Sea Lions, Boats, & Other Stuff


  • Visibility: 15+ miles (Mt. Baker visible)
  • Wind: 5-10 knots West
  • Sky: overcast
  • Water: rippled


  • 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


  • Ran the saltwater pump into the cistern for 5 and a quarter hours.


  • 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


  • 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!


  • 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


  • Cleaned the solar panels.
  • Tidied up a few odds and ends.
  • The usual chores.


  • A few eco-tours today.
  • One rental boat came through the middle of the reserve.


  • No visitors today.
  • Quite a nice, relaxing day today.
  • The kind of day that makes one appreciate being alone.

The Cackling Goose!


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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.


  • Several eco-tours came by today.
  • One small boat was observed speeding in the reserve.

In the Fog.

The sky was mostly clear in the morning but fog moved in and dominated the rest of the day. The wind switched from east northeast around to west in advance of the fog and then blew fairly steadily west at 20 – 25 knots. The barometer held its own today at and around 1014 hPA. There is a strong wind warning in effect expecting west 20 – 30 this evening and again late afternoon, evening on Friday. There is a chance of showers on Friday and then it is supposed to clear again.

In spite of the thick fog in the afternoon, eight whale watching vessels were observed working in the Ecological Reserve today. Two “pleasure” craft were also observed, and one almost ended up on Middle Rock. The ebb tide was sweeping swept out to sea as they tracked across from North Rocks and they were pushed into the kelp bed just before Middle Rock before they adjusted course and powered out. They were lucky to not have been stalled by kelp in the wheel.

Ecological observations were limited by visibility today. I could hear the whale watchers talking about a Humpback Whale in the vicinity but did not observe it. The animal census will have to wait until there is visibility. The Canada Geese are arriving after dark now and taking up other stealth tactics to stay on Great Race.

Fog remained thick at the end of the day. Chores were largely Sisyphean in nature as keeping the California Sea Lions away from the houses and buildings becomes a more and more Herculean task given the resources. There were no visitors.


Sumo-sized Sea Lions

It was a copycat kind of day, weather wise, the same as yesterday and the day before. Calm, very light winds and clears skies. The barometer continued the drop started on Sunday and is now below 1012 hPa again. The forecast is calling for a switch to light winds west 10 -1 5 and a mix of sun and cloud until Friday when showers are expected..

Whale watching traffic in the Ecological Reserve was fairly light with only eight observed visits. All the operators did really well today. They slowed on entry, went with the current, drove in a responsible way that respected the protected area and saved speeding up until they were clear of the reserve. This is the sort of cooperative behavior that is the norm for sustainable operations in reserve. Observations were made of “sports” fishers hauling in lingcod and rockfish in the Race Rocks Rockfish Conservation area.

Although there may have been more elsewhere, there was no lack of whale action around Race Rocks today. Three Biggs Killer Whales were spotted travelling from east to west through Race Passage in the morning and a Humpback Whale went the other way, in the afternoon, spending some time feeding close to North Rocks. There large multi-species feeding flocks in the same area. Perhaps there are balls of forage fish there.

I saw a large kelp raft, first of the season, sweeping out to sea with the ebbing tide today. This annual kelp becomes more and more prevalent in the tidelines as autumn progresses and the winter storms will remove most of it before spring. It is a great carbon sink that fixes large amounts of carbon, which will eventually become entombed on the bottom. Not all of it goes out to sea and sinks though. Kelp that lands on shore is a key part of near shore food webs relying on this large volume of rotting biomass to fuel new generations of shore spawners and out going young salmon.

Chores were routine again and the sunshine is allowing for recovery of freshwater lost earlier in the month. The level is almost back up to where it was on September 5th. There were no visitors.


Strong Westerlies

It was a westerly kind of a day, gusting 25 – 30 knots all morning under partially clear skies. In the afternoon gusts were stronger, churning the sea into a white froth. The wind speed dropped to 20 knots in the evening and was closer to 15 by the time the sun went down. Although the fog was threatening early, it stayed off to the west and the haze that has hanging around was cleared by the wind and replaced with building clouds. The strong wind warning continues and the forecast for Monday is mainly cloudy. The barometer continues its step-wise descent.

In spite of blustery conditions and because of all the marine mammal action there were 18 visits observed by commercial tour operators today. Whale watching was good in the area today and the sea lost some salt to exhilarated looking tourists who had their hoods on and exposure suits battened down in the smaller open boats. No other vessels were observed in reserve.

It was another exciting day on the mammal front with Humpbacks all around, Killer Whales in Race Passage, an increased number of sea lions and return of at least one elephant seal to Great Race Island. Salmon continue to be an important part of gull diet in the area and that is mostly due to scavenging off kills by sea lions.

One of the California sea lions that hauled out with a big new flasher last week, has managed to get rid of it. I am not sure if the hook is inside but today he just had a little broken piece of the flasher hanging out of his mouth when I went to do the seawater sampling and when I came back it was lying on the walkway with its bead chain still looking shiny. There are several ‘necklaced’ sea lions here right now. They all seem to have white plastic strapping around their necks and it looks deadly.

There are only a few Glaucous-winged Gulls left on Great Race and not many more that are still being fed by parents. I photographed one juvenile eat salmon caviar brought back and deposited with special serving and plating effects by its parent. Lots of people think that gull is just a four- letter word associated with human garbage and super abundant. Glaucous-winged Gulls are the only species (of ten species seen here) that actually nest in the Salish Sea and their numbers have been declining for a few years now. Known in birder code as GwGu this four letter word represents an important species in the local ecosystem that is a risk due to human activity. In many areas plastic pollution poses a serious threat to young gulls that do not know better than to eat it. From the evidence so far far at Race Rocks, GwGu have been fairly plastics-free. Lets keep it that way.

Although most of the bull kelp is still very strong and beautiful, many of the stipes have epiphytic green or red algae growing on them now as they start to senesce. Bull kelp is an annual species and it grows very fast during the spring and summer. Soon the storms will be dispersing these incredible carbon sinks and some will end up on the bottom entombed in mud. Sinking plankton takes the most carbon to the bottom, helping make the ocean the world’s biggest carbon sink for atmospheric carbon dioxide. Thank you ocean, for being such a complex regulator of climate.

Ashore, the Calendula is still blooming giving new meaning to the term perennial. This plant flowers all year round here, looking as fresh in September as it does in March. It closes up when it is cold and wilts in frost but survives as a remnant of a long-gone lighthouse keeper’s garden. Native to the Mediterranean, Calendula’s bright, cheery blooms are incredibly resilient and it is one of the few plants the Canada Geese don’t eat. Although it probably shouldn’t be flourishing in an Ecological Reserve here, I am glad it is here and it reminds me that people are part of the ecosystem.

Again chores were routine and there were no visitors.

June 30th Strange decorations on seals

At 4.45 the wind was still 20 knots and 26 knots and stayed around 25 .it was a foggy morning too. Actually the whole day the horn went on and off.

The interesting fact of the day was a seal on a rock we saw with a strange white spot on the side but closed to his mouth and with the binoculars we didn’t know if it was a kind of fishing tackle or a tag …but a pretty big tag! And that’s when we saw a second one with the same kind of decoration. Guy took a picture and we asked our specialists friends. Garry confirmed that it was a  fishing flasher. Pretty dangerous actually and he told us that there are no dissolvable lines and lure when inside the gut of the sea lions so please tell it around…we need to lobby DFO to make it mandatory.goflasher2015-07
Yesterday the letters on the aluminum tank needed to be scraped. Done by Guy while  I went on with some cleaning, tiding up and sorting out in the main house. After that it was time for me for some watercolor painting.

March 24 – Sea Otter

Sunny, patches of rain the afternoon
Wind: W 4-17 knots, calm in the late evening
Air Temperature: Low 7.7°C, High 10.7°C
Ocean Temperature: 8.9°C

This afternoon, a ring-necked california sea lion was observed on the South Islands. It had something tightly wrapped around its neck, which is digging into the flesh.

While observing the sea lions, a small creature appeared on the edge of the rock ten metres away from them. Much smaller than the sea lions, at about one metre long, it was eating the molluscs in the intertidal zone. To my great excitement, it was a sea otter (enhydra lutris). The sea otter ate, dove, rolled and swam around the South Islands for about two hours.

Overcast with Calm Seas

The barometer continued to drop slowly from 1023 to 1018 hPa.  The wind continued to blow between 8 and 18 knots from the northeast.  There was a difference in the weather today, compared to the clear sunny skies that have been the usual for the past week.  Low clouds hung over the Juan de Fuca Strait for most of the day.  There were occasional breaks of sun in the late morning and early afternoon.  The whitecaps this morning calmed right down in the afternoon, making the sea the calmest it’s been for the past few weeks.

There was one recreational boat seen this morning in the southern part of the reserve.

Pam Birley, from the UK, sent two photos of sea lions that she captured on Camera 1, located at the top of the lighthouse.  Pam’s photos show two branded sea lions that have never been spotted at Race Rocks, as far as I can tell.  See the photos below.  Thanks Pam!

The desalinator was run today to top up the fresh water cistern.  The solar panels aren’t soaking up as much energy, due to the clouds.  The generator was run longer today to help out the energy intensive desalinator.

Ring-necked Steller Sea Lion

The wind blew between 20 to 38 knots from the northeast for most of the day, switching to the east southeast in the evening.  A swell with 1m waves came in from the east.  The barometer climbed from 1023 to 1026 hPa.  The visibility was unlimited, with clear skies.

There weren’t any boats seen in the reserve today.

A ring-necked steller sea lion was seen on South Rock, the same place that another one was seen yesterday.  The sea lion has the brand 946R.  It has been seen at Race Rocks since August.  The Sea Lion Disentanglement Project is arranging a visit to rescue the two or three entangled sea lions that have been spotted recently on Race Rocks.