Today is the first day of fall, and the next month will be the most glorious of all in the Kansas landscape. It’s just too bad that it’s so dry. Southcentral Kansas continues to suffer exceptional drought, and Quivira National Wildlife Refuge near Stafford, normally a photographer’s paradise, holds little promise for the million-bird migration show presented the past several years.
I was there this morning trying to wish it wet, but it’s a bleak, salt marsh desert, with dryland plants growing in the cracked earth normally underwater. Rattlesnake Creek, the wetland’s feeder, has been dry for a month, so there’s no opportunity to pump the marsh. Short of monsoon rains this fall, the area will languish.
A male ornate box turtle told the story. In a mudflat usually submerged and home to a healthy population of aquatic turtles this time of year, this terrestrial terrapin was the sole wildlife seen. With no apparent plan or direction, it wandered along the dry edge. Somehow, to me, that made the forsaken dry marsh even more forlorn. The box turtle paid me no attention as I positioned the camera several times – it just kept walking to wherever, as if on auto-pilot.
I moved on, seeing virtually no wildlife throughout the entire refuge. Every year is different. It certainly makes you appreciate the normal conditions when water is abundant on the refuge.