Pearson Students and Brands

Weather

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

Ecological

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

Maintenance

  • The usual chores.

Boats

  • 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.

Visitors

  • 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.

Other

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

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:

Golden Day at Race Rocks.

This morning dawn came with a mostly overcast sky and fog distant. It cleared by late morning and stayed sunny, only clouding over in the early evening. The wind was light, less than 10 knots and easterly all day. The barometer was up to 2022 earlier and is falling now. The forecast includes a strong wind warning for tonight. Thursday is expected to be sunny with a few clouds.

Four whale watching vessels were observed working in the protected area today. Several sport fishers passed through. The salmon gillnet fleet and packers passed through Race Passage heading east. There was a big swell during the morning and early afternoon.

Second Nature brought one of the Pearson College student dive teams today and the students who got into the water had a fantastic dive. Not only were they able to observe and film the incredible richness of this biodiversity hotspot, they were also visited underwater by curious sea lions.

Several new sea lion brands were noted today including Californians U20, U503, U363 and U844. One of the California Sea Lions made it right up to camera #5 today. By the time I got outside with the blog camera, he was already descending.

I noted the other day that I hadn’t noticed cookie Cutter Shark scars on the Steller’s Sea Lions. Well since I made that remark I am seeing theme everywhere, so take that back.

On the bird front, we had a little female American Goldfinch visit today. It landed on the thistles right in front of me over by the tower. Also on the bird front a suspected Brandt’s Cormorant with two leg tags was spotted today; yellow on the left leg and white on the right leg. There was also a strange bird amongst the Brandt’s Cormorants that I was hoping would be the Brown Booby that has been floating around out here.

 

Chores were routine and in preparation for the new eco-guardian crew coming out tomorrow. There were nine people on board Second Nature.

 

Marine Mammals Small and Large

Early fog crept over from the American side, obliterating visibility for a few hours this morning but then it was cleared by west winds of 10 – 20 knots. The wind was constant, as was the sunshine for the rest of the day. The barometer started rising last night and peaked at 1014 hPa before starting to drop again this afternoon. Tomorrow’s forecast includes strong wind warnings for afternoon westerlies of 15 – 25 knots, it is supposed to be mainly sunny while Friday has a 60% chance of showers.

There was a near-miss boating incident this morning just after the fog cleared. During the full ebb current, of close to six knots, a small rough looking commercial fishing vessel with lots of bumpers out and a ‘scotchman’ astern went flying through Middle Channel. Just as it arrived at the roughest section where the standing waves were standing high, it turned abruptly at right angles to the current. It rolled and seemed to take a long time to right itself. Then as I watched from the roof of the energy building, it lurched around,  finally straightening out like a drunken sailor making its way westward. Six whale watching vessels were noted, working in the Race Rocks Ecological Reserve today, all very professional, heeding sustainability methods and best practices except for one orange zodiac that was in a hurry to leave when the Navy arrived on scene just west of the reserve.

A Humpback Whale was feeding just to the west of the reserve all afternoon and the students were able to observe it through the spotting scope and time the dives. Some of them managed to sketch the blow shape in their field journals and a few even caught glimpses of the flukes. They also had a chance to observe the sea otter and that was a highlight amidst the roar and din of the ubiquitous sea lions and their stinky ways. Two young male Northern Elephant Seals took advantage of the chaos when the students were coming ashore to sneak up the ramp and they put on a good demonstration of elephant seal wrestling and jousting in between their sudden naps.

The field trip was the third marine science class to visit in a week and it was really a treat to work with such wonderful young people from all over the world.

Chores were routine in addition to end of the month routines.

Killer Whales Late for Class

It was a clear day from glorious sunrise to subdued sunset. The wind was 5 to 15 knots in the west – southwest quadrant and solar radiation was high, though not quite as high as yesterday; 400 Langleys today and just over that on Monday. As I write the  Log blog, clouds are creeping in and blanketing the mountains on the American side and the barometer is falling again. Forecasts call for a switch to southeast winds, which usually brings wet weather. Wednesday is supposed to be increasingly cloudy and rain is supposed to follow.

Only eight commercial whale watching vessels were noted in the Ecological Reserve boundaries today and five of those were in the afternoon associated with Biggs (Transient) Killer Whales on the other side of Race Passage. The Killer Whales were on the Vancouver Island side of the passage and spent several hours in and around Bentick Island and Emdyck Passage and William Head. Several pleasure craft passed through the reserve today, all without speeding or fishing in reserve. There was one overflight during the first class field trip: a small fixed-wing aircraft that passed over west to east and then returned passing over a second time. Although one red flag was up all day at the military site there were no obvious explosions.

Pearson College students spent part of the day here today. Two of Laura Vehegge’s classes of marine science students came for their first field trip of the year to Great Race Island. I was hoping they would have a chance to see the Sea Otter, at least one pod of Killer Whales and maybe a couple of Humpback Whales, but no. After all they have just started a species list that they will be adding to for the next two years, so they will have other opportunities.

Today the students were also working on journal entries about their marine animal observations. They were lucky enough to see California and Stellers Sea Lions, Northern Elephant and Harbour Seals and lots of Glaucous-winged Gulls. There were also Mew Gulls, California Gulls and if they were sharp-eyed, Heerman’s Gulls. Those were the ubiquitous species, but for me, the more interesting and unusual species were two new, avian visitors that showed up today; a male and female Horned Lark. I send a shout out to Victoria Natural History Society on Twitter for helping with the identification. A flock of 24 Canada Geese landed and were on the island for a very short visit.

Laura’s classes witnessed the down-side of plastic in the ocean today. Is there an up-side? They had the ‘opportunity’ to observe three neck-laced sea lions. Those two California Sea Lions and one Steller Sea Lion with plastic straps around their necks will likely not survive long unless they get the specialized attention of Vancouver Aquarium veterinarian, Dr. Martin Haulena. Dr. Haulena has worked extensively with sea lions and is one of the few people able to do this sort of animal welfare work. This is another good reminder for all of us to avoid plastic if possible, recycle it and just in case it “gets away” cut all possible entanglers before disposing of it. There are a lot of really good efforts towards reducing plastic in our seas and there is a real need.

The Killer Whales mentioned above showed up late in the afternoon and missed both classes.

It was good to see Courtney with Year 20 volunteer Jasper, as a deck-hand on Second Nature. He had quickly graduated to skipper in training by the third run to Race Rocks.

 

 

 

 

Great Tide at Great Race.

Fog in the morning, fog in the evening, sunshine in the afternoon: this is the weather pattern right now. Strong westerly winds from 20 to 33 knots blow all day and all night. It is really all about equilibrium with that huge mass of cold Pacific water and cool air temperatures rushing in to cool a rapidly warming ‘interior’. Yesterday afternoon there was a ten-degree air temperature difference between here (in fog and wind) and the Victoria airport (in brilliant sunshine). Off in the far distance to the east, thunderheads are visibly forming as that warm air rises and takes moisture with it.

Today, as yesterday, the barometer climbed until about noon and then fell by about the same amount, ending up at ~ 1014 hPa., in the late afternoon. The forecast is for continued strong wind warnings and patches of fog.

There were no vessels observed in the Ecological Reserve today.

Excellent daytime low tides continue and a few more species of algae have been added to my list. Pleurophycus gardneri, the broad-ribbed kelp was growing at 0.2m as was Saccharina groenlandica, the split kelp, which used to be known as a Laminaria. A couple of reds included Endocladia muricata, an important species used as settling substrate for California Mussels and a branching coralline species in a tidal pool, possibly Corallina vancouverensis (jury still out on that id).

Lam groenPleurophycus

corallinaclimbing pup

On the elephant seal front, the small, tagged male 9807, decided to climb up a very steep hill and he had quite a time getting back down. Rock climbing is just not an strong point for elephant seals. It probably seemed like a good idea to go up in order to get away from the boisterous larger males but coming down a different and much more difficult route, he looked a little worried and wane, with his big eyes and his baggy skin.

Ten students, two teachers and a small child came out for an advisee group retreat overnight and they are well ensconced in the science house.

Chores and maintenance were routine today.

 

Finally Field Exam.

It blew west 15 – 20 knots all day as the barometer slowly climbed to 1016 hPa and leveled off. The early, overcast sky gave way to sunshine by late morning and it continued brilliantly until sunset. The forecast is for more of the same with the strong wind warning continuing.

Two whale watching boats were observed working in the Ecological Reserve and both followed guidelines and regulations, treating the Reserve and its wildlife with respect. Several sports fishing boats passed through the Ecological Reserve at low speed and only one halibut sports fishing boat was slow to slow, in the go-slow zone, doing at least 15 knots but eventually remembering and slowing.

All of the ecological happenings reported on, in the last week or so continued today. Great Race was busy with Northern Elephant seals coming and going from their bathing routines, moulting, sleeping and jousting. The gulls, guillemots and oystercatchers continued to prepare for the next generation and Canada Geese were out and about, promenading their goslings. A raven was seen taking one small gosling that had been noted dead earlier, near a nest in front of the science house. Both species of sealion seem more vocal this week, with the Steller’s mostly on West Rocks and the Californians more spread out but definitely back at South Islands.

Today was busy with visitors as Laura and 36 first year marine science students arrived early to do their marine science field exam. Chris and Courtney, shuttled the class out in Second Nature and Hyaku. An extra trip in Hyaku brought out author Peter Johnson who is researching lighthouses for an up-coming book, along witha guest photographer. Hanne, a second year marine science student from Pearson College also arrived on that trip and she photographed the first years hard at work and enjoyed observing elephant seals with Courtney.

connor

Connor continuing to learn from nature even as he writes exam.

Ha biodivers

Ha finishes off answers on biodiversity and species richness, surrounded by diverse intertidal species.

more biodivers

Determining a relationship between tidal height and intertidal diversity.

marsci exam west

‘Delightful dichotomies and wondrous waves’ is the intriguing title of this exam station.

My family continued their visit and helped out in lots of different ways, from assisting boats and people on the jetty, to encouraging me in becoming more proficient and comfortable running the derrick. I assisted Laura and students with the field exam, which is very unique. This is one exam the students will  never forget.

 

 

 

Population Explosion

During the early morning there were light winds from the north but it soon switched to west and blew 25 to 30 knots mid-morning. The wind dropped down to a lazy 5 to 10 from the west and swung through south to east and back again, during the rest of the afternoon. The barometer rose steadily all day and even though there were showers early on, the day ended in glorious sunshine with a 10 knot wind from the west, southwest. The forecast is for the wind to turn to east and bring more showers.

Five whale watching vessels were observed within the Ecological Reserve and they were all very respectful of the speed regulations although several were as close as 20-30 meters from the shoreline of Great Race. Two kayakers were noted in the Ecological Reserve in the late afternoon. Several halibut sports fishermen fished just outside the conservation area closed to fishing, respecting the boundary of the closed fishing area.

Casual, ecological observations were made in the inter-tidal at 0.9m and above today in the shelfing area just east of the derrick on the north side of Great Race. A widespread settlement event has occurred recently and juvenile barnacles (<1mm) carpet the mid- to upper inter-tidal area including any unoccupied rock and even occupied shells of sessile organisms like big, old California Mussels.

This population explosion will provide food for many whelks and opportunists and emphasizes incredible competition for space here in the intertidal. The more ephemeral algae of the high inter-tidal are starting to bleach out including some of the higher Porphyra spp or Pyropia spp (nori) and a small red that may be Rhodymenia sp. The following community of intertidal organisms in addition to those list above, were noted (in no particular order) in the area examined.

Enteroctopus dofleini Giant Pacific Octopus

Katherina tunicate Black Leather Chiton

Semibalanus cariosus Thatched Barnacle

Balanus glandula Acorn Barnacle

Pollicipes polymerus Gooseneck Barnacle

Mytilus californianus California Mussel

Gnorimosphaeroma sp. Sex changing Isopod

Lirabuccinum dirum Dire Whelk

Prasiola sp. Small green algae indicative of high nitrogen location

Ulva spp. Sea lettuce

Nucella spp. Whelk

Alaria marginata Winged Kelp

Anthopleura elegantissima Aggregating Anemone

Epiactus prolifera Brooding Sea Anemone

There were also at least four limpet species, several species of periwinkles, coralline algae, red algal turf and red crust.

Today there were 30 visitors. Catrin brought her first year biology students for a field trip and they were divided up into three working groups of eight students each. Erich from Victoria came with the group. Two volunteers from the College accompanied the group and Courtney drove them all out and back in Second Nature (six trips in total). Earlier I picked up Alex in the Race Rocks Whaler who is staying on. he was very helpful with all the landings, loadings and embarkations.

Other than working with all three groups of students which was a real treat, other chores were routine today. Some students, especially biology and marine science students really benefit from exposure to such a biodiverse and productive site as Race Rocks. Most students enjoyed the visit, many observed species they had never seen before and some even collected extensive data for next years individual investigations.

Bumpers come aboard as the last group of students head back to Pedder Bay aboard Second Nature.

Bumpers come aboard as the last group of students head back to Pedder Bay aboard Second Nature.

2009-2014 Whale Observations from Race Rocks

Lester Pearson College has employed the Ecoguardians at Race Rocks Ecological Reserve since 1997. One of the benefits of this is in having observers on site 24 hours on this archipelago in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. A great amount of citizen science is achieved as they record in their logs the events such as whale sightings of the area.

In the past year I have been working as an intervenor for the Board of Friends of Ecological Reserves to try to question and advise  the National Energy Board and the Kinder Morgan Corporation on the problems of increasing the traffic of oil tankers from the Westridge terminal through the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The area of potential impact from chronic and catastrophic oil spills puts at risk the ecological integrity of  up to 17 of our Marine Ecological Reserves around southern Vancouver Island. In our submission I was able to draw upon the records from the Race Rocks Ecoguardian’s logs to demonstrate the increase in the incidence of whales in this area. A recent report of the Department of Fisheries (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 )has criticized the Environmental assessment done by Trans Mountain as being ineffective to take account of the increasing potential of Impact on the large whales such as humpbacks and the underwater noise which will masking of the ability of whales to communicate and get food.

I put together the following graphs to show the increase in the number of days per month that whales were observed from Race Rocks:

orcasighting
humpbacksighting

Thanks to Ryan, Raisa, Adam, Alex, Virginie, Julie, Courtney, Nick, and Anne for contributing to this database.

Addendum :  see the April 27 post on the report issued today ” Quantitative Assessment of Increased Potential for Marine Mammal-Vessel Interactions from the Trans Mountain Expansion Project TRANS MOUNTAIN PIPELINE ULC TRANS MOUNTAIN EXPANSION PROJECT –Prepared by: Stantec Consulting Ltd. 500 – 4730 Kingsway Burnaby, BC, V5H 0C6 Ph.: (604) 436-3014,

Garry Fletcher, Race Rocks Ecological Reserve Warden.