Better-timed rains in spring, along with much cooler temperatures in late spring and most of the summer (compared to 2012) allowed Quivira to hold water through the spring and summer. As of mid-September, both Big and Little Salt Marshes were at full pool. In addition, Rattlesnake Creek, which ceased flowing into the Refuge by July 3 last year, flowed continuously throughout the summer. Over 15 inches of rain fell in July and August. These conditions greatly helped fill most of the water units. A dry, hot spell occurred from mid-August through mid-September, drying up some of the smaller water units, but enough remained in the large units to provide ample water for waterfowl. During 2012, there was very little water at Quivira, as both big marshes completely dried up by the end of the summer. In the fall, water began slowly returning via aquifer flow and Rattlesnake Creek, but it took more than 5 months for the large marshes to refill.
Egrets have been observed throughout Quivira this summer
The presence of so much water at Quivira this year has meant the return of many species of birds that were largely absent during the last two summers. Several dozen egrets (great and snowy), along with great blue herons and white-faced ibis, have been regularly using Quivira's marshes and other wetlands to feed. Despite having been dried, the large marshes (and even several smaller water units) have shown remarkable resiliency and have produced abundant plant and animal life. Both invertebrates and small vertebrates (i.e. fish and amphibians) have provided food for many species of birds.
Wetlands, like this area called Unit 24 (dry all of summer 2012), have proven very productive
Several examples of wetland bird breeding success have also been evident. As of mid-summer, at least 2 broods of Wood Duck, 7 broods of Canada Goose, 2 broods of Blue-winged Teal, and one brood of Pied-billed Grebe have been observed. Shorebird nesting, has also been fairly good, with Snowy Plover broods being seen throughout the Refuge, in addition to both Black-necked Stilt and American Avocet broods in several areas.
A brood of Wood Ducks observed in Big Salt Marsh in early July
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The tallest North American bird, and one of the rarest: now numbering about 600 in the world, there were once as few as 16.