A glint of gold caught my eye from up in the top of a young Sycamore Tree. “Click click” I heard a familiar call and looked closer. It was a Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus), sitting all proud in the morning sunlight. Not in a hurry to leave that spot, he seemed to be guarding it. I hadn’t seen a Rufous for a long time. Mostly I see our Anna’s Hummingbirds (Calypte anna) who are local and stay here in So Cal all year, even in winter. The Rufous appear in California in the spring, on their way back to spend summer in their native Northwest. They fight with local Annas, as they are more aggressive and territorial. Even though they are migrants, they will aggressively defend feeding sources in the areas they move into. But, they sure are pretty and flashy in the sun– Like golden ornaments they decorate the Sycamore trees.
I was walking on a nature trail through a discovery park at the Watershed of Ballona Creek Wetlands, Playa Vista, CA. The Friends of Ballona had planted a nice assortment of native perennials, most of which were blooming – yellows and purples – and they were labeled so folks could know what they were looking at. The park was full of new life – new plants getting established even without rain – how long ago were the planted? I would guess 3 or 4 years. White heads of Buckwheat tinged with bronze had bees attending to them. A trail meandered through plant groupings with lots of places to sit and enjoy passing butterflies.
If you were to follow the trail to its western end, you would be at Ballona’s sand dunes and the Pacific Ocean. This Discovery Park is at the eastern-most end of Ballona where many acres of land form a natural watershed. The watershed originally covered a much greater area, but developers took much of it to build the new community there, now called Playa Vista, east of Lincoln Blvd. They left the land to the west of Lincoln Blvd alone, and it is now a fresh water lagoon full of life – Great Egrets, Blue Heron and lots of Mallards.
In this Discovery Park at the Watershed educational signs explain how watersheds function, collecting and cleaning water from underground aquifers, sending it down to the fresh water lagoon for the wildlife there. The people in Playa Vista can learn something of the history of the land on which their homes are built, and the history of the indigenous peoples, the Tongva. It’s good for the children to learn how watersheds work, and how pesticides and plastic end up in the ocean, because it will one day be up to them to keep the surrounding sanctuary responsibly maintained for future generations of wildlife and children.
It occurred to me then that I had not seen any insect life on my earlier walk around the community of Playa Vista. Before I stumbled into the Ballona’s Discovery Park, I had taken a walk through the new community of Playa Vista only a few blocks away. The buildings were surrounded by well-maintained strips of landscaping – pretty, tidy, with roses blooming happily, and green lawns that will never be allowed to turn brown. In the Town Center, there was a large green lawn, a park with a stage made of stone for summer night concerts. But, I had not seen any hummingbirds in Playa Vista, or butterflies or bees until I came to the native plant park just a few blocks away. There, I felt at home and comfortable, happy to see Rufous Hummingbird in a young native Sycamore tree.
The pretty landscaping was void of pollinators! Was this because the pollinators prefer native plants, or was it because of pesticides and chemical fertilizers used in ordinary landscape maintenance? Or both?
Lots of people would like to live in a new upscale community like Playa Vista where everything looks picture perfect, well-maintained, clean and new. But for me, it’s the wild places that call out to my soul– let me sit in the sun where I can listen to my friends, “Click click.”
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