Back on the Rock

Last night’s storm blew in just as shift-change finished. Nick Townley waved goodbye from Second Nature as Chris Blondeau, still in his dry-suit from the diving activity, pulled the vessel out into the tidal stream and headed her back to Pedder Bay.

Nick Townley

Nick Townley ( a photo from last fall, selfie?).

Six students from Pearson College came out to the rock for the weekend and I started my shift with great company. Their goal was to catch up on studies (and sleep (my guess)) and to have their own experience in this gem of a biodiversity hotspot.

As we unpacked and settled into the two houses, heavy rain followed the black horizon moving in quickly from western Strait of Juan de Fuca. It was very nice to be snug inside as it was a wild night with heavy squalls. There were quite a few rattles and thumps that I didn’t recognize from last fall’s storms. Morning broke with gusts over 30 knots in the tower and alternate clearing skies and rainbows shone through and faded out on all sides. It was a white water scene with wind and current colliding in a frenzy. The barometer which had taken a nose dive Thursday and Friday, climbed back up to over 1024 HPa from Friday’s low of 1009. By noon, the westerly winds had dropped to 12 knots and the afternoon and evening was uneventful; overcast with showers and light winds shifting to northwest.

Although there was no fishing activity in the Ecological Reserve (ER) today, five wildlife viewing tour boats were noted. I was surprised by the number of both Northern and California sealions still hanging out and there were at least 75 Harbour Seals hauled out in the afternoon (not a complete count. I saw two pairs of adult bald eagles and numerous other birds including Canada Geese, Black Oystercatchers, Harlequin Ducks, Black Turnstones, Pigeon Guillemots, Double-crested and Pelagic Cormorants and an interesting mix of gulls. Many of the Glaucous-winged Gulls are already paired up and getting excited about spring. They are scattered around Great Race in all the places that there were nests last year. A much more condensed flock of gulls with about 100 birds was hunkered down in the lee of the rock on the west side of the science house. This flock was a mix of some unexpected visitors including Herring Gulls, Ring-Billed Gulls and even a few California Gulls, probably en route somewhere else. As dusk fell last night I heard the calls of Killdeer and it really felt like my home away from home.

It was great to get back up the tower again and have a good look around and for fun and more exercise, I started clearing off some of the winter’s woody debris accumulated on the marine railway. Greenlanders Hana and Malou joined in and we made it into a bit of a game, practicing our aim and strengthening arms. When we finished there was a stream of wood heading out to sea and we hoped that the whale watching boats were avoiding the busy tide lines.