Cynthia Martinez in May was named director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. She is the first woman and first Hispanic to hold the position.

Her previous assignment was as manager of the Desert National Wildlife Complex in Nevada. It's composed of four national wildlife refuges, among them Desert NWR,  26 miles (from The Strip) north of Las Vegas along US Highway 95. That's the route to Los Angeles.

If you're in Vegas and have a few hours open, the refuge is worth a visit. Look for refuge signs at the entry on Corn Creek Road. The desert at that point looks pretty empty, tough birding on a good day. Four miles in, however, you find a true oasis -- ponds, a running stream, trees and shrubs. There is a visitor's center, and marked trails. On most visits I've had excellent birding. Early to mid-morning is the best time. And check the barbed-wire fence along the entry road for desert thrashers. It would be a good idea to call and check on road conditions -- 1-702-879-6110. Rain, rare as it is, can make a mess of things.

You're always a winner at the refuge. something hard to say about most attractions in the city.

Black-throated Sparrow is one species of bird that can be seen there.