Saturday, April 21 , 2018, 8:03 am | Fair 50º

 
 
 
 

Bald Eagle Reality Show Plays Out on Channel Islands

Webcam monitors four pairs nesting on Santa Cruz Island, and Anacapa Island hosts its first nest in more than 60 years

They were the reality stars of the bald eagle Webcam located in open book-shaped Pelican Canyon on Santa Cruz Island. Known as K10 and K26, the bald eagles have been successful in jump-starting the new wave of bald eagles replenishing Channel Islands National Park.

From 2006 through 2010, the raptors not only naturally hatched the first bald eagle chick in more than 50 years on the chain, they’ve also had several other successful nests following that first nest. This year, however, the pair ditched their nest of five years and searched out another site. This sent biologists from the Institute for Wildlife Studies into a frenzy to relocate their popular Webcam.

At first it looked as if the pair picked a nest site above scenic Potato Harbor. They soon abandoned that site and settled at a remote site on the sheer cliffs overlooking Twin Harbors, a site deemed too remote to set up another Webcam.

“For about a week we didn’t know where they went,” said Yvonne Menard, spokeswoman for Channel Islands National Park. “The nest site they’re in now is too steep and it doesn’t have a good angle. It wasn’t feasible to set up a Webcam.”

But there are four other pairs nesting on Santa Cruz Island, and biologists were able to set up a Webcam at Sauces Canyon in the interior of the island just in time for viewers to watch two chicks hatch.

In 2010, the bald eagle Webcam connected more than 160,000 visitors from more than 145 countries worldwide, and generated 1.5 million hits. These viewers keep a daily watch over the raptors and contribute to the biologists’ monitoring efforts. Click here for your own peek through the Webcam.

“Biologists do monitor Webcam comments by visitors,” Menard said. “There is fluid and regular communications between biologists and visitors.”

There were two active nests on Santa Rosa Island, but unfortunately neither of those nests is viable now. However, there’s good news to report on Anacapa Island. For the first time in more than 60 years, a bald eagle pair has established a nest with two eggs ready to hatch. The nest is lodged in a tree on West Anacapa Island.

Before 2006, the last known successful nesting of a bald eagle pair on the northern Channel Islands was in 1950 on Santa Rosa Island. Bald eagles disappeared from the archipelago by the early 1960s because of human impacts, primarily DDT and PCB contamination in the pelagic food web. The effects of the chemicals caused bald eagles to lay thin-shelled eggs that either dehydrate or break in the nest.

Beginning in 2002, the National Park Service, The Nature Conservancy, the IWS and other agencies combined their efforts to bring bald eagles back to the northern chain. Twelve bald eaglets per year for five consecutive years were released on Santa Cruz Island. There are currently 34 eagles residing on the islands, re-establishing old territory. Funds came from the Montrose Settlements Restoration Program after court settlements to restore natural resources such as the bald eagle.

Noozhawk contributor and local freelance writer Chuck Graham is editor of Deep magazine.

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