Foggy Day


  • Visibility: 0-5 miles
  • Wind: 10-15 knots W, then around to NE
  • Sky: fog!
  • Water: calm
  • The foghorn was beeping off and on much of the morning and afternoon.


  • 3 elephant seals on Great Race.


  • Ran the desalinator.


  • No boats that I’m aware of.

Various Boats


  • Visibility: 15 miles
  • Wind: 5-10 NE
  • Sky: clear
  • Water: calm
  • The fog horn went off from at least 4am-7am.


  • Saw a great blue heron fly over the reserve around 11.
  • Was unable to get a photograph though.
  • 6 elephant seals on Great Race.


  • Added most of a diesel barrel to the tidy tank.
  • Ran the desalinator in the evening.
  • The usual chores.


  • Several eco-tours came by today.
  • A sailboat glided peacefully through middle channel.
  • One pleasure craft was observed travelling at a speed which was likely over the limit.
  • A rather peculiar looking craft spent much of the daylight hours near North Rock.

A Strong Breeze


  • Visibility: 15 miles with occasional fog interludes
  • Wind: 20-25 knots NE, later down to 15
  • Sky: showers
  • Water: choppy, especially in Middle Channel where waves and current collided.
  • The foghorn went off for a minute or so in the afternoon.



  • Still lots of sea lions on and around the jetty.
  • Lots of Canada Geese on the island.


  • Yesterday at 21:30 the windspeed display showed 00.0 despite clear wind.
  • It started working again sometime in the early morning.
  • The usual chores.


  • A few eco-tours came by in the afternoon.
  • One of them was here when the foghorn went off.




  • Visibility: At times down to 1/8 of a mile. Average of 5 miles today.
  • Wind: 5-10 knots N
  • Sky: lots of fog
  • Water: calm
  • The fog rolled in and out a few times. Often quite thick.


  • One elephant seal was spied slumbering amongst the sea lions.
  • He didn’t seem too impressed by their antics whenever I walked by.


  • Had to reattach the electric fence again.
  • The usual chores.


  • A few boats about. Nothing major to report.


  • Found some sort of a sign in the rocks by the ramp.


Fog ‘n Whales


  • Visibility: ranging between 0 and 15+ miles today.
  • Wind: 0-5 knots, at various times from the N, S, or W.
  • Sky: cloudy and often very foggy.
  • Water: calm.


  • At least 3 orcas swam along the edge of the reserve from West Rock towards the North Rocks this afternoon.
  • They were followed by several boats.
  • Noticed a few elephant seals mingling with the sea lions near the energy building and on the ramp.


  • Reset the electric fence in the morning.
  • Cleaned the solar panels.
  • The usual stuff like toilet maintenance, sea water sample, and generator.


  • When it wasn’t foggy there were several ecotours in the reserve today.
  • Several times there were three boats quite close together viewing the sea lions.
  • At times I wondered if perhaps some of the ecotours were both technically in the reserve (not allowed when whales are present) and too close to the whales (see above photos).


  • Three pairs of DND blasting today.
  • 11:47 and 11:49.
  • 1:28 and 1:30.
  • 2:24 and 2:26.
  • The Fog Horn was active much of the night and often throughout the day.

Blog On.

This blog covers three days, September 15, 16 and 17th; Thursday, Friday and Saturday. It will be replaced by a point form log for the rest of the stay.

Weather and Sea Conditions

Thursday was part of the last high pressure system with sunny afternoon westerlies of 10 – 15 knots. Friday was a transition day with heavy fog burning off by early afternoon and accompanied by westerlies of up to 25 knots. By dusk it had clouded over and showers continued overnight and into Saturday morning. This wet weather came with winds from the north. Morning fog patches continued Saturday and by early afternoon the wind switched from 10 – 15 knots north, to 25 -30 knots west partially cleared with sun between showers. The marine forecast for Central Juan de Fuca Strait includes a strong westerly wind warning. The wind is predicted to drop to westerly 10 to 15 early Sunday morning and showers are expected to end near midnight Saturday.

It appears that the Race Rocks Ecological Reserve weather station has not been operating since mid-June, so longer-term context is not possible other than anecdotal information recorded in recent logs.

Vessels in Ecological Reserve

Commercial whale-watching activity inside the Ecological Reserve boundaries is busy, with 20 commercial visits noted on the 16th and 14 visits on the 17th. The guidelines for vessel activity are not being observed by all operators and some of the commercial vessels are as close as 5 meters from the sea lions (and shore). Some very large vessels are going through shallow passages, making erratic turns in the current, travelling against the current and several vessels were seen speeding (> 7 knots within 400 m of Great Race). No other commercial activity was observed. Although several recreational vessels were seen passing through, there was no sports-fishing activity noted within the closed area.


Seasonal shifts are apparent with the return of some ‘winter’ species and visits by fall migrants. There are only seven Glaucous-winged Gull chicks left on Great Race Island that are not fully fledged. The smallest, chick has a badly injured left leg. One other still has pinfeathers on its head and the rest are close to flying. There are notably fewer gull chick remains on the island this year perhaps indicating a lower mortality rate. There does not appear to be any data on the number of nests or their productivity this year so it may just reflect lower productivity. The logged death of the old River Otter may be related to the drop in chick carcass numbers.

Glaucous-winged Gulls are still the dominant gull species here on Great Race. California Gulls are abundant in the area but not roosting on Great Race yet. There are large (>1,000 birds), mixed species, feeding flocks adjacent to the Ecological Reserve in Race Passage and in the distance. California Gulls have been seen resting on thick mats of Bull Kelp in Middle Channel.

Black Turnstones and Surfbirds have returned from the Arctic where they nest in the summer. One Ruddy Turnstone was noted today feeding on flies, fuel for a migration that may extend as far south as South America. A single Sanderling was noted both Friday and Saturday and this is another species that nests in the Arctic and is widespread in the ‘winter’. Black Oystercatchers, which are much more site fidel, are roosting near the energy building in the evenings. At least one Kildeer was heard each evening just after dark.

Both Stellers (Northern) and California Sea Lions are moulting this time of year and are hauling out on Great Race, South Seal and South Islands as well as Middle Rocks and Turbine Rock. Photos were taken and processed, of branded, tagged and entangled sea lions.

Northern Elephant Seals are hauling on both Middle and Great Race and a total of six were noted Saturday. No big males. Harbour Seals are abundant and using these haul-out areas; West, Middle, Turbine, North and South Seal Rocks and South Islands.

A single Sea Otter was observed in the kelp just south of North Rocks Saturday morning.

One Humpback Whale was noted feeding near the Ecological Reserve.


Solar panels are maintaining power for the island in spite of intermittent cloud and showers. Without the weather station operational, sunlight levels are not being measured. The diesel generator is run for a couple of hours each evening to top up the batteries for the night.


Kyle brought three visitors yesterday, two from Ocean Networks Canada and one from Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, for a site visit.

Maintenance and Operations

Regular chores included the 06:15 daily weather report for Pedder Bay Marina, daily solar panel maintenance, walkway cleaning, repairing and electrifying fences. The outside of the fuel barrel (eco-four) house was scrubbed, tops of fuel barrels stored outside were drained of water, and windows in the energy building were washed. The “science” house was inspected, an open window closed in the basement, exterior electrical box was noted broken from wall and conduit open at bottom (photo). Science house furnace was full on and the upstairs temperature was 22.0o C. Thermostat turned down. It was noted that diesel had been spilled in basement. Spill pads on the fuel drum are saturated and there was diesel on the entry bootscrubber/doormat. Looked at derrick dock woodpile and noted creosoted and pressure treated wood in woodpile, probably a health hazard to burn. Inspected chainsaw chain…just needs filing. Took VHF, charger and manual to top of tower to replace the one missing from there. Wheelbarrows were deployed for rainwater catchment. The conductivity meter’s line was marked with yellow electrical tape so that seawater sampling could be done at measured depth. In the energy building an attempt was made to align the indicator lights on the three Xantrax controllers with the holes. Two out of three can now be seen and the middle one can be seen plainly with the lights out. The flashing rate of these lights indicate the controller’s stage of operation and approximate battery voltage which is helpful to knowing how long to run the generator. Weather station troubleshooting will continue tomorrow.


Thick Foggy Day


  • Visibility: 10 miles at 5:30, down to 1/4 mile from 8:00-early afternoon. Back up to 10 in the evening.
  • Wind: 10-15 knots West in the morning, up to 25 in the evening.
  • Sky: fog everywhere! Fog horn went off continuously from 5:30-2:30.
  • Water: rippled, 2′ chop in the evening.


  • 17 elephant seals on Great Race today!
  • I think the 2 new ones are from Middle Rock, where only 2 remain.
  • Counted 88 harbour seals on Turbine Rock.
  • A rather subdued day for all the animals today. I suspect the fog had an impact.


  • Re-attached the gasket on the door of the wood stove. It had been partially pulled off by an errant log last time I made a fire.
  • Weed whacked more thistles and stuff.


  • Zero boats because fog.

Moulting is Itchy Business

Weather and Sea Conditions

After a hesitant start, with locally overcast skies and fog to the southeast, the sun was blazing by afternoon and it stayed that way into the evening. The UV index rose to almost 6 today, which is high. The wind started at 15 to 20 knots from the west, dropped and turned to the south and southeast and then returned to west15 to 20 knots by early evening. The barometric pressure stayed fairly steady between 1005 and 1010 hPa. The forecast calls for the westerly to increase to 15 to 20 early this evening and to 20 to 30 late this evening, then to drop to 5 to 15 knots late overnight. They expect a similar wind pattern tomorrow with more cloud.

Vessel Observations

Seven whale watching vessels were documented working in the protected area today and most followed the rules. One yellow zodiac exited past West Rock heading west, at high speed. Better communication is needed about boundaries, limits and a reminder about keeping at least 100 meters away from marine mammals might be helpful. I know these ecotourism operators want this good thing to last.

Ecological and General Observations

A nice low tide this morning exposed all the beautiful new seaweeds of the season. Bull kelp is growing fast and the Mazzaella splendens is a rich, iridescent burgundy colour. Fresh kelps like Alaria, Laminaria and Cymathere triplicata festoon the rocks in the lower intertidal areas. Up high, the more ephemeral species of nori and sea lettuce are starting to go reproductive and lose their ‘bloom’.

A high density of grazers, keeps the seaweeds in check and feeds the gulls and oystercatchers.

More elephant seals arrived today bringing the number moulting in the garden to eight. On land they are the epitome of lethargic. It is a real treat to watch them in the water, they are so graceful and languid as they chase and roll and spin in slow motion. I also see the River Otter and Sea Otter daily, which is always interesting. The Sea Otter hung out with the Harbour Seals today while they were hauled out on South Rocks. He just floated a couple of metres away as they slept on the rock. He dozed in the water, using the back eddies to stay close. Later he positioned himself in a back eddy that kept him almost stationary, while meters away the current that blasted past at almost six knots. Very savvy sea otter.

There were a lot of shorebirds today, about fifty Surfbirds, a few Rock Sandpipers and a couple of Dunlin. The Black Turnstone numbers are swelling too so I think the migration is happening. The turnstones I watched foraging seemed voracious.

Eagles Use Foghorn Daily


The morning started with either low cloud or high cloud. The sun shone under the fog on the Victoria side and on the Sooke side it thickened and the ceiling lowered to become more fog-like. Port Angeles was obscured early. The fog lifted from east to west and resulted in a beautiful clear day with a west wind of 20 – 25 knots, constant throughout the day. Barometric pressure held fairly steady as well, at 1016 -1017 hPa. The marine forecast for the central Strait has a strong wind warning in effect, calling for west winds of 20 to 30 knots and there are showers in forecast.

No whale watching vessels were observed today. One ‘sports’ fishing vessel was observed inside the boundary today but no fishing activity was observed in the protected area.

Second Nature visited briefly with Kyle at the helm and a second person that was supposed to be measuring things.

Today was census day and the results are below. It should be noted that the Bald Eagles were hunting gulls all day on Great Race Island. Although no takes were seen, the gull population thinned significantly during the day and the gull numbers today may not reflect a representative sample of the true numbers seen this week.

Animal Census

2016 01-Apr
River Otter 1
Northern Elephant Seal 8
Harbour Seal 176
Northern Sea Lion (Steller’s) 28
California Sea Lion 103
Canada Goose 5
Brandt (flying through) 75
Harlequin Duck 11
Surf Scoter 0
Common Merganser 2
Brandt’s Cormorant 2
Double-crested Cormorant 3
Pelagic Cormorant 3
Cormorant (not ID’d to species) 0
Bald Eagle (juvenile) 4
Bald Eagle (adult) 2
Red-tailed Hawk 1
Killdeer 4
Black Oystercatcher 12
Black Turnstone 70
Surfbird 0
Rock Sandpiper 0
Dunlin 2
Mew Gull 0
Glaucous-winged Gull (+ Xs in nesting area) 210
Glaucous-winged Gull (+ Xs outside of nesting area) 98
Thayers Gulls 0
Calfiornia Gulls 3
Western Gull 1
Common Murres 12
Rhinoceros Auklets 2
Pigeon Guillemot 40
Common Raven 2
Northwestern Crow 2
Fox Sparrow 1
Song Sparrow 1




Early Morning Orcas


A fine day out at RR today. Winds of between 5-12 kts in varying easterly directions. The barometer dropped from 102.4 this morning to 101.9. Winds increasing tonight to up to 20kts, with midnight fog, forecast to dissipate by Saturday morning.

Boat activity

  • Six tour boats (3 of which spotted the Orcas that were hanging around the reserve this morning)
  • Two pleasure fishing vessels. One moved a little too quickly out of the reserve. We encourage all vessels to travel at a maximum of 7kts within the reserve (we don’t want butchered Sea Lions :)

Ecological happenings

  • 3 Orca’s spotted well within the reserve this morning at 10am.
  • Two bald eagles at North Rocks


  • We continue to trouble shoot the water system in the student house. The pump is now installed, but there is a mysterious leak. Stay tuned……


  • Two friends of the eco-guardians are visiting the island today (Carole and Flo). One is a renewable energy consultant and will be checking out the island’s system for improvements. Like all visitors they are awestruck by the island’s energy and beauty.