After the Autumnal Equinox.

The day started clear with clouds distant, to the east. A steady north by northeast wind of between 5 and 10 knots seemed to gradually bring the clouds around but Race Rocks remained in the donut hole as it often does, with sun dominating until late afternoon. The barometer is holding steady, if averaged over the last two days at ~ 1014 hPA, but the tendency now, is falling again, at the end of the day. There was no colour for sunset as the clouds built and the forecast calls for showers for the next few days, with easterly winds turning to westerly and fog patches dissipating near noon tomorrow.

It was a quiet day on the whale-watching front with only four visits to Race Rocks Ecological Reserve by commercial operators. There was an equal number of “pleasure” craft but they were not all as well behaved, with one of the Pedder Bay Marina rentals fishing in reserve. The marina is now able to track their rentals using GPS. They are really good about contacting their renters, when called and persuading them to move out of the Rockfish Conservation Area which is closed to sports fishing, for finfish in the Ecological Reserve.

There were repeated explosions across the way. A good ending for explosives I suppose, if you consider the alternatives. It seems to make the sea lions jittery and by that I mean more likely to stampede and go into the water. The Stellers seem more sensitive to disturbance in general.

Ecologically, the sea lion moult continues, elephant seals are trying to get up onto Great Race but there are a lot of sea lions in the way. Northern Elephant Seal # 5850 was back again this morning but didn’t make it up the ramp due to sea lion congestion. Later I saw him doing the ‘wave’ up the rocks in front of the Science House. Another individual seal joined the sea lion mosh pit east of the Eco-guardian’s House and others still hold their own on the top of Middle Rocks completely surrounded and outnumbered by Stellers Sea Lions but not bothered. The Sea Otter has been absent for a couple of days.

Bull kelp stipes are becoming more and more covered with epiphytes and their blades are loaded with spore patches increasing chances of a good settlement for the next generation. Cross jellies and barnacle moults continue to dominate the large zooplankton visible to the naked eye and the phytoplankton bloom has cleared which probably means either a crash or more likely lots of grazers like copepods and euphausids (aka krill). What ever cleared the phytoplankton certainly improved visibility into the water considerably. It is pretty cool to watch the big Steller’s Sea Lions ghosting through the kelp forest.

Black Oystercatchers are back, congregating on Great Race after an absence. More gulls and cormorants arrive in the area daily. There continues to be large, mixed-species feeding flocks including gulls and divers and multi-species gull feeding flocks associated with sea lion salmon kills. Salmon and halibut continue to swim past and around Race Rocks as evidence by the predators in the area, including human fishers talking about their catches on the radio. The Canada Geese are attempting a come back and it is difficult to keep them off as they just sit on the water waiting for the coast to clear. Every night the Killdeer return to Great Race as night falls.

Sea Lion brand and entanglement photography continues as do the daily chores to keep this place running sustainably. There were no visitors today.

 

 

 

Patches of Fog.

The fog was hanging like a wall to the west when we left the island early this morning and on return this evening, the fog was just wrapping around the island. Winds stayed west-southwest and were gusting over 30 knots this evening. The barometer started dropping after noon, holding steady at ~1013 hPa., up to that point. At sunset it was down to 1008 hPa. Cumulative solar energy was ~ 550 Langleys today, down from yesterday, so I am guessing there was some fog here during part of the day, as yesterday it was up at 600 Ly. The forecast for tomorrow is for more of the same, westerly winds, a strong wind warning and fog patches. The fog “patch” is a big one extending up the west coast to at least Bamfield.

On yesterday’s intertidal foray, there were numerous large Hemigrapsus nudus shore crabs in a fairly high tidal pool with only one rock. This is not the ‘usual’ habitat where I am used to finding this species: but perhaps because of the high current they shelter in high tidal pools instead of under cobbles and boulders, a little lower in the intertidal. It is also possible that some may be another species as some of them have a very rounded instead of rectangular carapace.

 

Hemigrapsus nudus, the common shore crab in a high tide pool.

Hemigrapsus nudus, the common shore crab in a high tide pool.

hemigrap?

This crab and the one in the next photo have rounded carapaces with definite notches as opposed to the more rectangular carapace of the common shore crabs. Will report back on identification confirmation.

crab_id

Another example of gigantism here is exhibited in the Littorina spp. or periwinkles. They are much larger than I am used to seeing and every little piece of kelp blown into the high intertidal is immediately (at a snail’s pace) consumed.

A piece of kelp in the high intertidal is a magnet for hungry littorines.

A piece of kelp in the high intertidal is a magnet for hungry littorines.

The elusive Kildeer that normally arrive after dark and leave before light, came early tonight in the fog. Observations of two individuals revealed interesting interactions. One individual fanned out (her?) tail feathers held high, with head down and wings out and down, while the other individual did some serious head bobbing.

It is not known what vessels were or were not in reserve today

The student advisee group and their adults (and small child) left mid-morning today. Don arrived for a few days.

Chores were routine today.

How Low Can It Go?

Thick fog met me at dawn, not the sleepy kind that coffee cuts through, but dripping wet, zero visibility, fog created through the convergence of cold ocean water and warm air. The fog retreated and advanced repeatedly before it was beaten back by high wattage sunshine. The westerly wind blew throughout, at 5 – 15 knots only rising near sunset to closer to 20. The barometer started a gradual drop in pressure late morning yet the forecast is for sunshine and continuing westerlies.

There were a few whale watching boats in the area mid-morning with two observed in the Ecological Reserve. Sports fishing boats were seen in the general area but outside the Reserve.

The elephant seals found the trek to seawater quite an effort today and some of them gave up for a few hours on the way to have a swim. Getting back up the hill was even more of an effort.

The tide is a long way out.

The tide is a long way out.

Observational efforts were focused in the inter-tidal and on the mega-fauna census today. Another really good tide (0.5m) allowed me to do a large algal survey and find more marine invertebrate species. I will share some of the invertebrates here and come back to the seaweeds tomorrow. In each photo, if you look closely you will notice smaller and smaller animals in a wall to wall competition for space or is it sharing of space.

The human history and natural history are intertwined.

Both the natural and human history at Race Rocks are profound.

California Mussel beds are ‘old growth’ and substantial on Great Race. The large area provides important habitat creating significant diversity.

 

Extensive mussel beds on the south side of Great Race.

Extensive mussel beds on the south side of Great Race.

A brooding sea anemone (Epiactus prolifera) with numerous offspring attached low on the column near the pedal disc.

Epiactus prolifera

The mottled sea anemone (Urticina crassicornis) is quite common in the low inter-tidal on the south side of Great Race.

Urticina crassicornis

This species of tubeworm, named after Vancouver (Eudistylia vancouverensis) is usually more abundant sub-tidally. Here in the high current area between Great Race and South Islands, it is common in the low inter-tidal.

Eudistylia vancouverensis There is a lot of gigantism on the Pacific coast but here at Race Rocks even the giant species seem even more abundant and bigger than I have seen them elsewhere.

Cryptochiton

The gumboot chiton (Cryptochiton stelleri) is an important grazer in the inter-tidal. They are very abundant here.

Katharina

The Black Leather Chiton (Katharina tunicata) is another grazer and like the gumboot chiton grows both very large and is super abundant here.

 

Cucumaria Dodecaceria

Orange sea cucumbers (Cucumaria miniata) are really abundant both in tide pools and under the edges of boulders and there a lot of boulders on the south side.

 

Three species of sea urchin were observed today, adding the green urchin (Stronglyocentrotus drobachiensis) to the list. The green and purple both like to “dress-up” aka cover themselves, with shells, seaweeds and even bits of wood. Here they were using empty limpet shells in an area frequented by oystercatchers.

drobachiensis rostangia

Green and purple sea urchins with a small orange nudibranch to their left (Rostanga pulchra) that usually lives on the red sponge Ophlitasponge.

 

Today was large animal census day and the results are as follows:

Humpback Whale (young (small) animal) 1

Northern Elephant Seals 34 (including 15 on Great Race)

Harbour Seals 179

California Sea lions 17 (includes brand U792)

Northern Sea lions 20 (mostly old males)

Sea Otter 1

Canada Geese 36 (includes 18 goslings)

Harlequin Ducks 8

Pelagic Cormorants 0

Double Crested Cormorants 6

Bald Eagle 2 adults, 3 sub-adults

Black Oystercatchers 10

Greater Yellowlegs 1

Black Turnstones 0 (none seen in spite of searching)

Western Sandpipers 2

Least Sandpiper 2

Pigeon Guillemots 148

Glaucous-winged Gulls total 607 (458 adults in nesting areas; 60 adults in roosting/resting area; 79 sub-adults in roosting/resting area)

Western Gull (hybrid?) 1

Herring Gull 2 (Juv.)

Common Raven 1

Northwestern Crows 2

Barn Swallows 2

Savannah Sparrow 6

There were no visitors today. Chores were routine.

 

Blooming Thrift

May 3

The weather today was very similar to yesterday’s, with a flip flop breeze most of the day, finally becoming a 15- 20 knot westerly as dusk approached. Temperatures were a little warmer, 14o C and solar radiation levels about the same. The barometer is still dropping and the short-term forecast looks like more of the same with raining arriving Tuesday.

 

Two whale watching boats were observed in the Ecological Reserve this morning and a dive charter vessel supported divers in the ER.

Eagles continue to hunt in the ER as does a lone raven that visits daily and drives the oystercatchers mad.

 

Bald Eagles have been observed catching fish and chasing Canada Geese and Glaucous-winged Gulls in the last few weeks. As long as the wind is not too strong, they are here daily.

Bald Eagles have been observed catching fish and chasing Canada Geese and Glaucous-winged Gulls in the last few weeks. As long as the wind is not too strong, they are here daily.

There were 15 elephant seals on Great Race this morning and most of the day. Their moult continues.

Canada's largest and oldest Northern Elephant Seal colony is thriving at Race Rocks.

Canada’s largest and oldest Northern Elephant Seal colony is thriving at Race Rocks.

It is an itch business having a total body peel and hair removal.

It is an itch business having a total body peel and hair removal.

Only two "eyebrow" vibrissae to go. Nice symmetry, no plucking involved.

Only two “eyebrow” vibrissae to go. Nice symmetry, no plucking involved.

The southwest corner of Great Race is becoming an old age home for male sea lions and there were five hauled out there all day.

An 'old boy' having a snooze on the SW corner of Great Race, the new old boys club.

An ‘old boy’ having a snooze on the SW corner of Great Race, the new old boys club.

 

The Sea Thrift is blooming.

Sea Thirft, Armeria maritima supspecies maritima is an introduced species. I 'm not sure which sub-species this is, native or european.

Sea Thirft, Armeria maritima subspecies maritima is an introduced species. I ‘m not sure which sub-species this is, native or european.

I spent a bit of time in the inter-tidal today and soon discovered that the memory cards in the camera were full so I spent a lot more time culling and sorting photographs indoors.

 

Phylospadix scouleri, also known as surf grass is found in the low tide zone and the top of the sub-tidal. Here it is mixed with Desmarestia aculeata and bull kelp Nereocystis lutkeaena both subtidal species.

Phylospadix scouleri, also known as surf grass is found in the low tide zone and the top of the sub-tidal. Here it is mixed with Desmarestia aculeata and bull kelp Nereocystis lutkeaena both subtidal species.

Many of the species found in the inter-tidal at Race Rocks are more usually associated with outer coast, more wave exposed sites. The current here makes it a very rich hotspot for marine biodiversity.

Many of the species found in the inter-tidal at Race Rocks are more usually associated with outer coast, more wave exposed sites. The current here makes it a very rich hotspot for marine biodiversity.

Competition for space and creation of more habitat go hand in hand. Notice set of tiny barnacles on the California Mussels and a spot of Endocladia muricata which is what larval  Mytilus californianus likes to settle out on.

Competition for space and creation of more habitat go hand in hand. Notice set of tiny barnacles on the California Mussels and a spot of Endocladia muricata which is what larval Mytilus californianus likes to settle out on.

A Henry Star also known as the Blood Star or Henrycia spp.. It will need to find shade to conserve water so that it can breath through its skin.

A Henry Star also known as the Blood Star or Henrycia spp.. It will need to find shade to conserve water so that it can breath through its skin.

There were no visitors and chores were routine.

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.

Bald Eagle versus Canada Goose

Today’s weather was a mixed bag. Early on there was thick fog, which thinned by dawn and cleared in the early morning. Then for a short time it was glorious and fairly calm with winds westerly up to 15 knots. The westerly wind doubled in the early afternoon and by 4:00 PM it was gusting well over 35 knots in the tower. On radio watch for the afternoon’s activities, I kept a weather eye on Pearson College sailing vessel Amatuana as she was blown across to Victoria in no time flat. Nicely done.

Only one whale watching boat was noted in the Ecological Reserve today and when I finally spotted them, they were pounding out through wind and tide towards Race Passage. Their sound alerted me to their presence.

The Northern Elephant Seals are starting to moult and data collection on basic biological parameters began today including non-invasive, length measurements using the marine railway as a big meter stick.

 

If only this female were lying next to a big ruler, we would have a complete data set on her for April 17, 2015.

If only this female were lying next to a big ruler, we would have a complete data set on her for April 17, 2015.

There were 14 visitors first thing this morning. Courtney, driving Second Nature, brought out one of Laura’s first year, marine science classes. It was an early start for these  students but they had breakfast en route and were very efficient on shore. They did a quantitative, community ecology activity on the low tide. They were trying to determine if and how the diversity, abundance and distribution of intertidal macro-biota changed with vertical height. They used water levels to measure vertical height, (an ancient Egyptian leveling technique based on the fact that water will always find its’ own level), transect lines to position sampling and quadrats to focus sampling efforts. These photos of the students, were all taken by Laura Verhegge.

First year marine science students from around the world learn science experientially at Lester B. Pearson College of the Pacific.

First year marine science students from around the world learn science experientially at Lester B. Pearson College of the Pacific.

Catriona and Claudia demonstrate skill and teamwork using the waterlevel to measure vertical height ti the next sample.

Catriona and Claudia demonstrate skill and teamwork using the water-level to measure vertical height to the next sample.

 

tella, Connor and Tamara discover the intricacies of inter-tidal life.

Stella, Connor and Tamara discover the intricacies of inter-tidal life.

Courtney is a big fan of elephant seals and so she was keen to help with the first elephant seal measurements this morning and assisted in working out a way for one person to measure the elephant seals without disturbing them. As of this afternoon the marine railway is the new ruler and first measurements made of a young male were very close to those made earlier with a laser, measuring device. The laser technique required two people, two long boards, a right angle check and eye safety protocols. The laser technique had potential to bother the animal (if it was awake). The new technique is passive, non-invasive and non-threatening.

 

Male elephant seal entering the "measuring device".

Male elephant seal entering the “measuring device”.

I saw a juvenile Bald Eagle attack a goose sitting on her nest today. I had suspected this was going on but good to verify. The eagle might have been successful with back-up, but the gander flew in and together with the goose, drove the eagle off. You can guess who I was cheering for. I know it is not science but there is no hockey out here and I am Canadian, eh.

 

Entodesma navicula: Northwest ugly clam–The Race Rocks Taxonomy

es_absolnew

The siphons of Entodesmata navicula Northwest ugly clam. Photo by Erik Schauff

Staff member Erik Schauff  sent me this image which I had not been able to identify so after sending it over to the experts, Andy Lamb identified it.  It normally has a shorter reach of the siphons and a more orange colour.

Classification:  ( WoRMS)
Animalia (Kingdom)
Phylum Mollusca
Class Bivalvia
Subclass Heterodonta
Infraclass Euheterodonta
Order Anomalodesmata
Superfamily Pandoroidea
Family Lyonsiidae
Genus Entodesmata
Species: E. navicula (Adams & Reeve, 1850)
Common Name Northwest ugly clam.
Return to the Race Rocks Taxonomy Index

The Race Rocks Taxonomy files are the result of collaboration between students, faculty, staff and Volunteers of Lester Pearson College— Garry Fletcher

Pteraster tesselatus: Slime star –The Race Rocks Taxonomy

A useful defense mechanism is evident in the slime stars. They will fill a bucket full of slime when picked up, this can be toxic to other invertebrates.

Slime star photograph by Ryan Murphy

Slime star photograph by Ryan Murphy,2010

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Echinodermata
Subphylum: Eleutherozoa
Class: Asteroidea
Order: Velatida
Family: Pterasteridae
Genus: Pteraster
Species: P. tesselatus

rmjellystar

Slime star and nudibranch–photo by Ryan Murphy

Other Members of the Phylum Echinodermata 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.  2014 Garry Fletcher

 

Beroe sp. : Ctenophore-Comb jelly–The Race Rocks Taxonomy

Ryan Murphy took this image of a Ctenpphore in 2010. This is one of the large forms of “plankton” in our waters.

Combjelly

Phylum Ctenophora – Sea gooseberries & comb jellies
Class Nuda – Sea gooseberries & comb jellies
Order Beroida
Family Beroidae
Genus Beroe

References
http://faculty.washington.edu/cemills/Ctenophores.html: This reference provides a good general description of the characteristics of Ctenophores . Note the discussion on the fact that they are not bioluminescent as many believe.

Claudia Mills and Stephen Haddock have a technical chapter of Ctenophores with good diagrams.

This file is provided as part of a collaborative effort by  the students, faculty, volunteers and staff of Lester B. Pearson College– 2014-Garry Fletcher

 

Equinox

Today was a quiet day, weather-wise, with none of the drama of yesterday. We are slipping quietly into autumn with light winds. The wind has gone almost full circle today, from southeast and rain in the early morning to light westerly in the afternoon and now light to northeasterly breezes as the sun sets. The barometer climbed a little out of its slump and is beginning to fall again as day ends.

There was quite a bit of traffic in the reserve today with whales to the west. A total of 17 tour boats were noted, stopping by to view seals and sea lions. Many more went by fast, well on either side of the reserve.

rmbroodinanem

A field of Epiactis prolifera, showing the high variability in colouration– photo by Ryan Murphy.

Few ecological observations were made today, although I did notice Cross-jellies in the water off the jetty when I was sampling seawater. Cross-jellies or Microcoma cellularia, have four radial canals which make an X on their fairly flat bell which is why they are called cross-jellies. They are one of a few hydromedusae that have been shown to seek out food by smell or chemosensory reception. They were in the very smelly, sea lion “gack” water and probably pulled in here by the tidal currents but it is cool to contemplate that an animal with no brain can make choices and behave in certain ways to achieve things.

The marine invertebrate life at Race Rocks is really rich. Even the inter-tidal is spectacular and the sub-tidal has even more species and layres. Even though it is fairly close to Victoria, the marine ecology of the Reserve is more like the wave-exposed open coast habitat that I am used to in Nuu-chah-nulth-aht territories. A lot of the productivity and diversity here has to do with the amazing currents and the upwelling they produce.

Today was a day of small projects including getting the EPIRB information off of the Whaler, stowing gasoline, doing radio checks and radio watch for CAS, fixing the fence and trying to fix the wind direction indicator input. I am really looking forward to working with three first year Marine Science classes from Pearson College this week and the first students arrive tomorrow. I hope they enjoy observing the sea lions and adding to their journals with new species entries.