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Bird viewing preserve offers close contact with nature

At this busy time of year, it’s good to keep in mind an outdoor destination close enough that it won’t require much time and preparation. Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve, 350 E. Galleria Drive, is just such a place — an oasis of natural peace hidden close to the urban bustle of the Las Vegas Valley.

The preserve is located at the Kurt R. Segler Water Reclamation Facility. There are nine ponds spread out over more than 100 acres. These ponds and their surrounding vegetation provide excellent habitat and natural food sources. Whatever the time of year, you can expect to see plenty of birds here, whether nesting, resident or migratory.

A visit to the preserve should start at the visitor center. Besides picking up a map and a checklist of birds sometimes seen in the reserve, there’s also a list of recent sightings, especially helpful for a productive morning of bird viewing.

Once you are ready to hit the trails, head out the back door. The trails are equipped with signs explaining the history and wildlife of the preserve.

All the ponds have walking paths around them. For people with limited mobility, there are three-quarters of a mile of paved trails around ponds one, two and three. The other trails are gravel, yet very level, affording easy walking. Throughout the preserve, you will find resting benches, bird-viewing blinds and even a two-story observation deck that offers elevated views into ponds two, five and seven.

More than 270 species of birds have been documented there. During the winter months, check out the ponds for waterfowl, including mallards, cinnamon teals, green-winged teals, ruddy ducks, snow geese and buffleheads. Other winter birds you might see include Abert’s towhee, red-winged blackbird, orange-crowned warbler, northern flicker, horned lark and loggerhead shrike. You might also see some larger birds such as great blue heron, snowy egret, black-crowned Night-Heron, northern harrier, red-tailed hawk and golden eagles.

Other wildlife found at the preserve include the black-tailed jack rabbit, desert cottontail and coyote. In some of the ponds, keep an eye out for a red-eared slider, a turtle that is often found basking in the sun.

Bring your binoculars for better bird viewing, although the visitor center has some available to loan visitors. The preserve also has a shaded picnic area directly behind the visitor center.

The Bird Viewing Preserve is open year-round. From now through February, it opens at 7 a.m. and closes at 2 p.m., with last entry 30 minutes prior to closing. For more information, call 267-4180 or visit cityofhenderson.com.

Deborah Wall is the author of “Great Hikes, A Cerca Country Guide” and “Base Camp Las Vegas: Hiking the Southwestern States,” published by Stephens Press. She can be reached at deborabus@aol.com.

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