Bi-annual event coincides with opening of new wetland center at Cheyenne Bottoms
GREAT BEND -- The 2009 Wings & Wetlands Weekend will be held on April 24-26 in Great Bend. The event will be based out of the Best Western Angus Inn Courtyard, behind the Perkins Restaurant on 10th Street. Approximately 200 participants have pre-registered for the weekend and will flock to central Kansas from 25 different states and Canada. All participants must register for the event, with a limited number of walk-ins accepted on Friday.

The weekend kicks off at 10 a.m. Friday with a trip to an educational seminar at Turner Farms Squaw Lake Refuge at Pawnee Rock. The seminar will demonstrate water remediation efforts using agricultural "best practices" at the farm. This seminar will be repeated at 1 p.m. for participants arriving after lunch. Another seminar will take place at the Perkins conference room at 1 p.m. Gene Young, a Kansas bird expert, will provide tips on identifying some of the smaller shorebird species likely found in the area during the weekend.

The grand opening of the new Kansas Wetlands Education Center at Cheyenne Bottoms will headline Friday, with the festivities set to begin at 3 p.m. at the center. Various state and local dignitaries will speak, followed by tours of the facility. Wings & Wetlands festival participants will be driven to the ceremony, then taken back to town in preparation for afternoon field trips. Others interested in attending should meet at Barton County Community College to take advantage of buses going to the event. Parking for individual vehicles will be extremely limited at the center.

Field trips to Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Management Area and Quivira National Wildlife Refuge are scheduled throughout the weekend, with the first trips departing the Angus Inn Courtyard at 4:45 p.m. on Friday afternoon. These trips will be led by guides from across the state and will also be available on Saturday morning, Sunday afternoon, and Sunday morning. Friday evening culminates with a grab-and-go dinner at the new Kansas Raptor Center, on the grounds of Brit Spaugh Zoo in Great Bend. This million-dollar facility offers the public premier education about raptors, as well as state-of-the-art raptor rehabilitation tools.

In addition to the Saturday 4:45 a.m. field trips, afternoon concurrent education seminars will be held. At 1:15 p.m. in the Perkins conference room, Cheyenne Bottoms area manager Karl Grover, Rob Penner of the Nature Conservancy, and Jim Sellers, recently retired from Quivira National Wildlife Refuge, will present short overviews on how each entity accomplishes high-quality wetland management. At 1:15 a program entitled "The Future of Birding: The Marriage of Technology," will be presented by Ted Eubanks at the Kansas Raptor Center. Eubanks will introduce participants to the use of eBird Twitter and Facebook and how they are being used to connect birders everywhere.

The first educational program scheduled for the new Kansas Wetlands Education Center will be conducted by Dr. Greg Farley, an ornithologist from Ft. Hays State University, from 1:30 to 3 p.m. on Saturday. The title of his program is "Unraveling the Mysteries of Bird Migration" and will include information on how various species navigate their perilous twice-a-year journey. At 2:15 p.m. on Saturday in the Perkins conference room, Bob Gress, director of the Great Plains Nature Center in Wichita, will conduct a program entitled "Photographing Birds on the Coasts of Kansas." Gress will highlight the abundance of birds species in central Kansas.

Field trips leave for both areas at 4:45 p.m., then return to the Angus Inn for an evening of networking. A buffet dinner and bird calling and identification contest, with prizes awarded, will cap off the Saturday activities.

Sunday morning field trips leaving at 5 a.m. provide the last scheduled activity for the festival. Early as it may be, participants drag out of bed to get one last chance to see and experience what these two fantastic marshes have to offer.