Saturday, October 25, 2008

A Rare White Hummingbird

About 5 miles south of here, a massive restoration project, 15 years in the planning and 3 years in the making, is nearing completion. 440 acres of tidal salt marsh, where the San Dieguito River meets the Pacific Ocean in Del Mar, are almost restored as a refuge for water fowl who travel the Pacific Flyway. The acreage is bisected by Interstate 5, the main route between San Diego and Washington State.

A project of Southern California Edison, as mitigation for the loss of fish attributed to its seaside San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, 33 miles to the north, restoration is being funded by rate payers in Orange and San Diego counties. 2 million cubic yards of earth have been moved to create 150 additional acres of bird and fish habitat, with berms high enough to withstand a 100 yeard flood.

The salt marsh will be permanently open to the ocean, whose tidal waters will keep the wetlands alive. Creatures galore are already being attracted to this safe haven. A white hummingbird, the rarest of all hummingbirds, stopped there earlier this year, as have ospreys, brown pelicans, terns, gnatcatchers and egrets, to name just a few. The white hummingbird sighting is quite remarkable, as only 5-10 sightings are documented a year in the entire United States. Earlier this year, work stopped for several days when a heavy equipement driver spotted the nest of an Anna's hummingbird under the Interstate 5 freeway overpass bridge. Work did not recommence until it was determinded that the rumbling of earth movers had no detrimental effect on the nesting birds.

Once the restoration is complete, scheduled for February 2009, there will be hiking and biking trails for bird watchers and nature enthusiasts, alike.

Thanks to Southern California wildlife photographer Chris Mayne for the beautiful photograph of the rare white hummingbird, captured in Del Mar earlier this year.

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