By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

It's the perfect book for bird watchers at Cheyenne Bottoms, and its sale will help the new Wetlands Education Center.

Rob Penner's new "The Birds of Cheyenne Bottoms" is now on sale at the Wetlands Education Center and through the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks Chickadee Checkoff program. Both groups paid for the book's printing costs, and will benefit from any profits.

Penner will get about 20 copies of the 156-page book for his efforts. Penner is based at Cheyenne Bottoms where he serves as the avian programs manager for the Kansas Nature Conservancy.

The Wetlands Education Center is a cooperative venture of Fort Hays State University's Sternberg Museum of Natural History and KDWP.

The book is a compilation of Penner's efforts to document the occurrence of birds at Cheyenne Bottoms, as well as historical records from KDWP.

It will, he said, serve as something of a big check list for birders wanting to explore the bird watching potential at the naturally occurring wetlands area.

The book covers 333 species of birds that have been sighted over time. The book documents when the first were spotted and provides details on when migratory birds arrive at the wetlands and when they leave. Charts accompany the information to show when the greatest occurrence has taken place.

In some cases, Penner said, the book details some of the hazards that the birds face.

"I had it in my mind for people that weren't familiar with the birds of Cheyenne Bottoms," he said. "It's for the people who are beginning bird watching at Cheyenne Bottoms."

Penner hasn't been lucky enough just yet to witness all 333 birds -- now numbering 335, due to recent additions to the birding checklist -- at Cheyenne Bottoms.

Those birds have been spotted over the last 50 years, some of them rare occurrences that have only been seen once, in the 1930s, for example. The anhinga, he said, is an example.

"Out of 335 birds, I've roughly seen in Barton County about 260 or something like that," he said. "A lot of these birds were seen in Barton County over time."

To keep the cost of the book down, only limited color photos are available.

Penner's own ink drawings of birds that have been seen in the Cheyenne Bottoms area, however, are sprinkled throughout the book.

Printing costs were split by the education center and KDWP's Chickadee Checkoff.

"They got all the books," he said, "they get all the profit. I got back about 20 books out of the deal."

The first printing of 1,000 books is evenly split between the two groups that paid for it.

Penner said the book is on computer so it can easily be updated when a second edition is printed.

"I hope there will be a second printing," he said.

While data from the project comes from KDWP and Penner's 13-year work at Cheyenne Bottoms, the actual book took about two years.

"So I have to come up with another project," he said of what he will be doing.

Not to worry, however, as he's already got a couple ideas.

He'd like to document the migration of a bird that overwinters in South America, for example, showing all of the difficulties it faces along the way.

He's also considering something on the 13-year tracking of birds of prey that he's followed.

All that, he said, is "probably a couple years down the road."

* The book can be purchased for $9.95 plus tax at the Wetlands Gift Store in the Kansas Wetlands Education Center at Cheyenne Bottoms. The book is also available through the KDWP Outdoor Store in Pratt.