Very low tides and getting ready for the invasion

Weather

Every days are a little bit the same; on Monday the 15th ,we had 20 knots at 5:00AM with a visibility over 15 miles and a choppy sea and this stayed the same to late in the afternoon where we got 33 knots and later around 30 to midnight. On Tuesday it was foggy almost all the morning,17knots at 5:00 AM, with a good visibility to 6:30AM; Air temperature 14 degrees Celsius and water around 13. Barometric pressure:101.8KPA

Ecological news

Nothing really new except that we found 2more chicken bodies for a total of 15. No elephant seals around. With those very low tides it is very interesting to discover the treasures of theDSC_0261 intertidal zone .DSC_0210DSC_0262DSC_0248DSC_0263DSC_0267

Maintenance

Guy chopped more wood ,pile almost gone. The wheelbarrow is …dead at least the wheel. The electrical fence on the jetty is settled.We will see its efficiency . This year no line on boat side ,it’s too risky for us.DSC_0299

Visitor 

No visitor but Kyle went around with a group of marine biologists.(meeting this week at the college)

Other

Plane above.Watchers in the morning mainly

The Grand Sailboat Regatta

Weather

  • Visibility: 8 miles in the early morning, 15 later on
  • Wind: 15-20 knots East, then North, then West
  • Sky: foggy and overcast, then sunny, then overcast
  • Scattered raindrops throughout the day
  • Water: mostly calm, with swells in the afternoon

DSC_6437

Ecological

  • Maya and Tazi conducted 4 intertidal transects today.
  • Studying an intertidal transect involves measuring out a certain distance from a peg, and then documenting the different species found every 0.5 metre.
  • In some transects the 0.5 metres are measured by water elevation; in others simply by distance.
  • By comparing the species found in every zone of the transect with transect data from previous decades, you can see the change in intertidal ecosystems due to climate change.
  • We saw a California Sea Lion with the brand U374 and another with a tracker.
  • While most of the gull eggs all look the same, one particular egg is quite different.

Maintenance

  • Maya and I ran the fire pump in the morning.
  • This added a few inches to the cistern.
  • We removed the old Canadian flag and hoisted a fresh one.
  • Tazi and I removed some algae.
  • Ali whacked away at the thistles.
  • We cleaned the solar panels.

Boats

  • Over 150 sailboats from Victoria passed by Race Rocks in the late morning on their way towards the Western horizon.
  • Some of them started to return as late as 22:30.
  • The colours of their sales included: red, blue, white, fluorescent yellow, green, purple, black, orange, and many combinations of all of the above.
  • Some standouts included the Miles Davis sail and the Union Jack.
  • I couldn’t stop taking photos and ended up with dozens. Below is a selection of the best.
  • One coastguard zodiac and a search and rescue boat appeared to be accompanying the sailboats.
  • Several eco-tours came by, including one Eagle Wings tour that drove through the South Channel.
  • Passing through the South Channel is prohibited as the width is too narrow.

Transect Peg Locations on Great Race Rocks

Expand this map of Great Race Rocks in order to see the numbered pegs in red around the shoreline. Some of these pegs were intended as intertidal locators, and some as subtidal tethering pegs. The ones with question marks still need to be located to be sure.

Some of the  pegs were established pre-1980 and some were established after 2000.

centrelargeandislepegs
Peg 1: off west side of jetty end- subtidal
Peg 2: off point of bay west of jetty–subtidal
peg 3: further along north side– subtidal
peg 4: off base of cliff– subtidal (proved impractical because of high current)
peg 5: inter and subtidal
peg 5a:later installation- inter and subtidal
peg 5b: later installation-inter and subtidal
peg 6: for tidepool locator and intertidal and subtidal
peg 7: for subtidal minimal use
peg 8: for subtidal not used
peg 9: for subtidal not used
peg 9 : for subtidal not used
peg 10: for subtidal not used
peg 11: subtidal not used as too close to old outfall.
peg 12 inter and subtidal
peg 13: used for annual intertidal algae stratification lab exercise.
peg 14: subtidal- outer extreme North East corner.
peg 14b: inter and subtidal concrete mound with stainless steel hole for peg – inter and subtidal
peg 15: large boat mooring post — used for intertidal lab exercises
peg 15a: inter and subtidal concrete mound with stainless steel hole for peg – inter and subtidal

To be added later: links to webpages with data from these pegs:

Marine Sciences Field Exam

Weather

  • Visibility: 15 miles
  • Wind: 5-10 knots West, in the evening up to 20.
  • Sky: clear
  • Water: calm

Ecological

  • The 15 elephant seals were slower down to the water today, perhaps due to the influx of students.
  • One California Sea Lion spent most of the exam at the end of the jetty, unfazed by all the activity going on. Quite unusual for a sea lion!
  • All manner of barnacle, shell creatures, and algae plant things were examined today by the Pearson College students.

Visitors!

  • Approximately 30 folk from Pearson College made their way out to Race Rocks today.
  • This included Laura Verhegge who was running the Marine Sciences field exam, Johanna who was observing Pearson’s instruction techniques, one 2nd year student, one alumni, Chris, and 25 or so students.
  • The first group arrived at 8:15, the final group left at about 12:15.

Maintenance/Chores

  • Weed whacking.
  • Algicide application. Photo shows before scrubbing.
  • Safety observation and hosting of students during exam.
  • Ran the desalinator.

Algae before

Boats

  • The Ocean River Kayak Discovery Shuttle and Haiaku each took two trips of students to and from Race Rocks.
  • On the return voyage the tide was very low, and the sea lions were in the way, so the shuttle boat “docked” against the rocks on the NE part of Great Race.
  • At least 4 eco-tours came by the reserve today.
  • Saw a nice red sailed sailboat to the north of the reserve.
  • One boat spent much of the day fishing on the edge of the reserve.

Under way on Nuclear Power

There was a large roar made by ocean swells breaking and surging on the west and southwest sides of the island, at first light today. Winds abated and light southwest to west winds in the morning turned to light west in the afternoon rising to 15 to 20 knots by evening. The sky cleared by noon and stayed that way until dusk. The barometric pressure continued Monday’s trajectory, rising above 1022 hPa by mid-afternoon and holding there into the evening.. The marine forecast calls for light winds Wednesday and a few days of sunshine.

Four whale watching vessels were observed working in the Protected Area today. All four vessels went around to the outside (south) of South Rock to observe the seals, sea lions and eagles. One sports fisher was observed travelling through the reserve and dip-netting fish near the Rosedale Reef buoy. Forage fish, possibly herring seemed to be boiling up to the surface their drawing numerous eagles, gulls and cormorants.

An Articulated Tug and Barge (ATB), (barge, a loaded oil tanker), was noted outbound, this morning. When we checked for a vessel name on the Automated Information System (AIS), http://www.marinetraffic.com/en/ais/home/centerx:-124/centery:48/zoom:10 it did not show up on the marine traffic system neither did the tug attached to it as a pusher.

A report to the BC Ministry of Environment on the risk of oil spills in BC waters (http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/main/west-coast-spill-response-study/)states that barges are not required to use AIS however their tugs should register. The report goes on to say that a spill from an ATB could exceed 25,000m3 of oil. Fuel barge movement statistics provided by Canadian Coast Guard Marine Communications Traffic Services to the 2013 BC report show over 1000 fuel barges outbound from Victoria, Vancouver, Comox and Prince Rupert and another 514 transiting Victoria alone. Why are they not required to register? There have been several near-miss incidents with these oil carriers; why not use every means possible to maximize safety and reduce risk, such as AIS?

To put things in context, a show of force was led by the USS Shoup heading out to sea, followed an hour later by a very large submarine escorted by a convoy bristling with military might and expense. The usual explosions from Rocky Point put the ar in arsenal.

Ecologically, the gulls are becoming more abundant and settled in their nesting spots. Territorial disputes are a daily occurrence now as are the calmer moments of pairs just standing together gazing at and grooming each other. The Harlequin Ducks have been busy with all the whitewater activity and take their rest on the boulder beach just southeast of the main house. Pigeon Guillemots were back for a morning visit to Great Race.

Sea lions and Harbour Seals had really good daytime sleeps today recovering from the storms.

Temporary repairs were completed on damaged roofs, as was clean-up and mopping up from the storm.

Marine Mammals Hauled out on Race Rocks Jan 2014-Feb 2016

 

This graph represents the 6 marine mammal species which haul out on Great Race Rocks in the Race Rocks Ecological reserve.  providing the population numbers and the time of year  CLICK to enlarge. The data was obtained from the Posts on census done by the Ecoguardians at Race Rocks.mammalcraph

The graph below represents the Elephant seal population at Race Rocks Ecological reserve with data taken from the Ecoguardian logs for January 2014 to January 2016. Click to enlarge.

elephantseal2014-2015

Humpback and Orca Sightings from Race Rocks in the Strait of Juan de Fuca

In preparing for the oral presentation that the Friends of Ecological Reserves  will give on January 28 in Burnaby, as an intervenor for the National Energy board Hearings, I have recently updated or graphs on Humpback and Orca sightings by the Ecoguardians at Race Rocks: The posts done by our Ecoguardians tagged for orcas or  humpback whales assisted in this tabulation.

image003 orcadays

Strong Westerlies

It was a westerly kind of a day, gusting 25 – 30 knots all morning under partially clear skies. In the afternoon gusts were stronger, churning the sea into a white froth. The wind speed dropped to 20 knots in the evening and was closer to 15 by the time the sun went down. Although the fog was threatening early, it stayed off to the west and the haze that has hanging around was cleared by the wind and replaced with building clouds. The strong wind warning continues and the forecast for Monday is mainly cloudy. The barometer continues its step-wise descent.

In spite of blustery conditions and because of all the marine mammal action there were 18 visits observed by commercial tour operators today. Whale watching was good in the area today and the sea lost some salt to exhilarated looking tourists who had their hoods on and exposure suits battened down in the smaller open boats. No other vessels were observed in reserve.

It was another exciting day on the mammal front with Humpbacks all around, Killer Whales in Race Passage, an increased number of sea lions and return of at least one elephant seal to Great Race Island. Salmon continue to be an important part of gull diet in the area and that is mostly due to scavenging off kills by sea lions.

One of the California sea lions that hauled out with a big new flasher last week, has managed to get rid of it. I am not sure if the hook is inside but today he just had a little broken piece of the flasher hanging out of his mouth when I went to do the seawater sampling and when I came back it was lying on the walkway with its bead chain still looking shiny. There are several ‘necklaced’ sea lions here right now. They all seem to have white plastic strapping around their necks and it looks deadly.

There are only a few Glaucous-winged Gulls left on Great Race and not many more that are still being fed by parents. I photographed one juvenile eat salmon caviar brought back and deposited with special serving and plating effects by its parent. Lots of people think that gull is just a four- letter word associated with human garbage and super abundant. Glaucous-winged Gulls are the only species (of ten species seen here) that actually nest in the Salish Sea and their numbers have been declining for a few years now. Known in birder code as GwGu this four letter word represents an important species in the local ecosystem that is a risk due to human activity. In many areas plastic pollution poses a serious threat to young gulls that do not know better than to eat it. From the evidence so far far at Race Rocks, GwGu have been fairly plastics-free. Lets keep it that way.

Although most of the bull kelp is still very strong and beautiful, many of the stipes have epiphytic green or red algae growing on them now as they start to senesce. Bull kelp is an annual species and it grows very fast during the spring and summer. Soon the storms will be dispersing these incredible carbon sinks and some will end up on the bottom entombed in mud. Sinking plankton takes the most carbon to the bottom, helping make the ocean the world’s biggest carbon sink for atmospheric carbon dioxide. Thank you ocean, for being such a complex regulator of climate.

Ashore, the Calendula is still blooming giving new meaning to the term perennial. This plant flowers all year round here, looking as fresh in September as it does in March. It closes up when it is cold and wilts in frost but survives as a remnant of a long-gone lighthouse keeper’s garden. Native to the Mediterranean, Calendula’s bright, cheery blooms are incredibly resilient and it is one of the few plants the Canada Geese don’t eat. Although it probably shouldn’t be flourishing in an Ecological Reserve here, I am glad it is here and it reminds me that people are part of the ecosystem.

Again chores were routine and there were no visitors.

ANIMAL CENSUS

July 9th Thursday: Animal census

The fog was still there pretty thick but around 11:30 it cleared up and we could go up the tower to do the census. We had a west wind and the forecast was a gale warning for the end of the afternoon.The wind at noon was from West at 24 knots and could go to 35 in the late afternoon. We saw a few Whale watchers boats around noon and we had no visitors. Water is getting colder under 12 degrees Celsius. Guy put a new VHF on the whaler.

The estimation of the population is:
Elephant seals: 3
Sea Lions: 180
Pigeon–guillemots: 80
Gulls: 450 (yesterday we could see a group of gulls with black winged maybe some west gulls)
Pelagic cormorants: 3
Geese: 11 (Today the smallest one of the family of 5 was not in the water swimming but looked lost alone in the island hanging around). They spend more and more time in the water.
Black oystercatchers :0

Bald eagle: 1 (they attack the colony almost every day once in the morning)