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

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 !





Human Impact on Sealions: Fishing Flashers, Entanglement, Boat strikes

In this post we have put together many of our references to the impacts that humans have inflicted on our California and Steller or northern sea lion population which hauls out at Race Rocks.  It includes images of fishing flashers and entanglement in commercial fishing gear, especially plastic net-binding hoops, as well as examples of strikes by boats which have injured sealions, often resulting in limb amputations. It is our hope that the fisher community can be more aware of how harmful their actions or negligence can be on marine mammal populations.  


We see this event all too often at Race Rocks. Fishers must take responsibility for removing fishing gear from the water when marine mammals are nearby. Not only is it expensive to loose equipment, the impact on these sea lions is uncertain. If the animal succeeds in breaking the leader for the flasher, then the animal only has to contend with the hook down in the stomach. It is not known how this effects sea lion mortality.


Dec. 13 2006


Feb. 2006


Feb. 2006


This Northern sea lion was photographed on August 15, 2007 by Roth Wehrell. UVIc


A flasher on one of the sealions at the docks

Entanglement in Commercial Fishing Plastic bindings on Nets.

This section shows plastic neck rings from commercial fishing nets around the neck of a sea lion.
Please write your Fisheries governing departments to request that all plastic bands used in the fishing industry for binding fish nets by made of biodegradable material.


Neck rings on middle island

Oct26 2015

Oct26 2015


Sept. 9,2009-

This northern (steller’s) sea lion showed up on Middle Rock in February of 2009 . Note the ridge formed by the ring toward the head end. Photo by Ryan  two neck rings and three brands appear in the same photo from the tower. GF

Aug 31, 2009

Aug 31, 2009

Sept. 2, 2009

Sept. 2, 2009- Ryan Murphy photo

Sept. 1999

Sept. 1999 Carol Slater took this picture of a California beside the docks.

These two tags will bring up the other posts on Marine mammal Injuries and Entanglement.

See other photos from the excellent collection of Ryan Murphy on Flickr

See this reference: Entanglement of Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) in marine debris: Identifying causes and finding solutions

Kimberly L. Raum-Suryana, , , Lauri A. Jemisonb, Kenneth W. Pitcherc
Elsevier: Volume 58, Issue 10, October 2009, Pages 1487–1495
Entanglement in marine debris is a contributing factor in Steller sea lion (SSL; Eumetopias jubatus) injury and mortality. We quantified SSL entanglement by debris type, sex and age class, entanglement incidence, and estimated population level effects. Surveys of SSL haul-outs were conducted from 2000–2007 in Southeast Alaska and northern British Columbia. We recorded 386 individuals of all age classes as being either entangled in marine debris or having ingested fishing gear. Packing bands were the most common neck entangling material (54%), followed by rubber bands (30%), net (7%), rope (7%), and monofilament line (2%). Ingested fishing gear included salmon fishery flashers (lures: 80%), longline gear (12%), hook and line (4%), spinners/spoons (2%), and bait hooks (2%). Entanglement incidence was 0.26% (SD = 0.0064, n = 69 sites). “Lose the Loop!” Simple procedures such as cutting entangling loops of synthetic material and eliminating the use of packing bands can prevent entanglements.


As the Northern (Steller) and California sea lions started to return to Race Rocks in the fall of 2009, Ecoguardian Ryan Murphy noticed what may be a significant increase in the number of encounters they have had with humans. Ryan took  these pictures at the time.