Human efforts have given several threatened or endangered species a fighting chance in the Ballona Wetlands
El Segundo Blue Butterfly
A federally designated endangered species, the El Segundo Blue Butterfly population in the Ballona Wetlands had completely died out until four years ago, when a few of the thumbnail-sized insects made their way from a preserve in Playa del Rey — then one of only three habitats in the world — to coastal wetlands dunes. Naturalists counted 61 in the wetlands in 2013 and 117 last year. El Segundo Blue Butterflies have only one food source — buckwheat, which Friends of Ballona volunteers had restored in dune areas ahead of the butterflies’ return.
The California Gnatcatcher, a federally designated threatened species (at risk of becoming endangered), hadn’t been seen in or around the Ballona Wetlands for nearly two centuries. That was until March 2013, when naturalist Tracy Drake photographed four of the birds in the coastal dunes area of the wetlands. All the more important to the survival of the species, a male and female began raising hatchlings in the preserve the following month. Removal of invasive plants by Friends of the Ballona Wetlands volunteers allowed for the return of native plants that can sustain the California Gnatcatcher.
Orcutt’s Yellow Pincushion
A bright golden wildflower native to the coast of Southern California and the Baja Peninsula, Orcutt’s Yellow Pincushion flourished in Playa del Rey in the early 1900s. As people settled the area, they all but disappeared. In March 2010, members of the nonprofit Ballona Institute spotted the rare, dandelion-like flowers at the site of a city restoration project in the Marina Peninsula. Following January’s rainstorms, thousands of Orcutt’s Yellow Pincushions have recently popped up in and around
Least Bell’s Vireo
There were only 200 known mating pairs of Least Bell’s Vireo, a tiny songbird native to riparian Southern California, when they were put on the endangered species list in 1986. The birds remain a locally endangered subspecies but have shown remarkable signs of making a comeback, including two pairs that began nesting in the Ballona Wetlands in 2010.