Wednesday, July 23, 2014


My family and I travel to Las Vegas frequently, and while Sin City is well known for lost wages and loose morals, it's always a jackpot for birding, as it was earlier this summer. While I'm long past the stage of hoping for any lifers in the city (I've traveled there multiple times and often bird in the same regular hotspots), it's always a treat to see the southwestern birds that don't make it as far north as my Utah backyard.

On the way south, we typically enjoy a leg-stretching stop at Tonaquint Nature Park in St. George, a small but thriving property with beautiful habitat for a wide variety of birds. While the pond was surprisingly overrun with algae this time, the ducks and mute swans didn't mind, and the Indian peafowl roaming the park were a loud surprise. The adjacent cemetery is a relatively reliable spot to see Say's phoebes, and fledgling American robins were abundant near the playgrounds and picnic areas. I enjoyed renewing my acquaintance with Abert's towhees, and the blue grosbeak was a rare surprise just before getting back in the truck to continue the drive - after a brief stop for gas and watching a family of rock wrens near the station.

Once in Vegas, there was good opportunity to study a greater roadrunner that was hanging out at Sunset Park, and a flurry of active verdins were scattered all over the park as well. A crissal thrasher was another great sighting, and I enjoyed the black-tailed gnatcatchers and the Gambel's quail, so similar to my backyard California quail. And Vegas wouldn't be Vegas without great-tailed grackles making a racket. While the waterfowl weren't as numerous as I'd hoped at the pond section of Sunset Park, the double-crested cormorants, American coots, and Canada geese were still pleasant to see, and the western grebe out in the center of the pond was a treat.

Birding in Las Vegas changes from season to season, and while one's luck may change with what species are seen, if you visit the right places in the city, you'll be sure to come away a birding winner.

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