Helicopter Generator Swap


  • Visibility: 15 miles
  • Wind: 5-10 knots North
  • Sky: mostly overcast, some rain in the evening.
  • Water: calm


  • There were eight elephant seals on Great Race today.
  • That is the most I have seen out here during this current shift.
  • Three of the younger males enjoyed a spirited bout or two.
  • The rest of them snoozed off in pairs or alone.
  • The birds and sea lions were definitely disrupted by the helicopter.


  • Kyle and four men from the Coast Guard removed the old Generator B.
  • A Coast Guard helicopter then dropped off a new generator, and took away the old one.
  • They then placed the new generator in its spot.
  • I helped out with various auxiliary tasks, but mostly just took photographs.
  • Tidied up loose tools after everyone had departed.


  • Second Nature.
  • A few eco-tours.


  • Kyle, the four Coast Guard men, and Ian and Stephen.
  • They all departed in the early afternoon.


  • Coast Guard helicopter overflight.


Last snow


When we wake up it was white all around but at 9:00 green again. North West wind ,10 knots,2.8degrees at 8:oo. cloudy to overcast,5miles of visibility,very low tide in the eveningDSC_0056


the geese (around 10) are everywhere to be seen ,busy ,noisy and defensive … coupling coming soon…DSC_0035DSC_0115DSC_0111


The soft water tank has been filled again since the Student’s stay.The light level is not big these days,but despites that, we got 25 Amps by hour ..It is very good and this because  all the solars panels are functioning (Since last Summer). We see the difference. We finished to stack the wood in the main house for next Winter and we are getting ready for our coming departure on Monday 13Th


1 Helicopter going towards Sooke. Only 1 watching boat

Environment Canada for the weather station on the rock


A team from  Environment Canada in Richmond  came to repair the weather Station which has not been working well since this Summer. They spent at least 3 hours and fixed the system.DSC_0772DSC_0785

Kyle with Second Nature came and bring 600 hundred litters of oil and we filled up 3 barrels of 200 each,3 more are coming soon. Guy and Kyle changed the pressured water pump in the student house.DSC_0788DSC_0794DSC_0796


Each elephant Seal has been in his own spot even the new young male and we appreciated some quiet time! The injured pup was still moving but stayed around the crane, behind it. It is painful to see him in a so bad condition…We see what will happen in the coming days.

Noticeably Darker Day

Today was more of a fall day with cooler temperatures and a threat of rain in the air. Light levels were way down too. The barometer rose to 1014 hPA from a low of 1010 yesterday and it has just started to fall again. Rain and east winds of up to 25 knots are predicted to bring tomorrow’s forecasted rain, with a cool, wet outlook for the week ahead.

Thirteen visits to the protected area, by whale watching vessels, were observed today. Only one pleasure craft was noted.

There was a lot of cetacean action in and around Race Rocks for most of the day. It started with two big, bull, Biggs Killer Whales (Transients), travelling in from the west on the Rosedale side. They were later spotted in Race Passage and not long after an adult female Killer Whale was seen well inside the reserve by Turbine Rock. There were two Humpback Whales, one feeding just east of Race Rocks that moved west through Race Passage. It had a definite white splotch on the right fluke. The other one was feeding just west and had dark flukes, the same one, I think, that has been around for a while. There was also a Minke Whale feeding just to the south of Race Rocks.

Accumulated solar radiation levels today were less than half of what they have been for the last few days, 150 versus 300 to 350 Langleys and the days are getting noticeably shorter, faster now. Migrant species are moving through the reserve daily with hundreds of Surf Scoters moving through from west to east every day. All three species of cormorants are using the rocks here as roosts now and feeding in the multi-species flocks that surround the reserve with much commotion. This change into autumn not only impacts the biodiversity of the reserve but also has an impact on practical things like power generation.

Solar power has been producing over 90% of the power needed to run everything on the island and that amount will change over the next few months. Right now the shortfall is made up with a diesel generator but the plan is to move to cleaner burning propane in the near future. A great deal of progress has been made in reducing the amount of fuel stored and used here, from the days of the Coast Guard when there were six giant diesel tanks dominated the rock and the generators ran 24/7. A big shout goes out to Pearson College, for both reducing the ecological footprint in terms of CO2 and for reducing the risk of a spill.

A noisy place

It has been a lovely day with westerly wind rising from 2knots to 22knots in the evening. The desalinator has been working those last 2days but thanks to the solar panels no need of generator for 10 days. We have some issues with the desalinator in the sense that we have to wait 25 to 45 minutes before reaching the good level of salinity. It looks like we will have to change the big filter pretty soon (once a year). Guy changed the connector of the seawater pump that was broken.
An eagle this morning tried to fly by the island but no way the seagull army was ready. At date we found 3 eggs never hatched and 5 chicks bodies (one was floating in a kelp bed in the water). The bird I identified as a solitary sandpiper was in fact a whimbrel. (No doubt after checking the photograph I took). A seaplane flew over, not directly across the main rocks but over the South rocks. The island those last days and nights became a very noisy place maybe because of the full moon. We can’t tell which are the noisier ,gulls or sea lions? I tell you it’s a pretty amazing concert!


Resurrected with found and modified pieces, this old bench graces the front of the science house now with a broad panorama for sunset viewing.

Resurrected with found and modified pieces, this old bench graces the front of the science house now with a broad panorama for sunset viewing.

Dawn broke in reds and pinks heralding another glorious day. Early on there were feeble zephyrs from the southwest and east but the most obvious wind tell-tale on Race Rocks, the Canadian flag, hung limply most of the morning. Westerly breezes started in the early afternoon and developed into moderate breezes, late afternoon with gusts to 23 knots. The strong wind warning forecast is downgraded now to 15 to 20 knots westerly, overnight in the central Straits of Juan de Fuca and it is already dropping, as the sun sets.

No tour boats were observed in the Ecological Reserve although one hardtop sport-fishing boat cruised past the sea lions at a respectful distance and speed.

In the water new Bull Kelp are growing quickly, shooting to the surface buoyed by their float and photosynthesizing faster than any land plant.

Bull kelp, Nereocystis luetkeaena is growing fast now.

Bull kelp, Nereocystis luetkeaena is growing fast now.

A Northern Elephant Seal visited the marine railway for a snooze on the falling tide this morning. It was a perfectly symmetrical ellipsoid. From the light tower another 16 elephant seals could be seen on Middle Rock. Two more in the shallows of Middle Rock, looked so much like smooth rocks draped in seaweed, that they had me fooled for a while. That makes 19 in total, a high count for me so far.

There have also been a lot of Bald Eagles present with a total of twelve individuals today. I have been trying to figure out what they are eating and have seen them chasing both gulls and geese.


Five of the twelve Bald Eagles on site today.

Five of the twelve Bald Eagles on site today.


I have also seen some casualties, including three gull carcasses but they do not have the look of eagle food. The one in the photo above is completely pristine even after several days, with no trace of blood or predation.

Adult Bald Eagle feeding on fresh meat.

Adult Bald Eagle feeding on fresh meat.

This evening the eagles caught and ate something but I could not tell what it was, there were no feathers at the site where they were dining but it may have been turned inside out (skinned). Four adults and two sub-adults fed off the one carcass.

Glaucous-winged gulls in their fine new feathers,  are guarding their nesting territories but have not started nesting yet.

Glaucous-winged gulls in their fine new feathers, are guarding their nesting territories but have not started nesting yet.

Alex continues to be my only visitor and we had a belated Easter dinner, highlighting delicious, fresh halibut. I wonder when the last time was, this kitchen had freshly jigged halibut? Alex resurrected a bench that was both broken and had missing parts. It now sits in front of the Science House with a view out to sea and east up the Strait.

The phone and Internet went off again last night and I didn’t realize it until late. The problem was different this time and required a UPS reset in the tower this morning. I am getting quite adept at restarting the weather system now and we also tried (again) to fix the wind direction indicator on the system. I had success getting the underwater camera going again but it really needs a good scrub. The desalinator filled up the water tank again, running on sunlight through the solar panels. I cleaned up the visitor sign-in cabinet a little and put in some fresh pamphlets about how the public can support Race Rocks through Pearson College.

Note this blog posted next day due to yet another failure of phone/Internet last night due to UPS overload in tower.

Dec 28, Warden’s Report -Race Rocks Ecological Reserve

I went to Race Rocks today with Val George for the Christmas bird Count.  ( See other reports from  today.) The highlight of course was the discovery of the first record for the Boreal Owl in Southern Vancouver Island . Some other observations from my visit are included here:

2014-12-28gooseexclosure2 2014-12-28gooseexclosure1m
Several 1 metre exclosures for goose grazing have been installed on the grass  areas on Race Rocks. Winter grazing by the Canada geese (introduced to Vancouver Island in the 1980s) has resulted in erosion in some areas of the island, and grass turf cover is prevented.
2014-12-28macrocystislongm 2014-12-28 macrocystis
Drift Macrocystis at the jetty. This Giant Kelp can grow anchored at great depths but winter storms will lift it up and the  main contribution to energy-flow  in the ecosystem comes from decomposition on the shoreline. Macrocystis grows in areas of high salinity, so not in he brackish estuarine conditions of the Strait of Juan de Fuca , but not at Race Rocks  where it ends up only as drift in the strand line.
deadcorm cormfeet
A dead cormorant, (probably Brandt’s ). Interesting webbed foot structure.
2014-12-28thayer1year 2014-12-28deadcormventralm
A 1st year juvenile Thayer’s Gull The breast had a hole and internal organs  were eaten. It was probably from an eagle attack.
2014-12-28energybldg energybuildingpanels
This year, the college has finished tilting the solar panels. Increased energy efficiency has been noted. They were originally installed flat since we were concerned that the strength of the wind may damage them. This hasn’t happened. View of the energy building roof from the top of the tower.
2014-12-28johanplaque ..
This fall a plaque has been installed to honour Johan Ashuvud, who as a student at Pearson College, was instrumental in having Race Rocks designated as an ecological reserve in 1980 ..

Other Ecological reserves wardens reports are available here:

Fog and sunshine

There was a tiny bit of rain with fog early today and then it switched back to near gale westerlies with heavy fog interspersed with sunshine. It is a beautiful starlight evening and the westerly continues to drop. The barometer held fairly steady today with a slight increase this evening. Environment Canada says that a strong westerly wind warning stays in effect for Sunday with a chance of showers.

There were ten whale watching boats in the Reserve today and they were all well behaved. A dive charter boat with eleven divers aboard came through the reserve but I am not sure where they dove.

Two male kayakers , one in a green kayak and the other in a reddish-brown kayak came through the passage on the south side of Great Race in the early afternoon and caused a sea lion stampede. They then proceeded to fish right in the closed conservation area. There were also two recreational boats fishing in the marine protected area.

A few more sea lion brands were observed today including one seven year-old female Steller’s Sea Lion that was branded as a pup in 2007 at Rogue Reef , near Gold Beach in southern Oregon.

This was my first day to not see Elephant Seals and California Sea Lions have taken over the jetty and marine railway. Some of them are a bit scary looking and do not want to move so that I can do seawater data collection.

Three River Otters were out and about in daylight today. Usually you don’t see them and just guess that they are around in the evening as all the gulls lift off and call. There were two young, very healthy-looking animals with an adult. Maybe that it why there are so many Glaucous-winged gull chick mortalities here? (Just a guess.)

Alex was quite excited to see some of the old lighthouse artifacts including parts of an old Fairbanks-Morris engine. He also pointed out where the old granite light-keepers house had been removed from its attachment to the base of the light tower.

The tasks today were the basic, regular tasks of  cleaning the solar panels, running the generator, launching and bringing the boat back up in order to drop off Alex, repairing the jetty fence (twice) and taking the salinity measurement. Tomorrow is month-end report time.



Baleen at sunset

Fog in the morning that burned off around 1030h. Winds reached 35 knots mid-afternoon. Light winds forecasted for tomorrow morning and increasing in the afternoon. Barometric pressure still dropping.

2 whale watching boats

1 recreational fishing boat

Last of the gull chicks are learning to fly. Another elephant seal arrived on the boat ramp today, bringing the number to four. Spotted a baleen whale off the SW side of the reserve at 2030h this evening as the sun set.

Courtney came out in Second Nature with a tour group this morning of alumni and then made another trip to do maintenance on the desalinator (which is now in working order). Cistern was very low so Anne and I ran the pump for most of the day. Continued with Anne’s training.

Elephant seals

Light variable North wind most of the day, blowing strong West this evening. Clouds and intermittent rain all day. Force 1 in the am, Force 5 this evening. The barometer levelled out just above 1000 hPa around 1800. The forecast is for strong West, diminishing to slightly-less strong SW overnight.

4 tour boats
3 halibut boats on the edge of the reserve

I’m used to seeing the little zodiacs out for the marine tours, but there are a couple tour boats that are really really big. I usually catch them out of the corner of my eye and have to do a double take. It’s a bit like suddenly seeing a small house sitting off the island where it is normally just empty water. It’s crazy that a boat that big will casually pass past the end of the jetty, through a narrow channel that is ripping with the fastest currents on Southern Vancouver Island.

The males Elephant seals are more active and aggressive and have lots of little sparing battles throughout the day. The females might growl, but otherwise they are pretty chill. There doesn’t seem to be any patterns in groups in terms of sex, with the males and females spread out pretty evenly. Although the larger males tend to spend more time away from the group. There are still 2 small juveniles (nicknamed Jellybean and Peanut since they are so darn round and cute). One of the young adult males spent some time ‘chasing’ me while I scoped out the other E-seals. He also chased some sea gulls for a while. They definitely don’t hesitate to growl at the Canada Geese or Gulls when they are too close or fly over. I’ve been keeping my eye out for any E-seal flipper tags, but haven’t seen any in a while. Lots of Pigeon Guillemots today.

Continue reading