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Farallon island webcam makes it possible to view remote refuge

July 17, 2009 |  9:00 am

A Western seagull swoops down from the top of the Southeast Farallon Island at the Farallon National Wildlife Refuge.

Twenty-eight miles beyond San Francisco, a chain of rocky islands form a mostly undisturbed wildlife sanctuary that some biologists refer to as California's Galapagos.

And now bird-watchers and marine mammal enthusiasts have access to the area, thanks to a recently installed webcam.

The solar-powered camera is atop a lighthouse on Southeast Farallon Island, part of the Farallon National Wildlife Refuge that is home to approximately 350,000 seabirds of 13 species.

The 211-acre refuge consists of four island groups and is one of the oldest and most remote sanctuaries in the nation. It also is a renowned seasonal haunt for great white sharks.

"Since the islands are not accessible to the general public, the webcam will be a valuable tool not only for scientists, but for casual observers as well," Jack Dumbacher, curator of ornithology and mammalogy at the California Academy of Sciences and lead scientist on the project, said in a release. "The observations that we glean from this webcam will assist with ongoing research, guide conservation decisions and hopefully inspire citizens to care about this valuable resource right in San Francisco's backyard."

The result of a partnership between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, California Academy of Sciences and PRBO Conservation Science, the webcam offers 360-degree views of the island and surrounding waters. The webcam can be viewed via the Academy of Sciences website, which includes bird identification guides, research and conservation information and island history.

"We're proud to have this outstanding partnership and pleased to provide virtual access of these beautiful and amazing islands to the public," said Gerry McChesney, acting refuge manager. "This way anyone can appreciate what it's like to be on this very sensitive wildlife refuge."

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: A Western seagull swoops down from the top of Southeast Farallon Island at the Farallon National Wildlife Refuge. Credit: Eric Risberg / Associated Press

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