It is almost breathtaking to look up and see a bald eagle taking off from a rocky hilltop or a tree and soar across the skies of the Channel Islands National Park and over the waters of the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary.
These are magnificent birds, and they perform by their very nature a very important service for us by helping to keep the natural order intact.
These birds were missing from the Channel Islands for roughly a half century after the DDT spills of the mid 1900s decimated their populations. Very early this century there was great effort put into re-introducing them to the Channel Islands and the birds thrived in their former natural range.
These birds are a keystone species; they have helped us restore and continue to maintain the natural order of the food chain. While they were away, golden eagles moved into the island chain and began attacking and eating our endemic island kit foxes, which had no instinctive defenses against aerial attack from large predator birds because they had always been at the top of the food chain of the islands.
Through a combined effort, we re-introduced bald eagles to the islands, trapped and relocated golden eagles and eradicated feral pigs. Now, the bald eagles dominate the airspace and prevent golden eagles from returning. That helped island kit foxes to build back up their populations.
Without the feral pigs rooting up the land, plant populations grew healthy again.
All of these efforts and successes combine to produce a healthy and robust Channel Island ecology. Nice work! Now we have so much more to enjoy on adventures.
Speaking of adventures, all of this looks mighty compelling from a kayak, exploring along the shoreline of the Channel Islands. Santa Barbara Adventure Company is a wonderful provider of such excursions and I recommend them. I’ve known Michael Cohen of that company for years and his enthusiasm is fun and palpable.
On my charterboat WaveWalker, I have helped passengers spot birds like the island scrub jay at Santa Cruz Island and watched bald eagles soar, swoop powerfully and grasp fish on the surface of the sea, using their mighty talons.
People love to see the raw power and beauty of nature, and we have all that ready for you to go see at our Channel Islands.
— Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need. Visit softininc.blogspot.com to learn more about the organization and how you can help. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.