Fall is actually my favorite season. It’s not too hot, windy or cold. Jackets are optional and stepping on all the crackling leaves never gets old. Plus, the combination of the sun and cool air makes me cherish the autumn months in Vegas.
Springs Preserve and fall in Vegas is like a match made in heaven. Not only do you get to stroll through beautiful gardens at the Springs Preserve while enjoying perfect weather, the attraction also offers a multitude of unique and fun activities for all ages. Take a break from the glitz and glamour of the Las Vegas Strip and take a day to embrace a different side of Vegas.
Soar with the raptors at the Springs Preserve
We’re sure you’ll get a chance to sightsee all of the lights on the Strip, but how many of your friends can actually say they bird-watched in Vegas? Not many. Showcasing now through May 2012, you’ll have a chance to get an up-close view of exotic birds every Saturday and Sunday at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. with the “Wings Over Springs” program, free with your paid admission.
The live show explores the roles of these majestic birds of prey in our environment. You’ll see all sorts of birds including the Eurasian Eagle Owl, Saker Falcon, Barbary Saker Falcon, Lanner Barbary, African Hawk Eagle, Barbary, Red-Necked Falcon and the African Crow Raven.
The birds are trained to behave with the public since they were raised with trainers since the were hatched.
“They’re much more friendly than what your typical bird of prey might be,” said Alyssa Collins, program coordinator for Wings Over Springs. “The ones in the wild would never want to be around people.”
The highlight of the bird presentation is the free flight shows. The birds swoop in and fly right over your head. Currently, the free flight shows are indoors due to weather conditions. The show will be outdoors starting the third week of November. Birds you’ll see flying include eagles, owls, falcons and hawks.
While trainers spend hundreds — even thousands — of hours with the birds, sometimes the birds have been known to fly away.
“One time last year our bird Hope would constantly go to the Meadows Mall,” said Collins. “We like to joke because she was a female.”
The team always found her, thanks to the transmitters on all of the free-flight birds.
“Sometimes because the wind is high, they can be carried away,” she added. “We had a bird fly to the Strip last season. It does happen, but we always track them.”
While birds in the past have been known to joy ride (some even as far as flying two states away), Collins said disciplining the birds is not the answer.
“If you ever punish a bird or do something to it, it’s not going to want to come back,” she said. “That’s why we always make our birds as comfortable as possible.”
Aside from the free-flight shows, these talented birds of prey can do tricks. Collins explained the “cravens” (the African crow and raven mix) can take cans from people in the audience and put them into a recycling bin.
“They also do fundraising for us after the show,” she added. “People hand them paper money and they put it into a donation bucket.”
If you choose to do the backstage pass for $10, you’ll get an even closer interaction.
“The backstage pass gives us a chance to help train our birds with the help of the public,” she said. “The public sees how we train birds to do the free flights [and] we actually give people the opportunity to hold the birds.”
While these birds know how to behave, they aren’t exactly like pets, either.
“They’re solitary in the wild, and they’re not going to be giving each other affection even with their own species,” Collins said. “They’re conditioned to certain types of touching, but being pet like a dog or a cat is just not natural for them. The only time they would be pet on the back is in a breeding situation in the wild or being attacked by a predator.”
Many of the birds are born and raised in breeding programs. You’ll see these birds in the Los Angeles Zoo and several spots in Arizona. The falcons and hawks are also used as green pest controllers, which mean they assist in protecting crops.
The program at Springs Preserve was very successful last year, with 1,000 visitors viewing the outdoor show. If seeing this exhibit got you inspired to be more “bird-friendly,” there are a couple of tips you should know.
“When people find birds in the wild, they automatically want to pick them up, take them home and try and take care of them — that’s actually the worst thing you can possibly do for a bird,” said Collins. “The parent birds are really the ones that give the baby birds the best chance of survival.”
If you think about owning a bird, be aware of the breed. Parrots are very high maintence and known to live a really long time. Collins suggested hand-fed cockatiels are the way to go.
“Wings Over Springs” is included with general admission to the Springs Preserve ($18.95 for adults, $10.95 for children 5 – 17, free for children 4 and younger. Nevada residents enjoy a discounted rate of $9.95 for adults, $4.95 for children 5 – 17, free for kids 4 years old and younger). Don’t let this rare bird opportunity “fly” by!
Peep the poop
While you’re here, you can check out another type of exhibit you don’t see every day: “The Scoop on Poop.”
You may giggle, but it’s something we all doo — I mean, do. Displaying now through Jan. 8, 2012, “The Scoop on Poop!” is on display inside the Origen Museum at the Springs Preserve every day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
“The Scoop on Poop” is a fascinating, exhibit based on the popular children’s book by Dr. Wayne Lynch. Kids of all ages can learn about particular animals by seeing what it leaves behind.
“Folks have been embracing this exhibit,” said Jim Johnson, public relations manager for Springs Preserve. “All these creatures get down and dirty. The fish do it, the frogs do it. Everyone does it. It’s hard to talk about without cracking a smile, but I think we do a good job making it a lot of fun.”
Explore colorful, three-dimensional, hands-on displays (don’t worry, it’s not real!) with funny titles like “Poop Has Many Names,” “Fecal Framework,” “Who Dung it? Diagnostic Doo,” and “Dangerous Droppings.”
You can also listen in on an animal’s digestive system, learn the language of poop from countries around the world, examine fecal samples in a veterinarian’s lab, compete in dung beetle races, track wild animals through clues left in scat, see how long it takes an elephant to poop their body weight, improve their “number two IQ” in Stool School and meet a dinosaur dung detective.
This new exhibit is free for members or included with General Admission.
The Springs Preserve also celebrates art this fall season with Bryan Christiansen’s “Trophy Hunter.” Christiansen puts a contemporary twist on country life with his colorful art pieces.
The South Dakota native uses junk like used ottomans, sofas and mattresses and, like a hunter, “skins” the fabric, preserves the “meat” (in this case, couch cushions) and creates fun animal figures that put your standard stuffed animals to shame.
You can view this exhibit inside the Big Springs Gallery now through Jan. 22, 2012. The gallery is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
If you plan on coming into town this weekend or next, Springs Preserve hosts a frightfully fun Haunted Harvest all ages can enjoy.
The Haunted Harvest features a haunted house, trick-or-treat stations, carnival games, live entertainment and much more. There is also a Scavenger Scarecrow Contest on display now through Oct. 31. Even if you don’t participate (who packs hay straw with them, anyway?), bring your camera to take pictures of all the creativity.
Haunted Hayrides through the trails at Springs Preserve are available for a fee. The Haunted Harvest is open Oct. 21-23 and 28-31 from 5 p.m. – 9 p.m. Admission is $8 for adults, $5 for children 5 – 12 (free for children 4 and younger).
The Springs Preserve is more than just a garden. Whether you’re an animal, science or art lover (or like me and just love the feeling of autumn), this is a great way to escape all the hype of the Strip.
“We pretty much have something for everyone of all ages to come see and do,” Johnson said. “You’re going to have a lot of fun.”