate. Overwintering ducks can often be seen in large rafts floating in the middle of the lake. In the winter, the flying field/wet prairie is a good spot for Northern Harriers and Short-eared Owls. Migrating Wilson’s Snipe, Le Conte’s Sparrows, and Nelson’s Sparrows can also sometimes be flushed out of the wet prairie area.
Directions: Travel west on Clinton Parkway and turn south on E 900 Road to reach the dam. The flying field is below the dam, south of the golf course, on N 1200 Road. To Bloomington Park: From the dam, travel south on E 1000 Road and continue following the paved road as it jogs its way west, eventually becoming N 950 Road/E 251st Diagonal Road. Turn right on N 851st Diagonal Road and continue through the town of Clinton to reach the park.
Description: The Globe Prairie was formerly home to the last Greater Prairie-chicken leks in Douglas County. Although the prairie-chickens have disappeared, the area still has some of the largest tracts of native grass near Lawrence, making it a good area for grassland specialists.
General Habitat: Native pasture and agricultural
Main Species: Sparrows, Meadowlarks, Raptors
Notable Species: Grasshopper Sparrow, Dickcissel, Short-eared Owl, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Rough-legged Hawk
Best Time to Go: Breeding grassland birds can be found throughout the summer but birders will need to brave the winter winds to find Short-eared Owls and Rough-legged Hawks. Spring and fall migrations are best for tricky sparrows like Clay-colored and Vesper.
Directions: Travel south from Lawrence on U.S. 59 to the junction with U.S. 56. Travel west on U.S. 56 for 8.5 miles to the intersection with E 400 Road. The prairie-chicken lek was formerly approximately 0.5 miles north on E 400 Road, on the west side of the road. The entire area around the former town of Globe (U.S. 56 and E 550 Road) is a good area to look for open country birds.
Kaw River Bridge
Description: The bridge across the Kansas (Kaw) River just north of downtown Lawrence provides an elevated view of the river and access the levee trail that runs along the river.
General Habitat: River
Main Species: Gulls, Waterfowl
Notable Species: Cliff Swallow, Common Goldeneye, Red-breasted Merganser, Bald Eagle
Best Time to Go: The Cliff Swallows are abundant in the spring and summer and Common Nighthawks can also be easily observed at dusk right on Massachusetts Street. Winter brings waterfowl, gulls, and eagles to the area around the bridge and dam, especially during cold spells when open water is limited. The sand bars below the dam are a popular roosting site for gulls and sometimes rare gull species can be found with the common Ring-billed Gulls.
Directions: Birders can park at the Lawrence Visitor’s Center or the commuter lot, both of which are on Locust Street just north of the river.
Description: Between the edges of the North Lawrence neighborhood and the Lawrence airport, the open fields, sloughs, and a gravel pit lake provide habitat for a mix of open country and water birds.
General Habitat: Agricultural, wetland, lake
Main Species: Waterfowl, shorebirds, sparrows
Notable Species: Hooded Merganser, Horned Lark, Clay-colored Sparrow, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Upland Sandpiper
Best Time to Go: The sloughs on both sides of Highway 24/40 by the airport are good for shorebirds, especially in the spring, when water levels tend to be higher. The gravel pit lake (Bismarck Lake) has two distinct parts. The shallow portion can attract dabbling ducks in migration and many ducks and geese spend the winter on the deeper portion, as the deep water keeps the lake from freezing over. In years that sod is a major crop, shorebirds including Buff-breasted, Upland, and Pectoral Sandpipers use the grassy fields as a migratory stopover. Look for these species in August on the sod.
Directions: To get to Bismarck Lake, drive east on 24/40 past the airport and turn south on E 1600 Road, passing under I-70. The public can only view the lake from E 1600 Road as the road leading to the west side of the lake is a private road with a gate. The amount and location of sod fields varies from year to year so birders will have to explore the area around the airport and the fields just east of North Lawrence to know current conditions.
Description: This reservoir northwest of Lawrence is bordered by wooded parkland that allows birders to view birds on the open water from many angles and find land birds as well. A restored marsh below the dam, bordered by a levee trail, attracts birds that prefer shallower water.
General Habitat: Reservoir, shoreline, marsh, park land
Main Species: Waterfowl, gulls, raptors, shorebirds
Notable Species: Bald Eagle, Osprey, Common Loon, Horned and Eared Grebe, Franklin’s Gull, American White Pelican
Best Time to Go: Perry Lake and the parks that surround it have something to interest birders year round, although activity on the lake itself is reduced during the summer months. The Delaware Marsh is best during the spring and fall migrations.
Directions: From Lawrence, travel west on Highway 24 to the town of Perry. Turn north on County Road 1029/Ferguson Road and take a left on 39th Street to reach the dam. Spillway Road below the dam leads to the Delaware Marsh.
University of Kansas Field Station (KUFS)
Description: A network of trails beckons birders to the KU field station. The KUFS has made an admirable effort to become more visitor-friendly in recent years, with road signs leading the station, improved trails, and interpretive signs. Visitors should respect ongoing research projects by staying on trails and going around areas with flags, enclosures, or other research equipment.
General Habitat: Woodland, prairie, old field
Main Species: Warblers, vireos, thrushes, flycatchers, woodpeckers, sparrows
Notable Species: Kentucky Warbler, Summer Tanager, Sedge Wren, American Woodcock
Best Time to Go: The variety of habitats at the KUFS make a visit worthwhile any time of the year. Early evening visits may yield an owl sighting or, in the early spring, a woodcock courtship display. Ticks and chiggers can be very problematic during the summer months, so stick to wide trails or be prepared with bug spray. Sedge Wrens can sometimes be coaxed out of the Rockefeller Prairie in July and August, following post-breeding dispersal.
Directions: Drive east on Highway 24/40 just past the Lawrence airport before driving north on E 1600 Road approximately 3 miles. The KUFS has multiple management units and trailheads so get out and explore! A trail map can be viewed at:http://www.ksr.ku.edu/assets/newtrailsmap.082510.pdf.
Map: The star shows the location of the field station headquarters.