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.

A Subdued Day on the Rock

Light northeasterly winds and grey skies made for a subdued day. The barometric pressure dropped a little, from 1020 to 1010 hPa. The forecasters are calling for a westerly gale starting after midnight, with showers and a risk of a thunderstorm.

Five whale-watching vessels were observed working in the protected area today and there were lots of sports fishing boats in the area, not fishing in the Fisheries and Oceans conservation area.

The usual Saturday dive charter was operating in the protected area and had his divers in the water on the ebb tide. They were picked up over by Turbine Rock.

Ecologically, more migrants are passing through each day. More Dunlin were spotted today, all with two legs. There were larger numbers of Black Turnstone and Surfbirds today as well. California Sea Lions are hauling out on Great Race again now, a little too close to the house for a quiet night. Geese are starting to arrive in the middle of the night too and they always do a lot of honking on touch down.

Work was mostly cleaning up and packing for a few days away. If the weather cooperates, I will head home tomorrow and Riley will take over until March 31st. I look forward to reading Riley’s blog.

 

 

83rd Day of Gregorian Calendar

Today was a more dramatic day featuring strong westerlies, 25 -30 with gusts over 35 knot, lashing rain, dark horizon lines and brief periods of brilliant sunshine. The barometric pressure has been rising since the westerly started last night and reached 1019 hPa by early evening. The forecast is for westerly winds of 20 to 30 knots diminishing to westerly 15 to 20 this evening and to light Friday morning. Friday has a sunnier look and the UV index is forecast to be 4 or moderate.

No whale-watching vessels were observed working in the area today and it would have been miserable for those on deck if they had been out in this weather. No boats were seen in the Protected Area today.

Migratory shorebirds continue to take rest, food and shelter on Great Race. Today I had the opportunity to observe two feeding on (?) above the inter-tidal but in a ‘rich’ spot occupied by hundreds of sea lions in the fall. The cormorants and sea lions switched rocks today. I am not sure how the various haul-outs are chosen by the different species but see the changes.

The large, female Northern Elephant Seal (nick-named Beulah) got really energetic this morning and moved about 15 meters. She is now stretched out beside the walkway to the Eco-guardian’s house.

Today was animal census day but the weather was so bad that I am going to do it tomorrow. Harbour Seal haul-outs almost all have breaking waves so few hauled out; very windy and rough.

There wasn’t enough light to run the de-salinator today but there was enough to take a few photos. No visitors today. Chores were routine.

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.

Maintenance

  • 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.
Challange

Challange

Battle wounds

Battle wounds

Trumpeting in the water

Trumpeting in the water

Immature Bald Eagle

Immature Bald Eagle

Dunlin

Dunlin

Canadian Geese

Canadian Geese

Bald Eagle with catch

Bald Eagle with catch

BEagle with fish2BEagle 2

BEagle in flight2

Gale warning forecast

We began the day with 32 knots and the wind never stopped rising to 40.7 knots around 8:00PM. What a pretty windy month!

All the birds were in the sheltered side away from the wind so it was easy to spot them. Before dusk we saw 10 Turnstones, 2 Western Sandpipers and 3or 4 Dunlins. They were not around a few days before. Exciting!

I even found a ladybug, a small one in the house. Another new species on this small rock

No whale watchers today …Thanks to the wind.

 

The Day After Blue Planet Day

Winds started out very light from a northerly direction and eventually backed all the way through east, southeast and around to westerlies, 15 to 20 knots and gusting, in the afternoon. Although there were some clouds and showers it seemed to be a nice day, but when you look at cumulative solar radiation values they were less than half of yesterday’s values at just below 300 Langleys. The barometer fell gradually all day and levelled out near dusk ending up at ~100.5 HPa. The strong wind warning remains in effect and is forecast to be strongest in the afternoons for the next few days.

Whale watching boats were back today after the storm subsided and four were observed in the Ecological Reserve. They were meeting and exceeding the Marine Mammal Regulations and although a couple of the smaller cowboys did manage to get between Great Race and South Islands. They were going so slowly and cautiously that the sealions that didn’t even wake up as the boats passed by.

No sports fishers or other vessels were observed in the ER.

Black Turnstones in all their summer finery.

Black Turnstones in all their summer finery.

One branded Steller’s Sealion was noted hauled out on the South Islands. This female with brand # 120Y was born at St. George Reef, California in 2002.

Female Steller's (or Northern) Sealion # 120Y. This animal was born in northern California and will be 13 years old this summer.

Female Steller’s (or Northern) Sealion # 120Y. This animal was born in northern California and will be 13 years old this summer.

Today was animal census day and the results are as follows:

Northern Elephant Seals 34 (8 on Great Race)

Harbour Seals 44 (note 137 counted following day, less windy)

California Sea lions 11

Northern Sea lions 38

Sea Otter 1

Canada Geese 18

Harlequin Ducks 4

Pelagic Cormorants 4

Double Crested Cormorants 5

Bald Eagle 2 adults, 2 sub-adults

Killdeer 1

Black Oystercatchers 10

Black Turnstones 15

Surfbird 23

Dunlin 4

Pigeon Guillemots 383

Glaucous-winged Gulls 488 adults 18 sub-adults

Caspian Tern 1 (flying through)

Common Raven 1

Barn Swallows 2

Savannah Sparrow 6

There were no visitors today. Chores were routine.

 

 

Blustery Spring Weather

When you live on a small coastal islet, mysterious things happen with Internet and phone connections from time to time. Both crashed here last night so this blog is a combination of the two days. The weather has been typical of early spring weather in coastal British Columbia. Winds have generally been about 10 to 20 knots, swinging around from west to northwest and back again. Spectacular stacks of clouds keep rolling down the Strait from open ocean and the heavy showers visible in the surrounding hills would inspire any watercolour painter. Race Rocks itself seems to be in a drier micro-climate most of the time with showers all around – the centre of the donut. Dramatic skies continued right into sunset tonight with beautiful pinks and oranges framed by sweeping, purple and gray-blue clouds. The forecast for tomorrow looks even brighter.

South across the Strait, there was fresh snow, low in the Elwha Valley this morning and you could feel that cold nip in the air: perfect weather for sea going salmon smolts and just what the herring often spawn in. Speaking of weather, the weather station appears to have crashed so I will trouble-shoot that in the morning.

Eleven Northern Elephant Seals were hauled out on Middle Rock yesterday and one checked out the jetty ramp this morning.

Eleven Northern Elephant Seals were hauled out on Middle Rock yesterday and one checked out the jetty ramp this morning.

In spite of the blustery conditions, there were three whale watching boats in the Ecological Reserve today and lots to see in terms of smaller wildlife which are often over-looked and are really stunning in their own right.

Two charismatic species, a Black Oystercatcher and a Harlequin Duck share a rock.

Two charismatic species, a Black Oystercatcher and a Harlequin Duck share a rock.

This Oystercatcher likes to stand with his/her toes crossed. Does it make for more stability in the wind?

The toe-crossing Black Oystercatcher.

The toe-crossing Black Oystercatcher.

Here is a challenge for you, inspired by the ‘Marine Detective’ who does a similar thing with underwater photos of cryptic fish. How many species and how many birds can you spot in the photo below?

A mixed species flock of shorebirds rests on Race Rocks in the lee of the Light Tower and main house. How many species and how many birds? More hints (photos) to follow on the different species.

A mixed species flock of shorebirds rests on Race Rocks in the lee of the Light Tower and main house. How many species and how many birds? More hints (photos) to follow on the different species.

All of these species nest on the ground so being hard to see is a good thing. So does the stay-at-home Black Oystercatcher which is hard to ignore and nests along the BC coast, close to its’ natal shore.

Many of the shorebirds resting here on Race Rocks, fly all the way up to the arctic to breed. Surfbirds nest on mountain ridges in the Yukon and Alaska while Dunlin prefer wet coastal tundra. Rock Sandpipers make their nests on the tundra in northwestern Alaska near the Bering Sea. Black Turnstones also nest along the Bering Sea, near coastal meadows in western Alaska.

This little bird wings its way to the mountains of the Yukon and Alaska to nest.

This little bird wings its way to the mountains of the Yukon and Alaska to nest.

Another arctic breeder, I think the bird in front is a Dunlin.

Another arctic breeder, I think the bird in front is a Dunlin.

This Bering Sea, tundra nester sips a bit of water off a rock in between naps.

This Bering Sea, tundra nester sips a bit of water off a rock in between naps.

Although I wouldn’t call it a migration, I did a few kilometers today, wheel barrowing around firewood wood and wood chips, tending the desalinator and energy building, and getting distracted from my labours by photographing birds.  I was really pleased that the sunshine allowed for water making with the desalinator without the using the generator. The genny only required an hour run time, to top up the batteries thanks to the solar panels.

A Mighty Wind’s a Blowin’ for Census Day

The barometer dropped all last night from 1015 hPa to 1002 hPa this morning, before it began to climb again towards 1008 by the end of the day.   The wind started from the northeast, but then switched to blow strongly from the southwest from mid morning onwards. The gusts reached 47 knots in the evening.

There were two whale watching boats seen in the reserve.

Once the fog lifted, the census was a bit easier to do. Then the wind blew up and most of the birds hunkered down on the leeward side of the island. I wasn’t able to positively identify all of the individual species of gull. Next week, I will strive to get an accurate breakdown of the number of glaucous-winged, thayer’s, california, western and heerman’s. There are a lot fewer gulls compared to last week, only 14% of the 3224 that were on the reserve last Thursday.

See the photos below for some of the noteworthy species and sights seen during today’s census.

Here are the results of the census:

Steller Sea Lion: 211

California Sea Lion: 404

Harbour Seal: 7

Northern Elephant Seal: 11

Bald Eagle: 1

Canada Goose: 24

Double Crested Cormorant: 14

Pelagic Cormorant: 56

Gull: 450

Black Oystercatcher: 18

Black Turnstone: 26

Surfbirds: 15

Dunlin: 4

Killdeer: 2

Savannah Sparrow: 2

Fox Sparrow: 1

A rainbow appeared as the fog was burning off this morning. Turbine Rock is in the foreground. The pot of gold is Church Point.

A rainbow appeared as the fog was burning off this morning. West Rock is in the foreground. The pot of gold is Church Point.

A savannah sparrow near the burial mounds by the marine science centre

A savannah sparrow near the burial mounds by the marine science centre

Another view of a savannah sparrow near the burial mounds by the marine science centre

Another view of a savannah sparrow

Black turnstone

Black turnstone

Black turnstone on the boardwalk by the crane

Black turnstones on the boardwalk by the crane

A male elephant seal barks and floats beside the jetty.

A male elephant seal floats and barks beside the jetty.

Sandpiper-like birds: durlin, surfbird and black turnstone

Sandpiper-like birds: dunlin, surfbird and black turnstone. Can you identify them all?

A black turnstone and elephant seal share boat ramp

A black turnstone and elephant seal share the boat ramp

Black oystercatchers on the rocks by the surge channel

Black oystercatchers on the rocks by the surge channel

A steller sea lion with the brand "966R." The "R" signifies that it was branded in Rogue Reef, Oregon. I will add more information when I find out.

A steller sea lion with the brand “966R.” The “R” signifies that it was branded in Rogue Reef, Oregon. I will add more information when I find out.  [Updated information from Pat Gearin with the NOAA: The Steller was branded as a pup at Rogue Reef, Oregon in July 2011.  It is a male and so far we have 9 resights from this individual, all from BC.  In 2011, he was sighted at Pachena Point once, and in 2012 he was sighted at Carmanah 8 times.]

Another view of 966R

Another view of 966R

A branded california sea lion with the brand "U596." The "U" or "C" depending on which way you look at it,  means that the sea lion was captured in the Columbia River Area. It was branded in Astoria, Oregon.

A branded california sea lion with the brand “U596.” The “U” or “C” depending on which way you look at it, means that the sea lion was captured in the Columbia River Area. It was branded in Astoria, Oregon.  [Updated information from Matthew Tennis: U596 was branded on August 15, 2014 in Astoria. At that time he weighed ~193 kg. He was seen in Astoria for a few days following the branding and again in the middle of October. This is the first resight for this animal outside of Astoria. They have high site fidelity and being a relatively young animal, it is very possible he will be seen at Race Rocks for years to come.]

A group of steller and california sea lions get bashed by the waves on the south islands.

A group of steller and california sea lions get bashed by the wind and waves on the south islands.

The wind gusted to 47 knots from the south west during the late afternoon, whipping up big waves. The buoy that marks Rosedale Reef can be seen getting tossed around in the background.

The wind gusts reached 47 knots from the southwest during the late afternoon, whipping up big waves. The buoy that marks Rosedale Rock can be seen getting tossed around in the background.

lighthouse moonrise

The lighthouse with the moon rising behind