Sea Lions, Boats, & Other Stuff

Weather

  • Visibility: 15+ miles (Mt. Baker visible)
  • Wind: 5-10 knots West
  • Sky: overcast
  • Water: rippled

Ecological

  • Census day!
  • Two California sea lions with neck rings. Poor guys.
  • Two sea lions with brands.
  • California: X168
  • Steller: 678
  • Saw a few California sea lions with head injuries, as well as one Steller.
  1. California Sea Lions: 678
  2. Northern (Steller) Sea Lions: 533
  3. Harbour Seals: 37
  4. Elephant Seals: 5 on Great Race
  5. Seagulls unspecified: 449
  6. Thayer’s Gulls: 235
  7. Glaucous-winged Gulls: 20
  8. Cormorants unspecified: 357
  9. Brandt’s Cormorants: 10
  10. Pelagic Cormorants: 6
  11. Double Crested Cormorants: 4
  12. Black Turnstones: 20
  13. Canada Geese: 5
  14. Dunlin: 1
  15. Savannah Sparrow: 1
  16. Bald Eagle: 1 adult

Maintenance

  • Ran the saltwater pump into the cistern for 5 and a quarter hours.

Boats

  • A handful of eco-tours came by today. At least 5.
  • One of the boats caused a minor sea lion stampede on the east part of Great Race.
  • My photos only show the tail end of the stampede.
  • Much more happened between the “pre stampede” photo and my end shots.

A Very Nice Day

Weather

  • Visibility: 15+ miles (Mt. Baker visible)
  • Wind: 5-10 knots North
  • Sky: clear and sunny
  • Water: calm
  • A very beautiful day, with a nice sunset
  • A good night for stargazing!

Ecological

  • Conducted the weekly animal census.
  • Saw several branded sea lions today.
  • California sea lions: U690, U105, and 8427 (I think I got those correct)
  • Steller sea lions: 420Y and 347Y (those are definitely correct)
  • Also saw one sea lion with a neck ring, presumable from plastic.
  • No harlequin ducks today.
  • One of the male elephant seals was trying to mate with the female.
  • This seems like an odd time of year for that?
  1. California Sea Lions: 728
  2. Northern (Steller) Sea Lions: 493
  3. Harbour Seals: 48
  4. Elephant Seals: 5 Great Race (4 males, 1 that I think is a female)
  5. Seagulls unspecified: 672
  6. Thayer’s Gulls: 247
  7. Glaucous-winged Gulls: 30
  8. Cormorants unspecified: 329
  9. Double Crested Cormorants: 24
  10. Pelagic Cormorants: 11
  11. Brandt’s Cormorants: 2
  12. Black Turnstones: 19
  13. Canada Geese: 6
  14. Black Oystercatchers: 6
  15. Dunlins: 2
  16. Savannah Sparrows: 2

Maintenance

  • Cleaned the solar panels.
  • Tidied up a few odds and ends.
  • The usual chores.

Boats

  • A few eco-tours today.
  • One rental boat came through the middle of the reserve.

Visitors

  • No visitors today.
  • Quite a nice, relaxing day today.
  • The kind of day that makes one appreciate being alone.

The Dunlin!

Weather

  • Visibility: 15 miles
  • Wind: 0-5 knots East
  • Sky: overcast with showers
  • Water: 1′ chop

Ecological

  • Saw one California Sea Lion with a nasty looking neck wound.
  • Conducted a census today.
  • Several bird species notably absent today.
  • No Harlequin Ducks, Savannah Sparrows, or Black Oystercatchers.
  • The Sparrows have been absent all week; I suspect gone for the winter.
  • I’m sure the Harlequins and Oystercatchers are still around.
  • Only saw two Heermann’s Gulls; I think last weeks group was just passing through.
  • I did see my first Dunlin of the season though!
  • And lots more Black Turnstones than in previous weeks.
  • They like to splash around in the rain puddles.
  1. California Sea Lions: 606
  2. Northern (Steller) Sea Lions: 181
  3. Harbour Seals: 12
  4. Elephant Seals: 7 (2 on Great Race, 5 on Middle Rock)
  5. Seagulls unspecified: 586
  6. Thayer’s Gulls: 114
  7. Glaucous-winged Gulls: 76
  8. Heermann’s Gulls: 2
  9. Cormorants unspecified: 356
  10. Black Turnstone: 33
  11. Canada Geese: 3
  12. Bald Eagles: 3 (2 adult, 1 immature)
  13. Dunlin: 1

Maintenance

  • The usual chores.
  • Reset the electric fence which has been faring unusually well.

Boats

  • A surprising number of eco-tours today, given the weather, day of the week, and month.
  • I counted at least 10.

The Cackling Goose!

Weather

  • The 7:00 weather report (plus developments).
  • Visibility: 10 miles (later 15)
  • Wind: 0-5 knots South (15-25 knots West noon onwards)
  • Sky: overcast and raining (sun in the afternoon)
  • Water: calm

Ecological

  • All the elephant seals except for the smallest guy were off island today.
  • I did see 6 of them playing in the water near the jetty.
  • Improved my seagull identification skills today.
  • This was the first day I noticed many Heermann’s Gulls.
  • Fun to watch the lone cackling goose wander with the larger Canadians.
  • Saw one branded California Sea Lion: U975
  • Saw one California Sea Lion with a plastic neck ring.
  • Conducted an all day animal census.
  1. California Sea Lions: 434
  2. Northern (Steller) Sea Lions: 219
  3. Harbour Seals: 59
  4. Elephant Seals: 7
  5. Seagulls: 1077 (Tentative 85% Thayer’s, 15% Glaucous-Winged)
  6. Cormorants: 375 (Tentative: 30 Pelagic, 25 Double Crested, 14 Brandt’s.)
  7. Heermann’s Gulls: 50
  8. Black Turnstone: 24
  9. Canada Geese: 11
  10. Black Oystercatchers: 10
  11. Harlequin Ducks: 3 (1 male, 2 female)
  12. Cackling Goose: 1
  13. Savannah Sparrow: 1
  14. Bald Eagle: 1 adult on South Rock

Maintenance

  • Extended my new fence set up.
  • Removed the fence in front of the students’ house.
  • It was never very effective, and is less needed now.
  • Ran the desalinator in the afternoon.

Boats

  • Several eco-tours came by today.
  • One small boat was observed speeding in the reserve.

Delayed Storm

Weather

  • Overnight: 20 knot winds and some rain.
  • The 7:00 weather report.
  • Visibility: 15 miles
  • Wind: 5 knots NE
  • Sky: overcast
  • Water: 2′ chop
  • Some clear skies at noon.
  • Around 15:30 the wind picked up to 25 knots NE and the rain restarted.
  • About 20:15 the wind shot up to 35-40 knots NE.

Ecological

  • The elephant seals were very active today.
  • There is a dead California sea lion near the derrick shed.
  • Census day.
  • Large decrease in the number of sea lions and seagulls.
  1. California Sea Lion: 294
  2. Northern (Steller) Sea Lion: 96
  3. Harbour Seal: 28
  4. Elephant Seal: 9 (6 on Great Race, 3 on Middle Rock)
  5. Seagull: 365
  6. Cormorant: 145
  7. Black Turnstone: 12
  8. Harlequin Duck: 12 (9 males, 3 females)
  9. Canada Goose: 7
  10. Black Oystercatcher: 10
  11. Savannah Sparrow: 5
  12. Bald Eagle: 1 adult on North Rock

Maintenance

  • Emptied the gross water in the rain barrel.

Boats

  • Did not see any boats in the reserve today.

Drizzly Census

Weather

  • Visibility: 15 miles
  • Wind: 10-15 knots W, later N
  • Sky: overcast with afternoon drizzles
  • Water: 1′ chop

Ecological

  • Recorded eight different sea lion brands today.
  • Two Steller/Northern sea lions: 14Y and 998R.
  • Six California sea lions: U603, 7618, 8985, U374, 9403, and 8465.
  • I didn’t get good photos of all the brands, but I am certain of the characters.
  • Conducted the weekly census.
  • Didn’t see any Harlequin Ducks or Black Oystercatchers; perhaps the inclement weather kept them out of sight?
  • Big increase in the number of cormorants from last week (20 up to 146).
  1. California Sea Lions: 541
  2. Northern (Steller) Sea Lions: 202 (half of those on Middle Rock)
  3. Harbour Seals: 69
  4. Elephant Seals: 9 (3 on Great Race, 6 on Middle Rock)
  5. Sea gulls: 800
  6. Cormorants: 146
  7. Black Turnstone: 13
  8. Savannah Sparrows: 10
  9. Bald Eagles: 2 adults on West Rock
  10. Canada Geese: 2

Maintenance

  • The usual chores.

Boats

  • Recently some of the larger eco-tour boats appear to be getting too close to the sea lions near the jetty. Below are today’s observations.

Census Day!

Weather

  • Visibility: 15+ miles
  • Wind: 10-15 knots SW
  • Sky: clear
  • Water: calm
  • Beautiful sunrise today!

sunrise-1-29-9 sunrise-2-29-9

Ecological

  • Saw four branded sea lions today.
  • One Steller branded 998R.
  • Three California’s branded X611, 88, and U22[?].
  • Conducted the weekly census.
  1. California Sea Lions: 486
  2. Northern (Steller) Sea Lions: 169
  3. Harbour Seals: 151
  4. Elephant Seals: 7 on Middle Rock
  5. Sea gulls: 1020
  6. Cormorants: 20
  7. Savannah Sparrows: 20
  8. Harlequin Ducks: 4 (2 male, 2 female)
  9. Black Oystercatchers: 3
  10. Bald Eagles: 2 adult
  11. Canada Geese: 2
  12. Black Turnstone: 1

Maintenance

  • The usual chores were accomplished.

Boats

  • Several eco-tours today. Nothing unusual or problematic to report.

Other

  • Lots of DND blasting today.
  • Most of today’s blasts were louder than those from earlier this week.
  • 9:34, 9:36, 10:07, 10:09, 10:38, 10:40, 11:14, 11:46, 11:48, 12:11, and 13:14.

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

Sustainability

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 ; – )

 

Blog On.

This blog covers three days, September 15, 16 and 17th; Thursday, Friday and Saturday. It will be replaced by a point form log for the rest of the stay.

Weather and Sea Conditions

Thursday was part of the last high pressure system with sunny afternoon westerlies of 10 – 15 knots. Friday was a transition day with heavy fog burning off by early afternoon and accompanied by westerlies of up to 25 knots. By dusk it had clouded over and showers continued overnight and into Saturday morning. This wet weather came with winds from the north. Morning fog patches continued Saturday and by early afternoon the wind switched from 10 – 15 knots north, to 25 -30 knots west partially cleared with sun between showers. The marine forecast for Central Juan de Fuca Strait includes a strong westerly wind warning. The wind is predicted to drop to westerly 10 to 15 early Sunday morning and showers are expected to end near midnight Saturday.

It appears that the Race Rocks Ecological Reserve weather station has not been operating since mid-June, so longer-term context is not possible other than anecdotal information recorded in recent logs.

Vessels in Ecological Reserve

Commercial whale-watching activity inside the Ecological Reserve boundaries is busy, with 20 commercial visits noted on the 16th and 14 visits on the 17th. The guidelines for vessel activity are not being observed by all operators and some of the commercial vessels are as close as 5 meters from the sea lions (and shore). Some very large vessels are going through shallow passages, making erratic turns in the current, travelling against the current and several vessels were seen speeding (> 7 knots within 400 m of Great Race). No other commercial activity was observed. Although several recreational vessels were seen passing through, there was no sports-fishing activity noted within the closed area.

Ecology

Seasonal shifts are apparent with the return of some ‘winter’ species and visits by fall migrants. There are only seven Glaucous-winged Gull chicks left on Great Race Island that are not fully fledged. The smallest, chick has a badly injured left leg. One other still has pinfeathers on its head and the rest are close to flying. There are notably fewer gull chick remains on the island this year perhaps indicating a lower mortality rate. There does not appear to be any data on the number of nests or their productivity this year so it may just reflect lower productivity. The logged death of the old River Otter may be related to the drop in chick carcass numbers.

Glaucous-winged Gulls are still the dominant gull species here on Great Race. California Gulls are abundant in the area but not roosting on Great Race yet. There are large (>1,000 birds), mixed species, feeding flocks adjacent to the Ecological Reserve in Race Passage and in the distance. California Gulls have been seen resting on thick mats of Bull Kelp in Middle Channel.

Black Turnstones and Surfbirds have returned from the Arctic where they nest in the summer. One Ruddy Turnstone was noted today feeding on flies, fuel for a migration that may extend as far south as South America. A single Sanderling was noted both Friday and Saturday and this is another species that nests in the Arctic and is widespread in the ‘winter’. Black Oystercatchers, which are much more site fidel, are roosting near the energy building in the evenings. At least one Kildeer was heard each evening just after dark.

Both Stellers (Northern) and California Sea Lions are moulting this time of year and are hauling out on Great Race, South Seal and South Islands as well as Middle Rocks and Turbine Rock. Photos were taken and processed, of branded, tagged and entangled sea lions.

Northern Elephant Seals are hauling on both Middle and Great Race and a total of six were noted Saturday. No big males. Harbour Seals are abundant and using these haul-out areas; West, Middle, Turbine, North and South Seal Rocks and South Islands.

A single Sea Otter was observed in the kelp just south of North Rocks Saturday morning.

One Humpback Whale was noted feeding near the Ecological Reserve.

Sustainability

Solar panels are maintaining power for the island in spite of intermittent cloud and showers. Without the weather station operational, sunlight levels are not being measured. The diesel generator is run for a couple of hours each evening to top up the batteries for the night.

Visitors

Kyle brought three visitors yesterday, two from Ocean Networks Canada and one from Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, for a site visit.

Maintenance and Operations

Regular chores included the 06:15 daily weather report for Pedder Bay Marina, daily solar panel maintenance, walkway cleaning, repairing and electrifying fences. The outside of the fuel barrel (eco-four) house was scrubbed, tops of fuel barrels stored outside were drained of water, and windows in the energy building were washed. The “science” house was inspected, an open window closed in the basement, exterior electrical box was noted broken from wall and conduit open at bottom (photo). Science house furnace was full on and the upstairs temperature was 22.0o C. Thermostat turned down. It was noted that diesel had been spilled in basement. Spill pads on the fuel drum are saturated and there was diesel on the entry bootscrubber/doormat. Looked at derrick dock woodpile and noted creosoted and pressure treated wood in woodpile, probably a health hazard to burn. Inspected chainsaw chain…just needs filing. Took VHF, charger and manual to top of tower to replace the one missing from there. Wheelbarrows were deployed for rainwater catchment. The conductivity meter’s line was marked with yellow electrical tape so that seawater sampling could be done at measured depth. In the energy building an attempt was made to align the indicator lights on the three Xantrax controllers with the holes. Two out of three can now be seen and the middle one can be seen plainly with the lights out. The flashing rate of these lights indicate the controller’s stage of operation and approximate battery voltage which is helpful to knowing how long to run the generator. Weather station troubleshooting will continue tomorrow.

 

Black Oystercatcher Nest!

Weather

  • Visibility: 15 miles
  • Wind: 25-30 knots West in the morning
  • The rest of the day 15 knots West.
  • Sky: overcast
  • Water: 2′ chop

Ecological

  • Finally discovered a Black Oystercatcher nest!
  • 2 eggs are inside the “nest”.
  • Their nests are made of rocks and shells.
  • Census day.
  • I don’t seem to see any Black Turnstones or Surfbirds anymore.
  • Also less Bald Eagles.
  • And the Otter has been gone for a while.
  1. Harbour Seals: 117
  2. Northern Sea Lions: 32
  3. California Sea Lions: 22 (one branded U 687)
  4. Elephant Seals: 20 (17 on Great Race, 3 on Middle Rock)
  5. Seagulls: 327
  6. Pigeon Guillemots: 114
  7. Canada Geese: 21 (14 resident geese, 7 stopovers)
  8. Black Oystercatchers: 10 (plus 2 eggs!)
  9. Harlequin Ducks: 8 (6 males, 2 females)
  10. Cormorants: 4
  11. Barn Swallows: 2
  12. Bald Eagle: 1 immature
  13. Savannah Sparrow: 1

Maintenance

  • Rust painting.
  • More thistle weed whacking.
  • You can cut them down like you’re the Queen of Hearts, but they grow back.
  • Cleaned the solar panels.

Boats

  • Four or so eco-tours came by today.