ESCONDIDO, Calif. (KGTV) - A hillside devastated by 2007’s Witch Creek fire has become a habitat for a rare local bird species with the help of the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
“There was basically no vegetation. It was just gray moonscape and skeletons of melty-looking cactus,” said conservation specialist Christa Horn of the Escondido landscape.
The fire left no place for the coastal cactus wren to live. There are believed to be only a few dozen birds left in the area.
Three years after the Witch Creek fire, Safari Park staff members planted new cactus to bring the birds back. It was a careful process for everyone involved, including volunteers and children.
“If you look very closely at the base of the big needles, there's a bunch of little, tiny needles. Those are the ones that you'll find days, weeks later still under your skin."
Once the cacti were tall enough, the birds returned. Horn spotted a nest last month.
“It's really exciting to actually see the result right there in front of you and be like, someone planted this eight years ago, and something decided to move in,” said Horn.