Wind and snow


  • A 30-35 knot N wind picked over night along with snow fall.Vertical North facing surfaces got some snow cover, everywhere else it blew off.
  • Visibility was less than a mile in the morning with fog horn sounding.
  • Seawater temp down to 8.5 C.


  • cleared snow off lantern room window
  • communications with Kyle and technician re desalinator problems
  • communications with Kyle re diesel fuel level and delivery this week
  • request for wood stove gasket cement.
  • worked on cleaning and organizing in basement and consolidating obsolete items for removal


  • DFO noted higher than normal seawater temps in Nov data set, requested that we take analog observations for the next five days to compare with digital measurements.

Illegal Fishing


  • Visibility: 15 miles
  • Wind: 5-15 knots NE
  • Sky: overcast
  • Water: calm



  • Noted two branded California Sea Lions.
  • U503 and U400.
  • Saw many others with brands but unable to view complete brand.


  • Fixed the electric fence near the energy building which had been ripped apart again.
  • Reorganized some diesel barrels.
  • Cleaned the solar panels.
  • The usual chores.


  • It was neat to watch more than fifteen fishing boats head through Race Passage at 7:15 in the partial darkness of sunrise.
  • Two boats were fishing in the Rockfish Conservation Area, mostly between the Rosedale Rock and the South Islands for several hours today.
  • I identified them as best I could, and reported them to the DFO.
  • At times there were other boats nearby, but they seemed to be making a conscious effort to anchor outside the boundary.
  • The two offending boats made no such effort, drifting about all over the southern part of the reserve.
  • Several ecotours came by today.
  • In the evening one small aluminium boat ripped through the reserve well above the speed limit. Presumably he was late for supper?


  • From about 11:50 until 13:00 I felt a series of unidentifiable booming shakes.
  • I can only assume it was DND blasting, although I saw no smoke, and it was Sunday.
Levitating boat optical illusion.

Levitating boat optical illusion.

Pearson Students and Brands


  • Visibility: 15 miles
  • Wind: 0-5 knots NE, later West
  • Sky: clear
  • Water: calm


  • Saw two branded California sea lions.
  • U400 and U714.
  • Discovered a couple of recently deceased juvenile sea gulls.
  • Cause of death unknown.


  • The usual chores.


  • Lots of ecotours today.
  • One appeared to be going over the speed limit within the edge of the reserve.
  • Several times there were at least 3 in the Middle Channel.
  • Kyle brought two loads of students out in Second Nature.
  • One small boat was observed fishing illegally within the Rockfish Conservation area.
  • They were reported to the DFO.


  • Kyle, Laura, 14 Pearson students, and 3 filmmakers came out.
  • The students were supposed to be doing wind and wave measurements, but Race Rocks was providing very little in that department today.


  • Six pair of small DND blastings today.
  • They took place early in the hour, every hour, from the 10th until the 15th.

Blog On.

This blog covers three days, September 15, 16 and 17th; Thursday, Friday and Saturday. It will be replaced by a point form log for the rest of the stay.

Weather and Sea Conditions

Thursday was part of the last high pressure system with sunny afternoon westerlies of 10 – 15 knots. Friday was a transition day with heavy fog burning off by early afternoon and accompanied by westerlies of up to 25 knots. By dusk it had clouded over and showers continued overnight and into Saturday morning. This wet weather came with winds from the north. Morning fog patches continued Saturday and by early afternoon the wind switched from 10 – 15 knots north, to 25 -30 knots west partially cleared with sun between showers. The marine forecast for Central Juan de Fuca Strait includes a strong westerly wind warning. The wind is predicted to drop to westerly 10 to 15 early Sunday morning and showers are expected to end near midnight Saturday.

It appears that the Race Rocks Ecological Reserve weather station has not been operating since mid-June, so longer-term context is not possible other than anecdotal information recorded in recent logs.

Vessels in Ecological Reserve

Commercial whale-watching activity inside the Ecological Reserve boundaries is busy, with 20 commercial visits noted on the 16th and 14 visits on the 17th. The guidelines for vessel activity are not being observed by all operators and some of the commercial vessels are as close as 5 meters from the sea lions (and shore). Some very large vessels are going through shallow passages, making erratic turns in the current, travelling against the current and several vessels were seen speeding (> 7 knots within 400 m of Great Race). No other commercial activity was observed. Although several recreational vessels were seen passing through, there was no sports-fishing activity noted within the closed area.


Seasonal shifts are apparent with the return of some ‘winter’ species and visits by fall migrants. There are only seven Glaucous-winged Gull chicks left on Great Race Island that are not fully fledged. The smallest, chick has a badly injured left leg. One other still has pinfeathers on its head and the rest are close to flying. There are notably fewer gull chick remains on the island this year perhaps indicating a lower mortality rate. There does not appear to be any data on the number of nests or their productivity this year so it may just reflect lower productivity. The logged death of the old River Otter may be related to the drop in chick carcass numbers.

Glaucous-winged Gulls are still the dominant gull species here on Great Race. California Gulls are abundant in the area but not roosting on Great Race yet. There are large (>1,000 birds), mixed species, feeding flocks adjacent to the Ecological Reserve in Race Passage and in the distance. California Gulls have been seen resting on thick mats of Bull Kelp in Middle Channel.

Black Turnstones and Surfbirds have returned from the Arctic where they nest in the summer. One Ruddy Turnstone was noted today feeding on flies, fuel for a migration that may extend as far south as South America. A single Sanderling was noted both Friday and Saturday and this is another species that nests in the Arctic and is widespread in the ‘winter’. Black Oystercatchers, which are much more site fidel, are roosting near the energy building in the evenings. At least one Kildeer was heard each evening just after dark.

Both Stellers (Northern) and California Sea Lions are moulting this time of year and are hauling out on Great Race, South Seal and South Islands as well as Middle Rocks and Turbine Rock. Photos were taken and processed, of branded, tagged and entangled sea lions.

Northern Elephant Seals are hauling on both Middle and Great Race and a total of six were noted Saturday. No big males. Harbour Seals are abundant and using these haul-out areas; West, Middle, Turbine, North and South Seal Rocks and South Islands.

A single Sea Otter was observed in the kelp just south of North Rocks Saturday morning.

One Humpback Whale was noted feeding near the Ecological Reserve.


Solar panels are maintaining power for the island in spite of intermittent cloud and showers. Without the weather station operational, sunlight levels are not being measured. The diesel generator is run for a couple of hours each evening to top up the batteries for the night.


Kyle brought three visitors yesterday, two from Ocean Networks Canada and one from Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, for a site visit.

Maintenance and Operations

Regular chores included the 06:15 daily weather report for Pedder Bay Marina, daily solar panel maintenance, walkway cleaning, repairing and electrifying fences. The outside of the fuel barrel (eco-four) house was scrubbed, tops of fuel barrels stored outside were drained of water, and windows in the energy building were washed. The “science” house was inspected, an open window closed in the basement, exterior electrical box was noted broken from wall and conduit open at bottom (photo). Science house furnace was full on and the upstairs temperature was 22.0o C. Thermostat turned down. It was noted that diesel had been spilled in basement. Spill pads on the fuel drum are saturated and there was diesel on the entry bootscrubber/doormat. Looked at derrick dock woodpile and noted creosoted and pressure treated wood in woodpile, probably a health hazard to burn. Inspected chainsaw chain…just needs filing. Took VHF, charger and manual to top of tower to replace the one missing from there. Wheelbarrows were deployed for rainwater catchment. The conductivity meter’s line was marked with yellow electrical tape so that seawater sampling could be done at measured depth. In the energy building an attempt was made to align the indicator lights on the three Xantrax controllers with the holes. Two out of three can now be seen and the middle one can be seen plainly with the lights out. The flashing rate of these lights indicate the controller’s stage of operation and approximate battery voltage which is helpful to knowing how long to run the generator. Weather station troubleshooting will continue tomorrow.


Sea Lion Rescue Attempt

Ecological Happenings

  • Animal Rescue! After many attempts at locating necklaced Sea Lions, no rescues were made. The animals seen previously, could not be found today. 9 DFO staff, 1 Vancouver Aquarium staff and 3 Pearson College staff (including the Eco-guardians) were all on the job and worked hard to spot the animals. Until next time…..
  • 29 Surfbrids spotted today
  • Another young Elephant Seal on the dock
  • Brand Y40 Sea Lion spotted

Marine Vessels

  • 2 DFO vessels equipped for today’s Sea Lion rescue
  • 5 tour boats – travelling at good speed out of the reserve after yesterday’s friendly reminder
  • 1 pleasure vessel


  •  There were 2 visitors – Jeff from Pearson College and a chimney sweeper.


Fog horn drum


Light fog early morning, building to thicker fog throughout the day with poor visibility (the fog horn sounded for a few hours). Winds were generally <5kts. The barometer was at 101.6 for most of the day dropping to 101.5. The marine forecast shows winds picking up to 10-15kts and rain for Monday.

Boat activity

  • Not so many fishing vessels on the water this Sunday with all the fog (total count of 4)
  • 7 tour boats, mostly in the afternoon as the fog faded

Ecological happenings

  • Two Californians spotted with relatively fresh gashes
  • Californian seal lion brand 8329 and 9776 spotted (need to verify whether this record has been collected)
  • Commenced looking for tangled sea lions in preparation for detanglment on Oct 28th
  • 3 Dunlins spotted


  • Cheeky sea lions continue to dismantle the electric fence and drop equipment into the water, so we’ve been on top of mending it.
(possible) Sandpiper and Black Turnstone

Dunlin and Black Turnstone

Sleepy sea lion


Light cloud cover this morning and mostly sunny in the afternoon. Wind was variable – light in the early morning picking up towards the afternoon to as high as 16kts @ 17:00. Barometer was up a little to ~1012hPA. Forecast is for winds steadying between 10-15kts, and a chance of showers this evening and Sunday.

Boats in the reserve

15 Pleasure vessels, one of which was fishing in the reserve. After failed attempts to make contact on VHF16, DFO will be notified. There were also 3 tour boats and trawler activity around the reserve.

Ecological happenings

  • New Californian Sea Lion tag sighted (C733) – no photo yet
  • Two gulls spotted with broken wings
  • Harbour seal hanging out close to RR docks

No visitors today.

A Tale of T-Whales

Today the wind continued its westerly path, bringing fresh ocean air in through the central Strait of Juan de Fuca at 20 to 35 knots. The sky was mostly clear, with clouds forming in the distance, along the tops of the Olympic and Cascade Mountain ranges. The barometer continued the climb it started yesterday until late afternoon, reaching almost 1020 hPa., before starting to gradually drop as the sun descended toward the horizon. Gale warnings continue to be in effect and the forecast calls for a mix of sun and cloud tomorrow.

Five whale watching vessels were observed working in the Ecological Reserve today in spite of adverse weather conditions. They all moved carefully and at a respectful speed being mindful of the marine mammals (Elephant Seal, Harbour Seals, Sea Lions, Sea Otter) and nesting seabirds in the Reserve. The only other vessel observed transiting the Ecological Reserve today was the Fisheries and Oceans vessel, Cape Kuper travelling at a discreet 25 knots towards Victoria, in the go slow zone.

Ecological happenings described in some detail in my earlier logs continue. (Elephant Seals haul out, socialize, sleep and moult. Other pinnipeds haul-out socially. Glaucous-winged Gulls, Pigeon Guillemots and Black Oystercatchers mate, nest, lay, incubate and get territorial. Mixed species feeding flocks (fish balls) attract gulls on the water and kelp is still growing.)

Glaucous-winged Gull incubating three eggs.

Glaucous-winged Gull incubating three eggs.

Of note was the sighting of Biggs’ Killer Whales (Transients) in the evening. I counted six individuals including a large bull with a very triangular fin. The two whale watching boats closer to them reported seven or eight individuals including a young calf. As often happens with T’s, as they used to be known, we spotted them a couple of times and then they totally disappeared. They showed up again, with the whale watching boats “in tow” a mile or so to the east.

Orca Spirit runs upstream through Middle Channel.

Orca Spirit runs upstream through Middle Channel.

Here are the results of the weekly animal census.

Northern Elephant Seals 3 (Chunk, Floyd and young female) only on Great Race, none on Middle Rocks)

Harbour Seals 221

California Sealions 1

Northern or Stellers Sealions 1 (juvenile (Could be the two year old that was still with its mother earlier in the season (that size).)

River Otter (not seen but probably still here, fresh feathers in boat house)

Sea Otter 1

Biggs’ Killer Whales 6 (Transients) (Just north, outside of Ecological Reserve in Middle Channel near North Rock.)

Humpback Whale 1 (“Big Mama”) (Just outside of Ecological Reserve to the south of Rosedale Reef.)

Canada Geese 16 (= 10 goslings + 6 adults) (most have left)

Pelagic Cormorants 3

Double Crested Cormorants 5

Bald Eagles 1 sub-adult (no adults seen)

Black Oystercatchers 8 (4 nesting pairs)

Kildeer 2

Pigeon Guillemots ~100

Glaucous-winged Gulls total 457 (385 adults in nesting areas; 72 roosting/resting on Middle Island including 14 juveniles). Large majority of gulls are incubating now, although some are still getting started. No chicks observed yet

Alex and I came out on Second Nature last night with Chris. Christine and Guy returned to shore the same way. A big shout out to Chris for all his support.

There were no visitors and chores were routine, but more fun with company.

Crankypants Has a Number.

By mid-morning, the light southwesterly winds left over from yesterday’s blow had wandered over to south and they stayed southerly until early evening when they turned back to west. The barometer continued the slow ascent begun early yesterday, throughout the day. Although there was a mix of sun and clouds today, light levels were high and reached over 1000 W/m2 at the peak. Forecasters are calling for strong westerly winds again, with a chance of showers Thursday.

Four Whale Watching vessels were noted in the Ecological Reserve today, visiting on return from the west, heading towards Victoria. No sports fishing vessels were noted in the ER.

The Canadian Coast Guard Helicopter (Fisheries and Oceans) dropped by today to service the light, which went dark the night before last. Dave (pilot) and Derek (technician) were a welcome sight in their lovely little Messerschmidt, which was carefully put down at the base of the light tower stairs.


Dave and Derek preparing for take off.

Dave and Derek preparing for take off.

Messerschmidt tower heli flag


Ten Whimbrels stopped for a rest and a feed today. These amazing migrators are on their way to the arctic tundra from South America and it was a treat to see them here.

Whimbrels stopped for a rest and a feed in the inter-tidal today.

Whimbrels stopped for a rest and a feed in the inter-tidal today.

Whimbrel M

I kept an eye on the Bald Eagles today and yes, they are fishing.

It was a right "hand" catch, transferred to both feet and then tucked up under to the tail to hide it from sight.

It was a right “hand” catch, transferred to both feet and then tucked up under  the tail to hide it from sight.

Baea fish hooked Baea catch

Ten of the elephant seals managed to go through the measuring device today while I was sitting, waiting for them with the camera. I also spotted tags on the young female Northern Elephant Seal with serious skin issues. I may have mentioned her in a previous blog, I called her psoriasis sister last fall and Courtney named her crankypants in spring 2014. She is very vocal and easily disturbed by the other seals. She is usually off by herself but today she was caught in a traffic jam for daily ablutions, which really seemed to upset her. I have observed her many times last fall and this spring but never noticed the tags before. She moves as if in pain, complains loudly and leaves a trail of blood. She has many open wounds that look like holes and cracks. The right tag is number A114 and although it is difficult to read the left side, it is perhaps A476. She has all four tags still.


Crankypants has a tag number now A114.

Crankypants has right  tag number  A114.


A branded Steller’s Sealion # 411R was noted today. She looks big for a female but that is what the record says, branded as a pup in July, 2005 at Rogue Reef, which is in the very southern end of Oregon. I will check with Pat Gearin on this identification.


There were no visitors other than the Coast Guard crew and maintenance chores were all routine.

New DFO Report highly critical of Kinder Morgan /TMX environmental assessment on Whales

The recentlly released DFO report:
(See Full PDF) SUFFICIENCY REVIEW OF THE INFORMATION ON EFFECTS OF UNDERWATER NOISE AND THE POTENTIAL FOR SHIP STRIKES FROM MARINE SHIPPING ON MARINE MAMMALS IN THE FACILITIES APPLICATION FOR THE TRANS MOUNTAIN EXPANSION PROJECT was very critical of the Trans Mountain Expansion Project Application documents. The Conclusion of the report is concerned with Vessel strikes on Whales and the overall impact of noise from increased Project-related traffic.  Included below are the conclusions of the report.


There are deficiencies in both the assessment of potential effects resulting from ships strikes and exposure to underwater noise in the Trans Mountain Expansion Project Application documents.

There is insufficient information and analysis provided with which to assess ship strike risk in the Marine RSA from either existing or Project-related traffic. Ship strike is a threat of conservation concern, particularly for baleen whales such as Fin Whales, Humpback Whales and other baleen whales (Gregr et al. 2006). If shipping intensity increases as projected in Section 4.4 in the Marine RSA and the Strait of Georgia and Juan de Fuca Strait as a whole, the significance of this threat to cetacean populations that occupy the region will increase.

Incidence of recovered whale carcasses is not considered to be an adequate measure of the frequency of ship strikes. No information is provided about the speed and maneuverability of Project-related ships or the distribution of whales in relation to the shipping lanes. Analyses that consider the statistical probability of ship-whale encounters and the risk of collisions are considered appropriate methodologies to assess this potential effect.

The JASCO MONM model, as it has been applied by the Proponent, is not adequate to assess the overall impact of noise from increased Project-related traffic. Although state-of-the-art acoustic modelling has been used to model the noise propagation associated with a single Project-related tanker in the Marine RSA, only four locations were chosen to represent the Marine RSA; therefore, the assessment does not adequately represent the noise exposure for the entire time a marine mammal would be in the RSA. The assessment represents only Project-related tanker traffic and not the current noise environment or the potential increase due to Project-related traffic. Finally, the method used to assess the significance of impacts from the modelled noise level contours resulting from a single Project-related tanker and tug on indicator cetacean and pinniped species is qualitative and the lack of an appropriate assessment framework reduces DFO’s ability to evaluate the assessment.


See other posts on Oil Spill Risk for the Race Rocks Ecological Reserve