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In the Channel Islands, an Effort to Save Seabirds and Native Flora is Paying Off – February 17, 2017

The biggest challenge facing the restoration process has been access to freshwater

Encouraging seabirds to recolonize regions of the Channel Islands National Park in California requires more than just erecting artificial nests and hoping they’ll return.  They also need native island flora and the sweet serenade from their own species resonating above sheer, volcanic cliffs.

ScorpionRockPhoto by Chuck GrahamAn island restoration team kayaks out to Scorpion Rock, one of the Channel Islands' rocky outcropping. Ocean sediments in the region now contain the largest known concentration of DDT in the world.

Since 2008, the National Park Service has been aggressively restoring lost habitat for seafaring birds like the nocturnal ashy storm petrels and the seafaring Cassin’s auklets… more

by: Chuck Graham

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Works of Gritty Art – June 3, 2016

Guadalupe-Nipomo Sand Dunes is one of coastal California’s best-kept secrets

An interesting thing happened to me while driving along the Central California coast a few months ago. I decided to get off the beaten path and took Highway 135 north through Los Alamos, following it past its scenic, rural countryside until I reached old Highway 1, the coastal route to the small beachside town of Guadalupe in northern Santa Barbara County that’s home to the second largest intact dune ecosystem in California.

photo of Guadalupe Nipomo Sand Dunes Photo by Chuck GrahamThe Guadalupe-Nipomo Sand Dunes is the second largest intact dune ecosystem in California.

The 18-mile long costal dunes complex begins in Pismo Beach,… more

by: Chuck Graham

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Bald Eagles Soar to New Heights – January 27, 2016

Reintroduction project in Channel Islands National Park has been a success for the iconic raptors

As I kayaked into the cove at Cluster Point on the southwest side of Santa Rosa Island, part of the Channel Islands National Park in California, I witnessed something few had seen for at least 50 years. Two bald eagles, one mature, the other a juvenile, were lurking on the periphery of a northern elephant seal rookery. A big bull elephant seal appeared to be dead, lying motionless in the wind-whipped sand. The mature eagle hopped in closer and went to peck at the colossal marine mammal. Besides catching fish, the majestic raptors are known to scavenge on marine mammal carcasses. Just as it went for a bite, the 3,000-pound seal… more

by: Chuck Graham

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Soaking in the Salton Sea – August 20, 2015

California’s largest manmade lake, which supports an amazing array of birdlife, has a quirky allure (slideshow)

I eased my kayak off the briny shoreline separating flocks of American avocets and western sandpipers wading and feeding hurriedly in the shallows. The salty, buoyant water was silky smooth as my kayak glided southbound toward an apocalyptic desertscape of extinct volcanoes and steamy plumes spewing from boiling mud pots. 

For nine miles I followed the V-formations of migratory American white pelicans and a flock of low-flying double-crested cormorants, their wings humming in rapid flight just above the surface of the water. I reveled in the cacophony of birdlife and the geological wonders that loomed around this arid inland sea, the wake of my kayak the only blemish on the tranquil… more

by: Chuck Graham

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Carrizo Plain National Monument is ‘One of the Best Kept Secrets in California’ – August 5, 2015

The remote monument protects the single largest native grasslands in the state

At dawn I lit out toward a cluster of sandstone spires overlooking the Carrizo Plain National Monument at the southern end of California’s San Joaquin Valley. I pulled out my binoculars and scanned the grasslands cloaked in tidy tips, California poppies and owl’s clover.  I counted 81 Tule elk that morning browsing on the carpet of wildflowers. It felt like a timeless moment in old California.

photo of tidy tips flowersall photos by Chuck GrahamClick or tap this image to view a photo essay from the Carrizo Plain

In 2001, President Bill Clinton deemed Carrizo Plains a national monument, protecting the single… more

by: Chuck Graham

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