Local groups including Friends of Ballona Wetlands and other supporters of the Ballona Freshwater Marsh will host a morning of learning and interactive fun on Saturday, May 12th, 2007, at the fourth annual Migration Celebration. Activities for adults and children will focus on bird watching and identification, wetlands preservation, stormwater management and native plants.

Migration Celebration is scheduled for 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, May 12th, at the Ballona Freshwater Marsh (located at the southwest corner of Jefferson Boulevard and Lincoln Boulevard). Participation is free.

Groups participating in the Migration Celebration this year include: Friends of Ballona Wetlands, Audubon of California, Ballona Creek Renaissance, South Bay Wildlife Rehab, Center for Natural Lands Management, Friends of the Playa Vista Library and Playa Vista Community Services. New participants this year include the Southern California Gas Company, Loyola Marymount University Extension, Master Gardeners and the Mountains Recreation Conservation Authority (MRCA).

At the Migration Celebration, interactive stations along the public trail of the Freshwater Marsh will feature binoculars and marsh docents to help with bird identification; microscopes to view underwater animal life; and wild birds that are being cared for by the South Bay Wildlife Rehab. Several stations will include activities specifically for children, including planting native seeds and learning about native plants.

“It’s a fantastic way for families to experience an amazing wildlife haven, right here in the middle of the city,” says Otella Wruck, executive director of Friends of the Ballona Wetlands, about the Migration Celebration.

An exhibit presented by butterfly gardener Victor Huey will showcase monarch butterflies that migrate through the area, while wildlife watercolor artist Deborah Ross will present a series of watercolor painting workshops that explore the depth of the Ballona wildlife.

Today, about 183 species of birds have been observed at the Freshwater Marsh since construction was completed in February of 2003. Some of the birds have not been seen in the Ballona region for several decades, according to Friends of Ballona Wetlands. In addition, an estimated 3,000 native trees and 10,000 native shrubs and grasses were planted at the marsh.

“The Migration Celebration celebrates the success of a reconstructed area of wetlands, complete with diverse species of both migratory birds and breeding species that everyone can appreciate and enjoy,” said Dr. Edith Read, preserve manager for the Center for Natural Lands Management. “We’ve been eagerly awaiting the planting of native wildflowers and grasses at the perimeter of the Marsh alongside Jefferson Boulevard. We’re very excited to teach children visiting the marsh about native plants through hands-on learning.”

The 26-acre Freshwater Marsh is part of a 51-acre Ballona Wetlands freshwater system. The natural resource provides native plants and water quality to create an attractive environment for migratory wetlands birds and other wildlife, as well as a vital source of nutrients for the coastal marine environment. The marsh also acts as a flood plain for streets, businesses and homes in the area and cleanses pollutants from stormwater runoff before it reaches Santa Monica Bay, according to Friends of Ballona Wetlands. The freshwater system will be completed by constructing a 25-acre Riparian Corridor along the base of the Westchester Bluffs and linking it to the marsh, according to the group.

“The Migration Celebration is an opportunity for the public to view and learn about the wildlife in ways that they wouldnít be able to if they visited the marsh on their own,” says Wruck.

FRIENDS OF BALLONA WETLANDS — Friends of Ballona Wetlands is dedicated to the preservation and restoration of more than 500 acres of the Ballona Wetlands located between Marina del Rey and the Westchester bluffs. Established in 1978 as a grassroots non-profit organization, the group now has an estimated 1,500 members and volunteers who donate their time and energy restoring the Ballona Wetlands and educating the local community on the importance of maintaining the wetlands as an Ecological Reserve.

Information, (310) 306-5994 or www.ballonafriends.org/