The Battles Begin


  • 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


  • The usual commercial freighter and barge traffic
  • Garry and a friend came out for the annual christmas bird count


  • 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.

Environment Canada for the weather station on the rock


A team from  Environment Canada in Richmond  came to repair the weather Station which has not been working well since this Summer. They spent at least 3 hours and fixed the system.DSC_0772DSC_0785

Kyle with Second Nature came and bring 600 hundred litters of oil and we filled up 3 barrels of 200 each,3 more are coming soon. Guy and Kyle changed the pressured water pump in the student house.DSC_0788DSC_0794DSC_0796


Each elephant Seal has been in his own spot even the new young male and we appreciated some quiet time! The injured pup was still moving but stayed around the crane, behind it. It is painful to see him in a so bad condition…We see what will happen in the coming days.

Chunk attacked a pup


Beautiful day calm,13 knots at 8:00, Overcast to sunny,Visibility at 8:00 13 miles and air temperature :6 degrees.


It has been pretty dramatic when in the morning Chunk decided to attacked one of the puppy,the biggest one .For the first time this one was active and moving and shouting on the lawn down the main house. So pictures speak better than words . Here they are:DSC_0574Chunk was trying to suffocate  the pup putting his weight on himDSC_0575DSC_0586after he bit him and had the whole head in his mouthDSC_0585DSC_0603The other adult male arrived and made chunk go DSC_0613DSC_0620DSC_0633DSC_0647half an hour later Boss went to see the pup  but this one was afraid so he left him alone. After for the rest of the day Chunk went closed to the student house,Boss stayed closed to the main house looking towards where chunk was  and the pup was closed to the crank. He can move so nothing looked broken but the injury is pretty deep.  For a lighter note look at the other pup . He found a spot where the big ones cannot go closed to the compost in the grassDSC_0246

I could take all those pictures because when all this happened I was already outside and I had my camera with me.

Last Full Day of the Shift


  • Visibility: 15 miles
  • Wind: 15-20 knots W, later 10 knots E, then 20 knots N
  • Sky: sunny in the morning, cloudy in the afternoon
  • Water: calm
  • Too cloudy to see the large moon tonight.


  • 3 elephant seals on Great Race.
  • The little female did not return with the others.
  • I observed two armadas of cormorants in the afternoon.
  • Then they all flew away!
  • Also one young seagull is wandering around with a broken wing.
  • I think it is the same gull that I saw a couple of weeks ago.


  • Added one 55 gallon barrel of diesel to the tidy tank.
  • Finished hauling the various unused pieces of the electric fence back to the tank shed.
  • Stacked some firewood.
  • Cleaned the house for Guy.
  • Published the July, August, September, and October seawater data sheets on the website.


  • One boat appeared to be inspecting the Rosedale Rock buoy.
  • Two eco-tours came by.


  • This is my last log post out at Race Rocks, until next time.
  • Hopefully I will be back out here in the springtime!
  • Signing off now. Good luck Guy (and Alex)!


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.

Month End Report Day


  • Visibility: 15+ miles
  • Wind: 5-15 knots West
  • Sky: clear
  • Water: calm
  • Very nice day out here. Another lovely sunrise!

sunrise-1-30-9 sunrise-2-30-9


  • Saw three branded sea lions today.
  • California sea lion U615.
  • California sea lion X656.
  • Steller sea lion 311R.
  • Also saw one California with a peculiar looking wound.


  • Had to reattach the electric fence to the energy building.
  • The sea lions had ripped the wiring apart.
  • Compiled September seawater data and sent it off to Peter Chandler.
  • Cleaned the solar panels.
  • Gathered data for the month end report, compiled it, and sent it off to Kyle.


  • Surprisingly not as many boats today.
  • It looked as though they were distracted by whales (though I saw none).


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.


Human Impact on Sealions: Fishing Flashers, Entanglement, Boat strikes

In this post we have put together many of our references to the impacts that humans have inflicted on our California and Steller or northern sea lion population which hauls out at Race Rocks.  It includes images of fishing flashers and entanglement in commercial fishing gear, especially plastic net-binding hoops, as well as examples of strikes by boats which have injured sealions, often resulting in limb amputations. It is our hope that the fisher community can be more aware of how harmful their actions or negligence can be on marine mammal populations.  


We see this event all too often at Race Rocks. Fishers must take responsibility for removing fishing gear from the water when marine mammals are nearby. Not only is it expensive to loose equipment, the impact on these sea lions is uncertain. If the animal succeeds in breaking the leader for the flasher, then the animal only has to contend with the hook down in the stomach. It is not known how this effects sea lion mortality.


Dec. 13 2006


Feb. 2006


Feb. 2006


This Northern sea lion was photographed on August 15, 2007 by Roth Wehrell. UVIc


A flasher on one of the sealions at the docks

Entanglement in Commercial Fishing Plastic bindings on Nets.

This section shows plastic neck rings from commercial fishing nets around the neck of a sea lion.
Please write your Fisheries governing departments to request that all plastic bands used in the fishing industry for binding fish nets by made of biodegradable material.


Neck rings on middle island

Oct26 2015

Oct26 2015


Sept. 9,2009-

This northern (steller’s) sea lion showed up on Middle Rock in February of 2009 . Note the ridge formed by the ring toward the head end. Photo by Ryan  two neck rings and three brands appear in the same photo from the tower. GF

Aug 31, 2009

Aug 31, 2009

Sept. 2, 2009

Sept. 2, 2009- Ryan Murphy photo

Sept. 1999

Sept. 1999 Carol Slater took this picture of a California beside the docks.

These two tags will bring up the other posts on Marine mammal Injuries and Entanglement.

See other photos from the excellent collection of Ryan Murphy on Flickr

See this reference: Entanglement of Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) in marine debris: Identifying causes and finding solutions

Kimberly L. Raum-Suryana, , , Lauri A. Jemisonb, Kenneth W. Pitcherc
Elsevier: Volume 58, Issue 10, October 2009, Pages 1487–1495
Entanglement in marine debris is a contributing factor in Steller sea lion (SSL; Eumetopias jubatus) injury and mortality. We quantified SSL entanglement by debris type, sex and age class, entanglement incidence, and estimated population level effects. Surveys of SSL haul-outs were conducted from 2000–2007 in Southeast Alaska and northern British Columbia. We recorded 386 individuals of all age classes as being either entangled in marine debris or having ingested fishing gear. Packing bands were the most common neck entangling material (54%), followed by rubber bands (30%), net (7%), rope (7%), and monofilament line (2%). Ingested fishing gear included salmon fishery flashers (lures: 80%), longline gear (12%), hook and line (4%), spinners/spoons (2%), and bait hooks (2%). Entanglement incidence was 0.26% (SD = 0.0064, n = 69 sites). “Lose the Loop!” Simple procedures such as cutting entangling loops of synthetic material and eliminating the use of packing bands can prevent entanglements.


As the Northern (Steller) and California sea lions started to return to Race Rocks in the fall of 2009, Ecoguardian Ryan Murphy noticed what may be a significant increase in the number of encounters they have had with humans. Ryan took  these pictures at the time.

9 eco-tours


  • Visibility: 15 miles
  • Wind: 5-10 W, in the evening up to 20 W
  • Sky: clear, later cloudy
  • Water: 1′ chop


  • 14 elephant seals on Great Race
  • 2 that I could see on Middle Rock
  • The sea lions were surprisingly calm today considering how many boats seemed to be too close.
  • The injured California sea lion was near the derrick again.

The injured cali sea lion

the elephant seals


  • 9 eco-tours came by today. I guess there was a big backlog of tourists after several days of high winds.
  • I think 8/9 of the boats today looked to be too close. Certainly the boats that viewed the sea lions near the derrick were the closest I have ever seen.
  • The viewing distance for boats near marine mammal haul-outs has been accepted by the Ecotour community to be 100 metres.


  • One DND blast at 10:02.
  • Another one at 11:12.

Windy Day, Frisky Elephant Seals


  • Visibility: 15 miles
  • Wind: 15-35 knots West
  • Water: 2′ chop
  • Sky: Overcast with showers, cleared up in the late evening


  • The broken Canada Goose eggs from last night were still on the grass.
  • 13 elephant seals on Great Race.
  • 5 on Middle Rock.
  • The elephant seals just outside the house were in a frenzy all morning.
  • Some of them play fought for hours, whilst others tried to mate.
  • Inevitably they all ended up in a big pile of flailing bodies.
  • Saw an injured California sea lion on the derrick rocks.
  • It appears as though it had part of a flipper torn off.
  • Boat motor or predator?
  • There was a tiny harbour seal on the east part of Great Race.
  • It was farther from water then I had ever seen one.


  • Ran the desalinator.
  • Again unfavourable conditions to run the fire pump.


  • No boats in the reserve.
  • A couple sail boats farther out.