The Seals Touch Down

Weather

  • Visibility: 15 miles
  • Wind: 20-25 knots NE, later 0-10 NE
  • Sky: overcast
  • Water: 1′ chop

Ecological

  • Census day!
  • In the morning there were 2 e-seals on Great Race, and 6 on Middle Rock.
  • In the afternoon there were 3 e-seals on Great Race, and 4 on Middle Rock.
  • As far as I am aware, there were only 2 e-seals in the reserve yesterday.
  • Most of the addled eggs in the Canada goose nest near the Students’ House were cracked open and strewn about today around noon.
  • I suspect a crow to be the culprit, having seen one hanging around that nest yesterday.
  • Saw one branded California Sea Lion, but I couldn’t make out all the marks. U89[?]
  • Four young bald eagles were unsuccessfully hunting the seagulls all morning.
  1. Harbour Seals: 92
  2. California Sea Lions: 69
  3. Steller (Northern) Sea Lions: 43
  4. Elephant Seals: 8 (2 on Great Race, 6 on Middle Rock)
  5. Seagulls unspecified: 352
  6. Pigeon Guillemots: 111
  7. Cormorants unspecified: 26
  8. Brandt’s Cormorants: 16
  9. Pelagic Cormorants: 12
  10. Double Crested Cormorant: 7
  11. Surfbirds: 50
  12. Black Turnstones: 30
  13. Canada Geese: 18
  14. Harlequin Ducks: 11 (6 males and 5 females)
  15. Rock Sandpipers: 6
  16. Bald Eagles: 6 (2 adults, 4 immature)
  17. Black Oystercatchers: 6
  18. Savannah Sparrow: 1
  19. Unidentified Hawk: 1
  20. Killdeer: 1
  21. Crow: 1?

Maintenance

  • Transferred diesel from the Students’ House tank into the Tidy Tank.
  • Some goose work.

Sea Lions, Boats, & Other Stuff

Weather

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

Ecological

  • 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

Maintenance

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

Boats

  • 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

Weather

  • 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!

Ecological

  • 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

Maintenance

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

Boats

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

Visitors

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

The Cackling Goose!

Weather

  • 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

Ecological

  • 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

Maintenance

  • 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.

Boats

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

Census and 3rd New Weaner

Weather

  • Visibility: 15 miles
  • Wind: 20-30 knots NE, later 15 W
  • Water: 2′ chop
  • Sky: overcast with showers

Ecological

  • Chunk and Chuckles were both on Great Race today, but I saw no interactions.
  • The mother is gone on Middle Rock, making her pup a weaner.
  • Conducted a census.
  1. California Sea Lions: 75
  2. Northern Sea Lions: 32
  3. Harbour Seals: 6
  4. Elephant Seals: 3
  5. Seagulls: 300
  6. Cormorants: 299 (142 on Great Race, of which 87 were Double Crested, 28 Pelagic, 8 male Brandt’s, and 19 unidentifiable to me. 157 on North Rock, too far away to identify.)
  7. Black Turnstones: 39
  8. Surfbirds: 18
  9. Canada Geese: 18
  10. Black Oystercatchers: 13
  11. Harlequin Ducks: 8 (6 male, 2 female)
  12. Bald Eagles: 3 (2 adults, 1 juvenile)
  13. Crows: 3
  14. Ravens: 2
  15. American Pipit: 1

Maintenance

  • Hauled logs off the ramp.
  • Checked the diesel in the tidy tank.

Boats

  • Didn’t see any boats near the reserve today.

 

Census

Weather

  • Visibility: 5 miles, later 15
  • Wind: 5-10 knots SE, late afternoon up to 33 knots from the West
  • Water: rippled, later wavy
  • Sky: foggy in the morning, overcast in the afternoon

Ecological

  • Chunk spent the day on Middle Rock with the mum and pup.
  • Lady, Grieving mum, mum and pup, were in the same spots on Great Race.
  • Chuckles arrived on Great Race in the late afternoon.
  • Conducted a census.
  1. California Sea Lions: 87
  2. Northern/Stellar Sea Lions: 50
  3. Harbour Seals: 21
  4. Elephant Seals: 8
  5. Cormorants: 742 (of the 742, I think that at least 10 were Male Brandt’s, 131 Double Crested, and 200 Pelagic; my identification is improving, but many were either too far away, or indistinguishable to me.)
  6. Seagulls: 605 (131 had darker plumage and therefore must be immature gulls?)
  7. Pigeon Guillemots: 50
  8. Bald Eagles: 30 (23 juveniles, 7 adults)
  9. Black Oystercatchers: 13
  10. Canada Geese: 10
  11. Harlequin Ducks: 8 (4 male, 4 female)
  12. Black Turnstones: 6
  13. Surfbird: 3 (unless they were Rock Sandpipers?)
  14. Raven: 2
  15. American Pipit: 2

Maintenance

  • Did some more cleaning in the Student’s House.

Boats

  • In the morning, one fishing boat passed through the reserve. The occupants did not fish in the reserve; they were going slow and appeared to be observing.
  • In the afternoon, one large eco-tour boat came through the reserve.

Sea Otter Seen

The morning weather went from still and overcast at dawn, to clear with a light west wind that brought the fog in for a few hours, then cleared to sunshine for midday. By sunset a high overcast had developed with high altitude clouds piling up on distant mountains and on the horizon at sea. The barometer continued to climb today and reached over 1016hPA.

Wind direction swung around a few times then settled on a blow from the west rising at times to 28 knots. A gale warning forecasts strengths up to 35 knots this evening. Sunday has a 70% chance of showers and the wind is expected to drop overnight to light winds by the afternoon.

Seven whale watching and one tour/party boat were observed working in the Ecological Reserve today. One vessel, Fantasea VI a party boat cum tour boat, according to the sign affixed to it, spent an hour in the Ecological Reserve feeding many, many loaves of bread to the gulls. They were still flinging bread out as they returned towards Victoria. BC Parks act as stewards of protected areas including BC’s Ecological Reserves and they note that feeding wildlife is illegal.

We found the killing ground for Pigeon Guillemots today with the remains of six adults in breeding plumage found near their nesting area. All of them had the neck skin inside out over the head and were the handy-work of the same predator that is feeding on juvenile gulls this week. This might explain the lack of nesting activity by Pigeon Guillemots. I will investigate further to see how many more corpses there are in the greater area.

Chores were routine maintenance and fighting entropy today.

ANIMAL CENSUS

July 9th Thursday: Animal census

The fog was still there pretty thick but around 11:30 it cleared up and we could go up the tower to do the census. We had a west wind and the forecast was a gale warning for the end of the afternoon.The wind at noon was from West at 24 knots and could go to 35 in the late afternoon. We saw a few Whale watchers boats around noon and we had no visitors. Water is getting colder under 12 degrees Celsius. Guy put a new VHF on the whaler.

The estimation of the population is:
Elephant seals: 3
Sea Lions: 180
Pigeon–guillemots: 80
Gulls: 450 (yesterday we could see a group of gulls with black winged maybe some west gulls)
Pelagic cormorants: 3
Geese: 11 (Today the smallest one of the family of 5 was not in the water swimming but looked lost alone in the island hanging around). They spend more and more time in the water.
Black oystercatchers :0

Bald eagle: 1 (they attack the colony almost every day once in the morning)

 

Back on the Rock

Last night’s storm blew in just as shift-change finished. Nick Townley waved goodbye from Second Nature as Chris Blondeau, still in his dry-suit from the diving activity, pulled the vessel out into the tidal stream and headed her back to Pedder Bay.

Nick Townley

Nick Townley ( a photo from last fall, selfie?).

Six students from Pearson College came out to the rock for the weekend and I started my shift with great company. Their goal was to catch up on studies (and sleep (my guess)) and to have their own experience in this gem of a biodiversity hotspot.

As we unpacked and settled into the two houses, heavy rain followed the black horizon moving in quickly from western Strait of Juan de Fuca. It was very nice to be snug inside as it was a wild night with heavy squalls. There were quite a few rattles and thumps that I didn’t recognize from last fall’s storms. Morning broke with gusts over 30 knots in the tower and alternate clearing skies and rainbows shone through and faded out on all sides. It was a white water scene with wind and current colliding in a frenzy. The barometer which had taken a nose dive Thursday and Friday, climbed back up to over 1024 HPa from Friday’s low of 1009. By noon, the westerly winds had dropped to 12 knots and the afternoon and evening was uneventful; overcast with showers and light winds shifting to northwest.

Although there was no fishing activity in the Ecological Reserve (ER) today, five wildlife viewing tour boats were noted. I was surprised by the number of both Northern and California sealions still hanging out and there were at least 75 Harbour Seals hauled out in the afternoon (not a complete count. I saw two pairs of adult bald eagles and numerous other birds including Canada Geese, Black Oystercatchers, Harlequin Ducks, Black Turnstones, Pigeon Guillemots, Double-crested and Pelagic Cormorants and an interesting mix of gulls. Many of the Glaucous-winged Gulls are already paired up and getting excited about spring. They are scattered around Great Race in all the places that there were nests last year. A much more condensed flock of gulls with about 100 birds was hunkered down in the lee of the rock on the west side of the science house. This flock was a mix of some unexpected visitors including Herring Gulls, Ring-Billed Gulls and even a few California Gulls, probably en route somewhere else. As dusk fell last night I heard the calls of Killdeer and it really felt like my home away from home.

It was great to get back up the tower again and have a good look around and for fun and more exercise, I started clearing off some of the winter’s woody debris accumulated on the marine railway. Greenlanders Hana and Malou joined in and we made it into a bit of a game, practicing our aim and strengthening arms. When we finished there was a stream of wood heading out to sea and we hoped that the whale watching boats were avoiding the busy tide lines.

March 5 – Census Thursday

Sunny with occasional clouds
Wind: 0-5 knots from N and switching around to SW throughout the day
Air temperature: High 10C, Low 6C
Ocean temperature: 8.9C

A great blue heron hung out on northeast side of Great Race for the afternoon. The oystercatchers are travelling around in pairs and are quite vocal. The gulls have spread themselves out around the island as they start to find nesting sites. Chunk returned to Great Race during the night. He spent the day resting against a boulder and the rock below the helicopter pad. The female elephant seal is relaxing in the same spots as yesterday, to the west of the main house.

Today’s census results:
Elephant Seal: 2
Steller Sea Lion: 18
California Sea Lion: 28
Harbour Seal: 41
Bald Eagle: 6 (3 adult, 3 juvenile)
Raven: 2
Great Blue Heron: 1
Double Crested Cormorant: 9
Brandt’s Cormorant: 15
Black Oystercatcher: 8
Canada Goose: 17
Pigeon Guillemot: 36
Gull: 103
Harlequin Duck: 11
Surfbird: 2
Black Turnstone: 15
Savannah Sparrow: 1

One eco tour boat and one recreational boat visited the reserve today.