Efficient solar panels


At 5:00 Wind:30 knots West wind;Visibility :5miles;Sky:cloudy;Sea:Wavelets and white caps.At 7:00:30knots, 8:30:34k, 9:30:40.6k,1o:30:30.6 and rain.In the afternoon it became sunny giving a intense blue to the ocean..gorgeous with the white heads everywhere and the currents…The water temperature was 9.8 and the salinity 33.5.


The elephants Seal at least 8 of them spent the day sleeping on the grass but the young one were pretty nervous ..May be the wind?


House cleaning

Trimming of the rusty iron bolts where  the old ladder was attached the jetty.

Filling up of the water tank.It’s full. The pump has been running for 11 hours. This needs to be done every 8/9 days. We have been here for a week and we never used the generator even if the pump worked for so long. Thanks to the solar panels. They are working really well but it’s really important to keep them cleaned all the time. It works and it’s free.

Guy finished to empty the house tanks barrels

Solar panels


No one to 10:30,one big fishing boat heading against the wind,one whale watcher around noon by a 35 knots wind and later another long and fast one by 36 knots wind! A Canadian coast guard boat going towards Sooke very slow in the Sunset.


DND activity: 3 blasts (2 strong ones)


Coming back and setting down day

Sky: Overcast to rainy;Wind: 10-15 knots West wind;Sea:Calm

14 elephant seals and among them 2 big ones :On Great Race my friend Chunk and a new one for me , named Chuckles. The grassy field looks like a schoolyard with the playing young ones.
Surprise to see Gulls already so busy building nest and some on it. Pretty soon we saw our first egg …10 Californian Sea lions on Great Race Rocks
Seawater sampling around noon today: Salinity :32:01 and temperature :10:9 C
Checking around for priorities: A small leak from the gazoil filter needs attention.
Whaler battery put in charge.
Whaler diesel fuel tank filled up.
Different controls done
One whale watcher boat at 20:30 PM This is unusual ,looks like they were waiting for the lighthouse to light up..it was not for a nice sunset!
We admire the beautiful bricks under the wheels .Thanks to Riley!
Intense activity at the DND: 4 strong blasts between 10:45 and 2:00 PM and a very surprising one at 10:30 PM  This one made the house shake ! WE were  kept in alert before by a flashing blue light ( a DND zodiac protecting the area).
We looked for a sailboat photo required by the boat owner and taken on Race Rocks . We found it and sent it to the college.

It’s good to be on Race Rocks ! Happy Eco – Guardians!


Sea Lions Moulting at Race Rocks

There was very little wind all day and the sun came and went as clouds formed over central Juan de Fuca Strait and environs. The forecast calls for light winds to increase to westerly 15 – 20 knots this evening and then drop to 5- 15 knot easterlies Tuesday morning. The chance of showers has been pushed back to Tuesday afternoon and evening and rain is forecast for the rest of the week. The dropping barometer continued its descent and reached 1005 hPA this evening.

Today, there was only one whale-watching vessel visit, observed in the Ecological Reserve. They went really slowly in the protected area, stayed in the middle of Middle Channel and operated their vessel in a sustainable fashion. Definite candidates for the Kudos award that I give out weekly in the form of a thank-you e-mail to the company that does the best job of operating sustainably in reserve. Best practices align with the agreement made with the industry and the Marine Mammal Regulations. One sports fishing vessel was also noted. They were fishing either right on the boundary or just inside the reserve. As soon as I went out with the camera, they pulled up and left which made me wonder.

The sea lions continue to dominate the scene and the sound here. Their moult is progressing and there was hair everywhere after yesterday’s strong westerly winds. They seem to be spending more time ashore and it appears that there are more animals on Great Race everyday. This may be because less of Middle Rocks is available due to increased swell height and tide level. Photography of tags, brands and wounds continues and the data is being logged for use by NOAA scientists in determining population levels and trends, as well as migration patterns. The Vancouver Aquarium is interested in doing some animal welfare work here later in the season with “necklaced” individuals like the ones shown in yesterday’s blog, with plastic packing straps stuck on their necks and ‘growing’ into the flesh. I also take quite a few photos of sea lions that have nothing wrong with them: they are wrestling, sleeping, swimming and just hanging out. See gallery below.

More on other species tomorrow.

Chores were routine today other than creating a draft hand-out on ecologically sensitive areas for island visitors. Fence mending takes quite a bit of time each day but the sea lions are very smart so it is getting better. There was no gull guano on the solar panels this morning and I thought maybe it would soon be time to move into a every second day routine, for cleaning them. The dust and hair deposited on the solar panels turned the wash water into a deep brown in no time, so the daily wash will continue for now. Solar energy is particularly appreciated right now as I am still recovering from an almost complete loss of fresh water due to a mystery plumbing failure downstream of the Science House shut-off valve. This means running the de-salinator to make fresh water whenever there is sufficient solar power in order to not run down the batteries or use the generator. It is a bit of a juggling act but a small bother in a wonderful place with an incredible window on the world of nature.



Fresh Flag Flies

The day started with fog to the south and west and it soon crept onto Race Rocks. Sun quickly prevailed over fog and it was a beautiful day with high overcast forming late in the day. The wind didn’t do much more than 5 – 10 knots from the WSW in the morning and then turned blew gently from the south before dying off altogether mid-afternoon. It rose again from the southwest as I wrote the blog. The barometer remains over 1020 hPA after climbing slowly for a week. The forecast is calling for showers beginning late this evening, but the larger picture is much sunnier after tomorrow and there is a strong wind warning for westerlies which often bring good weather.

It was much quieter here today with only four whale watching tour vessels visiting the reserve while I was here. Five sports fishing boats transited. All stopped to look at the sea lions and no one was observed speeding in the Rockfish Conservation Area today. There were two vessels that appeared to be fishing in reserve and observations, photographs and data were collected for the enforcement team. Race Rocks is closed to fishing and is part of a DFO-enforced Rockfish Conservation Area. The islets and the sea-floor are protected by the province of BC through BC Parks.

The sea lion moult continues to be the big ecological event on shore but the timing of their visit and choice of haul-out location is no coincidence to what is going on at sea. Most of sea lions are also off foraging for part of the day and the Race Rocks haul-out is in a biological hot spot, which becomes a fish funnel for incoming migratory fish at this time of year. All six species of Pacific Salmon pass right by the front door right and there is a plethora of other species to choose from the rest of the year. Race Rocks is not a breeding haul-out nor is it a true winter haul-out as the sea lions start to arrive in earnest in July and stay into winter and early spring. There are actually some animals here all year but late summer and autumn is the busiest leading up to the peak during the chum salmon run at end of October.

GwGu juv FTThere are still some Glaucous-winged Gulls that have not left the roost but most of them are flying now and there are fewer here every day. That is probably a good thing for them as the predator that is picking them off is taking at least one per day. They are out foraging in groups trying to figure out how to feed themselves.

I went ashore for a couple of hours today and was otherwise busy with routine tasks. There are a lot of chores here and one of the challenges of living at Race Rocks is living sustainably and minimizing our ecological footprint. To do that we are very frugal with electricity and water, compost all organics, even using a composting toilet because when you make your own water by desalination it doesn’t make sense to just flush it away. Both have their chores too. Most of the electricity is generated with solar panels, which brings another set of activities to keep things going. We also pack everything out and are slowly removing unsustainable legacy items left by the light keepers over the years. A favorite chore is putting up a fresh new flag and there is one flying today.

Fresh flag today.

Fresh flag today.

Wednesday, June 10

Wednesday was another westerly day with gentle winds of 10 – 15 in the early morning rising to 25 – 30 knots by evening. Sunshine prevailed, although visibility was reduced by haze to less than 15 nm. The barometer is 1014 and falling and the forecast calls for gale warnings continued with sunny skies and a very low probability of precipitation.

Only one whale watching boat was observed in the Ecological Reserve today and no sports fishing activity was noted.

Ecological happenings continued to develop as they have been over the last few weeks. Nothing of particular note happened today.

In terms of sustainability, the sunshine is really appreciated these days for powering the solar panels and maintaining the battery bank. It also allows the desalination plant to be run off solar power, which in turn reduces the carbon footprint. With the gulls in full attendance, washing the solar panels has moved into the realm of a daily activity from every second day but it is done with a sort of reverence for the power produced. The composting toilets are operating well now that temperatures are higher and they are an important piece of the sustainability picture here, increasing hygiene, reducing fly populations and saving on fresh water use.

I made a trip ashore today and met Peter from DFO. He provided a new temperature/salinity meter and we traded thermometers, replacing a mercury thermometer for a new alcohol thermometer.

There were no visitors and chores were routine.

The web-site has been down so I am late posting this. Thursday’s log will be posted in the morning.

Enter the Merry Month of May

The wind was just a zephyr today, with a weightless push from south, then southwest, and then nothing for a while. Not much to sail with and the flag hung lifelessly. The barometric pressure was similarly lethargic, going up ever so slightly, then down by about the same. The strong wind warning continues, so it may get here by Sunday evening and the forecast is for sunshine.

There were no whale-watching boats in the Ecological Reserve today although a sports fishing boat came by to look at the sealions in the evening. One rental boat from Pedder Bay with three men, insisted on fishing for and catching rockfish in the closed Rockfish Conservation Area, while the regulars were well outside. There needs to be more notification and communication about where the conservation area is located.

The bull kelp has reached the surface at low tides and is forming fairly massive beds around Turbine Rock where the Sea Otter likes to hang-out. In by the jetty where the current is less active it is at the surface all the time now and some of it is very reproductive, with large sori patches visible on the fronds.

Bull kelp fixes carbon faster than just about anything and grows so fast it makes bamboo look like it is standing still.

Bull kelp fixes carbon faster than just about anything and grows so fast it makes bamboo look like it is standing still.

Bull kelp sori

You can easily see where reduction division (meiosis) happens in the lighter yellow spore patches. You can also see where early patches have popped out of the frond and drifted off.


The pair of geese nesting at the base of the light-tower were out walking their goslings today. It looks like five out their eight eggs successfully hatched. The gander belonging to another, younger pair gave himself a real scare today, walking past the basement door where he could see his own reflection. That was really troubling to the pair and also very noisy. The gulls are also noisily going about their business.

Gwgu mate gwgu mate2

The elephant seals continue to moult although a few of them are down to just a few eyebrow hairs now. The younger males seem to be the last to moult and the most active. The same 12 to 14 individuals continue to frequent Great Race.

This almost three year old male (#5850) continues to spend day and night on Great Race. He has finally started to moult.

This almost three year old male (#5850) continues to spend day and night on Great Race. He has finally started to moult.

This young female is ahead of the young males in her moult.

This young female is ahead of the young males in her moult.

California Sealions were hauled out on Great Race today for the first time since I arrived in March and there was a male Californian (sealion) on the jetty that didn’t want to leave when I went down to sample seawater in the afternoon.

The solar panels were well supplied with sunlight today and produced enough energy to run the de-salinator and top up fresh water supply. The high value was 900 W/m2 and the cumulative amount for the day, at 7:00 PM broke the week’s record.


There were no visitors today and maintenance included routine chores and a couple of little projects.

Westerly Winds Prevail


Well it blew hard west, west-southwest all night and all day without let up. I didn’t see the tower anemometer drop below 20 knots and it was often gusting to 30 (and over last night). Although there were a few serious clouds and showers that came through it was overall a sunny day and the barometer climbed high and fast in the late morning, slowing to a more gradual ascent in the afternoon. The forecast continues to be the same with a strong wind warning in effect but winds are forecast to drop to 10 to 20 overnight and become light in the morning.

There were no boats of any kind in the Ecological Reserve today. It was a wild place with the wind combing whitecaps, on top of a big oceanic swell. Beautiful to watch from shore but not something you would want to be out in, especially in a small boat.

Northern Elephant Seals sleeping in the old garden.

Northern Elephant Seals sleeping in the old garden.

The ecological happenings are subtle right now. There is nest building, courtship, egg laying and brooding, lots of resting and sleeping by the seals and sealions and continuing predation by the eagles. The Northern Elephant Seals visiting Great Race spent the day sleeping in the heritage garden and another 22 animals could be seen asleep on Middle Rock bringing the total to 27. These are mostly sub-adult animals and some of them appear to be starting their moult. This time on land looks really labourious for them but it is important in building bone density to have some weight bearing time ashore.

Mian  sleeepy M

I believe that the animals here on Great Race now are the some of the same ones that were here in the fall. It is easy to know for sure with the tagged animal and I am quite sure with one other animal that had terrible looking psoriasis last fall and still does now. The only place the skin is not scratched raw is under the flippers. The others look really familiar too but that could just be their generic elephant seal look.

It was sunny enough to run the desalinator off the solar energy today and it always feels good to know that the sustainability plan is paying off. Now we just need to add to the suite of diesel alternatives and wind is such a natural for this site.

There were no visitors today.

Dec 28, Warden’s Report -Race Rocks Ecological Reserve

I went to Race Rocks today with Val George for the Christmas bird Count.  ( See other reports from  today.) The highlight of course was the discovery of the first record for the Boreal Owl in Southern Vancouver Island . Some other observations from my visit are included here:

2014-12-28gooseexclosure2 2014-12-28gooseexclosure1m
Several 1 metre exclosures for goose grazing have been installed on the grass  areas on Race Rocks. Winter grazing by the Canada geese (introduced to Vancouver Island in the 1980s) has resulted in erosion in some areas of the island, and grass turf cover is prevented.
2014-12-28macrocystislongm 2014-12-28 macrocystis
Drift Macrocystis at the jetty. This Giant Kelp can grow anchored at great depths but winter storms will lift it up and the  main contribution to energy-flow  in the ecosystem comes from decomposition on the shoreline. Macrocystis grows in areas of high salinity, so not in he brackish estuarine conditions of the Strait of Juan de Fuca , but not at Race Rocks  where it ends up only as drift in the strand line.
deadcorm cormfeet
A dead cormorant, (probably Brandt’s ). Interesting webbed foot structure.
2014-12-28thayer1year 2014-12-28deadcormventralm
A 1st year juvenile Thayer’s Gull The breast had a hole and internal organs  were eaten. It was probably from an eagle attack.
2014-12-28energybldg energybuildingpanels
This year, the college has finished tilting the solar panels. Increased energy efficiency has been noted. They were originally installed flat since we were concerned that the strength of the wind may damage them. This hasn’t happened. View of the energy building roof from the top of the tower.
2014-12-28johanplaque ..
This fall a plaque has been installed to honour Johan Ashuvud, who as a student at Pearson College, was instrumental in having Race Rocks designated as an ecological reserve in 1980 ..

Other Ecological reserves wardens reports are available here:

Sea Lion Thermoregulation

The barometer rose steadily throughout the day as a moderate westerly breeze whipped across the reserve. The clouds parted mid morning to bring an afternoon of sun and a high of 13.1 oC.

The solar panels weren’t the only things soaking up the sun’s rays. Sea lions were floating in small groups with one or all four flippers exposed to the air, using thermoregulation to their advantage. The sun warms the seal’s flippers, which are poorly insulated, then the warmed blood is pumped throughout their body.

One whale watching boat was seen in the reserve, after they spotted humpback whales surfacing a few kilometres to the east of the Race Rocks.

Courtney visited on the Second Nature to give a quick lesson on some of the mechanical systems on the island.

Maintenance tasks were performed today: running the generator, cleaning the solar panels, tracking down equipment and parts, figuring out how to use the equipment, vacuuming, flag care, and sweeping the paths.

Sea lions thermoregulating by sticking a fin out of the water.

Sea lions sticking flippers out of the water for thermoregulation.

Clear Skies

As the daylight broke, the fog began to burn off near the entrance of Pedder Bay and to the west of Race Rocks. The wind rose slightly throughout the day to a medium breeze of 11 knots in the evening. Clear skies prevailed through the day as the barometer rose slightly.

Maintenance tasks were performed throughout the day, giving me a chance to spend lots of time outside: painting, tidying, sweeping, cleaning the solar panels, and topping up the batteries with the generator.

There were ten boats in the seen in the reserve. Several whale watching boats passed by. The Juan De Fuce Warrior from Ogden Point Dive Centre spent a few hours with two groups of divers. Two boats from Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue (RCMSAR) Station in Sooke passed through Middle Channel at noon. A sailboat went against the current through Middle Channel at 15:30.

Divers from Ogden Point Dive Centre with curious California Sea Lions looking on

Divers from Ogden Point Dive Centre with curious sea lions looking on


A sailboat heads northeast by Middle Rock

Elephant seal

Flag at half mast with the sunset in the background