Blasting and Pups

Weather

  • Visibility:15 Miles
  • Wind: 20-30 NW
  • Sky: Sunny with cloudy periods
  • Water: Very rough, 1-2 meter swells

Boats/Visitors

  • Very little boat traffic today

Ecological

  • The youngest elephant seal pup is doing well, staying close to mom with a large male sleeping close by for most of the day.
  • Saw a harbor lone seal on the east side of the island sunning itself.

Notes

  • I’m back at Race Rocks for the rest of this month. Very happy to be here again (:
  • A lot of DND blasting today. Every blast sends hundreds of birds into a frightened, flying frenzy and startles the sea lions off the rocks.

Guillemots are back

I just received this email from Pam Birley ” The Pigeon Guillemots are back !   They are even earlier this year.   It is usually February when I first see them.”     Thanks Pam for the observation from Leiscester England! Laas has also been out getting pictures of them.

 

It is also interesting to note that the elephant seal pup is doing very well this year. As Ecoguardian Laas Parnell has noted the one large male tends to keep the others on the island at bay. Hopefully this year the pup can survive once the mother leaves and it becomes a weaner. In most of the past years since pups first started being born on the island, aggressive males have led to a tragic end. I have requested BC Parks and DFO to produce a policy on what support can be offered in the event a pup is injured in the crucial period before it goes to the ocean after its month long weaning period. So far this has not been acted upon, so again this year it will be left up to chance, and hopefully the so-far protective bull will remain that way. The following pictures are from Camera1 at the top of the tower on Race Rocks.

Green-winged Teal

Weather

  • Visibility: 10-15 Miles
  • Wind: 15-25 NE
  • Sky: Cloudy
  • Water: Choppy about 1 metre

Boats/Visitors

  • a couple ecotours went by today

Ecological

  • The 4 day old pup is doing well
  • The largest male was on the other side of the lighthouse today but came “running” when he heard the mother yelling at one of the juveniles getting too close, the big guy came and chased him off so Springtide ecotours got a bit of show today
  • Also some Green-winged Teals today along with harlequins, oystercatchers and eagles

Census

Weather

  • Visibility: clear, 15 miles throughout the day
  • Wind: ranging from 9-22 knots throughout the day
  • Sky: overcast for most of the day
  • Water: calm, a bit choppy at times

Boats/Visitors

  • Didn’t notice much boat traffic today aside from the usual busy commercial freighters
  • No visitors today

Ecological

  • More failed mating attempts by the young male elephant seals with the one female on the island.

Census

  • Cormorants – 90
  • Gulls – 275
  • Elephant Seals – 6  (3 adolescent males, 1 adult male, 1 adult female and 1 pup)
  • California Sea Lions – 120
  • Stellar Seal Lions – 93
  • Black Turnstones – 10
  • Canada Geese – 4
  • Bald Eagles – 7

    Three males surround the single female currently on the island

1st Female Elephant Seal of 2018

Weather

  • Visibility: 15 miles throughout the day
  • Wind: ranging from 10-23 knots throughout the day
  • Sky: sunny with cloudy periods
  • Water: mostly calm

Boats/Visitors

  • Had one whale watching boat cruise by
  • No visitors today

Ecological

  • The first female elephant seal arrived today. One of the smaller, younger males was very persistent with her but the larger male mostly kept him away.
  • Counted 3 male elephant seals on the island today, 2 adolescents and 1 adult.
  • One elephant seal pup is still sleeping on the north side of the house and letting out the occasional yelps and cries.

 

Two juvenile bald eagles take in the morning view of commercial freighters passing by Race Rocks

The first female elephant seal to arrive

Three elephant seals have a stand off, with the female on the left and the two males on the right.

Cormorants & Scars

Weather

  • Visibility: 15 miles throughout the day
  • Wind: ranging from 10-20 knots
  • Sky: mostly sunny with some cloudy periods
  • Water: choppy at times with the wind, 1-3 foot swells

Boats/Visitors

  • Only noticed a few small pleasure crafts by pedder bay, no eco tours or divers today
  • No visitors today

Ecological

  • Still the same 4 male elephant seals on the island. They had a lazy day of sleeping with no quarrels.
  • Noticed quite a bit of scarring on the belly of one of the larger ones.
  • large group of 50-60 cormorants on the south rocks again.
  • One of the juvenile bald eagles stopped by to say hi.

Rainbows & Battle Scars

Weather

  • Visibility: clear, 15 miles throughout the day
  • Wind: 23-28 knots SW this morning, died down by noon
  • Sky: mostly sunny with some clouds
  • Water: rough this morning with 1 meter swells then calmed down throughout the day

Boats/Visitors

  • Lots of commercial vessels including a large logging barge
  • No visitors today

Ecological

  • The male elephant seals continue to fight for dominance. Didn’t notice the smallest of the original 5 around today after he lost a fight yesterday against another adolescent. The winner of that fight got into it with one of the two large males and is still around but has some fresh wounds.
  • Still one elephant seal pup here that has taken a liking to sleeping on the doorstep of my house!

 

A tug pulls a huge logging barge by Race Rocks Island

Family photo!

Huge logging barge being towed by a tug passing by Race Rocks.

Fresh battle wounds after facing a much larger male than himself.

Sandpipers, Elephant Seals & Gale Force Winds

Weather

  • Visibility: 5 miles this morning, clearing up during the day
  • Wind: windy throughout the day eventually reaching gale force by night, 30-41 knots
  • Sky: overcast and rainy all day
  • Water: calm in the morning then got rough with the wind picking up

Boats/Visitors

  • Didn’t notice much boat traffic today with the heavy winds and rain
  • No visitors today

Ecological

  • The male elephant seals have become more territorial and the larger two are starting to push their weight around.
  • Noticed a small group of sandpipers picking at the wet grass alongside black turnstones this morning

Christmas Bird Count at Race Rocks- Dec 28, 2017

This year is our 20th year in assisting the local birders with the Rocky Point Bird Observatory in doing a count at Race Rocks. Given the time of year this has to occur, it is often thwarted by bad weather, but in the past counts, some very interesting species and population numbers have shown up.  See this index of past years Bird Counts. http://www.racerocks.ca/race-rocks-animals-plants/bird-observations-at-race-rocks-3/christmas-bird-counts-starting-in-1997/

Kim Beardmore same along to record the birds for the 2017 Christmas bird count. Here Kim on the left and the Ecoguardian Mikey Muscat check on one of the 5 male elephant seals.

Although we went to count birds, I found that the most impressive thing was that there were 5 large male elephant seals on the island and two juvenile females. When compared with other years this was quite unusual, and it could be interesting when the females come back in January to have pups. I predict there will be a lot of male aggression going on in mid-January.

These four species other than several gull species and bald eagles were part of the count  which we will add below .

Other observations around the island:

Romanzoffia tracyi

I took advantage of the few hours there to check on other aspects of the island from the ecological reserve warden point of view.  Especially noticeable this year were the massive fields of mud over most parts of the island where the california sea lions hauled out over the past few months. I was concerned about the erosion and rock disturbance that this has caused.   Most of the plants in many parts of the island have been obliterated. I did however find this one healthy patch of Romanzoffia tracyi behind the boathouse. Protected because of its location among  the rocks. I checked some of the other known locations of this rare plant but didn’t see any.

Black oystercatcher midden

 

One feature that was very evident with the lack of vegetation was the extensive beds of chiton shells which are evidence of black oystercatcher middens from last season.

 

 

 

Two immature or juvenile female elephant seals were on the island, one tagged ..green C887

The five males:

I have been watching the vegetation cover made up of the introduced species of Sedum or stonecrop which was on the top of the reservoir.. In my September photo the bed was quite dried and cracked. Now it  has partially recovered.. This is one place the sealions seem to avoid.

 

Because Pearson College could not provide boat transportation this year, and because I was determined to continue the 20 year tradition of this valuable baseline collection of bird population data, we rented a boat from Pedder Bay marina for the trip to Race Rocks.  A list of the birds observed by Kim Beardmore is  attached here.

 

Race Rocks,
Dec 28, 2017 9:05 AM – 11:37 AM
Protocol: Traveling
7.5 kilometer(s)
Comments:     CBC, Race Rocks
16 species (+1 other taxa)Harlequin Duck  10  (North and west Race Rocks)
Surf Scoter  55  (outer pedder bay)
Red-breasted Merganser  18 (mostly outer Pedder bay)
Common Loon  2
Horned Grebe  1
Brandt’s Cormorant  14
Pelagic Cormorant  18
Double-crested Cormorant  10
Bald Eagle  4
Black Oystercatcher  42
Black Turnstone  59
Common Murre  1  ( in outer Pedder bay)
Pigeon Guillemot  10
Mew Gull  14
Iceland Gull (Thayer’s)  8
Glaucous-winged Gull  69
Western x Glaucous-winged Gull (hybrid)  2

The Battles Begin

Weather

  • Visibility: 10-15 miles throughout the day
  • Wind: light breezes throughout the day, 4-11 knots
  • Sky: overcast this morning then cleared up a bit by late afternoon
  • Water: mostly calm, a bit choppy at times

Boats/Visitors

  • The usual commercial freighter and barge traffic
  • Garry and a friend came out for the annual christmas bird count

Ecological

  • Two of the younger male elephant seals got into a fight/chase with the larger of the two dominating until Bernard (the biggest of the 5 males currently on the island) stepped in and sent them both on the run. With the females heading this way soon it may prove to be a bloody new year with the males fighting for dominance.
  • Large group of oyster catchers, 18-20 strong, hanging around the south west end of the island.
  • Didn’t see any canada geese today for the first time in a while.
  • Garry’s friend pointed out some harlequin ducks in the water I hadn’t noticed.
  • One of the elephant seal pups looks like an older male may have attacked it. It’s head and back are covered with lacerations and gouges.