November 29th

Weather

  • Visibility: 15 Miles
  • Wind:  15-25 NE
  • Sky: cloudy for the most part, bit of sun came through
  • Water: a bit choppy today

Boats/Visitors

  • Had a couple boats cruise by

Ecological

  • same amount of sea lions
  • one large male elephant seal
  • a couple eagles
  • there were also maybe 3 humpbacks and about 4 orcas around

Notes

  • it does still look like there are quite a few sea lions around, will do the census tomorrow

clear sky, humpback

Weather: steady west wind, 20-30 knots.  Mostly clear sky.

Ecological:

  • One humpback whale was visible near the reserve for several hours beginning around noon.
  • 3 Male elephant seals have been staying mostly on Great Race, traveling individually to middle rock occasionally.
humpback-dec-4

Humpback between North Rock and William Head

Maintenance: Flushed rainwater barrel pipe to cistern.

Boats: 1 ecotour, caused some disturbance of sealions near jetty as well as on South Islands.

humpback

Weather

North wind, 10 knots in the morning.  Stronger Easterly winds up the straight directed swells into the jetty throughout the day.  Wind direction shifted to West in the evening and picked up to over 30 knots with rain. Visibility dropped to around 1 mile in the afternoon.

Ecological: Before dusk I saw a lone humpback whale surfacing near the reserve.

humpback-dec2

Humpback flukes, NE of Race Rocks

Maintenance

Removed broken fire bricks from bottom of wood stove, cleaned out firebox, and replaced broken bricks with intact ones.  Inspected baffle and tubes.

Recreational Rush Hour

Weather and Sea Conditions

Winds: Light and variable; Sky: Morning periods of fog, afternoon low overcast, evening periods of rain; Visibility: Mostly good ~10 nm, except in fog; Barometer: 102.8 kPa and dropping Saturday evening; Forecast: Wind light becoming easterly 5 to 15 knots Sunday morning.

Vessels in Ecological Reserve

Whale watching vessels: 20 visits were observed in Ecological Reserve (ER).

One commercial dive operator was noted in ER today. This vessel was within 10 meters (or less) from hauled out sea lions, had divers in the water in Middle Channel when there was a lot of traffic including speeding sports fishing charter boats, recreational boaters who had to be waved off and whale watching vessels. The dive flags wre both located low and on the side away from other traffic. The dive operator was also observed speeding through the ER, on departure.

Sport fishing vessels: Total 13 observed in ER. Seven of these were observed speeding through the ER in areas with high concentrations of animals (and human divers) in the water. Three charter vessels were noted in the ER today, one was speeding. Another 10 recreational vessels were noted including three rental boats speeding and three others speeding through the ER. One rental vessel was reported (to the owners) as fishing in the closed area which is a Rockfish Conservation Area. Photos were taken, processed and filed.

Ecology  Humpback Whales were observed feeding about 1nm south of the ER today. Resident Killer Whales were also reported feeding in Central Juan de Fuca today, further out. Biggs (Transient) Killer Whales were active in Race Passage and environs today. They were not observed in the ER but entered Eemdyk Passage and reportedly made a kill at the eastern entrance. Whale watching vessels that crowded in, were observed backing out ihastily as the whales came out and around Rocky Point. More Sea Lion brands were photo-documented (see gallery). This information feeds into research done by Dr. Pat Gearin of the US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric (NOAA) research on the population abundance and trends, and the distribution and movement of both species of sea lions.

Visitors  None.

Maintenance and Operations  Regular chores.Made three boxes of kindling. Adjusted screen door.  Ace status achieved quickly on fly patrol.

 

Pearson Students Have a Whale of a Time

Weather and Sea Conditions Winds: Winds were variable swinging all the way around the compass starting with east-southeast at 10 -15 knots in the early morning. It backed through northeast and northwest then to light west southwest by early afternoon. By late afternoon it had passed through southeast again still turning counterclockwise to northeast. Sky: Heavy overcast with showers in the morning then partially clearing. Afternoon sunny. Visibility: Mostly good 15 nm, except in fog. Barometer: 101.4 kPa rising Friday afternoon Forecast: Winds westerly 10 to 20 late this afternoon then diminishing to light after midnight. Periods of rain ending this evening.

Vessels in Ecological Reserve Whale watching vessels: Fourteen were observed working in Ecological Reserve (ER). One of the whale watchers sped into the ER while there were Killer Whales in Middle Channel. Contact was made by VHF radio and they left slowly without responding on the VHF. Later three whale watching vessels were “herding” the killer whales around and inside Rosedale. By rushing ahead of the whales and placing themselves in their path and by “squeezing” the whales in towards the shore of the ER, two of the vessels put themselves into positions where they were observed backing in reverse into the wind and waves and away from the killer whales. After this, we noted that one adult male killer whale was breaching very close to the two zodiacs. Two much larger whale watching vessels were observed using a similar tactic with a Humpback Whale mid afternoon. No other commercial operators, noted in ER today. Sport fishing vessels: Two noted in ER today travelling reasonably slowly through Middle Channel.

Ecology: Six to seven Killer Whales graced Race Rocks Ecological Reserve with their presence today. The group was made up of one large male, one slightly smaller male with a nick on his dorsal fin about a third of the way up, one small and one very small individual and two or three females, one with a nick on her dorsal fin. Photos are out with a query to confirm their identification. These animals swam over directly from Church Point late morning and came in and out of the ER at least three times. They were also observed going into the entrance of Pedder Bay and through Eemdyk Passage behind Bentink Island.  Two Humpback Whales, one large and one small were observed feeding about one mile south of the ER and one Humpback was “chased” into the ER by whale watching boats. Five young Northern Elephant Seals came ashore and spent the afternoon sleeping over by the energy building. Two adult Bald Eagles were seen in the ER today, causing the gulls to flock off with every pass. A high abundance of Moon Jellies was observed in the plankton over the last few days and sea surface temperature has dropped to ~10oC with fairly high (for here) salinity of 32.2 ppt.

Sustainability: Sustainability is not just about washing the windows with an eco-friendly product, it also means engaging young people with the natural environment and in particular with the ocean. The ocean has been called the blue elephant in the classroom, as it is a very large presence on our blue planet that is not included well in curriculum. Pearson College is making a difference to ocean literacy with their Marine Science programming and today new marine scientists were inspired to care for the ocean for future generations.

Visitors: Laura Verhegge and two Marine Science classes came on learning field trips to Race Rocks today. Kyle transported everyone aboard Second Nature including distinguished guest, Felix Butschek. Felix is on a yearlong tour around the world as a Rolex Scholar with the Our World – Underwater Scholarship Society in Europe. Felix is a Pearson College alumnus who studied Marine Science with Laura, was active in the Pearson diving program and is now a promising young marine scientist with a serious passion for remote polar seas. It was nice to welcome Felix back to Race Rocks and see him inspiring the first year students during their fun biodiversity explorations and observations. The second class enjoyed observing Killer Whales swim right in front of us as we stood on the rock watching.

Maintenance and Operations: Regular chores. Both fences repaired. Windows washed in Eco-guardian house.

 

Pearson College Rocks.

Weather and Sea Conditions

Winds: Up to 30 knots, west-northwest

Sky: Clear with patches of heavy fog in the morning.

Visibility: Mostly good 15 nm, except in fog.

Barometer: 101.5 falling Wednesday evening

Forecast: Wind dropping tonight and then switching and increasing to east 10 to 20 late overnight and to west 20 to 30 knots Friday afternoon. Rain overnight and Friday morning. Chance of showers Friday evening. Strong wind warning in effect.

Vessels in Ecological Reserve

Whale watching vessels: Two were observed working in Ecological Reserve (ER) both moving carefully in the fog. No other commercial operators, noted in ER today.

Sport fishing vessels: Two noted in Reserve today: one observed fishing in ER and the other sped through ER not slowing even through Middle Channel where there were hundreds of animals in the water.

Ecology  The islands within the ER are receiving enormous amounts of biogenic material daily from resting pinnipeds and birds. Although the guano accumulated in the summer drought has been partially washed away by recent rains, nitrogen loading is significant in this biological hot-spot along with accumulation of sea lion hair and gull feathers from the moulting animals. There are also daily additions to the hard remnants from predation events, which include shell, bone, teeth, scales and exoskeletons. Vegetation in the sea lion haul-out areas has been removed by trampling now and levels of faeces and urine are very ‘high’.

The waters around the ER continue to support feeding Humpback Whales daily and large multi-species feeding flocks. Three Humpback Whales were observed today on the west and south sides in and adjacent to ER. Most of the big flocks close to the islands are multiple species of gulls, dominated by Glaucous-winged Gulls.

Thayer’s Gulls arrived late today and a large flock was observed preening and resting on the southwest side of the island at sunset. These Thayer’s gulls have flown in to winter on the Pacific coast, from Canada’s high arctic where they nest.

A single male Killer Whale was observed during the early evening feeding in the mouth of Pedder Bay near the Navy Buoy.

Sustainability   Inverter frames re-screwed.

Visitors   A first year biology class from Pearson College visited today with their teacher Emily and conducted inter-tidal population studies in tidal pools. Two Pearson College volunteers also came along. Kyle transported everyone in two trips on Second Nature.

Maintenance and Operations  Both fences repaired. Discussed temporary roof patches (March) on storm damaged roofs, (boat shed, tank shed and derrick house) with Kyle. Noted foghorn not operating consistently during fog events.

 

Weather’s Fine

Weather and Sea Conditions

Winds: 5 – 15 knots, west-southwest

Sky: Clear

Visibility: Good 15 nm

Barometer: 101.5 falling Wednesday evening

Forecast: Wind increasing to westerly 5 to 15 near noon Thursday and to westerly 15 to 25 Thursday afternoon. Strong wind warning in effect.

Vessels in Ecological Reserve

Whale watching vessels: Fifteen observed working in Ecological Reserve (ER)

No other commercial operators, noted in Reserve today.

Sport fishing vessels: Five noted in Reserve today. None observed fishing in ER. One sport boat speeding through ER. One open run-about with a windshield was seen chasing a Humpback Whale and hopscotching with it in order to position itself in front of whale’s path.

Animal Census

Steller Sea Lion 429

California Sea Lion 402

Harbour Seal 133

Northern Elephant Seal 6 (3 of those on Great Race)

Sea Otter 1 (seen during week)

River Otter 0, (no evidence seen either)

Bigg’s (Transient) Killer Whale 6 (just outside ER)

Dall’s Porpoise 3 (seen during week just outside ER)

Harbour Porpoise 2 (seen during week just outside ER)

Humpback Whale 1 (3 during count week adjacent to ER)

Canada Goose 24

Cackling Goose 1

Harlequin Duck 0

Double-crested Cormorant 4

Pelagic Cormorant 11

Brandt’s Cormorant 39

Bald Eagle1 (seen during week)

Black Oystercatcher 22

Black Turnstone 17

Surfbirds 9

Ruddy Turnstone 1 (seen during week)

Sanderling 2

Western Sandpiper 5

Kildeer 3

Glaucous-winged Gull 1274

California Gull 83

Herring Gull 1

Heerman’s Gull 5

Gull spp. 328

Savannah Sparrow 23

Sustainability

Made fresh water using solar power to energize de-salinator.

Visitors None

Maintenance and Operations

Weather station back on-line after three months off. Fence maintenance, good for a few hours ; – )

 

Race Rocks Welcomes Pearson College Biology Students.

 

Weather and Sea Conditions

Winds: 5 – 15 knots, variable (North-northeast to South-southwest)

Sky: Partially overcast, sunny afternoon

Visibility: Good 15 nm

Barometer: 101.8 kPa  rising Tuesday evening

Forecast: Wind light becoming westerly 5 to 15 knots Wednesday afternoon. Mainly sunny. UV Index 4 predicted.

Vessels in Ecological Reserve

Whale watching vessels: Six observed working in Ecological Reserve.

No other commercial operators, noted in Reserve today.

Sport fishing vessels: Eight noted in Reserve today. Two sped through Ecological Reserve (ER) north of Rosedale. One person in vessel in, or very close to edge of ER observed fishing.

Second Nature: Ferrying biology students to and from Pearson College.

Ecology

Two very large Humpback Whales observed feeding and travelling on north and west side of ER. Dall’s Porpoise feeding and travelling just outside of ER to north and into Pedder Bay.

Three Northern Elephant Seals at the Jetty.

First Heerman’s Gull of the shift observed.

Sustainability

Compost care.

Visitors

Emily and first year biology students. Comparative tidal pool population studies linked to mapped pegs.

Maintenance and Operations

Regular chores completed

Safety tape put up around failing concrete stairs at Science house before students arrived

.

Received much appreciated fresh apples and onions from Luke via Kyle. Thank you both!

 

 

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.

Ecology

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.

Sustainability

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.

Visitors

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.