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Christmas Bird Count-1

We had lined up several people to go out today for the annual Christmas Bird Count, unfortunately the gale warning and the increasing wind from the North East made it impossible to get anyone out . With an impending storm the birds often disappear and such seems to be the case today. The following general pictures showing the few groupings of birds were taken from the tower camera 1  at mid-day. Alex will provide on the ground details later.

Beautiful Day to Remember


End of Shift.  Tomorrow Riley will arrive for his shift and we will be off. All the best, Riley, for your stay in this amazing hotspot of living activity and tidal rushes. The people of BC are lucky to have Race Rocks protected under BC Parks’ highest level of protection as an Ecological Reserve. It was a pleasure working with the classes of biology and marine science students this week and a treat to be in this special place.

Weather and Sea Conditions  Winds: Light and variable;  Sky: Morning low overcast slight mist cleared to sunny in afternoon;  Visibility: Mostly good ~10 – 15 nm;  The accumulated solar radiation today was 250 Langleys, the equivalent of a little over 2900 Watts per square meter. The UV Index was high at 7.4;  Barometer: 102.7 kPa and falling Sunday evening;  Forecast: Wind easterly 5 to 15 knots becoming light Monday afternoon then increasing to west 20 to 25 Monday evening. Strong wind warning in effect.

Vessels in Ecological Reserve   Whale watching vessels: 12 were observed working in Ecological Reserve (ER). All were professional, providing a good model for other boaters transiting the ER.

Sport fishing vessels: A total of 11 sport fishing vessels were observed in the ER today. Three were noted speeding in the ER and two vessels were observed fishing for hours, in the closed to fishing, Rockfish Conservation Area. Photos were taken, processed and filed. There were approximately 70 sports fishing vessels fishing to the west and then drifting by to the east, all but five appeared to follow rules.

Ecology  The first three Harlequin Ducks of the season were spotted today, one male and two females. They have returned from their alpine summer breeding habitat for a coastal winter. A Great Blue Heron was observed fishing, standing on a dense raft of Bull Kelp. A thorough search for the Sea Otter turned up nothing. Enormous mixed species feeding flocks were observed in Race Passage in the afternoon. There are fewer sea lions ashore during the day right now and there have been dietary shifts visible in their feces, which are hard to miss. One animal was observed feeding on what appeared to be a Coho close to a kelp bed on the west side of Great Race.

Visitors  None.

Sustainability  Although it was gray in the morning by 14:00 there was enough sunlight that we made fresh water with solar energy powering the de-salinator.

Maintenance and Operations  Regular chores and clean-up.


Weather’s Fine

Weather and Sea Conditions

Winds: 5 – 15 knots, west-southwest

Sky: Clear

Visibility: Good 15 nm

Barometer: 101.5 falling Wednesday evening

Forecast: Wind increasing to westerly 5 to 15 near noon Thursday and to westerly 15 to 25 Thursday afternoon. Strong wind warning in effect.

Vessels in Ecological Reserve

Whale watching vessels: Fifteen observed working in Ecological Reserve (ER)

No other commercial operators, noted in Reserve today.

Sport fishing vessels: Five noted in Reserve today. None observed fishing in ER. One sport boat speeding through ER. One open run-about with a windshield was seen chasing a Humpback Whale and hopscotching with it in order to position itself in front of whale’s path.

Animal Census

Steller Sea Lion 429

California Sea Lion 402

Harbour Seal 133

Northern Elephant Seal 6 (3 of those on Great Race)

Sea Otter 1 (seen during week)

River Otter 0, (no evidence seen either)

Bigg’s (Transient) Killer Whale 6 (just outside ER)

Dall’s Porpoise 3 (seen during week just outside ER)

Harbour Porpoise 2 (seen during week just outside ER)

Humpback Whale 1 (3 during count week adjacent to ER)

Canada Goose 24

Cackling Goose 1

Harlequin Duck 0

Double-crested Cormorant 4

Pelagic Cormorant 11

Brandt’s Cormorant 39

Bald Eagle1 (seen during week)

Black Oystercatcher 22

Black Turnstone 17

Surfbirds 9

Ruddy Turnstone 1 (seen during week)

Sanderling 2

Western Sandpiper 5

Kildeer 3

Glaucous-winged Gull 1274

California Gull 83

Herring Gull 1

Heerman’s Gull 5

Gull spp. 328

Savannah Sparrow 23


Made fresh water using solar power to energize de-salinator.

Visitors None

Maintenance and Operations

Weather station back on-line after three months off. Fence maintenance, good for a few hours ; – )


Scorpaenichthyes marmoratus: Cabezon–The Race Rocks Taxonomy

Scorpaenichthyes marmoratus

cabezonCabezon are normally benthic or bottom-dwellers, living among rocks and seaweeds in tide pools. Sometimes they live just below the water’s surface among the marine plants. Their coloration allows them to remain well camouflaged. Their habitat is most likely rocky, sandy and muddy bottoms, living in areas with a depth range of 0 to 200 meters. Moreover, young cabezon feed on small crustaceans like amphipods, shrimp, and crabs. The adults feed on crustaceans, marine worms and mollusks, including clams and abalone. They can swallow a whole abalone and later regurgitate the indigestible shell; therefore, their tropic level is that of a secondary carnivore. In addition, the limiting factors that will affect the development and growth of this population in a certain habitat will be the presence of enough light, temperature and the availability of food and living space.

Domain Eukarya
Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Sub-phylum Vertebrata
Class Actinopterygii
Order Scorpaeniformes
Family Cottidae
Genus Scorpaenichthyes
Species marmoratus
Common Name: Cabezon, Scorpion Fish

The cabezon ( literally big head in Spanish ) is a benthic fish that lives among the kelp holdfasts and rocky areas, usually very close to the bottom. It is often so confident of its camouflage that it will not move when approached by divers. Note the multi colored eye. These fish will lunge at almost anything that moves on the bottom. Dissections of their stomachs reveal amphipods and small crabs, pieces of kelp (and even rocks they have grabbed when foraging for other invertebrates.)

Their maximum length and weight are 99.0 centimeters and 14.0 Kilograms respectively. This organism can be seen in the Eastern Pacific, which covers the areas from Southeastern Alaska to Punta Abrejos, in Central Baja California, Mexico. Race Rocks is located in the centre of this range. In this map we can see the range of this fish.

mapReference The National Biological Information Infrastructure (NBII) BioBot
Other Members of the Class Actinopterygii 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.


October,2009 : Original text by Diomedes Saldana Greco

Larus glaucescens: Glaucous-winged gull– The Race Rocks taxonomy

gullfeedLarus glaucescens is omnivorous, feeding on carrion, fish, invertebrates, seaweed and food stolen from other birds. One of the main sources of food for Glaucous-winged gull are the softer bodied invertebrates exposed during the low tide time at Race Rocks. It is also typical of their behavior to take their hard shelled food, such as clams, or gastropods and drop them onto rocks to break them open for eating.

This species is the only species of gull that nests on Great Race Rock. From June to September, there could be over 150 nests on the island. The adults also overwinter at Race Rocks, but occasionally disappear from the islands for a few weeks. They start their complicated behaviours aimed at establishing territories and bonding with mates as early as February or March. Their eggs are laid in June and hatching takes place in early July. In the 2002 season, 100 birds fledged successfully, after several years of failed nesting, probably due to fish shortages in the surrounding waters.

In September, the clean looking feathers of the neck and head take on a mottled gray appearance as they undergo an annual moult.

The following pictures were taken by Ecoguardian Christine Ouradou in July of 2016 and appear in logs from that time.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

gulljuvenIn this picture by Evan Ferrari , the young juveniles, capable of flight, still hang around for a daily feeding from their parent

Domain: Eukarya
Kingdom :Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum :Vertebrata
Class: Aves
Order: Charadriiformes
Family :Laridae
Genus: Larus
Species :glaucescens
Common Name:  Glaucous-Winged Gull

The Glaucous winged Gull,
In June of 2000, David Mesiha and Satoshi Kimura (PC yr 25) made videos of different aspects of gull behavior while staying on the island. Thus started the archiving of videos for

June 1-16 : Aggression between males is frequent. This takes the form of plucking grass in a standoff and in beak pulling. In this way territories are defined as the nests are being built.

May 1: Breeding in the colony has started and will continue throughout May and June.

This video was taken in early July, 2001, from the north window of the Marine Science centre at Race Rocks. It shows the second day in the life of a sea gull chick. The parents feed the chick a small fish, probably herring or needlefish.
In June, 2016,  Lester Pearson College set up a live camera to follow the development of one of the Glaucous-winged Gull nests with eggs in the Race Rocks Ecological Reserve . Also the camera had infrared night vision.

All entries on this website tagged with Glaucous-winged gull

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.

Original text by Juan Pablo Hoffmaister, PC student Dec. 2001

Ocinebrina lurida : Lurid rock snail–The Race Rocks Taxonomy


Ocinebrina lurida : Lurid rock snail. The orange snail on the left is probably Ocenebrina. The others are various litorine snails.

Physical description:
Small,size to 1 1/2 ” (38 mm) solid shell with up to 6 whorls; fine close spiral treads crossing 6-10 axial ribs; Oval aperture with 6-7 teeth or more within outer lip height. Shell height most commonly is up to 40 mm, however usually less, with six to ten large low axial ridges crossed by prominent spiral ridges. Colors range from white, pale yellowish, dark brown, or red. It has a canal well developed, and its aperture is oval.
Domain Eukarya
Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Mollusca
Class Gastropoda
Sub class Prosobranchia
Order Neogastropoda
Family Muricidae
Genus Ocinebrina
Species lurida
Common Name: lurid rock snail

Global Distribution

Ranges from Sitka (Alaska) to Punta Santo Tomas
(Baja California). 57° N- 32° N, in the Pacific Ocean.

Low intertidal zones, visible amongst the fucus and other algae at low tide.It is common on and under rocks and in crevices, commonly, clinging to rocks.

The lurid rock snail is the natural predator of the giant chiton, Cryptochiton stelleris . It has been observed feeding on gumboot chitons, where it uses its radula to cut through the dark outer layers on the dorsal surface of the chiton’s girdle in order to eat the yellow tissue beneath. They feed on a number of prey items, ranging from bivalves to other gastropods
They have separate sexes. Fertilization of the egg occurs in seawater. Eggs cases are attached to water.

Interesting facts
It may be confused with Amphissa, because its shell shows a similar mixture of fine spiral lines and axial ribs. It’s less slender than Amphissa,  its canal is better developed, and its aperture is not at all the shape being oval rather than nearly elliptical. The yellow-brown or orange-brown coloration, and the fact that the axial ribs cross the body whorl, enable one to distinguish it from a small specimen of searlesia. Often confused with larger rock snail, Ocinebrina sclera,


Peterson Field Guides Pacific Coast Shells Percy A. Morris Houghton Mifflin Company Boston 2nd edition 1980 Canada

Shells & Shellfish of the Pacific Northwest Rick M. Harbo Harbour Publishing 1997
Other Members of the Phylum Mollusca 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.


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.

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:

Human Impact on Sealions: Fishing Flashers, Entanglement, Boat strikes

In this post we have put together many of our references to the impacts that humans have inflicted on our California and Steller or northern sea lion population which hauls out at Race Rocks.  It includes images of fishing flashers and entanglement in commercial fishing gear, especially plastic net-binding hoops, as well as examples of strikes by boats which have injured sealions, often resulting in limb amputations. It is our hope that the fisher community can be more aware of how harmful their actions or negligence can be on marine mammal populations.  


We see this event all too often at Race Rocks. Fishers must take responsibility for removing fishing gear from the water when marine mammals are nearby. Not only is it expensive to loose equipment, the impact on these sea lions is uncertain. If the animal succeeds in breaking the leader for the flasher, then the animal only has to contend with the hook down in the stomach. It is not known how this effects sea lion mortality.


Dec. 13 2006


Feb. 2006


Feb. 2006


This Northern sea lion was photographed on August 15, 2007 by Roth Wehrell. UVIc


A flasher on one of the sealions at the docks

Entanglement in Commercial Fishing Plastic bindings on Nets.

This section shows plastic neck rings from commercial fishing nets around the neck of a sea lion.
Please write your Fisheries governing departments to request that all plastic bands used in the fishing industry for binding fish nets by made of biodegradable material.


Neck rings on middle island

Oct26 2015

Oct26 2015


Sept. 9,2009-

This northern (steller’s) sea lion showed up on Middle Rock in February of 2009 . Note the ridge formed by the ring toward the head end. Photo by Ryan  two neck rings and three brands appear in the same photo from the tower. GF

Aug 31, 2009

Aug 31, 2009

Sept. 2, 2009

Sept. 2, 2009- Ryan Murphy photo

Sept. 1999

Sept. 1999 Carol Slater took this picture of a California beside the docks.

These two tags will bring up the other posts on Marine mammal Injuries and Entanglement.

See other photos from the excellent collection of Ryan Murphy on Flickr

See this reference: Entanglement of Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) in marine debris: Identifying causes and finding solutions

Kimberly L. Raum-Suryana, , , Lauri A. Jemisonb, Kenneth W. Pitcherc
Elsevier: Volume 58, Issue 10, October 2009, Pages 1487–1495
Entanglement in marine debris is a contributing factor in Steller sea lion (SSL; Eumetopias jubatus) injury and mortality. We quantified SSL entanglement by debris type, sex and age class, entanglement incidence, and estimated population level effects. Surveys of SSL haul-outs were conducted from 2000–2007 in Southeast Alaska and northern British Columbia. We recorded 386 individuals of all age classes as being either entangled in marine debris or having ingested fishing gear. Packing bands were the most common neck entangling material (54%), followed by rubber bands (30%), net (7%), rope (7%), and monofilament line (2%). Ingested fishing gear included salmon fishery flashers (lures: 80%), longline gear (12%), hook and line (4%), spinners/spoons (2%), and bait hooks (2%). Entanglement incidence was 0.26% (SD = 0.0064, n = 69 sites). “Lose the Loop!” Simple procedures such as cutting entangling loops of synthetic material and eliminating the use of packing bands can prevent entanglements.


As the Northern (Steller) and California sea lions started to return to Race Rocks in the fall of 2009, Ecoguardian Ryan Murphy noticed what may be a significant increase in the number of encounters they have had with humans. Ryan took  these pictures at the time.