Pigeons – guillemots back

Weather

Very light wind,not stable going from  West to East,calm sea, Sky:overcast to cloudy and rainy (light).Visibility :10 miles, Air temperature:3.9 degrees Celsius.

Ecological

Today for the first time this winter we saw a flock of guillemots :30 around.Chunk was gone fishing but back in the evening .12 geese almost all the time on the Rock.

Vessels

One watching vessel and a big fishing boat heading to the Ocean.

Census

Pigeons -guillemots:35

Elephants Seals : 5 to 6

Gulls :650

Californians Sea Lions :235. One tagged: no 486

Steelers sea Lions:55

Geese:12

Eagles:6 to 9

Harlequin Ducks:7

Harbour Seals:27

Cormorants:110

A Windy Census

Weather

  • Visibility: 15 miles
  • Wind: 20-25 knots West in the morning, picking up to 30-35 by noon.
  • Sky: overcast
  • Water: 3′ chop

DSC_6368

Ecological

  • I oversaw an enthusiastic day long census with Maya, Tazi, and Ali.
  • Discovered a new Black Oystercatcher nest with 3 eggs!
  • Maya and Tazi discovered a new Canada Goose nest.
  • I begin to suspect that our new elephant seal male is actually Chuckles.
  • If he did nothing but eat for 3 months straight, that would explain his girth.
  • Saw a Steller Sea Lion branded 9628.
  • We found a blood star, and Maya showed us various chitons.
  • Maya and Tazi did a transect.
  1. Harbour Seals: 190
  2. California Sea Lions: 42
  3. Steller/Northern Sea Lions: 39
  4. Elephant Seals: 15 (13 on Great Race, 2 in the Southern waters)
  5. Seagulls: 225 (Glaucous-winged)
  6. Pigeon Guillemots: 82
  7. Canada Geese: 36 (14 on Great Race, 22 flyovers)
  8. Black Oystercatchers: 8 (plus 2 nests with a total 5 eggs)
  9. Harlequin Ducks: 3 (2 male, 1 female)
  10. Cormorants: 3
  11. Barn Swallows: 2

Maintenance

  • We cleaned the solar panels.
  • Finished cleaning the boathouse floor with T.S.P.
  • Repainted some rusty propane tanks.
  • Sanded the westward facing bench by the Students’ house.

Boats

  • Several eco-tours came by in the morning, but as wind picked up they disappeared.

Black Oystercatcher Nest!

Weather

  • Visibility: 15 miles
  • Wind: 25-30 knots West in the morning
  • The rest of the day 15 knots West.
  • Sky: overcast
  • Water: 2′ chop

Ecological

  • Finally discovered a Black Oystercatcher nest!
  • 2 eggs are inside the “nest”.
  • Their nests are made of rocks and shells.
  • Census day.
  • I don’t seem to see any Black Turnstones or Surfbirds anymore.
  • Also less Bald Eagles.
  • And the Otter has been gone for a while.
  1. Harbour Seals: 117
  2. Northern Sea Lions: 32
  3. California Sea Lions: 22 (one branded U 687)
  4. Elephant Seals: 20 (17 on Great Race, 3 on Middle Rock)
  5. Seagulls: 327
  6. Pigeon Guillemots: 114
  7. Canada Geese: 21 (14 resident geese, 7 stopovers)
  8. Black Oystercatchers: 10 (plus 2 eggs!)
  9. Harlequin Ducks: 8 (6 males, 2 females)
  10. Cormorants: 4
  11. Barn Swallows: 2
  12. Bald Eagle: 1 immature
  13. Savannah Sparrow: 1

Maintenance

  • Rust painting.
  • More thistle weed whacking.
  • You can cut them down like you’re the Queen of Hearts, but they grow back.
  • Cleaned the solar panels.

Boats

  • Four or so eco-tours came by today.

A Visitor From Afar

Weather

  • Visibility: 10-15 miles today. At times quite hazy.
  • Wind: 15-25 knots West
  • Sky: clear and sunny
  • Water: 1′ chop

Ecological

  • Conducted a census today.
  • Found a tiny dead harbour seal on the rocks.
  • A flock of geese arrived in the late afternoon.
  1. Harbour Seals: 91
  2. Northern Sea Lions: 35
  3. Elephant Seals: 22 (17 on Great Race, 5 on Middle Rock)
  4. California Sea Lions: 20
  5. Seagulls: 275
  6. Pigeon Guillemots: 130
  7. Canada Geese: 20! (although for much of the day only 10)
  8. Black Oystercatchers: 8
  9. Harlequin Ducks: 3 (2 females, 1 male)
  10. Cormorants: 2
  11. Bald Eagle: 1
  12. Rock Sandpiper: 1
  13. Unidentified large bird on Middle Rock; Owl?: 1

Maintenance

  • Removed lots of algae from the boat house.
  • (Re)discovered that the pressure washer does not work.

Boats

  • About 4 eco-tours came by today.
  • Chris dropped off and picked up my friend Greg O’.

Visitors

  • Greg O’, the tree scientist of Vernon, came by in the afternoon for a 3 hour visit!

Greg O come for a visit!

Other

  • A couple of big DND blasts in the afternoon.

SUP’ers and Census

Weather

  • Visibility: 15 miles
  • Wind: 0-5 knots South in the morning, 15 knots West in the evening
  • Sky: clear and sunny
  • Water: calm

Ecological

  • Conducted a census.
  • Surprised I didn’t see any Black Turnstones today.
  • Saw one Northern sea lion branded 524R.
  1. Northern Sea Lions: 93
  2. California Sea Lions: 59
  3. Elephant Seals: 20 (15 on Great Race. 5 on Middle Rock)
  4. Harbour Seals: 6
  5. Seagulls: 355
  6. Pigeon Guillemots: 101
  7. Canada Geese: 18
  8. Black Oystercatchers: 10
  9. Harlequin Ducks: 6 (5 male, 1 female)
  10. Cormorants: 4
  11. Bald Eagles: 4 (1 adult, 3 immature)
  12. Rock Sandpipers: 2
  13. Crow: 1

Maintenance

  • Cleaned more exterior windows.
  • More goose work.

Boats

  • 12 eco-tours today!
  • Some of them appeared to get too close to the sea lions.
  • Three uninvited SUP’ers (stand up paddle boarders) came by Great Race today.
  • After a short rest and a quick chat I sent them on their way again.

Other

  • Five DND blasts today.
  • Two medium blasts at 10:13 and 10:15.
  • One big blast at 10:17.
  • Two medium blasts at around 12:10.

Windy Census Day

Weather

  • Visibility: 15+ miles
  • Wind: 15-20 knots West in the morning, 25-30 after noon.
  • Sky: Sunny with clouds.
  • Water: 1′ chop
  • Expect the wind to keep it up for a while.

Ecological

  • Conducted a census today.
  • I suspect that the high winds have kept away certain species of birds, making today’s list less impressive.
  1. Harbour Seals: 91
  2. Northern Sea Lions: 47
  3. California Sea Lions: 27
  4. Elephant Seals: 19 (15 on Great Race, 4 on Middle Rock)
  5. Seagulls: 314
  6. Pigeon Guillemots: 108
  7. Surfbirds: 39
  8. Canada Geese: 18
  9. Black Turnstones: 14
  10. Black Oystercatchers: 10
  11. Rock Sandpipers: 3
  12. Bald Eagles: 3 (2 adult, 1 immature)
  13. Savannah Sparrows: 2
  14. Harlequin Ducks: 2 (1 male, 1 female)
  15. Cormorant: 1 (one seen on Turbine Rock)

Maintenance

  • Intended to spray algicide on various building walls, but too windy to ensure accuracy. Perhaps tomorrow if the wind dies down.
  • Started investigating the paint stock.
  • Some goose work.

Boats

  • No boats in the reserve today.

Cruise Ship and Sea Lions

Het Nieuw Amsterdam

Het Nieuw Amsterdam

Census and an Unexpected Trip

Weather

  • Visibility: 15 miles
  • Wind: 15-20 knots West
  • Water: 1′ chop
  • Sky: partly cloudy

Ecological

  • Conducted a census.
  1. Harbour Seals: 126
  2. California Sea Lions: 27
  3. Northern Sea Lions: 27
  4. Elephant Seals: 17 (12 on Great Race, 5 on Middle Rock)
  5. River Otter: 1
  6. Seagulls: 563
  7. Pigeon Guillemots: 54
  8. Black Turnstones: 51
  9. Canada Geese: 21
  10. Black Oystercatchers: 14
  11. Savannah Sparrows: 6
  12. Bald Eagles: 5 (4 immature, 1 adult)
  13. Rock Sandpipers: 4
  14. Cormorant: 2
  15. Surfbird: 1

Maintenance

  • Canada Goose themed work.

Boats

  • One eco-tour came by today.
  • Had a phone call from Kyle this morning to let me know that he would be picking me up around 13:00 for a First Nations cultural sensitivity workshop at Pearson College.
  • This was a surprise to me, but nice to get off the island for a few hours.
  • Always good to be reminded and educated on past and present issues.

POW and Middle Rock E-seals

Visitors

  • When Kyle arrived to pick me up he came ashore to take a look at a few things, and then admire the elephant seals.

Other

  • Two loud DND blasts around 12:50.

Last Blast on Bloghorn

Weather and Sea Conditions

North wind, 15 to 20 knots replaced the overnight southeaster and brought cool moist air and overcast skies for the morning today. In the afternoon light winds were variable and turned to light west by early evening. The barometer spent the day crawling out of the hole it was in and by 18:30 was around 1008 hPa. The sky cleared and brightened by evening. A strong wind warning is in effect. The marine forecast for central Juan de Fuca Strait calls for west wind to increase to west 20 to 30 knots early this evening and then drop to west 10 to 15 by early Friday morning. It is expected to be cloudy tomorrow with a 30 percent chance of showers or drizzle and a predicted UV index of 3, or moderate. Sea conditions were calm today once the overnight storm and morning wind chop settled down. As evening starts the wind is moving and the chop is starting again.

Vessel Observations

Three whale-watching operators were observed working in the protected area today and more passed close by through Race Passage heading out to the west and back. One sports fishing vessel was observed transiting the reserve today.

General and Ecological Observations

One Steller Sea Lion 319Y, branded on her left side, was observed hauling out on South Rocks today. She was marked as a young weaner at Rogue Reef in the very southern part of Oregon in 2013, so she is almost 3 years old.

The old male River Otter has taken to napping under the back staircase of the main house in the mornings now and one of the positive things about this new habit, is that it keeps the geese who were interested in nesting there away from the stairs.

This is the end of my shift, my last blast on the blog-horn and it is a little bittersweet to be leaving just as elephant seal show-time starts and spring develops more fully. I leave tomorrow and  want to wish the best to this wonderful Ecological Reserve, which was started by students and faculty at Pearson College. Those folks were brave enough to fight for this place, they had the fortitude and vision to found Race Rocks as a protected area. In BC, Ecological Reserve status is the highest level of protection given, by BC Parks. Fisheries and Oceans Canada protects the water area, as a Rockfish Conservation Area, so jurisdictionally that covers the sea bottom, islets (BC Parks) and the water (Fisheries and Oceans), and makes Race Rocks a de facto marine protected area (no caps).

Of course this is also a special Indigenous place with an intersection of cultures and a complex history of use and ownership by different families, groups and Nations. This is a unique, socio-ecological place to celebrate and protect. From its human history to its natural history, lets make sure that Race Rocks remains a marine protected area and is able to provide ecological education and research opportunities for future generations of British Columbians, as well as Pearson College.

Today was animal census day and the results are posted below.

2016- 14-Apr

River Otter 2

Sea Otter 1

Northern Elephant Seal 11

4Harbour Seal 170

Northern Sea Lion (Steller’s) 72

California Sea Lion 99

Canada Goose 22

Brandt (flying through) 350

Harlequin Duck 8

Surf Scoter 6

Common Merganser 1

Brandt’s Cormorant 2

Double-crested Cormorant 2

Pelagic Cormorant 14

Cormorant (not ID’d to species) 5

Bald Eagle (juvenile) 8

Bald Eagle (adult) 4

Killdeer 0

Black Oystercatcher12

Black Turnstone 54

Surfbird 5

Rock Sandpiper 2

Glaucous-winged Gull 560

Common Murres fly through 9

Rhinoceros Auklets flying 6

Pigeon Guillemot188

Northwestern Crow 2

Savannah Sparrow 2

Barn Swallows4

Chores and Visitors

Today was cleanup day in preparation for departure tomorrow. Other chores were routine and there were no visitors.

All the best goes out to Riley, Eco-guardian for the next six weeks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Re-runs

Weather & Sea Conditions

Light, variable winds and overcast skies were the norm for most of today. The sun came out in the early evening but total accumulated sunlight levels were way down from the highs of last week. Of course this also meant a low UV index, which barely reached 2 today. The barometric pressure climbed steadily from a low of 1010 on Sunday, to over 1030 hPa today and tomorrow’s forecast calls for more sun and a moderate (5) UV index. Light winds are predicted to continue, rising to 15 knots Wednesday afternoon. Except for tidal rips and current driven standing waves, sea conditions were calm and rippled today.

Vessels

Six whale watching vessels were observed working in the protected area today. One of the larger yellow vessels took chances with safety and wildlife security, ignoring common sense and rules, by barging through the narrow, shallow passageway between the South Rocks sea lions haul-out and Great Race. They were lucky, they missed the shallow rocks and the sea lions were disturbed but did not stampede.

Why is it always the same company that pushes the limits? Not all of their operators take these kinds of risks but it certainly makes one pause and wonder: what kind of leadership allows this to happen repeatedly?

Very few sports fishing boats were seen today except in the distance at Constance Bank and Beechey Head. One was observed passing through the protected area (not fishing), near Rosedale Reef.

Ecological and General Observations

Ecologically it was the day of the goose. The time has come, (the Walrus said), for egg laying to start, whether nests are built and territories staked out, or not. There was a certain desperation and pandemonium amongst the geese today leading to much honking, numerous chases, physical battles between the males and general goose drama. They are here to stay, like the California Sea Lions.

Everything else seemed to proceed as usual; sea lions and seals slept. Beulah crushed the beds where I picked tulips yesterday and then moved over behind the boat-shed. The river otter continues to use his two story, rock, otter spot and ‘decorates’ the walkway with evidence of his fish predation. The gulls seemed more settled and there seemed to be fewer marauding eagles. Black Oystercatchers are all in pairs in the same areas where they nested last year, through most of the day. The Pigeon Guillemots spent more of the day ashore and were still here in the late afternoon. The Harlequins were busy fuelling up for their move to the mountains.

A true sign of spring, the bull kelp could be seen reaching the surface at low tide. Soon there will be beds of kelp around each rock making it easier for the skippers to see the underwater hazards that are compounded by ‘the race’. The Sea Otter made a brief appearance and appeared to be itchy. Maybe he was just doing his daily ritual of grooming to keep his fur impeccable and impenetrable to the ocean’s cold.

Chores were routine today. There were no visitors.

Lantern Fish Found

Weather and Sea Conditions

The day started with a beautiful sunrise and then quickly clouded over, clouds pushed in by light, southeast winds. Late afternoon, the wind veered through southwest to a light westerly.  The barometric pressure, which started at 1017hPa dropped all day and was below 1010 hPa by 19:30.

Light levels were the low today and the accumulated solar radiation for the day was just over 250 Ly, measured in Langleys. That was about half of yesterday’s sunshine. Although it was calm today, the forecast has a gale warning in effect and the west wind is expected to pick up to 35 knots tonight. Monday is expected to be windy, mainly cloudy with a 40 percent chance of showers.

Vessels

Victoria’s first cruise ship of the season, went past last night and today regular whale-watching vessels including Five-Stars and Pacific Explorer were back working in the protected area after an absence of at least a month and maybe more. The more regular visiting catamaran, 4-Ever Wild, cruised through carefully and respectfully. Several sports fishers passed through the reserve slowly, today and all fishing activity observed, was outside of the conservation area. There were many vessels in the vicinity, anchored and fishing for halibut, stretching out from Beechey Head to Constance Bank.

Ecological

Several branded sea lions were photographed and included in the gallery here. The two California Sea Lions were X279 (brand still very pink) and X 10_ , where _ represents a number not yet identified. U390, from the Columbia River region was also photographed. The branded Steller’s Sea Lion noted was 524R a migrant from southern Oregon. Beulah, the large female Northern Elephant Seal was back on Great Race, adorning the lawn at first light and seven other elephant seals can be seen on Middle Rock.

At least 200 Pigeon Guillemots were in and around Great Race in the morning, but gone by early afternoon. The eagles continue to chase gulls on Great Race as well as perching on North Rock, West Rock, South Rock, Middle Rock and Turbine. The geese do not seem to be bothered by the eagles and sometimes land right beside them. There were also over 30 Surfbirds resting here today, even though none were seen during the last census. They were in a mixed flock with Rock Sandpipers and Black Turnstone on the boulder area to the east of the main house.

I found an unusual little (~2.5 cm. long) fish on the marine railway this morning. It was very fresh looking, but dead and undamaged. It looks like a member of the myctophid family.

Also known as a lantern fish, this little myctophid has a typical upturned jaw and rows of fluorescent blue photophores along its abdomen and on its sides. The photophores are packed with bioluminescent bacteria and allow the fish to communicate with light signals in the dark. The eyes are very large (relatively) because these fish are usually in very low, light conditions. Myctophids are very common fish in the ocean, but are not commonly seen, as they usually live deep, in the twilight zone and only come up during their nightly, vertical migration. I am not sure how it ended up on the ramp but currents here could have played a part.

Chores/Visitors

I went off-island briefly this morning and everything worked smoothly. Chores were routine today and there were no visitors.