A Visit to the Great Plains Nature Center

It finally happened! I managed to visit the Great Plains Nature Center. The experience was fantastic and I can’t wait to go back again, hopefully spending more time being still, stationary, and waiting. This time, we just walked through, pausing whenever we spotted something, but not actually stopping to wait and hunt for birds. Besides the GPNC itself, we also took a stop at Riverside Park downtown to see the animals on display there.

The Great Plains Nature Center has a visitor’s center complete with exhibits and even a few live animals you can see. The first was an American Kestrel who was illegally raised by humans and, as such, incapable of living in the wild due largely to dependence. GPNC acquired the kestrel and has cared for it since. There was also an owl, a turtle, some frogs, and a sizeable collection of taxidermy animals.

The exhibits cover all of the various major types of habitats in Kansas, including wetlands, grasslands, and forest. There’s a large aquarium where you can see a bunch of local fish, as well as taxidermy examples of the various animals you might find, including birds.

There’s also a viewing room with large windows overlooking a pond and a gigantic birdfeeder. From there, I observed a Great Blue Heron, some kind of sandpiper, mallards, and a Wild Turkey. The turkey was super close to the glass and I got great shots of him.

After that, we walked the longest of the trails, stopping to try find wildlife. I saw quite a few baby mallards and snapped pictures where I could. We spotted a couple of big bullfrogs and some turtles.

As far as birds go, I photographed mallards and Canada Geese. You’ll see pictures of Purple Martins, a Baltimore Oriole, and a Chipping Sparrow. I also managed to get a picture of a Yellow Warbler, but we spotted him at Riverside Park.

At Riverside, there was a beaver on display, who was fun to watch as he ate a bunch of fruits and veggies. You’ll also see the various birds of prey and waterfowl they had on display. I don’t like focusing much on animals in captivity. It feels like cheating getting their pictures. Even so, they’re all neat and kept in captivity out of necessity rather than simply for display reasons. Most of the critters at Riverside are injured in some way or otherwise incapable of survival in the wild.

In different news, I’m investing as much time as I can practicing both taking photos and then editing them. I have experience in Photoshop, but editing in RAW is a new animal. It’s amazing what I can do to save otherwise iffy photos or really bring out the most in my shots. I’m still very new at this, though. My pictures are never as sharp as I want them to be and lighting is especially tricky for me. Still, I’m getting better. I have a few pictures ready for next week’s batch and I already think those are better than these. We’ll see what you think!

Like I said before, I’m excited to return and spend more time with more patience. I’m still quite new with my camera and trying to learn how to get the best shots. The parks gave me an excellent chance to practice and I hope you enjoy the fruits of my labor!

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