A Bald Eagle Reality Show
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 pair of bald eagles have been successful in jump-starting the new wave of bald eagles replenishing the Channel Islands National Park.
The pair arrived from Santa Catalina Island five years ago, and claimed an old nest that hadn’t been occupied since the last bald eagles occupied it 60 years ago. From 2006 through 2010 the raptors not only naturally hatched the first bald eagle chick in over six decades on the chain, they’ve also had several other successful nests following that first hatching.
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 (IWS) into a frenzy to relocate their popular webcam.
First it looked as if the pair picked a nest site above scenic Potato Harbor. They soon abandoned that site and settled in 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, spokesperson for the 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.”
However, there are four other pairs nesting on Santa Cruz Island, and biologists were able to set up a webcam at Sauces Canyon located further west in the interior of the island, just in time for viewers to watch two chicks hatch.
In 2010 the bald eagle webcam connected over 160,000 visitors from over 145 countries worldwide who generated 1.5 million hits. These viewers keep a daily watch over the raptors and contribute to the biologists’ monitoring efforts.
“Biologists do monitor webcam comments by visitors,” said Menard. “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. One of those nests did have one chick and an egg, but due to recent howling northwest winds the branch holding the nest broke and the chick died, the egg crushed. The other nest was in a remote canyon and biologists aren’t sure why the parents abandoned the nest. However, there’s good news to report on Anacapa Island. For the first time in over 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.
Prior to 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, due to human impacts, primarily DDT and PCB contamination in the pelagic food web. The effects of these 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 reestablishing old territory. Funds came from the Montrose Settlements Restoration Program (MSRP) following court settlements to restore natural resources like the bald eagle.
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