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Top 10 Sights to See in the Flint Hills

kansas flint hills top 10 debra gail best photographer

Top 10 Sights to See in the Flint Hills – From a National Park to a Friday night jam session, there are plenty of ways to have fun in the Kansas Flint Hills!

flint hills photography Tallgrass Prairie best Flint Hills Debra Gail
Flint Hills Tallgrass Prairie
  1. One of my favorite Top 10 Sights to See in the Flint Hills is the Friday Night Jam in Cottonwood Falls. This fun evening was hosted for years at the Emma Chase Cafe, 317 N. Broadway, before Sue Smith retired and closed her restaurant. Furthermore, these days you can find the fun right down the street at Prairie PastTimes, 220 1/2 Broadway in Cottonwood Falls. You are welcome to bring your instrument (any instrument) and join the jam. Also, you don’t need an instrument if you want to enjoy the music. This is some good old-fashioned fun.
  1. The Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve is a United States National Preserve located in the Flint Hills region of Kansas, north of Cottonwood Falls. Of the 400,000 square miles of the tallgrass prairie that once covered the North American continent, less than 4% remains, primarily in the Flint Hills. Moreover, the preserve protects this significant portion of the remaining tallgrass prairie ecosystem. My favorite part about this stunning location is the 40 miles of hiking trails. And bring your camera to this #2 on the list of Top 10 Sights to See in the Flint Hills!

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Top 10 Sights to See in the Flint Hills – Lots of Bison!

  1. The Flint Hills Scenic Byway (K-177) in central Kansas entertains 48 miles through the beautiful hills and tallgrass prairie. With some two dozen historic Santa Fe Trail sites, Council Grove anchors the northern end of the tour and you’ll end up at Cassoday on the south end. Also, you can find the byway map and more information about the Flint Hills Scenic Byway here. And I’ll repeat it, bring your camera!
flint hills scenic byway cattle pens debra gail
  1. Wamego is a small community in northeast Kansas, surrounded by the Flint Hills. For a little place, Wamego packs in a lot of fun attractions! Aside from the drive to Wamego, my favorite aspect is the Oz Winery. At Oz Winery, you can purchase wine, cheese, chocolate–pretty much all a girl needs! It’s one-stop-shopping and #4 on my list of Top 10 Sights to See in the Flint Hills!
Oz Winery in Wamego, Kansas – Look at those beautiful bottles of wine!

best photographer kansas debra gail

Top 10 Sights to See in the Flint Hills – Beautiful Sunsets!

  1. If you like peaceful grasslands and the sweet aroma of the earthy woodlands, you’ll LOVE Marion Reservoir! This is a waterfowl wonderland located northwest of the wonderful town of Marion, along the Cottonwood River. The one-mile Willow Walk Trail at Cottonwood Point is the best way to experience the natural scenery.

  1. There is SO MUCH TO DO at my favorite State Park in Kansas, El Dorado State Park! Nestled just at the edge of the Flint Hills, El Dorado is rated one of the Top 20 State Parks in the USA, based upon boating, fishing, and family fun. I visit this park almost every week, in the spring, summer, fall, and winter. I love to watch the eagles, photograph the deer, and best of all, the sunsets and sunrises are some of my favorite subjects!

best photographer kansas debra gail

Top 10 Sights to See in the Flint Hills – Beautiful Lakes!

  1. When you’re up north, go check out the Konza Prairie! The Konza Prairie is a research station where staff and students study the grassland ecology of the Flint Hills. They also provide valuable research on the restoration and maintenance of the tallgrass prairie. You can hike miles and miles of trails as you enjoy stunningly beautiful views. Enjoy the fauna and flora of the Kansas Flint Hills while you learn about its history and geology. It’s fascinating!

  1. While downtown Cottonwood Falls is only a few blocks long, it is packed with antique stores, museums, art galleries, and restaurants. In other words, at one end of Broadway is the historic stone bridge, and a couple of blocks away at the other end is the beautiful and distinctly designed Chase County Courthouse. Self-guided tours of the courthouse are available during normal business hours Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
chase county kansas courthouse debra gail photography top ten
Chase County Kansas Courthouse

best photographer kansas debra gail

Top 10 Sights to See in the Flint Hills – Beautiful Barns!

  1. Another fun little town is Council Grove. The history here is amazing–packed with 25 Historic Sites; you’ll need some time to see this one! The Council Grove and Morris County self-guided tour brochure features sites such as the Seth Hays Home (constructed in 1867 by the town’s first settler, Seth M. Hays)

best flint hills photographer in kansas

  1. And last but not least, in Manhattan, Kansas, check out the Flint Hills Discovery Center. The Flint Hills Discovery Center has exhibits that explore the culture, history, and ecology of the Flint Hills in Kansas and Oklahoma. Specifically, the permanent exhibits are arranged in nine topical zones, including an interesting theater experience. For a lady who would rather be on a gravel road than in the city, I must say I love the architecture of this beautiful building!

There are many reasons why the Flint Hills are referred to as “The Crown Jewel of Kansas.” There is always beauty in each season, with spectacular sights from the north to south, from dawn to dusk.

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  • debra gail photography fine art prints commercial restaurant hotel office interior design great plains flint hills
  • top 10 places to visit in the flint hills
  • top 10 places to visit in the flint hills
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Central Oregon Coast – Video

An alluring savage, the Central Oregon Coast has a rugged beauty like no other and gets prettier with every visit.

US Highway 101 stretches along the Oregon Coast, serving up endless opportunities for hikes, camping, sunset-viewing, and photography.

This isn’t Southern California. But instead, this is where the forest nearly meets the ocean. The Central Coast is alive and wild.

If you have the opportunity, I highly recommend the Central Oregon Coast for amazing sights that you’ll love!

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More Baby Wrens!

baby wren Debra Gail photography

The Carolina Wren is a year-round resident bird for us in southeast Kansas. Although our yard isn’t “open woods,” they find several trees and a couple of brush piles to explore.

The wrens in our backyard have two broods each year, of tiny, adorable nestlings.

more baby wrens

If you follow my blog or Facebook/Instagram feeds, you may already know that the Carolina Wren is my favorite bird to watch.

baby wren Debra Gail photography

Look at that itty-bitty tail!!

adult and fledgling wren
Carolina wren fledgling

The wren is a voracious eater, feeding primarily on insects. During breeding season, we typically have dried mealworms in feeders for the wren and several others.

One of my favorite aspects of the wren is that the adult wren pairs perform a duet, with the female chattering while the male sings. It’s a unique and beautiful performance! And if you didn’t know better, you would think it’s a much larger bird than these tiny ones!

I hope that you have the opportunity to see the Carolina wren and even hear their beautiful duet! For more on the Carolina wren, check this out from All About Birds.

Thank you for stopping by!

~Debra Gail

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June Baby Birds

Carolina wren fledgling

The baby birds and their parents are visiting our backyard. This means my birdseed supplies are in danger of a stock out.

june baby birds a juvenile robin
A juvenile American Robin
juvenile robin being fed
A juvenile American Robin and Dad

Between the near-daily replenishment of safflower seed, suet cakes, berries, and sunflower seed, and keeping the ponds maintained, along with the birdbaths clean, it’s another full-time job!

juvenile brown thrasher
A juvenile Brown Thrasher

But this is okay. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

A juvenile Common Grackle

It could be the Stay at Home orders, which first spurred this supposed increase in backyard birds. Could it be that the birds are also staying at home?

Or could it be possible they have always been in the yard, and we’ve been too busy to notice?

A Common Grackle fledgling

Either way, they are especially joyful to watch this year. From the Common Grackle to the inconspicuous Northern Cardinal, the variety of birds this year is huge!

A wet European Starling
A juvenile European Starling

The European Starling looks black from a distance, but in the summer, they are purplish-green, with yellow beaks. The Starling is typically a loud bird, traveling in large groups. But there is just one lone pair and their little family that hangs around our yard.

A young Shorty, “scaling” the garden skyscraper

And then there is this bird. Wait, that’s Shorty! Shorty blesses us with her presence almost daily. Shorty is a young, small squirrel with only a half-tail. She is unique in many ways, including her downright friendliness, from the beginning. Maybe it’s somehow related to the short tail.

Come to think of it … maybe this is how all of this extra birding began: setting up new “squirrel-proof” bird feeders—more feeders with more variety of bird food. And then suddenly, there are more birds.

A juvenile American Robin

The Robins love grape jelly and grapes. Even the juvenile Robins are eating grapes out there with Mom and Dad.

An almost-mature female Northern Cardinal

The pair of Northern Cardinals are less conspicuous than Shorty. Well, most every bird is less conspicuous than Shorty.

A Common Grackle juvenile with a male Northern Cardinal
A Ruby Throated Hummingbird fledgling

The hummingbirds are a joy to watch, however, they’re not always easy to spot! I found that it is more effective to listen for their buzzing than to try and watch for them. The hummingbirds are so fast!

A Carolina Wren fledgling

And the Carolina Wren. If forced to rank and choose, the Wren is my favorite bird. This tiny bird belts out a song that is the loudest of songbirds in our backyard. When listening, you would think it’s a big bird. And while the Wren is shy, if you set out suet feeders in your yard and look for the Wren in garden brush piles, you may see this little guy with a big voice.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed this post on June Baby Birds! If you want more information on feeder types and feeding birds, check out Feeder Watch.

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Midwest Skies Like These Should Be Illegal

Sunrise midwest skies should be illegal

Midwest Skies Like These

I usually wouldn’t have thought to grab my camera for my five-mile trip to the post office this week. I’d just finished hauling no less than ten bags of wet cedar mulch from my truck and to the backyard garden areas! But for whatever reason, just before I left, I grabbed my camera gear. And this was what was waiting for me. 

Oh my, it took my breath away, even more than the heavy bags of mulch just moments before. 

It was an absolute feast for the senses: The endless shades of blue in the sky, the fluffy and multi-dimensional white clouds, the brightness of the new spring green, and the whispering, warm winds. 

And then this, with the fence and windmill:

midwest skies like these

Midwest Skies Like These

And if that wasn’t enough to send me swooning, here is more:

beautiful midwest skies like these

This scene reminds me of the days when we would just plop down in the grass and do nothing.

“When you’re a kid, you lay in the grass and watch the clouds going over, and you literally don’t have a thought in your mind. It’s purely meditation, and we lose that.”

~Dick Van Dyke

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5 Midwest Birds to Get to Know

5 midwest birds debra gail photography

Here are 5 Midwest birds to get to know!

Spring is an exciting time for those of us who enjoy bird watching. Additionally, some of the world’s prettiest birds are right here among us in the Midwest and Great Plains areas!

There is a simple strategy for attracting these five beautiful birds to your backyard! Read on for more about the identification and eating habits of these five beautiful birds.

#1 – Woodpeckers

The Downey Woodpecker is stunning with its red head and black and white feathers

Woodpeckers are just a strikingly beautiful bird. Pure and simple. And a top favorite in the list of 5 Midwest birds to get to know.

The Woodpecker is a typical bird to find in the Midwest backyard as they flourish well in urban environments. 

I like to put out suet and watch them line up! Additionally, they eat safflower seeds!

Furthermore, we have several types of Woodpeckers that frequent our backyard, including the Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, and Pileated Woodpecker.

5 Midwest Birds to Get to Know

#2 – Carolina Wren – My Favorite

5 midwest birds - carolina wren
Note the white band above the eye and the decurved bill

This sweet little bird, the Carolina Wren, often nests very close to homes.

They may nest in a planter in a garden shed or a hanging basket of petunias. If you place a nest box in a quiet area of your backyard, you may find a nesting pair there next spring. 

The Carolina Wren is one of my favorite birds. These tiny creatures can sing loud! And when we’re on the patio, they will do a low and loud fly-by, as if to say “hello.” I just love being around these little birds!

Carolina Wrens love to feast on dried mealworms. We have a bright yellow trough feeder that they love to visit. They will also eat from suet-filled feeders. Furthermore, they love safflower seed chips!

5 Midwest Birds to Get to Know

#3 – Northern Cardinal

debra gail photography cardinal
He’s showing off

The Northern Cardinal is a bird that we have year-round and another favorite of these five birds in the Midwest.

The brilliant red feathers of the Northern Cardinal makes them the most-watched bird and often the reason people become interested in bird watching. They move quickly, and in the spring, we often notice the male cardinals calling attention to themselves when there are other males in the area.

Their favorite food seems to be safflower seeds. They will check out other feeders, but always return to the ones with safflower seed.

A splendid thing about safflower seed is that Blue Jays and squirrels don’t bother with it! 

5 Midwest Birds to Get to Know

#4 – Tufted Titmouse

5 midwest birds - tufted titmouse
With a black patch above the bill and gray feathers, the peach-colored wash down the flank makes this a beautiful bird

This small cutie is a fast bird and not easy to photograph at the feeder.

But if you want to photograph a Tufted Titmouse, you’ll need to set your shutter speed for around 1600. That’s just one photography tip! I have lots more!

The Tufted Titmouse likes to eat insects, berries, and nuts. We have a sunflower seed mix in this feeder that they seem to love! They also frequently feed at the safflower feeders.

The Tufted Titmice are commonly found across most of the central and eastern half of the United States. And for my friends in Canada, Tufted Titmice are rare species in Canada and found primarily in the southern Ontario Carolinian forests.

#5 – House Finch

5 midwest birds - house finches
My primary safflower feeder with sweet little House Finch families

House Finches are common in our area, but this doesn’t make them a common sight to watch! The social factor of these House Finches makes them one of the favorites of the 5 Midwest birds to get to know!

Other house finches always surround this highly social bird. And it seems that they’re at the feeders almost always! Specifically, the house finch spends a lot of time at the safflower seed feeder.

5 Midwest Birds to Get to Know

One seed type will bring many beautiful songbirds to your backyard.

Safflower Seed Wins!

It’s not just these five birds that love safflower seeds, but also Chickadees, Nuthatches, Grosbeaks, Doves, Purple Finches, House Sparrows, and more.

Well, there you have it!

5 Midwest birds to get to know!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post!

While the grape jelly is a big hit with several birds in the Midwest, safflower seeds are also popular! Buying and supplying just one type of birdseed is a simple strategy for attracting these five beautiful birds to your backyard! Put safflower seeds in your feeders, and you’ll attract these songbirds and more.

The fascinating aspect of safflower seed in the bird feeders is that “bully birds” like the Blue Jays do not eat it.

Bird Food Tips of the 5 Midwest Birds to Get to Know

Here is a complete list of what birds in our backyard love to eat: 

Safflower seed


Grape Jelly


Orange slices




Sunflower Seeds

Sunflower Seed Chips

Dried Mealworms

For more on birds and an excellent bird ID app, check out Merlin.