Christmas Bird Count at Race Rocks- Dec 28, 2017

This year is our 20th year in assisting the local birders with the Rocky Point Bird Observatory in doing a count at Race Rocks. Given the time of year this has to occur, it is often thwarted by bad weather, but in the past counts, some very interesting species and population numbers have shown up.  See this index of past years Bird Counts.

Kim Beardmore same along to record the birds for the 2017 Christmas bird count. Here Kim on the left and the Ecoguardian Mikey Muscat check on one of the 5 male elephant seals.

Although we went to count birds, I found that the most impressive thing was that there were 5 large male elephant seals on the island and two juvenile females. When compared with other years this was quite unusual, and it could be interesting when the females come back in January to have pups. I predict there will be a lot of male aggression going on in mid-January.

These four species other than several gull species and bald eagles were part of the count  which we will add below .

Other observations around the island:

Romanzoffia tracyi

I took advantage of the few hours there to check on other aspects of the island from the ecological reserve warden point of view.  Especially noticeable this year were the massive fields of mud over most parts of the island where the california sea lions hauled out over the past few months. I was concerned about the erosion and rock disturbance that this has caused.   Most of the plants in many parts of the island have been obliterated. I did however find this one healthy patch of Romanzoffia tracyi behind the boathouse. Protected because of its location among  the rocks. I checked some of the other known locations of this rare plant but didn’t see any.

Black oystercatcher midden


One feature that was very evident with the lack of vegetation was the extensive beds of chiton shells which are evidence of black oystercatcher middens from last season.




Two immature or juvenile female elephant seals were on the island, one tagged C887

The five males:

I have been watching the vegetation cover made up of the introduced species of Sedum or stonecrop which was on the top of the reservoir.. In my September photo the bed was quite dried and cracked. Now it  has partially recovered.. This is one place the sealions seem to avoid.


Because Pearson College could not provide boat transportation this year, and because I was determined to continue the 20 year tradition of this valuable baseline collection of bird population data, we rented a boat from Pedder Bay marina for the trip to Race Rocks.  A list of the birds observed by Kim Beardmore is  attached here.


Race Rocks,
Dec 28, 2017 9:05 AM – 11:37 AM
Protocol: Traveling
7.5 kilometer(s)
Comments:     CBC, Race Rocks
16 species (+1 other taxa)Harlequin Duck  10  (North and west Race Rocks)
Surf Scoter  55  (outer pedder bay)
Red-breasted Merganser  18 (mostly outer Pedder bay)
Common Loon  2
Horned Grebe  1
Brandt’s Cormorant  14
Pelagic Cormorant  18
Double-crested Cormorant  10
Bald Eagle  4
Black Oystercatcher  42
Black Turnstone  59
Common Murre  1  ( in outer Pedder bay)
Pigeon Guillemot  10
Mew Gull  14
Iceland Gull (Thayer’s)  8
Glaucous-winged Gull  69
Western x Glaucous-winged Gull (hybrid)  2

First Week as Ecoguardian


  • Visibility: Very foggy early morning but cleared right up by 8:30am
  • Wind: 11-16 NE throughout the day
  • Sky: sunny with cloudy periods
  • Water: mostly calm, a bit choppy


  • Had about 7 boats cruise by in the last week
  • had a small tour come ashore last saturday morning of pearson college students


  • had a young harbour seal that was on the island for a few days but is gone now
  • there are a pair of eagles hanging around for the last week
  • large male elephant seal was here for 6 days and left last night
  • caught a quick glimpse of what looked like a small sea otter running by the jetty yesterday morning


  • had a very large blast go off from Rocky Point that shook the house and startled birds.


  • enjoyed my first week here at Race Rocks!

Warden’s report Race Rocks September 2017

I was able to get out to Race Rocks Ecological reserve with Guy today and went with former student Joao Luis de Castro and Yan Corriveau. I  wanted to check on what changes have occurred on Great Race Rock Island  since my last visit. Since it was an exceptionally dry summer, the effect on vegetation was evident. The spread of hauled out sealions into parts of the island traditionally not invaded also has left a significant impact on vegetation. It will be important to  follow up on vegetation recovery once the rains start.

This year the sea lions have hauled out and inhabited many parts of the island formerly not used as a haulout . I am concerned that erosion because of obliteration of most of the plants in the area of the First Nations burial cairns could be detrimental to the cairns. It will be inprtant to check on this once the sealions have left again.

The lack of precipitation since May has resulted in a shrinking of the stonecrop that covers the top of the Reservoir. I had never seen it quite this dry before.


The sealion haulouts at Race Rocks do not segregate by species as they do in some other parts of the coast. Note the cookie-cutter shark bites on the California Sealion on the right hand picture.


Garry Fletcher, Sept 25, 2017

Long term record for harbour seal at Race Rocks

Pam Birley sent this picture today that she took with the remote camera of Six-spot, a harbour seal she has photographed over a several year period. see previous post at

Corvus caurinus:NorthWestern Crow, Race Rocks Taxonomy

The Norhwestern Crow closely resembles the American crow being black noisy and having forward facing bristles above its nostrils. The nw crow is smaller in size and has a shorter lower caw. It also has a smaller bill, smaller wings and has a greater wing beat rate.They usually inhabit coastal areas such as Race Rocks and are not thought to be birds which migrate. The crow usually forages for food near coast lines and its diet may include dead fish, crab, mussels or clams. In most regions its nest may be located at high elevations or in the branches of Conifer trees. Here at Race Rocks, the closest suitable nesting sites are on Bentinck Island.

Domain Eukarya
Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Subphylum Vertebrata
Class Aves
Order Passeriformes
Family Corvidae
Genus Corvus
Species caurinus
Common Name: NorthWestern Crow
Other Members of the Class Aves at Race Rocks.

taxonomyiconReturn to the Race Rocks Taxonomy
and Image File
pearsonlogo2_f2The Race Rocks taxonomy is a collaborative venture originally started with the Biology and Environmental Systems students of Lester Pearson College UWC. It now also has contributions added by Faculty, Staff, Volunteers and Observers on the remote control webcams.

Original text by Lawson Connor, PC student Dec. 2002

All kinds of weather today


  • Visibility: 15 Miles
  • Wind: 20-25 SW in the early morning came down to nothing around noon and then picked up to 25 in the evening
  • Sky: Cloudy, rained a little bit but was also very sunny at times
  • Water: waves in the morning and then calm waters and then back up in the evening


  • a few ecotours while the weather was nice this afternoon


  • the 10 elephant seals I counted stayed scattered around the pathways and not just in front of the house

west wind

Weather: N wind in the morning under 10 knots becoming West wind at noon over 40 knots.

Ecological: Sent update report on injured elephant seal, she has become less responsive. Follow up communications about e-seal and possibility of intervention by VanAqua MMR.

Maintenance: starting to clean and pack in preparation for end of shift.


Gale Warning


At 5:00AM Wind:17 knots from West ,Visibility:8 to 10 miles,Sea:choppy. At 6:30 no wind and foggy :Horn on.Wind getting Southwest and raising later.Gale warning in effect for the night.Air temperature at 5:00:12.5 degrees celsius.and 9.5 at dew point.From 6:30 to 1:00 the horn has been honking despite the 18 knots wind.All the sudan it was pretty foggy on one West/North side but totally clear on the South side of the rocks and just the time to spot a humpback whale fishing around the green boyd:beautiful scenery.a little too far for good pictures.In the beginning of the afternoon we could observe some large patches of fog but later the wind picked up to 30 knots and no fog anymore for the day.


When we had finished with the solar panel cleaning I went around looking for the nest Riley was speaking about,the one we couldn’t find with James the other day .Finally I found it with 2 eggs in it an by the way I discovered a  hatching goose and the male close by.She was amazingly hidden and protected by 2 rocks and hard to see…so that means that we have 5 geese instead of 3 and maybe more pretty soon. Guy saw on South Rocks 5 huge Steeler sea lions and one had the word ROB on its left side.No time to get pictures ,they jumped hastily.

Did you have a look on the oystercatcher nest? beautiful especially by night !

I realized that I have seen no pelagic cormorants this year.  12 elephant seals in the morning on main ;none on the other Rocks.We will do the census as soon as the weather will be good enough.


7 to 10 eco-tour boats and the first one not before 11AM. Around 18:00 a big US coast guard vessel at the border line.


We restart the new camera connection.

Guy finished to repaired the starboard corner of the whaler :water infiltrations in the hule in that spot.

I brought to date the freezer. Windows need attention as soon as possible !