It's 100 acres of wetlands and one of only a few bright green spots in a desert full of brown.
Hard to miss from the air. But the one thing staff at the Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve hears constantly, especially from locals? "I never knew this was here."
Fall is the perfect time to discover the preserve, says Christina Nycek, recreation assistant and one of the resident bird experts.
"We're entering into fall migrating season and Las Vegas lies in the Pacific flyway," says Nycek, using her binoculars to watch a ruddy duck dive for a snack in what was once a water reclamation pond.
The preserve is at 2400 B Moser Drive in an industrial area off of Boulder Highway and Sunset Road. From Sunset, make a left on Moser Drive and follow the bird signs. But it's easy to miss, Nycek says, which explains why they get hundreds of out-of-towners at the preserve and far fewer locals every year. Last year, 8,635 people visited the preserve.
It's a fun, educational and free place to visit; the city of Henderson is planning improvements such as a boardwalk and bird blinds to enhance visitors' experiences, says a recreation department spokeswoman.
Last month, the city launched a bird mobile that will take groups of as many as eight people around the preserve, pointing out notable birds to them. It's ideal for seniors or people with mobility issues, Nycek says.
You won't see Nevada's state bird, the mountain bluebird, because it lives in the mountains. But visitors will most likely see a variety of bird species that you would never imagine seeing in Las Vegas.
Earlier this month, preserve staff counted 87 species of birds. On a recent Tuesday there were white American pelicans, cormorants, snowy white egrets, American coots, ruddy ducks and turkey vultures, among others.
The birds stop in Las Vegas to rest and eat while migrating north and south, Nycek says. They feed off of the gambusia in the ponds as well as frogs and turtles. And lots of gnats.
The preserve is open from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily. The best viewing times are early morning, when the birds are active and feeding.
If you come out, bring binoculars. The preserve does have a few pair that can be loaned. It's also a good idea to wear sunscreen, comfortable shoes, a hat and bring water. Leave all pets at home and don't plan on feeding the birds, Nycek says.
To make reservations for the bird mobile, call 267-4180.
Contact reporter Sonya Padgett at spadgett@review journal.com or 702-380-4564.