It is my last day out here for a while and Julie is taking over again for the summer. I shall miss my elephant seal friends and a little less so the gulls. I got pooped on last night right on the nose! But as you can see by the picture I am not the only one to suffer an aerial strafing. Have a great summer everyone….
It always surprises me how long it takes for “summer” weather to arrive in BC. Today it is overcast, blowing 30 with driving rain, and 11 degrees (which feels like 7 with the wind chill). For Race Rocks weather records see this link.
3 male elephant seals and I are the only mammals on Great Race Island but this big female Harbour Seal calmly shared a lovely sunset with me at the sea side…
On a nice afternoon a few days ago Chunk was showing his flexibility by doing backbends and chewing on his hind-flippers.
June is half over and I have about 10 days before Julie comes out to take over for the summer. I am trying to get some painting done in the dry and relatively windless spells, but one of the issues I am facing is trying not to disturb the oystercatchers nesting near the top of the ramp by the majority of railings. They immediately leave the nest when I get anywhere near, and won’t return til I am well clear. I worry about the eggs cooling too much, so I scrape the rails for 10 minutes then depart for an hour… Fortunately I have lots of time on my hands! Meanwhile only a couple juvenile e-seals remain and just as well because Misery’s curiosity is quite terrifying to them. Here one scrambles up the rocks to escape.
The Pigeon Guillemots are nesting in the larger cracks in the rocks; another reason to keep a low profile and limit my wandering around the island. They are adorable little birds!
Chunk found an unpleasant surprise when he popped in for a swim earlier today. King Misery has returned! After a brief thrashing an epic chase occurred around the island with a few skirmishes along the way. I have to give Chunk credit; he didn’t back down and gave as good as he got, but in the end Misery is just too big, and size won the day. I look forward to sharing their politics with you over the next few weeks….
These are some of the more interesting photos the last week. I was able to lend a hand to the International Boundary Commission technician who set up a GPS unit on the top of the tower in order to accurately determine the location of the US/Canada border.. to with in 4 decimal places! Why? Because we can!
The Guillemots are starting to nest along with the Glaucous-winged Gulls
This little female found a nice spot to spend a few days….
A parade of sailing vessels…
Lots of jousting from these young males
We continue to have about 12-15 elephant seals on Great Race Island. Most are nearing the end of their moult and are waiting until hunger drives them back to the open ocean. The big male (who is not fully grown) is just beginning to shed around his nose and mouth. Young e-seals and females moult earlier than the adult males, probably to avoid the threat of overly agressive or amorous advances by the big guys. Whenever Chunk moves a ripple of concern moves through the colony (literally). He often catches a small one and half-heartedly pushes it around, but he is fairly gentle all things considered.
Steller (Northern) Sea Lions: 30California Sea Lion: 10
Humpback Whale: 1 (at edge of reserve)
Harbour Seals: 150
Elephant Seals: 22
Orca: J-pod passed May 14
River Otter: 1
Caspian Tern: 2
Re-tailed Hawk: 1
Glaucous-winged Gulls: 300
Western Gull: 1
Pigeon Guillemots: 120
Northwestern Crow: 1
Black Oyster Catchers: 20
Bald Eagle: 10
Harlequin Ducks: 10
Black Turnstones: 30
Song Sparrow: 6
Canada Geese: 14 adults/20 goslings
We have the following tagged elephant seals on the island currently:
This morning I woke up to the grunts of our Number 2 rank male elephant seal known as Chunk (or Zeke). Looking much larger than last year, he let everyone know he arrived, threw his weight around, then crashed out for a late-morning snooze. I wonder if Misery is far behind…
Old mama Bertha is almost finished her moult and will likely be off to replenish her fat reserves in any day now. In this picture you can see her blind eye.
This scruffy little juvenile arrived for it’s moult from Piedras Blancas, California, as evidenced by its tags.
I counted 16 on Great Race this morning roughly 50/50 male to female ratio.
Good times with amigos…
The Glaucous-winged Gulls (Larus Glauscens) is an almost ever-present fixture of Great Race Islet. This time of year from dawn to dark they can be seen occupying their potential nesting locations, building those nests, and settling territorial disputes with their neighbours. But many nights, when I head out to turn the generator off, I discover a silent and empty island; 300 gulls have simply disappeared, gone to some mysterious location I can only guess at. Do they prefer to sleep on the water? Do they feed on certain foods at night? What’s going on out there at night!
Regardless, I can tell you that Glaucous-winged Gulls are an extraordinary bird, at home on the lightest of breezes or duelling with the 50 knots gusts of an afternoon’s Westerly gale. Only in their ubiquitousness do we loose sight of their beauty and efficiency. They are masters of their realm.
In other news, yesterday there were 10 elephant seals in the yard and on the boatramp! This is a new record for Great Race. There are 4 young males, Bertha the mature female and 5 smaller females. A good-sized male is out on Middle Rock but it doesn’t look big enough to be Misery.
Many eagles are in the reserve, most juveniles. I watched one hunt a gull this morning and was surprised how the eagle targeted an individual gull and chased it for over a kilometer out to sea before I lost sight of them both.