The Dunlin!


  • Visibility: 15 miles
  • Wind: 0-5 knots East
  • Sky: overcast with showers
  • Water: 1′ chop


  • 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


  • The usual chores.
  • Reset the electric fence which has been faring unusually well.


  • A surprising number of eco-tours today, given the weather, day of the week, and month.
  • I counted at least 10.

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.

Census Day and fishing activity in the ecological reserve


Calm Summer day


Where are gone so many gulls and why?


6 kayakers between Vancouver Island shore and Race Rocks (half distance )with a  rescue Zodiac in case.4 First nations big canoes 2 under sails and one with oars between East Sooke and the States with  some rescue power boats. 1st watching vessels at 9:30AM .In the afternoon around 3:30PM ,3 people in a small power boat were fishing in the ecological reserve.From south rocks to the middle passage ,with the engine in  neutral position,they went through  the passage 2 times .The guy was fishing with a short rod and we saw one of the women with a mackerel size fish in her hand . It took them 15min to go through  . Because of the aggressive gulls all around we couldn’t go but we took all the references and phoned to Fisheries and Oceans Canada.They left in the Victoria direction and pretty soon to Pedder Bay at full speed.

DND activity

Extensive activity for the DND Today; 14 blasts and the 4 last one were huge .


Elephant seals :2

Gulls: 390 mainly adults glaucous winged gulls, a few Heermann’s gulls only

Harbour seal:s 70 + many swimming newborns ones

Harlequin ducks:1



Cormorants :0

River otters:0

Gull chicks:50 to 60 from the front window.

geese :0

Seashore birds : 4

Orcas: around 10 (seen close enough)






Blues Skies.

The weather at Race Rocks was good for generating solar power today with clear skies overhead and a gentle west wind. At the same time, massive cloud formations were building over the Olympic Mountains to the south and the Coastal Ranges to the east. The barometer stayed up at about 1015 hPa today and the forecast is calling summer-like winds with a gale warning posted for tonight and Saturday. It is supposed to be sunny tomorrow and then return to rain for a few days.

Two whale watching boats were observed visiting the Ecological Reserve today and there might have been more. At least three sports fishing boats were in to look at all the animals in the water and on the rocks. One vessel was actively fishing in the Race Rocks Rockfish Conservation Area.

Ecologically, the transition into autumn seems to be happening with more migratory birds passing through and stopping by. The Savannah Sparrow count jumped up to ~ 15 birds today and Surfbirds to 25. Northern Phalaropes were observed feeding in the tide slicks near the reserve boundaries and more gulls in post-breeding migration, like Heerman’s Gulls and California Gulls seem to be arriving daily. See gallery below for more photos.

The weather, sea conditions and currents were also excellent for launching the whaler and doing a test run. I went ashore today and picked up Alex after doing most of the regular maintenance in the morning and finishing on return. The underwater Camera (2) mysteriously came back on-line today after unplugging and plugging back in everything Max and I could think of, to jump start it. When I checked today it wasn’t working.

The Tie That Binds

It was another northeast day, with really not much happening weather wise. It blew NE about ten knots, was mostly overcast in the morning, with some sun in the afternoon. The barometer rose gradually all morning and then started to slowly slide after noon. It is expected that tomorrow’s southeast will bring rain, starting late tonight.

The whale watching boats were busy in the afternoon with Humpback Whales to the southeast of Race Rocks and more activity out to the west. A total of eight tour boats were seen in the Ecological Reserve.

Today was mega-fauna census day and these are the results:
Steller Sealion 298
California Sealion 508
Harbour Seal 79
Northern Elephant Seal 9
River Otter 2
Canada Goose 22
Greater White-fronted Goose 1
Harlequin Duck 5
Double-crested Cormorant 61
Pelagic Cormorant 15
Black Turnstone 9
Surfbird 5
Black Oystercatcher 38
Glaucous-winged Gull 145
Thayer’s Gull 1482
California Gull 3
Western Gull 7
Heermann’s Gull 35
Gull sp. 52
Common Murre 1
Common Raven 2
Fox Sparrow 2
Savannah Sparrow 15

Here are a couple of shots of Surfbirds, alone and with Black Turnstones.

Surfbirds resting in the Jetty Bay.

Surfbirds resting in the Jetty Bay.

Subi & Bltu
The census was challenging due to the numbers and species of gulls and the fact that both Steller Sealion and Harbour Seal numbers were lower than expected during the morning count, so they were re-counted in the early evening. I generally like to count Harbour Seals on the morning low tide but the tide wasn’t really doing much today. The evening counts were higher for both the Steller and the Harbour Seals. Two new Elephant Seals arrived today. They are both moulting, the smaller one hung out with the dual tagged three year-old, which appears to be staying on. The bigger animals may have gone back to Middle Rock as there were still six animals visible there.

Ring-necked animals as well as tagged and branded animals were also re-surveyed today. I am still working on the branding data from a month ago. Two of the ring-necked Steller Sealions that have been observed since August are still here and languishing as the plastic straps cut into the backs of their necks. I am putting out an appeal to the disentanglement crew again.
Euju plastic_strap Oct16
Euju oct 16 close-up
The second ring-necked animal ‘highlighted’ here is also branded on its’ left side 946R. I believe that it was branded at its’ natal colony which from the R should be Rogue Reef in southern Oregon. From the number it was branded after 2009 but I will find out more.

If it is not lying on its' left side this ring-necked Steller's Sealion is easy to tell apart from the others.

If it is not lying on its’ left side this ring-necked Steller’s Sealion is easy to tell apart from the others.

Like the other Steller it has plastic strapping, which is visible on the ventral surface.

Like the other Steller it has plastic strapping, which is visible on the ventral surface.

This is a bit gory but I hope it will inspire the disentanglement team to come to Race Rocks.

This is a bit gory but I hope it will inspire the disentanglement team to come to Race Rocks.

The Atlin Post passed by Race Rocks today but did not slow. Must have been in a hurry.

The Atlin Post passed by Race Rocks today but did not slow. Must have been in a hurry.

Did not do much maintenance today other than the basic cleaning, making water with the desalinator and electricity with the generator.

Thanksgiving Edition (No Turkeys Here.)

The day started with a hazy, overcast sky and an ocean swell rolling in from the open Pacific. Although visibility was 10 to 15 nautical miles, the marine air gave everything a soft, muted look and both Port Angeles and Victoria looked further away than they actually are. In the morning, winds were light to gentle breezes starting in the southwest and swinging over to southeast. In the afternoon it shifted to north-northeast and became noticeably colder and wetter.
The ocean swell became dramatic by mid-afternoon, exploding over north rock and making a rolling break into the jetty bay, surging right over the jetty. Although the barometer was higher today than it has been all week, it is now slowly dropping and Monday ‘s forecast is for more clouds, wind and rain. Hmmm sounds like October.

Whale watching activity was fairly brisk today with seven boats in the Ecological Reserve. Everyone was fairly well behaved. Seaking Adventures was certainly giving a lot of throttle in the Reserve, crossing from Great Race over to North Rock but that may have been because he was bucking the tide. There were also a couple of sports-fishing boats passing through the Reserve in a hurry, Foghorn Charters was one of those two.

Some operators may not know that the speed limit is only 7 knots within the Reserve.

Some operators may not know that the speed limit is only 7 knots within the Reserve.

A large Humpback Whale passed through the Reserve westbound, late afternoon, there were no whale watching boats around.

A lot more gulls arrived with the cool wet weather and are roosting just about everywhere on Great Race now. I am curious what the numbers will be for this week’s census on Wednesday.
CaGu California Gulls resting and preening on Great Race.[/caption]

Western Gulls are a little north of their usual range here and hard to distinguish from Glaucous-winged X Western Gull hybrids.

Western Gulls are a little north of their usual range here and hard to distinguish from Glaucous-winged X Western Gull hybrids.

With the influx of California Gulls it is going to be tricky distinguishing and counting all the large gulls. A gull that is easy to distinguish and also a favorite of mine, is the Heerman’s Gull.

Heerman's Gulls are our most exotic looking gulls.

Heerman’s Gulls are our most exotic looking gulls.

Another avian visitor spotted today was the small to medium sized sandpiper pictured below, I think it is a Western Sandpiper but would like confirmation.
There were two young Elephant Seals on Great Race today and one of them was “tagged as a weiner in 2012” at Ano Nuevo Island in California “and hasn’t been seen since, so this is an important data point” according to Dr. Patrick Robinson, Año Nuevo Island Reserve Director.
Mian 6967
The second Elephant Seal was sleeping on the marine railway in the morning.
mian jetty

Race Rocks has become Canada’s main Elephant Seal colony. It is important as a fall haul-out location for sub-adults, as well as a winter birthing and mating site and spring moulting site.
Race Rocks is an ecological treasure located at a key location next to busy shipping lanes and popular sport-fishing grounds. I am thankful to those who had the vision to protect this amazing area and thankful to be able to experience it.
roro close to RR
roro & maersk

Cut and Recycle Plastic Straps

Beautiful weather continues and today’s lack of fog and strong winds made it a really perfect summer day. The barometer rose steadily all day and the outlook is for more of the same.

Thirty-five whale-watching boats were noted in the reserve today and some may have been missed as I made a mad dash to “civilization” during the late afternoon slack tide. It is quite a process getting the boat launched and then back up into the boat shed but the good coffee I picked up made it all worthwhile. Back on the rock now with 600 sea lions and one Elephant Seal.

Killer Whales were within sight today, out in Juan de Fuca Strait, but not in the reserve and that was why there was high traffic by the boats, stopping by to see the sea lions.

I spent an hour this morning in the tower, photographing the tagged/branded animals that I have been recording. It is really nice to have a birds’ eye view of the rookery. Speaking of rooks, there were two ravens this morning. Until today I have only seen solo ravens. The evening bird continues to be a mystery to me, I can only describe the call as being high pitched and saying something like chee bedee be dee be dee. From the few glimpses I have had of it in the dark (not very good glimpses) I would say that it flew like a shorebird. (turned out to be a killdeer)

Common Murres and Rhinoceros Auklets are feeding in deeper water around the reserve now and today saw an influx of California Gulls into the reserve. The Heerman’s Gulls continue to join mixed-species, feeding flocks and forage on their own but I have not seen any landing on Great Race. There are more and more Canada Geese landing every day and they are eating every new little green thing that is not a thistle. Can they be classified as pest-like?

Another reason to both cut and recycle plastic straps. Three ring-necks observed today.

Another reason to both cut and recycle plastic straps. Three ring-necks observed today.

I photo-documented more entangled sea lions today to follow up on work being done by Wendy Szaniszlo, the Vancouver Aquarium and others. I observed two California Sea Lions ring necked, one is doing very poorly with an open wound and liquid coming out of it. It looks like a white plastic strap. The other may have already been treated as it looks and acts healthy. As I was coming into to land at the jetty in the tidal race, I noticed a Steller’s Sea Lion that was ring-necked. I did not get a chance to photograph it as landing here is already exciting enough by myself. I will look for it after chores in the morning.

Chores were basic today, cleaning and organizing, sharpening tools and almost completing the new fence.

Killer Whales and Sport-fishers to the West

Another glorious day on the rock with good visibility, calm waters and a clear sky. The barometer rose gradually until noon and then dropped slightly. Barely perceptible outflow winds kept the fog out at sea and it looks like a similar forecast for Friday.

There was a lot of activity in the Reserve today with whale watching boats stopping by to see the sea lions en-route, back and forth between Victoria and the two pods of transient (aka Bigg’s) Killer Whales off to the west. The smaller pod had four individuals and passed close to the reserve heading west spending the day between Becher Bay and Beachy Head. A second larger pod was reported from further west near Otter Point by days’ end. A total of 37 tour boats were noted in the reserve and many more passed by at speed outside of the boundaries. They keep constant contact with the whales during the day and pass off to each other, on leaving the area.

A couple of recreational boats spent time in the reserve today, one photographing sea lions for several hours and the other jigging. The conservation area is bounded by the 40 meter contour, and no jigging is allowed. Jigging targets territorial fish such as rockfish and lingcod although you can catch coho that way too. The Conservation Area is enforced by DFO and is there to protect long-lived, territorial fish like rockfish and lingcod, so that their offspring can disperse to other areas with the currents. A Marine Protected area like Race Rocks becomes a source of recruitment of young fish to nearby areas that don’t have protection and this ultimately makes the fishing more sustainable.

It was census day today.
Biggs’ Killer Whales 4
Steller’s Sea Lions 243 (7 brands noted)
California Sea Lions 334 (7 completed brands noted, 1 incomplete)
Total sea lions both species = 577
Harbour Seals 142
Elephant Seal 1 (pup)
Savannah Sparrows 8 (seemed to fly off to the south across the Strait after visiting)
Double-crested Cormorants 11
Pelagic Cormorants 4
Black Turnstones 7
Sandpipers 5
Sharp-shinned Hawk 1
Glaucous-winged Gulls 99 (4 chicks still begging)
Heerman’s Gulls 5
California Gull 1
Black Oystercatchers 7
The Pigeon Guillemots were not spotted today so I assume that the chicks finally fledged and have headed off to sea. I will miss them. It is fun to watch them ride the currents and carry crazy-looking fish to their young.

There were no visitors today, although both Second Nature and Hyaku made multiple trips within a stone’s throw of the jetty, as part of student orientation week.

Sediment Filters Installed

What a beautiful, warm, summer day. The early fog to the south and west disappeared and it stayed calm and got warm. The smoke and particulates made for another spectacular sunset, this time without a cloud. The barometer has been slowly rising since last night with a bit of a leveling this afternoon and evening. It looks like they are forecasting outflow winds for tomorrow and that might keep the fog at bay.

There were 17 tour boats today and most of them were very respectful of the seals and sea lions that they were watching in the reserve. The recreational fishing fleet seemed to be off to the west towards Beechy Head and the Bait Shack. Although a few boats passed through slowly, no one was jigging in the reserve today.  Second Nature and Hyaku made several trips out and around the reserve with groups of students rotating through their orientation activities.

There were military explosions during the late morning and early afternoon.

There were only 99 adults Glaucous-winged gulls at sunset and I could only spot three young ones, (still actively begging). The rest have moved on. There is still one demented gull that is trying to nest, bringing bunches of grass and acting agitated. I wonder what happened to its internal clock? I also spotted both Heermann’s Gulls and California Gulls today. The number of cormorants, both Double Crested and Pelagics continue to rise. Every night a mystery bird arrives after dark and calls a bit. I would love to figure out what it is. It almost sounds like a Greater Yellowlegs but it is the wrong kind of habitat. I wonder if it flies out here because it is a safe(ish) place to sleep?

A lot of maintenance work was accomplished today. I started by washing the basement floor where plumber was going to be working. Courtney brought the plumber out in Second Nature in the morning and while he plumbed Courtney and I dealt with propane tanks and electric fences. It was good to be able to chat with this veteran eco-guardian who now works on the waterfront at Pearson College. I learned a lot. Now both houses have big cartridge filters in-line in and it looks like really professional.


Animal Census

Low winds today picking up in the afternoon/evening. Clear skies for most of the day. Forecasted winds of 15 knots for tomorrow morning rising to 30 in the afternoon.







Animal Census (by Anne):

Steller Sea Lions 229
California Sea Lions 388
Harbour Seals 81
Glaucous-winged Gulls 301 (including 29 chicks)
Double-crested Cormorant 3
Pelagic Cormorant 1
Canada Goose 11
Black Oyster Catcher 11
Black Turnstone 1
Greater Yellow legs 1
Very large mixed species feeding groups to the west southwest of reserve including 100s of Rhinoceros auklets, Common Murres, Heerman’s Gulls and California Gulls.

37 whale watching boats

5 recreational boats

3-4 trips from Second Nature

Baleen whale this morning spotted feeding in the same place as yesterday evening, to the SW end of the reserve.

Anne continued with training today. James from Hybrid Plumbing came out to fix the water heater this morning. Changed cartridge filters on desalinator. Prepared for shift change.