I was visiting my family and friends in Las Vegas recently and my closest friend from High School lives near the Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve so we spent a couple of hours there. Here's where it is:
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It was a bit cloudy and windy that day, but we figured the birds don't mind!
There's a parking lot for the preserve where it's free to park and there's no entrance fee (although they DO accept what they call "sponsorships" so feel free to donate a couple bucks). You sign in at the desk, get a map and you can even rent binoculars for free there (you just have to leave a set of car keys at the desk).
This day our timing was good because one of the staff members was taking "one of the regulars" out to one of the ponds on his 8-seater golf cart and he said we could jump on and he'd show us around the preserve. As we were driving up I was thinking that it must be small because you couldn't really see it from the road and it all seemed a bit industrial (right off Boulder Highway), but it's quite sizable.
The preserve is about 140 acres and there are 9 different ponds. According to their website, "On May 20, 1998, the City of Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve was officially dedicated as an undisturbed and plentiful water source for nearly 200 species of birds. Local birders and nature lovers have visited the evaporating ponds for the past 20 years."
During the hour or so Jim took us around the preserve he told us a TON about the history of the preserve and many of the bird species that come through.
The main birds we saw were Northern Shovelers - a duck that looks similar to a Mallard but has a spatulate bill that looks a bit like a shovel - hundreds of them. Some where single, some coupled up and there were even some large groups of them swimming close together (these are called rafts and it's a way for the ducks to create a sort of whirlpool which brings their food - mainly microscopic - closer to the surface).
We also saw some other water fowl like Ring-neck ducks, Ruddy ducks (not in breeding plumage so no bright blue bill), Cinnamon Teals, Green-winged Teals, American Coots, Eared Grebes, and Buffleheads. Not many long legged birds there at the time like egrets or herons, but we did see one Black-crowned Night Heron. We saw a couple of shorebirds too - a couple of Killdeer and one Lesser yellowlegs.
It was my first time seeing many of these birds and it was great to do it with such a knowledgeable guide (Thanks Jim!), my sis, friend R and her 8-year old daughter. I think my favorite sighting was the Lesser yellowlegs. I'm a fan of the long-legged birds!
I didn't get too many photos (the birds were a bit far away and I only have a point and shoot) but here are some that I got. There are more photos and a description of the preserve at birdandhike.com.
|A couple of Ruddy ducks|
|Not snow. :)|
Maybe one time when I'm visiting it will be time for the Great egrets to roost. It's always strange to see those big leggy birds nested high up in bare trees!
It's a pretty great place. Cheap, accessible to lots of different people from kids to the elderly, and it seems like you're almost guaranteed to see some birds.