The Weaner Returns

Weather

  • Visibility: 15 miles
  • Wind: 10-15 knots North, later NW
  • Sky: mostly clear
  • Water: 1′ chop

Ecological

  • The weaner was back on Great Race today, over by the base of the tower.
  • The other male is still here too.
  • I saw some rock sandpipers today. Perhaps I failed to pick them out from the surfbirds yesterday.

Maintenance

  • Hand pumped more diesel into the day tank.

Boats

  • A few eco-tours.

Other

  • Lots of DND blasting today.
  • Big blasts at the following times:
  • 9:48, 9:50, 10:06, 10:22, 12:00, and 12:02.
  • Bigger bangs at the following times:
  • 14:09 and 14:12.

 

Whale Sighting!

Weather

  • Visibility: 15 miles
  • Wind: 10-15 knots West, later 5 knots South, then 5-10 West
  • Sky: clear and sunny!
  • Water: rippled

Ecological

  • Census day!
  • Shortly before 15:30 as I was counting shorebirds, I heard a loud noise to my right. Glancing over, I was thrilled to see a whale surfacing in the South Channel. I managed to get some photos as it resurfaced farther south-west.
  1. California Sea Lions: 79
  2. Harbour Seals: 69
  3. Steller (Northern) Sea Lions: 33
  4. Elephant Seals: 3, all on Great Race, 2 young males, 1 weaner
  5. Whale: 1 (I think it was an Orca)
  6. Seagulls unspecified: 269
  7. Pigeon Guillemots: 45
  8. Cormorants unspecified: 30
  9. Double Crested Cormorants: 9
  10. Surfbirds: 37
  11. Harlequin Ducks: 27 (15 males and 12 females)
  12. Canada Geese: 24
  13. Black Turnstones: 20
  14. Bald Eagles: 20 (4 adults, 16 immature)
  15. Black Oystercatchers: 6
  16. Rock Sandpipers: 4
  17. Crows: 3

Boats

  • A few eco-tours passed by today.
  • Second Nature came out with food supplies for me.
  • A large navy sailboat passed by north of the reserve.

Visitors

  • Kyle and Jeff came out in Second Nature.

Other

  • One helicopter flew just south of the reserve in the morning.

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.

Octopus Ashore

West winds of ~25 knots brought heavily overcast skies loaded with rain this morning. The wind continued into the afternoon and the rain stopped occasionally while the sky brightened but remained dynamic and dramatic. As darkness fell it was still blowing 18 – 20 knots west. Barometric pressure rose steadily all day levelling off at dark, just below 1010 hPa. Forecasters call for light winds and showers here tomorrow.

It was a quiet day on the boating front with no whale watching or other vessels observed in the Ecological Reserve. Patrol vessels were positioned in Race Passage to ward off any unsuspecting boaters who might be venturing too close to Rocky Point and loud explosions punctuated lunchtime.

Ecologically, the day heralded spring, which is eternally welcome and now only a few weeks off. Mid-morning, Chunk, the woeful, sole remaining Northern Elephant Seal, shuffled off to the sea, leaving without destroying his daffodil pillow (see yesterday’s Log photo). The first few migrant shorebirds heading north, stopped and rested for a while on Great Race. I think they were Western Sandpipers. A small flock of Rock Sandpipers foraged on small invertebrates amongst the fresh seaweed turf.

A large, dead Giant Pacific Octopus was lodged in amidst the boulders on the south shore. It is hard to say what the cause of death was, but this is a species in which the female tends the eggs, while fasting, for seven months (or more depending on the temperature) and she dies soon after the eggs hatch. Lets hope that 50, 50,000 to  60,000 tiny hatchling octopods are tumbling out on the ebbing tide finding wee plankton to feed on and flashing colour signals to their siblings.

Right now the solar panels need extra help from the Lister generator for a few hours each evening but with spring on the way, there will be longer days and more intense sunlight levels, which will increase the contribution by solar generation. If anyone reading this knows of a small wind generation system that will not damage birds, please let Pearson College know about it. This is a windy place and could possibly be entirely weaned from diesel by using wind to supplement the mighty solar panels. The caveat is that the wind turbine can’t harm the birds that the Ecological Reserve is here to protect.

There were no visitors and chores were routine.

 

 

 

 

Blustery Spring Weather

When you live on a small coastal islet, mysterious things happen with Internet and phone connections from time to time. Both crashed here last night so this blog is a combination of the two days. The weather has been typical of early spring weather in coastal British Columbia. Winds have generally been about 10 to 20 knots, swinging around from west to northwest and back again. Spectacular stacks of clouds keep rolling down the Strait from open ocean and the heavy showers visible in the surrounding hills would inspire any watercolour painter. Race Rocks itself seems to be in a drier micro-climate most of the time with showers all around – the centre of the donut. Dramatic skies continued right into sunset tonight with beautiful pinks and oranges framed by sweeping, purple and gray-blue clouds. The forecast for tomorrow looks even brighter.

South across the Strait, there was fresh snow, low in the Elwha Valley this morning and you could feel that cold nip in the air: perfect weather for sea going salmon smolts and just what the herring often spawn in. Speaking of weather, the weather station appears to have crashed so I will trouble-shoot that in the morning.

Eleven Northern Elephant Seals were hauled out on Middle Rock yesterday and one checked out the jetty ramp this morning.

Eleven Northern Elephant Seals were hauled out on Middle Rock yesterday and one checked out the jetty ramp this morning.

In spite of the blustery conditions, there were three whale watching boats in the Ecological Reserve today and lots to see in terms of smaller wildlife which are often over-looked and are really stunning in their own right.

Two charismatic species, a Black Oystercatcher and a Harlequin Duck share a rock.

Two charismatic species, a Black Oystercatcher and a Harlequin Duck share a rock.

This Oystercatcher likes to stand with his/her toes crossed. Does it make for more stability in the wind?

The toe-crossing Black Oystercatcher.

The toe-crossing Black Oystercatcher.

Here is a challenge for you, inspired by the ‘Marine Detective’ who does a similar thing with underwater photos of cryptic fish. How many species and how many birds can you spot in the photo below?

A mixed species flock of shorebirds rests on Race Rocks in the lee of the Light Tower and main house. How many species and how many birds? More hints (photos) to follow on the different species.

A mixed species flock of shorebirds rests on Race Rocks in the lee of the Light Tower and main house. How many species and how many birds? More hints (photos) to follow on the different species.

All of these species nest on the ground so being hard to see is a good thing. So does the stay-at-home Black Oystercatcher which is hard to ignore and nests along the BC coast, close to its’ natal shore.

Many of the shorebirds resting here on Race Rocks, fly all the way up to the arctic to breed. Surfbirds nest on mountain ridges in the Yukon and Alaska while Dunlin prefer wet coastal tundra. Rock Sandpipers make their nests on the tundra in northwestern Alaska near the Bering Sea. Black Turnstones also nest along the Bering Sea, near coastal meadows in western Alaska.

This little bird wings its way to the mountains of the Yukon and Alaska to nest.

This little bird wings its way to the mountains of the Yukon and Alaska to nest.

Another arctic breeder, I think the bird in front is a Dunlin.

Another arctic breeder, I think the bird in front is a Dunlin.

This Bering Sea, tundra nester sips a bit of water off a rock in between naps.

This Bering Sea, tundra nester sips a bit of water off a rock in between naps.

Although I wouldn’t call it a migration, I did a few kilometers today, wheel barrowing around firewood wood and wood chips, tending the desalinator and energy building, and getting distracted from my labours by photographing birds.  I was really pleased that the sunshine allowed for water making with the desalinator without the using the generator. The genny only required an hour run time, to top up the batteries thanks to the solar panels.

March 19 – Last Day of Winter- Census

Raining
Wind: NE 4-14 knots
Air Temperature: Low 8.8°C, High 10.3°C
Ocean Temperature: 8.8°C

The wet conditions were helpful with cleaning some exterior walls and windows. The rain water cistern was filled up from the roof. The rain also helped wash away the algae and slime on the walls, along with some scrubbing.

The low light and rain made the census difficult. In recent days, there has been a much higher number of harbour seals hauled out on the rocks. The sea lions also spent most of the day in the water. It was not possible to distinguish between the species of cormorants on Turbine or Middle Rock.

There were no boats seen in the reserve today.

Census results:
Steller Sea Lion: 59
California Sea Lion: 62
Harbour Seal: 21
Bald Eagle: 7
Cormorant: 27
Canada Goose: 24
Gull: 352
Black Oystercatcher: 4
Harlequin Duck: 9
Pigeon Guillemot: 13
Surfbird: 4
Black Turnstone: 16
Rock Sandpiper: 6
Savannah Sparrow: 1

March 12 – Sunny Census Thursday

Sunny
Wind: 0-13 knots SW in the morning, NE from mid morning to afternoon and SW in the evening
Air Temperature: Low 9.9°C, High 13.2°C
Ocean Temperature: 9.0°C

Three Pearson students came to Race Rocks this morning. Karen, Sunny and Hanne joined Martin, who has been here since Monday.

The students did some work this afternoon: sweeping all 99 steps of the lighthouse and continuing the process of stowing the chopped wood in all the nooks and crannies of the buildings, to be used next winter to heat the main house.

There was DND blasting happening in the morning and early afternoon on Bentinck Island, less than 1km away from the ecological reserve.

Today’s high temperature of 13.2°C, as measured at the ground weather station, was the highest recorded since 2006, when the weather station was installed. A high of 14°C was recorded by the instruments at the top of the lighthouse.

Three eco tour boats visited the reserve. One boat came very close to a group of sea lions swimming and others hauled out on the South Islands.

The low tide of 1.1m at 13:52, exposed lots of species from the low tide zone into the air. The shore and tidal pools were full of life: mussels, barnacles, limpets and lots of other flora and fauna of the sea. The oystercatchers and shore birds were having a feast.

There were no small birds perching birds seen today. There are usually a few fox, sparrows, savannah sparrows and occasionally juncos and robins zipping around the island.

Here are the results from today’s Megafauna Census:
Elephant Seal: 1
Steller Sea Lion: 54
California Sea Lion: 43
Harbour Seal: 52
Bald Eagle: 9
Great Blue Heron: 1
Crow: 1
Oystercatcher: 4
Double Crested Cormorant: 12
Brandt’s Cormorant: 21
Gull: 247
Canada Goose: 14
Pigeon Guillemot: 9
Harlequin Duck: 13
Surfbird: 3
Black Turnstone: 10
Rock Sandpiper: 2