First Glaucous-winged-gull chicks hatch

Weather

We have mainly low winds except on the Monday 26th where we got to 40knots from West otherwise it has been between 5knots to 15knots

Ecological

I spotted the 2 first gull chicks and they were  4/5days old …there are for sure more than 2 and the adults gulls are getting aggressive. I saw a river otter and 2 young ones under the crane like usual.7 Elephant seals are steady on the rocks( moulting time). No Sea lions at all.The eagles get motivated and 2 attacked at the same time!

Vessels

I could count 80 fishing boats but not closed, ecotourism vessels full as usual.

Maintenance

Usual chores ..the solar panels got pretty dirty and needs attention. I transferred the last 240 liter of oil in the main house tank

The Return of Otter

Weather

  • Visibility: 15 miles
  • Wind: 5-10 knots North East, then from 15:00 onwards 15-25 knots West
  • Sky: mostly overcast
  • Water: rippled

Ecological

  • Census day!
  • This morning at about 7:00 I spied the Otter wandering along the wooden deck.
  • Later in the early evening I spied him again and got two photos!
  • Saw one branded California Sea Lion: X[?]60
  • Watched fascinated as two crows boldly flew up to two eagles and scampered about next to them!
  • Saw some seagulls muck about in a goose nest. I think they were eating the eggs.
  1. Harbour Seals: 70
  2. California Sea Lions: 70
  3. Steller (Northern) Sea Lions: 53
  4. Elephant Seals: 9 (2 on Great Race, 7 on Middle Rock)
  5. River Otter: 1
  6. Seagulls unspecified: 172
  7. Pigeon Guillemots: 138
  8. Surfbirds: 88
  9. Cormorants unspecified: 49 (all on Middle Rocks)
  10. Canada Geese: 19
  11. Black Turnstones: 14
  12. Harlequin Ducks: 9 (5 males and 4 females)
  13. Black Oystercatchers: 6
  14. Bald Eagles: 2 (2 adults, 0 immature)
  15. Savannah Sparrow: 2
  16. Crows: 2

Maintenance

  • Lots of intense goose work.
  • Pumped one 55 gallon barrel of diesel into the tidy tank.

Boats

  • A couple of eco-tours came by, as well as pleasure craft.
  • In the late morning, several kayakers entered the reserve.
  • Most of them stayed over by the North Rocks, but a few wandered down to South Rocks.
  • Some of them had difficulty dealing with the strong ebb tidal current, and had to renegotiate their route to rejoin the others.
  • Stay safe out there!

A snowy day for a lonely pup

Weather

North East Wind ,17knots at 8:00, Sky:Overcast ,Visibility :15miles and Air Temperature:0.3 degrees Celsius. It has been a very snowy day and the fog horn was on the most part of the day.

Ecological

When we wake up in the morning we understood why we could heard so well the elephant pup. Actually heading away from the others he must have fallen from the walls behind our house and we discovered him almost hidden by snow and totally asleep . he spent the whole day like that alone and moved a little farther late in the afternoon. Mum was not back. 10 geese were looking for some grass and water pool all around . we discovered the tracks of an River Otter like usual in the same area :closed and under the sea watershed

 

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 ; – )

 

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.

 

Spontaneous Whale Watching!

Weather

  • Visibility: 15+ miles
  • Mt. Baker visible at times today.
  • Wind: 10-15 knots West
  • Sky: clear and sunny!
  • Water: calm

Ecological

  • We spied three eagles on Turbine Rock this morning.
  • 14 elephant seals on Great Race today, including both Chunk and Chuckles.
  • As Second Nature was departing Race Rocks sometime after 9:00, Kyle spied several whale watching boats following a pod of orcas outside the reserve.
  • I hopped aboard (sans camera) and we went off to join the fleet.
  • Over the next half hour or so, we watched 5 or 6 orcas as they repeatedly surfaced on their southerly course.
  • Christine (Guy’s wife) took several photographs; perhaps she will share them with us soon.
  • Pam Birley discovered a Black Oystercatcher nest today via webcam. That makes 3 known nests.
  • As Pam noted, it is “not a good spot to nest because the Otter likes to sunbathe in that spot on the rocks.”

Maintenance

  • I did some yellow paint touch up on the jetty.
  • Sprayed more algicide on the students’ house.
  • Shut-down the students’ house.

Boats

  • Second Nature arrived around 9:00, and properly departed around 10:00 after our unexpected whale watching trip!
  • Many eco-tours came by today.
  • A few of them appeared to be too close to the sea lions.

Visitors

  • Kyle, Guy, Christine, and their daughter arrived at 9:00.
  • Guy and Christine were dropping off some gear for their upcoming shift.
  • Maya, Tazi, and Ali departed on Second Nature.

Tazi, Maya, Ali

Ali, Maya, Tazi, Mt. Baker

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moulting is Itchy Business

Weather and Sea Conditions

After a hesitant start, with locally overcast skies and fog to the southeast, the sun was blazing by afternoon and it stayed that way into the evening. The UV index rose to almost 6 today, which is high. The wind started at 15 to 20 knots from the west, dropped and turned to the south and southeast and then returned to west15 to 20 knots by early evening. The barometric pressure stayed fairly steady between 1005 and 1010 hPa. The forecast calls for the westerly to increase to 15 to 20 early this evening and to 20 to 30 late this evening, then to drop to 5 to 15 knots late overnight. They expect a similar wind pattern tomorrow with more cloud.

Vessel Observations

Seven whale watching vessels were documented working in the protected area today and most followed the rules. One yellow zodiac exited past West Rock heading west, at high speed. Better communication is needed about boundaries, limits and a reminder about keeping at least 100 meters away from marine mammals might be helpful. I know these ecotourism operators want this good thing to last.

Ecological and General Observations

A nice low tide this morning exposed all the beautiful new seaweeds of the season. Bull kelp is growing fast and the Mazzaella splendens is a rich, iridescent burgundy colour. Fresh kelps like Alaria, Laminaria and Cymathere triplicata festoon the rocks in the lower intertidal areas. Up high, the more ephemeral species of nori and sea lettuce are starting to go reproductive and lose their ‘bloom’.

A high density of grazers, keeps the seaweeds in check and feeds the gulls and oystercatchers.

More elephant seals arrived today bringing the number moulting in the garden to eight. On land they are the epitome of lethargic. It is a real treat to watch them in the water, they are so graceful and languid as they chase and roll and spin in slow motion. I also see the River Otter and Sea Otter daily, which is always interesting. The Sea Otter hung out with the Harbour Seals today while they were hauled out on South Rocks. He just floated a couple of metres away as they slept on the rock. He dozed in the water, using the back eddies to stay close. Later he positioned himself in a back eddy that kept him almost stationary, while meters away the current that blasted past at almost six knots. Very savvy sea otter.

There were a lot of shorebirds today, about fifty Surfbirds, a few Rock Sandpipers and a couple of Dunlin. The Black Turnstone numbers are swelling too so I think the migration is happening. The turnstones I watched foraging seemed voracious.

Lighthouse Garden Heritage

Weather and Sea Conditions

At Race Rocks today, winds were light and variable from the south and southeast, at first under overcast skies and eventually under brilliant sunshine. The barometric pressure was still high (1025hPa at 18:30), but dropping now and there is a strong wind warning in effect. Light winds are predicted to increase to east 15 knots early this evening, build to east 15 to 25 after midnight and drop again Thursday evening. Thursday will be sunny and warm with a moderate UV index of 5. Except for the usual races, tidal currents, rips, standing waves and over falls, sea conditions were calm today.

Vessel Observations

This may be a better position for viewing, although still very close and there are animals in the water, near the boat, which has propellors turning to maintain position.

This may be a better position for viewing animals on South Rocks, although still very close and there are animals in the water, near the boat, which has propellors turning to maintain position.

Only two whale watching vessels were observed working in the protected area today and neither of them passed between Great Race and South Rocks. Several sports fishing vessels passed through, and there was no fishing observed in the protected area. One small inflatable was observed speeding in the protected area. This vessel came to the jetty later and they were informed about the speed limits and restrictions on going ashore.

Ecological and General Observations

Nothing really new to report here other than two more female Northern Elephant Seals arrived ashore today and several more were visible on Middle Rock. These animals will be starting their moult soon and building bone density for important winter haul-out activities of giving birth, nursing and mating. Remembering last year’s elephant seal plant crushing activities, motivated me to take photos of some of the lighthouse heritage garden plants on the island.

There are photographs below of the river otter den mentioned yesterday. Tomorrow will be animal census day.

Most chores were routine today. There were no visitors.