Flying from Denver to Cincinnati yesterday afternoon, I selected a window seat, cherishing the opportunity to see familiar terrain from 30,000 feet. The weather cooperated as we flew east across the dry, brown plains of Eastern Colorado but several cloud layers obscured my view once we entered Kansas.
Every ten minutes or so, we would cross a hole in the overcast, providing a brief glimpse of the landscape below. If irrigation circles were present, I knew we were still above the High Plains while river and creek patterns gave some clues to our location. At one point, I saw a river entering the west end of a reservoir (Waconda Lake?) and, farther east, the heavily dissected terrain (with tree lined stream beds) indicated we were passing above the Flint Hills of eastern Kansas.
Fortunately, the sky cleared as we reached the Missouri River Valley (just north of Kansas City) and I was able to see a number of my favorite birding haunts as we crossed the State: Smithville Lake, Swan Lake NWR, Grand Pass Conservation Area and Mark Twain Lake, among others. The sun was setting as we flew over the Mississippi (a bit north of St. Louis) and the cities of Springfield, Effingham, Terre Haute and Indianapolis glowed to our north. Finally, descending into Cincinnati, we passed above the dark swath of the lower Great Miami River, where Oxbow, Inc. has protected vital wetland habitat (and where I honed my birding skills thirty years ago).