Whale Sighting!

Weather

  • Visibility: 15 miles
  • Wind: 10-15 knots West, later 5 knots South, then 5-10 West
  • Sky: clear and sunny!
  • Water: rippled

Ecological

  • Census day!
  • Shortly before 15:30 as I was counting shorebirds, I heard a loud noise to my right. Glancing over, I was thrilled to see a whale surfacing in the South Channel. I managed to get some photos as it resurfaced farther south-west.
  1. California Sea Lions: 79
  2. Harbour Seals: 69
  3. Steller (Northern) Sea Lions: 33
  4. Elephant Seals: 3, all on Great Race, 2 young males, 1 weaner
  5. Whale: 1 (I think it was an Orca)
  6. Seagulls unspecified: 269
  7. Pigeon Guillemots: 45
  8. Cormorants unspecified: 30
  9. Double Crested Cormorants: 9
  10. Surfbirds: 37
  11. Harlequin Ducks: 27 (15 males and 12 females)
  12. Canada Geese: 24
  13. Black Turnstones: 20
  14. Bald Eagles: 20 (4 adults, 16 immature)
  15. Black Oystercatchers: 6
  16. Rock Sandpipers: 4
  17. Crows: 3

Boats

  • A few eco-tours passed by today.
  • Second Nature came out with food supplies for me.
  • A large navy sailboat passed by north of the reserve.

Visitors

  • Kyle and Jeff came out in Second Nature.

Other

  • One helicopter flew just south of the reserve in the morning.

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 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.

Census and 3rd New Weaner

Weather

  • Visibility: 15 miles
  • Wind: 20-30 knots NE, later 15 W
  • Water: 2′ chop
  • Sky: overcast with showers

Ecological

  • Chunk and Chuckles were both on Great Race today, but I saw no interactions.
  • The mother is gone on Middle Rock, making her pup a weaner.
  • Conducted a census.
  1. California Sea Lions: 75
  2. Northern Sea Lions: 32
  3. Harbour Seals: 6
  4. Elephant Seals: 3
  5. Seagulls: 300
  6. Cormorants: 299 (142 on Great Race, of which 87 were Double Crested, 28 Pelagic, 8 male Brandt’s, and 19 unidentifiable to me. 157 on North Rock, too far away to identify.)
  7. Black Turnstones: 39
  8. Surfbirds: 18
  9. Canada Geese: 18
  10. Black Oystercatchers: 13
  11. Harlequin Ducks: 8 (6 male, 2 female)
  12. Bald Eagles: 3 (2 adults, 1 juvenile)
  13. Crows: 3
  14. Ravens: 2
  15. American Pipit: 1

Maintenance

  • Hauled logs off the ramp.
  • Checked the diesel in the tidy tank.

Boats

  • Didn’t see any boats near the reserve today.

 

Weaner’s Derrick Ride

Weather

  • Visibility: 15 miles
  • Wind: 0-10 knots North
  • Water: rippled
  • Sky: mix of sun and cloud

Ecological

  • After analysing the elephant seal pup on Great Race, I am fairly certain that it is a male pup.
  • Mum and pups on Great Race and Middle Rock were alone most of the day.
  • For the first time, I saw a bald eagle eating from the dead elephant seal pup out on the rocks.

Maintenance

  • Stacked firewood.
  • Cleared the ramp three times.
  • Started replacing dead light bulbs in the Student’s House.
  • Moved the weaner’s body away from the main house with ropes and the derrick, helped by Chris, Jeff, and 3 volunteers from the college.

Boats

  • Second Nature came by for a couple of hours in the afternoon, crewed by Chris, Jeff, the IT guy, and 3 volunteers. They helped move the weaner and checked up on various electronic systems.
  • One eco-tour came by in the late afternoon.

Other

  • There were 6 more DND blasts today.
  • Two massive blasts that shook the house at 10:15 and 10:17. Birds and mammals quite disturbed, but they settled back down.
  • Two small blasts at 11:31 and 11:34.
  • Two medium blasts at 14:40 and 14:45.
Massive DND blast.

Massive DND blast.

Census

Weather

  • Visibility: 5 miles, later 15
  • Wind: 5-10 knots SE, late afternoon up to 33 knots from the West
  • Water: rippled, later wavy
  • Sky: foggy in the morning, overcast in the afternoon

Ecological

  • Chunk spent the day on Middle Rock with the mum and pup.
  • Lady, Grieving mum, mum and pup, were in the same spots on Great Race.
  • Chuckles arrived on Great Race in the late afternoon.
  • Conducted a census.
  1. California Sea Lions: 87
  2. Northern/Stellar Sea Lions: 50
  3. Harbour Seals: 21
  4. Elephant Seals: 8
  5. Cormorants: 742 (of the 742, I think that at least 10 were Male Brandt’s, 131 Double Crested, and 200 Pelagic; my identification is improving, but many were either too far away, or indistinguishable to me.)
  6. Seagulls: 605 (131 had darker plumage and therefore must be immature gulls?)
  7. Pigeon Guillemots: 50
  8. Bald Eagles: 30 (23 juveniles, 7 adults)
  9. Black Oystercatchers: 13
  10. Canada Geese: 10
  11. Harlequin Ducks: 8 (4 male, 4 female)
  12. Black Turnstones: 6
  13. Surfbird: 3 (unless they were Rock Sandpipers?)
  14. Raven: 2
  15. American Pipit: 2

Maintenance

  • Did some more cleaning in the Student’s House.

Boats

  • In the morning, one fishing boat passed through the reserve. The occupants did not fish in the reserve; they were going slow and appeared to be observing.
  • In the afternoon, one large eco-tour boat came through the reserve.

Godwit and Guillemots

 

 

Marbled Godwit

Marbled Godwit

Ecological Happenings

  • Calm overcast day with light winds and settled seas.
  • Allot of driftwood and deadheads floating past in the current around the rocks from the storms and high tides of late.
  • Marbled Godwit spotted on the main island in the afternoon.
  • Pigeon guillemots and Surf scoters observed around the main island to the North and East.
  • The female Elephant seal remains on middle rocks, while the males and smaller Elephant seal remain on the main island.
  • Pod of Orca seen passing to the south, feeding in the straight. Approximately five in group consisting of males (larger dorsal fins), female and a calf. Group of accompanying birds (gulls and cormorants) circling and highlighting their position.

Marine Vessels

  • One Whale Watching boat through the reserve.
  • Courtney visited on 2nd Nature, from Pearson College, dropping off the winter fuel and a set of repaired steps for the jetty.

Maintenance

  • Steps and fuel unloading from 2nd Nature.
  • General tidying and preparation for end of shift.
Cracking Sunrise

Cracking Sunrise

Cormorants taking a rest on some drift wood

Cormorants taking a rest on some drift wood

Pigeon Guillemots

Pigeon Guillemots

Marbled Godwit and Black Turnstone

Marbled Godwit and Black Turnstone feeding

Immature Bald Eagle landing

Immature Bald Eagle landing. Beautiful plumage.

Double-crested Cormorants

Double-crested Cormorants and Thayer’s Gulls

Courtney prepping 2nd Nature

Courtney prepping 2nd Nature to come into the jetty

Male Orca in strait

Male Orca in strait

Female Orca and calf

Female Orca and calf

Sea lion Stampeed

Juvenile Bald Eagle in flight

Juvenile Bald Eagle in flight

Ecological Happenings

  • A calm bright day with light winds and clear sky.
  • The female Elephant seal has been spotted on Middle Rocks. The two males and smaller Elephant seal remain on the main island.
  • Surf Scooters and Pigeon Guillemots observed to the north of the main island.
  • Whale spouts seen to the East of the rocks about 5nm out. Likely Humpbacks.

Marine Vessels

  • Two whale watching boats. Though they both respected the speed restrictions in the reserve one came too close to the rocks and caused the Sea lions to stamped into the water.
  • Several fishing vessels just outside the reserve.

Maintenance

  • Photo voltaics and windows to main house cleaned.
  • Rain-washed driftwood chainsawed into lengths for further rain-washing, splitting and drying.
Juvenile Bald Eagle

Juvenile Bald Eagle at camera 5

Juvenile Bald Eagle1

Juvenile Bald Eagle2

Whale watching boat comes too close and causes Sea lions to stamped

Whale watching boat comes too close and disturbs the Sea lions causing them to stamped into the water

Brandt's and Double-crested Cormorants

Brandt’s and Double-crested Cormorants

Sea lions looking shabby, but just molting

Sea lions looking shabby, but just molting

Back on the Rock

Last night’s storm blew in just as shift-change finished. Nick Townley waved goodbye from Second Nature as Chris Blondeau, still in his dry-suit from the diving activity, pulled the vessel out into the tidal stream and headed her back to Pedder Bay.

Nick Townley

Nick Townley ( a photo from last fall, selfie?).

Six students from Pearson College came out to the rock for the weekend and I started my shift with great company. Their goal was to catch up on studies (and sleep (my guess)) and to have their own experience in this gem of a biodiversity hotspot.

As we unpacked and settled into the two houses, heavy rain followed the black horizon moving in quickly from western Strait of Juan de Fuca. It was very nice to be snug inside as it was a wild night with heavy squalls. There were quite a few rattles and thumps that I didn’t recognize from last fall’s storms. Morning broke with gusts over 30 knots in the tower and alternate clearing skies and rainbows shone through and faded out on all sides. It was a white water scene with wind and current colliding in a frenzy. The barometer which had taken a nose dive Thursday and Friday, climbed back up to over 1024 HPa from Friday’s low of 1009. By noon, the westerly winds had dropped to 12 knots and the afternoon and evening was uneventful; overcast with showers and light winds shifting to northwest.

Although there was no fishing activity in the Ecological Reserve (ER) today, five wildlife viewing tour boats were noted. I was surprised by the number of both Northern and California sealions still hanging out and there were at least 75 Harbour Seals hauled out in the afternoon (not a complete count. I saw two pairs of adult bald eagles and numerous other birds including Canada Geese, Black Oystercatchers, Harlequin Ducks, Black Turnstones, Pigeon Guillemots, Double-crested and Pelagic Cormorants and an interesting mix of gulls. Many of the Glaucous-winged Gulls are already paired up and getting excited about spring. They are scattered around Great Race in all the places that there were nests last year. A much more condensed flock of gulls with about 100 birds was hunkered down in the lee of the rock on the west side of the science house. This flock was a mix of some unexpected visitors including Herring Gulls, Ring-Billed Gulls and even a few California Gulls, probably en route somewhere else. As dusk fell last night I heard the calls of Killdeer and it really felt like my home away from home.

It was great to get back up the tower again and have a good look around and for fun and more exercise, I started clearing off some of the winter’s woody debris accumulated on the marine railway. Greenlanders Hana and Malou joined in and we made it into a bit of a game, practicing our aim and strengthening arms. When we finished there was a stream of wood heading out to sea and we hoped that the whale watching boats were avoiding the busy tide lines.