Views From England

Today I received a nice note from Pam Birley, our devoted follower from Leicestershire  Great Britain who often captures great images with our remote cameras. She writes: “Couldn’t resist taking these pics today.   Spectacular views this morning at RR. ”

Note the nictitating membrane on the right

So I just went on camera 5 and found one of the eagles still in close range:

Guillemots are back

I just received this email from Pam Birley ” The Pigeon Guillemots are back !   They are even earlier this year.   It is usually February when I first see them.”     Thanks Pam for the observation from Leiscester England! Laas has also been out getting pictures of them.


It is also interesting to note that the elephant seal pup is doing very well this year. As Ecoguardian Laas Parnell has noted the one large male tends to keep the others on the island at bay. Hopefully this year the pup can survive once the mother leaves and it becomes a weaner. In most of the past years since pups first started being born on the island, aggressive males have led to a tragic end. I have requested BC Parks and DFO to produce a policy on what support can be offered in the event a pup is injured in the crucial period before it goes to the ocean after its month long weaning period. So far this has not been acted upon, so again this year it will be left up to chance, and hopefully the so-far protective bull will remain that way. The following pictures are from Camera1 at the top of the tower on Race Rocks.

Dr. Anita Brinkmann-Voss…. In Memoriam

Dr. Anita Brinckmann-Voss passed away on December 12 at her home in Sooke BC. Anita had been a long time friend of Lester B. Pearson College. From 1986, to 2005,  Dr. Anita Brinckmann-Voss  BC assisted the students and faculty of Lester Pearson College with her understanding of marine invertebrate ecology and her expertise in the taxonomy of hydroids and other invertebrates. Anita was one of the very few remaining taxonomists in the world who worked at such depth with this group of organisms.  She assisted many students with their work in biology and marine science and worked closely with several divers at the college who collected specimens for her.  Anita also was a regular donor to the Race Rocks program at the college.

Dr. Dale Calder, a colleague of Anita who works with the Royal Ontario Museum wrote the following about Anita:

“I knew of Dr. Anita Brinckmann-Voss and her research on hydrozoans from my days as a graduate student in Virginia during the 1960s. Her work at the famous Stazione Zoologica in Naples, Italy, was already widely known and respected.
Most noteworthy, however, was a landmark publication to come: her monumental monograph on hydrozoans of the Gulf of Naples, published in 1970. It highlighted studies on hydrozoan life cycles and was accompanied by the most beautiful illustrations of these marine animals that have ever been created. See the complete copy with color plates here:  Brinckmann70:


It was not until 1974, and the Third International Conference on Coelenterate Biology in Victoria, British Columbia (BC), Canada, that I met her for the first time. We discovered having common scientific interests and saw absolutely eye-to-eye on most issues. It was the beginning of a scientific collaboration and friendship that would last a lifetime. I always greatly valued her scientific insights, but I also appreciated her humility, good nature, and keen sense of humour.

In having moved from Europe to Canada, first to Winnipeg, Manitoba, and later to Toronto, Ontario, Anita’s research shifted from Mediterranean species to those of Canadian waters and especially British Columbia. Her professional base became the Royal Ontario Museum and the University of Toronto, but it was far from the ocean. She soon acquired a residence in Sooke, BC, conveniently located on the beautiful Pacific coast. Life cycle research was now possible on Canadian species, and at times several hundred cultures of hydrozoans were being maintained by her. One final move was made, from Ontario to permanent residence at her cottage in Sooke. From there she kept marine research underway the rest of her life. A focus became Race Rocks and the rich hydrozoan fauna inhabiting the site.

Anita altered the direction of my career in a most positive way. It was largely thanks to her that I moved from employment as a benthic ecologist in South Carolina to a curatorial position at the Royal Ontario Museum in 1981. It was the best career move of my life. Thank you, Anita!

Over the decades we collaborated in research, shared our libraries, and jointly authored several scientific papers. Outside a professional association, we were close friends. My wife and I often visited Anita at her homes, first in Pickering, Ontario, near Toronto, and later in Sooke. In return, she often visited us in Toronto after moving west. It is an understatement to say she will be sorely missed.”
-(Quote from Dr. Dale Calder, ROM, 2018)

Links to her work with the college:

Other references:



Christmas Bird Count at Race Rocks- Dec 28, 2017

This year is our 20th year in assisting the local birders with the Rocky Point Bird Observatory in doing a count at Race Rocks. Given the time of year this has to occur, it is often thwarted by bad weather, but in the past counts, some very interesting species and population numbers have shown up.  See this index of past years Bird Counts.

Kim Beardmore same along to record the birds for the 2017 Christmas bird count. Here Kim on the left and the Ecoguardian Mikey Muscat check on one of the 5 male elephant seals.

Although we went to count birds, I found that the most impressive thing was that there were 5 large male elephant seals on the island and two juvenile females. When compared with other years this was quite unusual, and it could be interesting when the females come back in January to have pups. I predict there will be a lot of male aggression going on in mid-January.

These four species other than several gull species and bald eagles were part of the count  which we will add below .

Other observations around the island:

Romanzoffia tracyi

I took advantage of the few hours there to check on other aspects of the island from the ecological reserve warden point of view.  Especially noticeable this year were the massive fields of mud over most parts of the island where the california sea lions hauled out over the past few months. I was concerned about the erosion and rock disturbance that this has caused.   Most of the plants in many parts of the island have been obliterated. I did however find this one healthy patch of Romanzoffia tracyi behind the boathouse. Protected because of its location among  the rocks. I checked some of the other known locations of this rare plant but didn’t see any.

Black oystercatcher midden


One feature that was very evident with the lack of vegetation was the extensive beds of chiton shells which are evidence of black oystercatcher middens from last season.




Two immature or juvenile female elephant seals were on the island, one tagged C887

The five males:

I have been watching the vegetation cover made up of the introduced species of Sedum or stonecrop which was on the top of the reservoir.. In my September photo the bed was quite dried and cracked. Now it  has partially recovered.. This is one place the sealions seem to avoid.


Because Pearson College could not provide boat transportation this year, and because I was determined to continue the 20 year tradition of this valuable baseline collection of bird population data, we rented a boat from Pedder Bay marina for the trip to Race Rocks.  A list of the birds observed by Kim Beardmore is  attached here.


Race Rocks,
Dec 28, 2017 9:05 AM – 11:37 AM
Protocol: Traveling
7.5 kilometer(s)
Comments:     CBC, Race Rocks
16 species (+1 other taxa)Harlequin Duck  10  (North and west Race Rocks)
Surf Scoter  55  (outer pedder bay)
Red-breasted Merganser  18 (mostly outer Pedder bay)
Common Loon  2
Horned Grebe  1
Brandt’s Cormorant  14
Pelagic Cormorant  18
Double-crested Cormorant  10
Bald Eagle  4
Black Oystercatcher  42
Black Turnstone  59
Common Murre  1  ( in outer Pedder bay)
Pigeon Guillemot  10
Mew Gull  14
Iceland Gull (Thayer’s)  8
Glaucous-winged Gull  69
Western x Glaucous-winged Gull (hybrid)  2

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

Warden’s report Race Rocks September 2017

I was able to get out to Race Rocks Ecological reserve with Guy today and went with former student Joao Luis de Castro and Yan Corriveau. I  wanted to check on what changes have occurred on Great Race Rock Island  since my last visit. Since it was an exceptionally dry summer, the effect on vegetation was evident. The spread of hauled out sealions into parts of the island traditionally not invaded also has left a significant impact on vegetation. It will be important to  follow up on vegetation recovery once the rains start.

This year the sea lions have hauled out and inhabited many parts of the island formerly not used as a haulout . I am concerned that erosion because of obliteration of most of the plants in the area of the First Nations burial cairns could be detrimental to the cairns. It will be inprtant to check on this once the sealions have left again.

The lack of precipitation since May has resulted in a shrinking of the stonecrop that covers the top of the Reservoir. I had never seen it quite this dry before.


The sealion haulouts at Race Rocks do not segregate by species as they do in some other parts of the coast. Note the cookie-cutter shark bites on the California Sealion on the right hand picture.


Garry Fletcher, Sept 25, 2017

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

Flo Anderson : In Memoriam

ANDERSON, Florence (Zita) Belle On March 30, 2017 Florence (Zita) Belle Anderson, quietly slipped away at home, while laying next to her beloved husband of seventy-three years, Trevor. Born December 30th, 1924 in Victoria at the family home on Midgard Ave., Flo went to Mount View high school and then onto Victoria College in the historic Craigdarroch Castle. She fondly remembered daydreaming about the formal dances held at the castle. After completion of her college exams, she married Trev (May 20th, 1944, Grace Lutheran Church) on his return from serving in the Canadian Airforce, World War II, North Africa. The newlyweds moved to Boundary Bay where they had their first son Garry. Back and forth across Canada four times, the Anderson family moved to different Airforce stations and radar bases adding Stan, Beth and Adrienne to the family along the way. After Trev left the Airforce in 1960, they lived at Miracle Beach for several years. Then the family moved on to their next adventure – twenty years on five West Coast Lighthouses. Flo’s ingenuity led her to achieve any task that she set her mind to and thrive in new situations. During their last seven years on the lighthouse, she and Trev took on a massive undertaking; building their fifty-six foot sailboat Wawa the Wayward Goose. They launched the two-masted ketch from Race Rocks, February 7th, 1982 and headed off for thirteen years of sailing trips. First they sailed locally amongst the Gulf Islands. Then they circumnavigated Vancouver Island. In July 1985, they headed offshore to Hawaii and onto New Zealand, Tonga, Samoa, Fanning Islands, Pago Pago, returning to Victoria July 1987. Florence had prepared herself by completing a Celestial Navigation course, getting her HAM radio license and joining the Blue Water Cruising Association. They sold Wawa in 1995 settling in Sidney and then in her parents last house in James Bay. Travel has always been a part of Flo’s life. On holidays away from the lighthouse, she and the family travelled on many road trips across North America and an excursion to Portugal and Spain. Flo’s artistic skills started early. She learned to sew, leather work, crochet, tat, spin wool, knit, quilt, draw and paint. While on the lighthouses she taught herself to oil paint and created realistically beautiful wave seascapes. At age seventy, she taught herself to use the computer, wrote a book (Lighthouse Chronicles), found a publisher and went on a book tour around BC. She is predeceased by her parents, Bert and Ida Drader (Victoria), her sisters Nellie Marshall (Niagara Falls, ON) and Eileen Odowichuk (Campbell River) and her brother Bill Drader (Edmonton, AB). She is survived by her husband Trev, sister Julia Guilbault (Victoria), her children Garry Anderson (Phyllis), Stan Anderson (Janet), Beth Cruise, Adrienne Lowden (Jeff); six grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren, one great-great-grandchild and two dear life-long friends Kay Johnson and Arlene Bryan We would like to send a heartfelt thank you to Flo’s Caregivers extraordinaire, Lesley, Joanne, Hughette, Michelle and Wendy. And a special thank you to Dr. Rosenberg and Associates for their compasionate and excellent care. There will be a Celebration of Life June 30th , 1:00 – 3:00 pm at 576 Niagara Street. Flo will be dearly missed by all

This Obituary was published in Victoria Times Colonist from Apr. 22 to Apr. 23, 2017
View the Enhanced Obituary

Translator Added

I have added a translator for 8 languages to some of the website pages. If there are other languages that you wish to add, let us know and we will edit the script for the drop-down box below:

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.