the storm never came


Looking at the forecast we were expecting a gust (to 40knots)on the 17th but it stayed pretty calm .Just a big swell came from East. When we had a look on the website Windyty the wind was on the West coast outside and on Victoria and the North of Vancouver Island. The sky has been very cloudy with a dark sea  and rain never far.The air temperature was a higher and the water too( around 7 degrees Celsius.) In the morning of the 18th in a gloomy atmosphere the flag was hanging like a stick for a while and like the day before keeps changing its direction all the time . The tides are really high. never saw them like that before


Everything is fine in the nursery .The big male spend his days closed to the females and babies ,waiting for his turn and sometimes trying to get one or the other but to now without success. We got the visit of a few eagles and some geese .


More wood split and stacked. The desalinator and generator are on almost everyday . Guy hauled up with the crane a very long log around 30feet. The last 200 liters of gas oil have been transfered to the yellow tank.We have now 7 barrels empty ready to be filled up and 2 Propane bottles. The barrels bottoms have been got rid of rust  and repainted.


One watching boat almost everyday


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 ; – )


Battle of the Bulls

Female Elephant Seal

Female Elephant Seal

Ecological Happenings

  • Blustery overcast day with periods of rain.
  • The male Elephant seals continued to be vocal, following the arrival of the female, and were issuing challenges in the morning. The males fought in the water later with the victor trumpeting after having beaten his opponent.
  • Injured Black Turnstone seen hopping about as it was missing a leg.

Marine Vessels

  • Coast Guard Helicopter overhead.


  • Spliced new stern line onto the Whaler.
  • Finished heat shrinking electrical connections on the new power/fuse panel to the Whaler.
  • Cleaned U-bend to bathroom sink in main house.


Battle wounds

Battle wounds

Trumpeting in the water

Trumpeting in the water

Immature Bald Eagle

Immature Bald Eagle



Canadian Geese

Canadian Geese

Bald Eagle with catch

Bald Eagle with catch

BEagle with fish2BEagle 2

BEagle in flight2

Drizzle, Fog and Steaming Sea Lions

It was a wet, drizzly, foggy day at Race Rocks but very calm. For most of the morning, the wind varied little from  east northeast at less than 5 knots. It only picked up to 10 – 15 knots as it swung around to north northeast in the evening. The forecast for Thursday is similar and while winds are expected to rise to 25- 35 knots southeast on Friday. Periods of rain, cloud and showers are on the horizon in spite of the barometer rising (overall trend) since late Monday.

It was a quiet day on the vessel observation front and only three whale watching vessels were noted in reserve. One ‘sports’ fishing vessel came through at very low speed, well positioned away from the animals.

There was some cetacean activity noted during the day as visibility increased to over 5 nautical miles. This included two Humpback Whales feeding near Rosedale Reef just outside reserve to the south, a Minke Whale just east of North Rock and Dall’s Porpoise to the southwest.

On Great Race, the Sea Lions were steaming today as air temperature hovered around 12 degrees C. and the cooling rain was evaporated off. Part of their haul-out at this time of year is a physiological need to warm their skin during the moulting process, thus the tidy rows of animals pressed against each other and the piling on top of each other to share their body heat. Some California Sea Lions have taken to rock climbing these last few days. They are well established above the boathouse now and at the base of the cliff under camera 5, so the logical (to them) extension was to move further up and there were three of them up by the helicopter pad today. I suspect that they will really like the heli-pad, if they make it that far.

There were six Northern Elephant Seals hanging out in the water around the jetty today.

Adult Glaucous-winged Gulls and this years young, continue to frequent their nesting territories much to my surprise. I have seen them chase off Thayers Gulls. The “visiting” gulls roost in peripheral areas away from the nest sites. A family of four Canada Geese continue to make the island their home.

Chores were as usual and there were no visitors.

September 1st Eco-guardian Log

It was a fairly quiet, dark and damp day at Race Rocks. The wind had still not done much by 18:00 but it rose out of the west later on blowing 20 – 25 knots. Although the ceiling was generally much higher than yesterday, solar radiation levels remained low, compared to the rest of the week, including stormy Saturday. The barometer dropped a little today, but remained above 1005 hPa and the forecast is for strong afternoon west winds to also bring much needed precipitation until Friday.

The weather pages on this web site have lots of good data. If you like graphs or if you would like to learn to like graphs, check out the weekly solar radiation data graph to see how dark it has been lately.

It was another busy day for commercial whale watching activity in the Ecological Reserve with 17 visits observed. The main concerns were with a couple of vessel operators who are in a hurry and speed up before exiting the reserve. I really enjoy watching the better operators. They take their time; use the current to enhance their visit and make sure that their clients have a good experience, while assuring a sustainable future for their industry in the Ecological Reserve.

Four groups of Pearson College students visited the Ecological Reserve today as part of their orientation week activities. They were in the two vessels Haiku and Second Nature.

More sea lions appear to be arriving daily and I look forward to doing the census later this week. I have also documented a number of branded and tagged sea lions and data that will be shared with NOAA biologists. Today there were two Northern Elephant Seals on the island, the young male from the ramp yesterday moved up behind the boathouse and a similarly sized individual arrived on the ramp today with a crowd of California Sea Lions. Only one Elephant Seal was visible on Middle Rock, surrounded by Stellers Sea Lions.

Other less welcome arrivals were ~24 Canada Geese. I guess now that there are a few green shoots again; they are here to eat them. There is still a family of five, whose goslings were late to hatch, that looks like it hasn’t left yet.

I was busy with minor chores today, including the usual plus repairing the jetty fence twice, cleaning the camera, running the generator to bring the batteries back up and assessing generator use, de-salinator hours and various fuel quantities on hand for month end. I did make time to take a few photos and have included them in a gallery for your viewing pleasure.



Spot the Northern Elephant Seal amongst the Northern Sea Lions?

Spot the Northern Elephant Seal amongst the Northern Sea Lions?


Panting to Cool Down on Great Race

Westerly breezes of 15 to 20 knots kept the island comfortably cool today as the sun shone steadily. The overall tendency of the barometer, was to slowly fall today ending up at 1012 hPA., as the sun set. The forecast is for continued strong westerlies and clear skies.

Twenty-one visits to Ecological Reserve by whale watching boats were observed today and there were probably more that I missed while doing other chores. Again most of the operators were great but there are a few who speed and a few who go too close. Several sport fishing boats and one rental were also seen transiting the Reserve.

The large Humpback whale affectionately known as Big Momma by the whale watchers did a complete circuit of Race Rocks today without actually entering the Reserve itself. While travelling through Race Passage she was accompanied by five to ten whale watching boats and was never alone.

Vessels in Race Passage can be seen in the distance with Humpback Whale "big Momma"

Vessels in Race Passage can be seen in the distance with Humpback Whale “big Momma”

Chunk and Floyd, the two large male Northern Elephant Seals spent a lot of time “fighting’ in the water today and that was also draw for the whale watching boats. Chunk definitely has the advantage over Floyd both in terms of size and personality. Floyd had quite a few fresh bleeding scars this evening and Chunk was doing quite a bit of perhaps, triumphant bellowing.

The lone male, sea otter that hangs out in the Middle Channel kelp bed directly opposite the eco-guardians’ house was also a draw today. The sea otter was viewed close up, by just about every vessel and he seemed completely unfazed by all the attention. Whale watching vessel congestion in the Ecological Reserve continues to be potentially problematic. Also dangerous for the little rental boats that like to follow close behind some of the bigger whale watching boats.

ww in middle ch

Whale watching vessel operators are good at avoiding each other in narrow channels.

Gull incubation is happening right now and one of the interesting behaviours observed is thermoregulation by panting. Today there panting gulls everywhere.

Gulls can keep their eggs at just the right temperature by evaporative cooling through panting.

Gulls can keep their eggs at just the right temperature by evaporative cooling through panting.

gwgu panting

Of note, the majority of the Canada Geese have left the island after a rash of Bald Eagle attacks. They were observed practicing the swim across to Middle Island with the goslings and were gone by June 10th, leaving three pairs of adults and their 10 collective goslings.

There were no visitors today and chores were routine.

Chunk ‘nd the Trunk

It was a glorious day at Race Rocks with westerly winds continuing from yesterday but with more moderate speeds of 15 – 25 knots and even lighter winds of 10 – 15 early in the morning. The sky was clear above although there was a ‘marine haze’, which reduced visibility early to less than ten nautical miles. As the winds picked up so did air quality leading one to wonder if the ‘marine air’ actually has an onshore and anthropogenic source.  Solar radiation intensity was high today peaking at over 900 W/m2. It is 19:00 hours as I write this, with more sunshine to come and the accumulated solar radiation for the day is already close to 700 Langleys. The forecast includes a westerly gale warning for tomorrow afternoon and evening with clear skies and a high UV index of seven.

Only one whale watching boat (from Sooke) was observed in the Ecological Reserve today.

There were more large and startling (at least to me)  explosions today, which did not result in even a visible flinch by the Northern Elephant Seals. The Harbour Seals got into the water and were looking around at the surface and the Pigeon Guillemots flew but quickly returned and recovered. Two vessels with containment booms, one travelling at a fairly urgent-looking speed towing some of the booms were observed in the vicinity of Race Passage today. It may have just been an exercise, as they didn’t stay long.

Ecologically, things are continuing to grow at a tremendous rate as spring accelerates for the shift into summer, in less than two weeks. The goslings have graduated from short paddles to longer endurance swims crossing Middle Channel. Their grazing pressure on the island continues but doesn’t seem to exceed the productivity of the grasses that they graze on.

In the water, the productivity of Bull Kelp or Nereocystis lutkeana continues unabated and large, well formed kelp beds fringe all of the islets and reefs, producing tremendous amounts of food for a broad array of direct grazers and both peripheral and out-lying detritovores that eat the sloughing bits and pieces that drift down from the canopy and out of the kelp beds.

We are supposed to stay on the walkways when moving around the island. Not always possible when there are traffic jams like this one in this morning's commute.

We are supposed to stay on the walkways when moving around the island. Not always possible when there are traffic jams like this one in this morning’s commute.

The Northern Elephant Seals spend time in the water draped in the kelp and playing with it with their mouths. What is not clear is whether this is intentional or just there (in the way). The big males are taking several swims a day right now thanks to the marine railway, which makes access so much easier for them. Chunk’s moult is just visibly starting today, on his nose and just below his mouth and on what would be a chin if he had one. Floyd’s moult is progressing visibly as wound sites and patches where he can scratch are coming off. There were some interactions between the two big guys today but hostilities were averted through strategic maneuvering by Floyd, basically avoidance behavior. Above, he is making a slow get-away which of course requires a tremendous amount of energy and much resting.


Chunk stretched out, having a nap. His large proboscis is prominent and the scars that run along his back are just visible.

Chunk stretched out, having a nap. His large proboscis is prominent and the scars that run along his back are just visible.

More gulls are sitting on eggs each day and their nests are beautifully made by pulling up grass by the roots and carefully packing it into just the right shape by pushing down with their sternums, tails in the air. Level is of course important. All of the nests observed today had three eggs.


There were no visitors today and chores were routine.

Ghosting through the Kelp Forest.

I had trouble with a temprarily unavailable log-in page when I went to to post my log blog last night, so am posting the two days together now.

The westerly blew throughout both days and fog obstructed the views. Yesterday it cleared after 4 PM and by 6 PM, thick fog had moved back in and visibility was back down to several hundred meters. Today it cleared earlier and stayed clear until sunset (at least). Wind speed both days varied between 10 and 25 knots over the course of the day and in varied direction from west-southwest to west. Yesterday the barometer went up to 1015 hPa from 1014 and then started dropping. Today, it was steady until noon and then it started dropping going as far as 1010hPA by 8 PM. The forecast for today was correct: strong westerly wind warnings, fog “patches” and sunshine. Tomorrow the wind warning has been upgraded to a gales and the rest remains the same.

Six whale watching vessels were observed working in the Ecological Reserve yesterday and today I saw three. They all abided by the rules and regulations more or less. Some boats/skippers may be used to pushing the distance limits but I did not observe negative impacts.


I was lucky enough to see Chunk ghosting around the island from the top of the light tower and it was a surreal sight. He started out in the surge channel in front of the science house and swam around anti-clockwise. If it wasn’t for his white scar, I might have missed him, as it was a bit foggy. He only came up to look around and make a right angle turn to avoid a reef, once. He moved elegantly with hind flippers sweeping side to side, ever so slightly and propelling his huge mass along at a good speed. He seemed to purposefully seek out the kelp and sweep through it. The pale grey, submarine shape shifted in and out of the kelp, hugging the coastline, in shallow water. How different this must be from his normal habitat offshore and in the deep. If that is what our Canadian elephant actually does. It would be nice to know where they go when they are not here.

Floyd as water watchdog.

Floyd as water watchdog.


I was glad that I topped up the freshwater the day before yesterday as Floyd decided to sleep right up against the freshwater tank-house yesterday and today. It would have been a challenge to get in and out to check water-levels with his head jammed in between the Diefenbunker and the tank-house.

How to avoid Floyd

The two-year-old northern elephant seals that looked so bad before moulting are now starting to look much better as their moult progresses. This one still looks a bit scabby but no more oozing and bleeding sores.

scabby moult

According to my favorite vet, Marty Haulena of the Vancouver Aquarium (Who else knows about such things?), “when there are deep cracks, bleeding and large ulcers it becomes part of a syndrome known as northern elephant sealskin diseases (NESSD) and that syndrome is not well understood though it is likely a combination of secondary bacterial infection, immune-mediated disease, and endocrine problems. It is most likely to occur in yearlings during their first or second major moult. If minor they can survive” Thanks Marty for letting me know.

These two have been moulting, losing weight and sleeping more and more since they arrived a couple of months ago.

These two have been moulting, losing weight and sleeping more and more since they arrived a couple of months ago.

Thursday was census day and here are the results.


Northern Elephant Seals 22 (including 16 on Great Race)

Harbour Seals 110

California Sea lions 19

Northern or Stellers Sea lions 25 (One male with a neck ring, one female with a two year old, is branded but could not see brand.)

River Otter 1

Sea Otter 1

Canada Geese 23 (+ 26 goslings, one gosling missing) (note one adult (non-breeding) taken by eagles)

Harlequin Ducks 0 (left last week)

Pelagic Cormorants 16

Double Crested Cormorants 3

Bald Eagle 1 adults, 2 sub-adults

Black Oystercatchers 10

Kildeer 2

Pigeon Guillemots 211

Glaucous-winged Gulls total 444 (436 adults in nesting areas; 8 sub-adults in roosting/resting area) Some gulls starting laying and incubating.


There were no visitors either day and chores were routine. I leave for Portugal tomorrow Christine will be doing the blog. Back June 7th.




May 26

It was another steady, west by southwest day, blowing 15 to 20 knots, from morning to night and clearing out the clouds for a glorious afternoon and evening. There was just enough marine haze on the horizon to make a great sunset. This morning barometer gradually rose to 1016 hPA and then started a slow decline after noon ending up at 1014hPA just before 8:00 PM. The forecast is calling for strong westerlies to continue with a mix of sun and cloud.

Only four whale watching boats were observed in the Ecological Reserve today and everyone was on their best behaviour.

Ecological happenings were subtle today. More sealions are hauling out on Great Race including a few very chunky Stellers bulls. The California Sealions seem to putting the call out for others within hearing range to come and bark in concert. There are more birds mating wherever you look, the Canada Geese goslings are growing incredibly fast and the bull kelp is now forming a broad canopy even on the high tide. The gull bolus contents are shifting to more ‘forage fish’ bone content from the earlier strong bias toward chiton plates and the adults are feeding each other in practice for parenthood?

The Bald Eagles continue to fly in and scare all the gulls, geese and oystercatchers and it looked like they caught something today, but I am not sure what..

Chris and Courtney brought Second Nature out in the afternoon with two visitors from Scotland, (an alumna and her husband), and the two relief eco-guardians Guy and Christine who will be here for the summer. Chris, Courtney and Guy delivered diesel for the generator, using the derrick, barrels, a drum dolly and a fair bit of sweat. It looked scary to me but they pulled it off with aplomb and Chris said it is easier, safer and less risky than the old method, so that is really great.

My chores today were routine. I am going to post this now and update it with photos later in case the Internet goes down again in between. Must run and shut down the generator.



Yellow-headed Blackbird

Again it was a day dominated by the west and west-southwest winds. It was blowing 30 to 35 knots at dawn but the velocity subsided and most of the day it blew 20 to 25 knots. Skies were partially overcast and as predicted there were a few showers. Air temperature remains low, and is not much different than flooding sea surface temperature at ~ 9.7 oC. ranging between 10 oC and 12 oC .The wind is also chilling and today had the highest wind speeds of the week. The barometer rose today from 1008 to 1013 hPa and is dropping now while the forecast calls for gales and a gale warning has been issued. Saturday is supposed to be mainly cloudy with a 30% chance of showers.

There were four whale-watching boats observed, working in the Ecological Reserve today. No other vessels were observed in reserve.

Female Northern Elephant Seal # 5086 is on day seven of her moult now and has made great strides in losing skin during the last 24 hours. She has achieved the two thirds moulted milestone and is still grouchy.

5086_Day 7

Black Oystercatchers are without a doubt nesting now and there are eggs in their terribly spartan nests, which have none of the comforts of home like soft vegetation or down.

Untitled bloy egg2

Some of the goslings are getting quite large and although they may be considered pesty, they are still fascinating to watch.


The California Sealions are moving back onto Great Race and I awoke to a chorus of them doing a call and response outside my bedroom window this morning.


Thanks go out to Don Stewart for spotting and identifying an Anna’s Hummingbird on Great Race today, I believe this is a new addition to the species list here.


Another thank you to Rocky Point Bird Observatory for identifying a Yellow-headed Blackbird, another possibly new bird to the island. It has been hiding in the long grass and thistles near the base of the Light Tower and it has been difficult to get a photo fast enough. Today it flew to the roof of the Energy Building which made a photo much easier.


Yesterday was census day but it was too foggy much of the day to do a good census. Here are the results from today’s census.

Northern Elephant Seals 26 (18 on Great Race, 8 on Middle Rock)

Harbour Seals 228

California Sealions 14

Northern (Stellers) Sealions 26

Canada Geese 24 (+ 21 goslings)

Harlequin Ducks 6

Pelagic Cormorants 8

Double Crested Cormorants 13

Bald Eagle total 3; 1 adult, 2 sub-adults

Black Oystercatchers          14

Kildeer                                   2

Pigeon Guillemots              230

Glaucous-winged Gulls total 564 (556 adults in nesting areas; 8 sub-adults in                           roosting/resting area)

California Gulls                    6

Common Raven                  1

Northwestern Crow             1

Anna’s Hummingbird         1

Yellow-headed Blackbird   1

Chores were routine today. Courtney came out with the new switch box for Camera 2 and installed it. Camera 2 is working again now but a close-up study on diatom film. Don left on Second Nature.