Plectrophenax nivalis: Snow Bunting –The Race Rocks Taxonomy

Laas Parnell took these pictures of Snow Buntings on November 9, 2017. Pam Birley had been the only one to take pictures of them previously in 2005 and 2007 on the remote cameras at Race Rocks.

This is a very pale Snow Bunting . Snow Buntings are uncommon around Victoria and best seen in late fall-early winter, so any bunting in February is unusual. This is only the fourth Snow Bunting record for the Rocky Point Bird Observatory checklist. The last picture is a poor image through a blurry remote camera 5 housing,but the only one we have so far of a male snow bunting which was taken by Pam in March 2007.
Domain Eukarya
Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Sub-Phylum Vertebrata
Class Aves
Order Passerifomes
Family Emberizidae
Genus Plectrophenax
Species nivalis
Common Name: Snow Bunting
Other Members of the Class Aves at Race Rocks.

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Images of Snow buntings by Laas Parnell–Ecoguardian at Race Rocks

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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.
Garry Fletcher

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

Gale Force Winds and Peregrine Falcon


  • Visibility: 10 miles
  • Wind: 0-5 knots NW in the morning
  • By 11:10 up to 25 knots West
  • By 11:25 33 knots, 11:55 40 knots West
  • Post 12:00 steady at 30-35 knots West
  • Late afternoon into darkness 15-20 knots West
  • Sky: mix of sun and cloud
  • Water: 2′ chop


  • 4 elephant seals on Great Race.
  • They were very playful today.
  • Pam Birley spotted a Peregrine falcon with the webcam!
  • She took these 4 photos for us!


  • Back flushed the desalinator.
  • Ran the desalinator.
  • Uploaded June Seawater data to the website.


  • Did not see any boats in the reserve.

Spontaneous Whale Watching!


  • Visibility: 15+ miles
  • Mt. Baker visible at times today.
  • Wind: 10-15 knots West
  • Sky: clear and sunny!
  • Water: calm


  • We spied three eagles on Turbine Rock this morning.
  • 14 elephant seals on Great Race today, including both Chunk and Chuckles.
  • As Second Nature was departing Race Rocks sometime after 9:00, Kyle spied several whale watching boats following a pod of orcas outside the reserve.
  • I hopped aboard (sans camera) and we went off to join the fleet.
  • Over the next half hour or so, we watched 5 or 6 orcas as they repeatedly surfaced on their southerly course.
  • Christine (Guy’s wife) took several photographs; perhaps she will share them with us soon.
  • Pam Birley discovered a Black Oystercatcher nest today via webcam. That makes 3 known nests.
  • As Pam noted, it is “not a good spot to nest because the Otter likes to sunbathe in that spot on the rocks.”


  • I did some yellow paint touch up on the jetty.
  • Sprayed more algicide on the students’ house.
  • Shut-down the students’ house.


  • Second Nature arrived around 9:00, and properly departed around 10:00 after our unexpected whale watching trip!
  • Many eco-tours came by today.
  • A few of them appeared to be too close to the sea lions.


  • Kyle, Guy, Christine, and their daughter arrived at 9:00.
  • Guy and Christine were dropping off some gear for their upcoming shift.
  • Maya, Tazi, and Ali departed on Second Nature.

Tazi, Maya, Ali

Ali, Maya, Tazi, Mt. Baker

New Weaner on Great Race


  • Visibility: 15 miles
  • Wind: 10-15 knots E, later up to 48.6 knots W
  • 48 knots falls into the “storm” category. Only “violent storm” and “hurricane” are higher on the scale. The house is shuddering.
  • Water: 2′ chop, later at least 5′
  • Sky: overcast and some rain

Large waves 1


  • The mother elephant seal on Great Race was gone this morning, making the fourth pup a weaner. He is much smaller than the previous weaner was, and over on Middle Rock the mother is still with her pup, who was born approximately 8 days before, and is quite larger. All this makes me think the mother has left prematurely?
  • In the morning Chunk spent some time chasing the weaner, but he was too slow to catch him and he gave up, later heading over to Middle Rock.
  • Chuckles showed up on Great Race afterwards and has been watching the weaner.
  • At one point I found the weaner chewing on a wire cord underneath the big old yellow diesel tank by the Energy Building.
  • Today was the first day that I saw a great blue heron at Race Rocks! Not a first in general though, or for Race Rocks.
  • Pam Birley also noticed the heron and she took some photos with the webcam.


  • Stacked some firewood.


  • Heard one small DND blast at 10:30.

Rissa tridactyla: Black legged kittiwake

PB-Black-legged -Kittiwake2

Black-legged -Kittiwake, Rissa tridactyla In the Race Rocks Ecological Reserve

We received an e-mail today from Pam Birley of Leicester England with the photos of this Kittiwake she had taken using the remote controlled camera 5. This is a new photo record for Race Rocks Ecological Reserve.
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Charadriiformes
Family: Laridae
Genus: Rissa (Stephens, 1826)
Species: tridactyla
Rissa tridactyla
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.


Gust, Swell and Rain

Ecological Happenings

  • Another wild weather day as RR. Gusts throughout the morning and afternoon, with showers and just moments of sunshine. Wind/gust warnings are still in effect until midnight.
  • Humpback whale spotted feeding towards Port Angeles.
  • Fresh propeller cuts spotted on a Sea Lion.
  • Animals continue to shift around the island and surrounding rocks, adjusting to the weather and moving away from the swell.
  • Number of geese on the island increased significantly from 13 to at least 48 today.
  • A necklaced Sea Lion spotted today near the dock.

Marine Vessels

  • Three tour boats
  • Two pleasure vessels


  • Camera 1 & 5 remote controls via RR website are not functioning – this is currently being troubleshooted.
  • High pressure hose requires a new pump. Attempts at rebuilding it have not been successful.
  • Electric fence repair attempts continue…..


  • No visitors today.



6-spot the Harbour seal Observed at RR since 2008


6-spot the harbour seal observed by Pam Birley on the rock by the jetty October 9, 2015

A record for long term observation has occurred with Pam Birley of Lesteshiire England observing over a period of 7 years a certain harbour seal she named 6-spot because of the distinctive markings. Oddly enough she often gets an image of it from the remote camera 5 in the fall as it lies on the same flat rock near the Jetty.  You can see some of her other observations of it at

Pam sent the picture with the note: “Hi Garry,  YES….it is 6-spot !!!!    I got a good clear view this morning as it lay basking below Cam 5.  Here is a picture. First seen 2008 I believe, that makes it seven years !!!    I love it !!!!    Pam




July 4th Camera 5 cleaned

We had 2 guests in the Island for the Weekend. Guyonne and Lindsay. Guyonne was
born in Brittany and her Dad on the famous‘’ile de ouessant ‘’, 2 of her great uncles have been light keepers. So she really deserved to spend time here.

It has been a day with almost no wind in the morning and a maximum of 20 knots around 7:00 PM decreasing rapidly later.

For the first time we saw Floyd and Chunk fishing very closed to South seals Rocks. Almost everyday a bald eagle tries to land but the closest he succeeds is on North Rocks. The gulls are more than ever ready to fight.

Our friends have been big fans of the Rocks since the beginning of our shift and they spend a lot of time on camera 5 enough to convince Lindsay to clean it and he bravely did it. It was something to watch him progressing slowly surrounded by shouting birds! Big thanks to him! Next time it will be be after the nesting period.

How do you manage to do your training on the small place like this one? Easy enough with a lighthouse right there. After a week of no exercise I had to do something so I climb 3 times and promise myself to be steady!

In the evening we enjoyed in the distance the fireworks all along the US coast celebrating

July 1st to 3rd : Summer time

July 1ST to 3rd: Summer time is here

If on the last day of June the wind was blowing up to 38.9 around 7:00 the 1st of July and the following days we had some light westerly wind increasing to 25 knots at the most in late afternoon. Water temperature has been steady above 12 Celsius and in Race Rocks no heavy hot days just the best …a light breeze above the houses.

The first of the month (Our Canada flag prouder than ever) has been a very busy day around Race Rocks. Fishing boats and whales watchers were attracted by a pod of orcas heading from ocean to Victoria and we could see them a mere half mile away from the rock on the South West side. All the boats were around and quickly disappeared following the whales.

At 5h00 in the morning, one after the other Floyd and Chunk, the 2 belching and dripping water Elephants Seals, came back from sea ready for a long sleepy day…but we were surprised, in the middle afternoon they gave us a real show. The 3 of them spent more than an hour playing like crazy in the shallow waters by the the jetty for the pleasure of a big whale watchers boat a little too close …but it was such a nice show! Some friends of us at the camera took pictures of the whole thing!

Divers came too and this time very closed to the shore maybe 15 meters! Some were snorkeling and 2 had bottles. They stayed not for long I would say 30mn.

Chicks are now everywhere to be seen…and the island get very noisy .
It ‘s just amazing to see how well protected those new ones are by the whole community. Even the eagles fly away.

Today for the first time in a week the generator has been on for a few hours

Guy had to look at the quantity of oil on the island, that is to say in the 2 houses (175 and 154 liters) the 3 drums (208 liters each), the 2 tanks –the big one (1120 liters) and the new smaller one (200 liters).

Yesterday, July 3rd. It was time for some groceries to buy. We have been surprised to see how hot it was in town and even at the college only a few miles away…We were really happy to come back a few hours later. We had a calm weather condition for the whole day, west winds from 0.11 knots to 23 knots in the end afternoon, very good visibility 10 miles at least.