Troglodytes Return to the Rock

The mostly overcast sky of early morning gave way to sunshine and clear skies for a beautiful transition day from summer to fall. The wind didn’t do much all day. The barometer rose to over 1016 hPa continuing yesterday’s rise but has now faltered and is starting to drop again. Forecasters are calling for winds to continue from the west tomorrow and then switch to east with increasing cloudiness, showers and dropping temperatures as the week progresses.

There were Humpback Whales just south and then east of Race Rocks most of the day. Some of the whale watching fleet visited them and the Ecological Reserve. A total of 15 visits were observed by commercial operators today and there may have been more mid-day when I went ashore briefly. By evening, there were four Humpbacks in the same area.

Ecologically, a change of season continues to be in the air. Flocks of Surf Scoters are passing through Race Rocks heading east. Cormorants are amassing in roosting areas on North Rocks, South Islands and Great Race and all three species are using the reserve to roost. More gulls arrive daily and huge multi-species feeding flocks are forming in conjunction with forage fish being driven up by diving birds like cormorants, Rhinoceros Auklets and Common Murres. These two species of alcids are often diving just outside Race Rocks but this morning on slack tide I saw a string of Common Murres in reserve, on the water. The adult males still have chicks with them.

There are also multi-species gull feeding flocks associated with sea lions’ salmon kills as observed earlier in the season. This morning I watched a California Sea Lion thrash what looked like a coho at the surface and then swallow it, head first, using a little air-born, porpoise-like action to get the tail down the gullet.

The bull kelp seems to still be growing and the beds are much more extensive than I remember them being this time last year. There is always lots of inter-annual variability in kelp cover as many factors affect its productivity and biomass including seawater temperature and salinity, light levels, nutrients like nitrogen, storm action and of course grazing. In the reserve, sea urchins and abalone are important grazers of kelp and they are also on the top of the menu when it comes to favorite food items for Sea Otters.

On land, Dark Eyed Juncos are flitting about with Fox Sparrows and Savannah Sparrows. There is a also a visitor back, that I haven’t seen here since last year. A small, but powerful presence in the form of one of my favourite little birds, a Pacific Wren has taken up cave-like residence in the old stone wall under the tower and can be seen going from cave to cave in the wall.

Other than the constantly changing and incredible natural scene outside, work was routine and there were no visitors today.

 

Cut and Recycle Plastic Straps

Beautiful weather continues and today’s lack of fog and strong winds made it a really perfect summer day. The barometer rose steadily all day and the outlook is for more of the same.

Thirty-five whale-watching boats were noted in the reserve today and some may have been missed as I made a mad dash to “civilization” during the late afternoon slack tide. It is quite a process getting the boat launched and then back up into the boat shed but the good coffee I picked up made it all worthwhile. Back on the rock now with 600 sea lions and one Elephant Seal.

Killer Whales were within sight today, out in Juan de Fuca Strait, but not in the reserve and that was why there was high traffic by the boats, stopping by to see the sea lions.

I spent an hour this morning in the tower, photographing the tagged/branded animals that I have been recording. It is really nice to have a birds’ eye view of the rookery. Speaking of rooks, there were two ravens this morning. Until today I have only seen solo ravens. The evening bird continues to be a mystery to me, I can only describe the call as being high pitched and saying something like chee bedee be dee be dee. From the few glimpses I have had of it in the dark (not very good glimpses) I would say that it flew like a shorebird. (turned out to be a killdeer)

Common Murres and Rhinoceros Auklets are feeding in deeper water around the reserve now and today saw an influx of California Gulls into the reserve. The Heerman’s Gulls continue to join mixed-species, feeding flocks and forage on their own but I have not seen any landing on Great Race. There are more and more Canada Geese landing every day and they are eating every new little green thing that is not a thistle. Can they be classified as pest-like?

Another reason to both cut and recycle plastic straps. Three ring-necks observed today.

Another reason to both cut and recycle plastic straps. Three ring-necks observed today.

I photo-documented more entangled sea lions today to follow up on work being done by Wendy Szaniszlo, the Vancouver Aquarium and others. I observed two California Sea Lions ring necked, one is doing very poorly with an open wound and liquid coming out of it. It looks like a white plastic strap. The other may have already been treated as it looks and acts healthy. As I was coming into to land at the jetty in the tidal race, I noticed a Steller’s Sea Lion that was ring-necked. I did not get a chance to photograph it as landing here is already exciting enough by myself. I will look for it after chores in the morning.

Chores were basic today, cleaning and organizing, sharpening tools and almost completing the new fence.

Animal Census

Low winds today picking up in the afternoon/evening. Clear skies for most of the day. Forecasted winds of 15 knots for tomorrow morning rising to 30 in the afternoon.

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Animal Census (by Anne):

Steller Sea Lions 229
California Sea Lions 388
Harbour Seals 81
Glaucous-winged Gulls 301 (including 29 chicks)
Double-crested Cormorant 3
Pelagic Cormorant 1
Canada Goose 11
Black Oyster Catcher 11
Black Turnstone 1
Greater Yellow legs 1
Very large mixed species feeding groups to the west southwest of reserve including 100s of Rhinoceros auklets, Common Murres, Heerman’s Gulls and California Gulls.

37 whale watching boats

5 recreational boats

3-4 trips from Second Nature

Baleen whale this morning spotted feeding in the same place as yesterday evening, to the SW end of the reserve.

Anne continued with training today. James from Hybrid Plumbing came out to fix the water heater this morning. Changed cartridge filters on desalinator. Prepared for shift change.

 

 

Animal Notes and Census

A few days ago we had two unusual visitors to our waters. Two Brown Pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis) spent several days on Great Race and North Rocks. Brown Pelicans, though the smalles of pelicans, are enormous birds weighing up to 6 kilos and measuring up to 135 cms with a wingspan of up to 2.5 meters.

A visitor from warmer climes….

Northern vacation to Race Rocks….

We have had two other unusual visitors in the last week. I discovered a Barred Owl in the boathouse attacking a Starling (another recent arrival), and Pam our avid photographer friend from England got several pictures of Peregrine Falcons that came through hunting sparrows and starlings. Pam’s pictures can be seen at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/66339356@N00/sets/72157628747376295/

Another tagged e-seal showed up in the boathouse yesterday.

Might as well hang out somewhere cozy…

Tagged 7225

 Animal Census Nov 8 2012

Species Current Population (Est)
Stellar/Northern Sea Lion  30
Elephant Seal  7
Harbour Seal  200
California Sea Lion  50
Glaucous-winged Gull  150
Herring Gull  300
California Gull  30
Heerman’s Gull  80
Black Turnstones  100
Surfbird  6
Pelagic Cormorants  40
Brandt’s Cormorant  30
Killdeer   6
Dunlin  16
Harlequin Ducks  20
Canada Goose  14
Bald Eagle  3
Black Oyster-catcher  40
Sanderlings  8
Starlings  8
Race Rocks Eco-Guardian  1
Rhinoceros Auklet  100
Common Murre  100
Sparrows  20
Brown Pelican  2
Barred Owl  1
Peregrine Falcon  2

 

4500-5000 seabirds!

‘From about 9:45 this morning until just after 2 pm there were thousands of sea birds feeding,a few small groups just inside the reserve around North Rocks,but mostly south and east of Gr. Race and Rosedale buoy.Guessing, but there must have been 4500-5000 Birds. Gulls,Cormorants,Common Murres and Bald Eagles were the obvious ones,unfortunately even with the telescope could not identify many other small dark plumaged birds.Once the feeding frenzy was over 6 of the 9 Bald Eagles left the area, 2 flew over to North Rocks and the 1 mature Eagle to visit today settled on the high point on the Southeast Rocks where he has stayed except for a couple of circles over several small groups of gulls. As it starts to get dark there are approx. 230 gulls,beaks into the 16 knt.North wind, along the North East ridge on Gr. Race -another 200 gulls along the Southwest shore.The Harbour seals have hauled out for the night on the ebbing tide,some singly but mostly in groups of 10-20.The Bald Eagle is still on the South East ridge. ‘, ‘Mike or Carol’, ’15:58:25 ,

Feeding Frenzy at sea

Friday, January 04, 2002
 Good Evening
TEMPERATURE: Max. 8.5C — Min. 5.7C — Reset 7.9C — Rain 0.4mm
posted by Carol or Mike S at 6:05 PM
MARINE LIFE: From about 9:45 this morning until just after 2 pm there were thousands of sea birds feeding,a few small groups just inside the reserve around North Rocks,but mostly south and east of Gr. Race and Rosedale buoy. Guessing, but there must have been 4500-5000 Birds. Gulls,Cormorants,Common Murres and Bald Eagles were the obvious ones,unfortunately even with the telescope could not identify many other small dark plumaged birds.Once the feeding frenzy was over 6 of the 9 Bald Eagles left the area, 2 flew over to North Rocks and the 1 mature Eagle to visit today settled on the high point on the Southeast Rocks where he has stayed except for a couple of circles over several small groups of gulls. As it starts to get dark there are approx. 230 gulls,beaks into the 16 knt.North wind, along the North East ridge on Gr. Race -another 200 gulls along the Southwest shore.The Harbour seals have hauled out for the night on the ebbing tide,some singly but mostly in groups of 10-20.The Bald Eagle is still on the South East ridge.
HUMAN INTERACTION: 1 Charter Boat ( Discovery Launch )
posted by Carol or Mike S at 4:46 PM
Good Morning
WEATHER: Sky Overcast — Vis. 15 Miles — Wind North East 9 Knots — Sea Rippled
posted by Carol or Mike S at 7:14 AM

Seabird feeding frenzy

Thursday, November 01, 2001
WEATHER: We had calm seas for most of the day although the wind has increased to over 24knts in the past 1/2 hour.
MARINE LIFE: Fishing was good for the birds and sea lions today! Just after 10a.m. the sky was filled with hundreds and hundreds of sea birds,gulls,cormorants and common murres streaming across the islands southward to a tideline about 1/2 km. away.Looking with the telescope I estimated 3500-4000 sea birds feeding—-by 13:30 most had dispersed. In a space of three hours we saw 5 Steller(northern)sea lions catch salmon (-that looked to be 5-8lbs) in the kelp bed between North Rocks and Gr. Race. The birds,especially gulls rush over to get any bits of fish that break away as the sea lion thrashes the fish back and forth at the surface.The two juvenile elephant seals that were hauled out in the little bay with a group of about 20 harbour seals, swam out into the large kelp bed along the east side of Gr. Race just before 14:00 and had not returned before dark.Have not seen the large bull elephant seal that spends a good portion of the year stretched out atop West Rock.Did a boat tour around all the islands today and counted 97 California and 27 Steller sea lions. Also counted over 800 Cormorants.
posted by Carol or Mike S at 10:03 PM
Good evening
Max. 10.0ºC — Min. 8.1ºC — Reset 9.7ºC — Rain 1.6 mm
posted by Carol or Mike S at 6:04 PM
Good morning
Sky overcast — Vis. 13 miles — Rain showers — Wind north east 5 knots Sea rippled
posted by Carol or Mike S at 7:12 AM