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Southern Nevada flush with opportunities for birders

Located along a major avian flyway, Southern Nevada plays host to more than 350 species of birds during the fall and spring migratory seasons. Many are simply passing through, but quite a few make the desert their home.

They naturally congregate where there is water, food and cover. The region’s varied habitats create year-round opportunities for observing birds and other wildlife, ranging from low elevations along the Colorado River and its tributary streams and lakes to high forested mountains rimming desert valleys.

Southern Nevadans do not have to go far to enjoy bird-watching. They can start at home by observing the birds that visit their own yards.

Enhance your backyard for birds by providing water sources such as bird baths or fountains, adding plants that produce seeds or nectar and putting out seed feeders, suet and hummingbird feeders. The birds will reward you by eating many garden pests and providing lively action to observe.

Before investing in feeders and seed, check whether your housing area or municipality has restrictions, as some consider certain birds to be pests.

Expand your enjoyment of our winged neighbors by visiting urban parks. Parks using native plants attract different birds than parks that have ponds or lakes, wetlands, stands of shade trees or patches of lawn. Some parks combine native desert settings with more traditional park settings.

Sunset Park, Lorenzi Park, the Springs Preserve, the Nature Discovery Park in the Aliante area, the newly opened Craig Ranch Regional Park and others provide attractive outdoor experiences, including birding, year-round.

Parks and preserves at the edges of the urban area such as the Henderson Bird Preserve, the Wetlands Park and Floyd Lamb Park at Tule Springs provide varied habitats for birds and other wildlife.

There is little shade at the Henderson Bird Preserve, so visit early in the day. Several large ponds fed by treated wastewater attract many waterbirds and shorebirds. Native landscaping encourages resident species, and a variety of birds of prey patrol overhead.

The still-developing Wetlands Park turns the Las Vegas Valley’s run-off and natural drainage channels into an environment attractive to many birds and animals.

Tule Springs, a former ranch, boasts orchards, groves of shade trees, grassy open areas, several ponds with tules and adjacent desert areas, all invitations to birds of many kinds.

Expand the possibilities for birding outings in all seasons by visiting public lands within easy access of the metropolitan area, such as Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, Spring Mountain Ranch State Park, Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, Corn Creek Station on the Desert National Wildlife Range and Lake Mead National Recreation Area. Drive a little farther to reach promising birding and wildlife areas along the Colorado River or wildlife refuges in Moapa Valley, at Ash Meadows, and around the Pahranagat Lakes near Alamo.

Many local, state and federal agencies, as well as private groups, such as the National Audubon Society’s affiliate chapters, work to preserve wild birds and animals through habitat protection and restoration. To keep track of bird populations, they rely upon field observations and special counts.

In Southern Nevada, the Red Rock Audubon Society with its West Branch in Pahrump Valley sponsors many field trips, habitat improvement projects, education and outreach programs and participates in the annual national Christmas Bird Count.

Find out about the group’s activities at www.redrockaudubon.org. The group next meets at 6:30 p.m. Monday for a social followed by a program at 7 p.m. in the Nevada State Museum at the Springs Preserve, 309 S. Valley View Blvd. Meetings are free and open to the public.

Those new to birding may want to sign up for a birding basics class being offered free of charge from 9 to 11 a.m. on Nov. 23 at the museum. Get details and reserve a spot by calling 702-524-5645.

Margo Bartlett Pesek’s Trip of the Week column appears on Sundays.

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