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.

Lone Goose & Harbour Seals

Weather

  • Visibility: clear, 15 miles throughout the day
  • Wind: light breeze all day, NE
  • Sky: overcast this morning with a bit of sun in the late afternoon
  • Water: mostly calm, a bit choppy at times

Boats/Visitors

  • Didn’t notice much boat traffic today, a few eco tours/whale watchers went by
  • No visitors today

Ecological

  • Group of 12-14 harbour seals on the south east rocks
  • Five male elephant seals are still here
  • Had a lone canada goose waiting diligently in the same spot from 8am until it’s mate came back around 2 or 3pm.

Other

  • I’m hoping the weather holds for the annual bird count to happen tomorrow, though there is rain in the forecast.

Census & Five Male Elephant Seals

Weather

  • Visibility: 15 miles all day
  • Wind: Light breezes throughout the day NE mostly
  • Sky: mostly cloudy
  • Water: a bit rough, one to two foot swells

Boats/Visitors

  • Boat traffic was pretty minimum today again, saw one fishing boat go by
  • No visitors today

Ecological

  • There are now a total of 5 male elephant seals on the island. Two are full grown and the other three are adolescents.
  • The two elephant seal pups are still around as well.

Census

  • California Sea Lions – 78
  • Stellar Sea Lions – 64
  • Harbour Seals – 2
  • Elephant Seals – 7
  • Gulls – 58
  • Cormorants – 16
  • Bald Eagles – 2
  • Black Turnstones – 6

A Third Male Elephant Seal & Merry Christmas!

Weather

  • Visibility: 15 miles throughout the day
  • Wind: light breeze throughout the day
  • Sky: overcast this morning then cleared up with lots of sun by afternoon
  • Water: mostly calm, a bit choppy at times

Boats/Visitors

  • Only noticed one or two small boats in the distance
  • No visitors today

Ecological

  • A third male elephant seal showed up today but is much younger then the other two and only half the size. The three ended up in the same are as each other for the first time and Bernard asserted a bit of dominance, pushing the other two back from the centre of the island.
  • Another elephant seal pup showed up today too

Other

  • Will do another census tomorrow

Elephant Seal Duo

Weather

  • Visibility: mostly clear in the day with fog and a bit of snow in the evening
  • Wind: Light gusts throughout the day
  • Sky: Cloudy with sunny periods
  • Water: a bit rough, 1 meter swells at times

Boats/Visitors

  • had the usual ‘4 ever wild’ whale watching boat go by
  • No visitors today

Ecological

  • Still a decent amount of sea lions on and around the island.
  • The two big male elephant seals have been mostly keeping their distance from each other but today Bernard, the larger of the two, asserted a bit of dominance by moving closer inland towards Big George, the smaller of the two.

Other

  • DND blasting has taken a break for the past few weeks which has been nice.

Windy Day

Weather

  • Visibility: very clear throughout the day, 15 Miles
  • Wind: heavy winds all day reaching upwards of 33 knots
  • Sky: sunny with no clouds
  • Water: rough, 3 foot swells

Boats/Visitors

  • Boat traffic was pretty minimum today with the rough water
  • No visitors today

Ecological

  • Not much has changed in terms of wildlife on the island in the last few days. Consistent number of gulls, sea lions, eagles, black turnstones, canada geese and cormorants with one or two large male elephant seals.

A Break From the Blasts

Weather

  • Visibility: Clear throughout the day
  • Wind: Light breezes throughout the day with strong gusts up to 40 knots overnight
  • Sky: Cloudy with sunny break
  • Water: a bit choppy, one foot swells in the morning

Boats/Visitors

  • Boat traffic was pretty minimum today, whale watching boat cruised by
  • No visitors today

Ecological

  • Not much has changed in terms of wildlife on the island in the last few days. Consistent number of gulls, sea lions, eagles, black turnstones, canada geese and cormorants with one or large two male elephant seals.
  • Haven’t seen any whales of any kind yet unfortunately.

Other

  • DND blasting has taken a break for the past week which has been nice.

Stellar Pups

Weather

  • Visibility: 15 miles for most of the day with the Washington coast as clear as I’ve seen it so far, until early evening when fog came in from the east covering downtown Victoria from view.
  • Wind: Little to no breeze during the day with it picking up to 14-18 knots by 7pm.
  • Sky: Mostly cloudy with some sun
  • Water: calm throughout the day, a bit choppy at times

Boats/Visitors

  • Boat traffic was fairly minimum today with the usual commercial vessels in the distance and one or two whale watching boats.
  • No visitors today

Ecological

  • There seems to be more stellar sea lion pups on the island, especially on the south rocks in the last few days, though I may just have not noticed them among the “piles” of bodies as they tend to lay all over each other.
  • Still lots of Black Turnstones, Cormorants, Eagles, Canada Geese and Gulls around
  • Only saw one of the male elephant seals around today

Other

  • Chopped some bigger logs into kindling for the woodstove this afternoon and cleaned up a lot of rocks of varying sizes that have been falling from the paths and bank walls between the lighthouse and science house.
  • Pretty chilly today, had frost on the ground and frozen puddles for the first time.

Sleepy Seals and Hungry Geese

Weather

  • Visibility: 15 miles throughout the day, clearest day I’ve seen here since Dec 1
  • Wind: Light breezes throughout the day
  • Sky: very sunny
  • Water: mostly calm

Boats/Visitors

  • No visitors today
  • Had the usual divers and whale watching boats go by

Ecological

  • Still a lot of Sea Lions around. South Rock is almost always covered with Stellar and Californias.
  • Consistent small groups of Canada Geese munching on the grass
  • Two male Elephant Seals are still hanging around, sleeping mostly