Orcas, Weaner

Weather has continued to be cold, dipping below zero degrees. Wind has persisted all week NE-E generally over 20 NMPH. Clouds have settled in over the past couple days so it is feeling a bit warmer, forecast for flurries today/this evening.

We were able to get off the island Friday morning for a quick run for provisions. By the time we came back out around noon there were already 3 foot Easterly swells picking up.

Yesterday a pod of around 10 orcas passed by on the West side of Race Rocks heading NE towards Victoria. A group of Pearson divers got to see them from Second Nature on their way for a dive at Swordfish Island.

Bertha left Friday night or early morning Saturday. The young male from middle rock was in the jetty Saturday morning, first time i have seen him on the main island. Chunk has seemed a bit restless. He made his way around the south side of the Science house yesterday and over to main house. He saw the young male in the jetty and chased him into the rocks on the W side of jetty. Chunk went into the water and waited around the jetty, a bit of a standoff. Eventually young fellow made it into the water and I saw Chunk coming back up the ramp around dusk. He seems very uninterested in the pup which is quite different from two years ago when Misery chased and bit Squall all the time. The pup hasn’t moved much and is sleeping a lot.

Feb 8: 2 ecotour vessels in reserve. One vessel caused a disturbance of sea lions on East rocks.
Feb 9: float plane flew over. Sports fishing boat entered reserve in afternoon and was fishing in reserve. I tried contacting them on the VHF radio but they did not respond, I waved at them but they kept on fishing. They didn’t stay long and left for Pedder Bay so I called the marina and reported the incident. The staff person on duty at the marina spoke with the 3 individuals who were apparently not aware of the fishing ban. We have photos and their ID info on record and will report them to DFO if they repeat their offence. Thanks once again to Pedder Bay Marina and their staff for their cooperation and support!

-picked up parts for plumbing drain in main house, bar oil for chainsaw
-cut, chopped, stacked wood
-worked on wiring in station boat, attaching new running light
-shore-master for Pearson divers Sat afternoon
-worked on drain plumbing in main house

Elephant seal Pup now a Weaner.

“Weaner” — That’s the name all elephant pups receive after their mother has nursed them for up to 28 days and then leaves them suddenly in the night and returns after a month on land  to the sea.

PUP2014-02-08 at 10.29.29 AM

When I first looked on the camera, I could see Chunk on the north side of the steel hose-reel box, but no pup!

On Sunday morning, Feb 8, I received an e-mail from Pam in England pointing out that Bertha was gone.  When I first looked on the camera, I could see Chunk on the north side of the steel hose-reel box, but no pup.

PUP2014-02-08 at 10.43.57 AM

The pup shows up as the shadow of the lighthouse moves back.



A few minutes later the shadow of the Lighthouse had moved and  25 days after being born, our pup was certainly all alone on the lawn. Bertha was nowhere to be seen ..

PUP2014-02-09 at 9.35.11 AM

Morning of Day 2 for the weener.






DAY 2 not much has changed.. The pup will get a lot of sleeping time as it matures, and lives off the fat it has accumulated.  The aerial in the foreground is that used by Environment Canada to transmit signals from its temperature, barometric and wind data from the top of the  tower.


PUP2014-02-09 at 9.36.51DAY2 AM

This starts what will be almost a month of fasting before the fat stores are used up and the pup will go to the ocean. This  evening  and tomorrow it may experience  snow and rain before the weather  warms up.



Now that the pup has survived this long we are about to give it a name. We have decided to use a name from the First Nations Klallum language. — stay tuned..

NE wind, temperature below zero

There has been a fairly steady 20-35 NMPH NE wind blowing since Sunday which has meant pretty constant white caps and waves breaking along the jetty, the sky has been mostly clear. This has made any transport to/from island difficult. On Monday Erik brought out an electrician and apprentice to remove the failed inverter. He wasn’t able to stay tied up very long on the jetty. We got the inverter off and it is now in Vancouver for servicing.

On Tuesday one eco tour vessel passed through the reserve. There was also a government barge and tug boat that seemed to have some trouble while going through Race passage. With a strong tail wind and current the barge seemed to pick up speed and get ahead of the main tug. Between here and Church Rock, I watched them maneuvering in what appeared to be efforts to regain control. Eventually they got it under tow again and reversed direction, with main tug pushing the barge from behind going backwards, and they tucked in behind Christopher point for protection. Several hours later they pulled out and returned in the direction from where they came, apparently having abandoned their original destination. Navy exercises most days this week with large vessels and several zodiacs trailing.

Bertha and Chunk continue mating, pup continues putting on fat. Bertha seems ready to leave any day now, she is visibly thinner, paler in colour and seems more passive and lethargic. The female eseal that had been in S bay has left, I assume to get out of the cold wind which has been below zero plus wind chill while sea temp is currently around 7 degrees C. The younger male e-seal is visible out on Middle Rocks today and has been there the past few days.

A coast guard helicopter arrived today for maintenance on the light and fog horn. They landed next to tower as usual which was pretty close to elephant seals, Chunk took off around the other side of the house but returned soon after to mate. While clearly bothered by the sound, wind/debris and proximity of the helicopter the mother and pup didnt or couldnt really move away.

-Checking heating coils on exposed water lines
-cut, chopped, stacked fire wood
-cleaned panels
-running some heat in main house in the evenings to keep it warm
-worked on wiring/lights in whaler
-communications for wood stove/inverter/solar
-entered data and submitted DFO boat count and Seawater samples
-made parts list for plumbing in main house
-month end report fuel inventory

week in review

I have missed a few days of logs; I was off the island Jan 22-26th. The day after I returned a inverter quit and we lost power to the main house, the internet connection was also interrupted a few days… we are now mostly moved in to the other house and are running ok with only 2 inverters on the island. Planning on having the bad inverter removed on Monday and shipped to Vancouver for servicing. We can still get power there by flipping transfer switch load 1 to “generator” while the generator is running

The weather has been very nice the last two days, sunny and relatively light wind. This house has more south facing exposure and is a bit smaller, it really warms up on a sunny day. We had quite a bit of rain earlier in the week and several days of patchy fog last weekend and early this week. Wind only got up to around 30 knots one evening mid-week.

The pup has really put on weight and is quite the squawker, often right outside the bedroom window… in the middle of the night. Chunk and Bertha are mating. He is quite persistent and she seems quite resistant but she wont leave her pup alone yet. This morning there was blood around her bad eye and it was swollen.

There has been ongoing blasting at Rocky Point this week, every day up to the weekend. One time several blasts were in short succession, sometimes there were flares too. The photo below was taken after one very heavy blast, the sealions all had their heads up right after and seemed alarmed.

heads up sealions-7339
Traffic in reserve:
Sunday Jan 26: I returned in the afternoon on the station whaler.
Monday Jan 27: 1 private, 1 ecotour, helicopter overhead, several navy ships doing exercises nearby in the straight.
Saturday Feb 1: 1 diveboat, 3 ecotour.

-troubleshooting inverter
-troubleshooting internet
-moving supplies over to other house, switching fridges, etc
-communicating with inverter repair person in vancovuer
-communicating with electrician for inverter removal
-removed 25 ft of 2″ clogged drain pipe from main house, cleaned pipes with rain water
-got crate for 2′ long inverter
-started month end inventory/report
-cut, chopped, stacked fire wood
-cleaned panels as needed
-picked up pipe and hardware for replacing sink drain pipe
-topping up batteries
-picked up parts for repairs on station whaler

Elephant Seal Pup …putting on weight !

It has been very foggy yesterday so missed seeing the elephant seal pup. I was surprised to see this morning the size he has attained. At 13 days old, gaining  4.5 kg or 10 lbs per day , the pup would have gained  58.5kg or 130 lbs since birth.

At birth pups weigh 75 pounds (35 kg) or more and are about four feet (1.25 m) in length.  This figure comes from research done in California. No one has yet done research for recording  the growth rates for elephant seal pups at Race Rocks Ecological Reserve.

The pups nurse for about 28 days, generally gaining about 10 lbs (4.5 kg) a day.

elephant seal pup2014-01-26 at 10.28.40 AM

Every morning they are in a different location because the pursues the female the previous night.

I took the following pictures from the Remote Camera 1:

elephant seal pup 2014-01-26 at 10.41.50 AM

Note the dark patches on Berthas breast are the locations on nipples.


Both mother and pup still sleeping.







A good source of scientific data on Elephant seal growth rates and survivorship  can be found in a 1994 publication : Le Boeuf, Burney J., and Richard M. Laws, editors Elephant Seals: Population Ecology, Behavior, and Physiology. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  c1994 1994. http://ark.cdlib.org/ark:/13030/ft7b69p131/

Early morning of the Birth of the Elephant Seal

In the early morning just after the birth of the Elephant seal pup, Alex was able to record behaviours of the mother and Pup. Gulls started to go after the placenta, opposed by the mother.
This video was made from clips taken between 0814 hours and 0830 hours.

Shooting the Elephant seal Images

Alex uses a Pro-cam video camera at Race Rocks to take video and some still images  of the Elephant seals close up. In this sequence, taken on the day after the birth of the elephant seal. He places the camera and then leaves, capturing an interesting sequence as the pup tries to find milk and the Male “Chunk” starts to get aggressive. Click on the small icon in the lower right for a full screen image

Family has relocated on Great Race Rocks

Bertha has certainly been cooperating this year in remaining in view on at least one of the cameras at Race Rocks. On this bright sunny day she is on the rocks over behind the boathouse with the Pup.

sunshine! 2014-01-20 at 1.24PM

Pup and Bertha from Remote camera 1 on the top of the Lighthouse.

Chunk2014-01-20 PM

Today its the first day that Chunk has stayed out on the middle islands with another female.


Vocalization of Elephant Seal Mother and Pup


Vocalization of mother and pup are essential shortly after the birth of an elephant seal to  establish a bond and for recognition of each other if separated in the pupping colony. The first video was taken on the afternoon of January 14, day 1 the pup can be seen looking for food, but she had not started to nurse yet., The second  video was taken on the evening of January 14,  2014 the day the elephant seal was born at  Race Rocks.

Videos by the Ecoguardian, Alex Fletcher.



kayak disturbance, tagged e-seals, pup, etc

Wind has varied between W and NE less than 20 NMPH over the past few days.  We have had some patches of fog during the week and partly clear skies today and yesterday.

On the 15th a group of 20 kayakers passed through the reserve on the East side heading West.  They passed on both sides of East rock and caused one of the largest sea lion disturbances I have seen here, several hundred sealions scrambled into the water.  I was able to talk to one of the kayakers as they passed by the south side and told him that they are not allowed to cause this kind of disturbance to marine mammals at race rocks. Though I love kayaking and prefer kayaks to motorized vessels, kayakers need to realize that because they are so nice and silent they can also easily surprise wildlife.  Once startled sealions stampede and can easily trample younger sealions or injure themselves rushing over the jagged rocks.

1 dive boat in the reserve today, 1 eco tour in the afternoon, 1 sports fishing boat in the morning which traveled too close to sealions on the East rocks. I called Pedder Bay Marina and gave them the ID number and a description and asked them to talk to the operator about regulations at Race Rocks (thanks Pedder Bay Marina!).

The elephant seal pup seems to be in good shape and is drinking milk regularly. Chunk seems fairly well behaved, a few times a day he we will arise from his slumber and chase after Bertha. Sometimes it seems he is trying to separate her from the pup and restrain her. I have seen him with his mouth around the pup’s head as well as with the pup partly underneath him though on all occasions I have observed he has clearly not harmed the pup when he easily could have. Chunk went off the island last night, I assume to middle rock and was back in the morning. There are two elephant seals on middle rock, both fairly large, one possibly a young male. I have been hearing what sounds like a male’s call coming from middle rock today. There were also two smaller scruffy, moulting female elephant seals in the shoreline of the main island today one tagged green 7502 the other tagged pink N93_ the last number is not visible. That brings the current e-seal population to 7.

Past week maintenance:
-cleaned solar panels daily
-flushed media filter on desal
-changed pre-filters on desal
-troubleshooting cam 5 with help from Jonathan, replaced POE unit. took measurements to replace leaky cable housing at base of cam stand
-ran desal x2
-ran fire pump
-replaced leaky hydraulic line on crane, pressure tested line
-cut, chopped, stacked fire wood
-replaced fire extinguishers which had been sent in for annual servicing
-brought temporary fire extinguishers off island for servicing
-troubleshooting of failed internet system with help from Jonathan
-swapped out 1 propane tank on main house

Visitors this week:
-on the 15th Erik came with a guest to drop off supplies
-on the 16th Erik brought Jonathan out to replace switch in the tower as well as the Marine sciences class for a field trip (12 students and Ann)