Census day


  • Visibility: 10 Miles, a bit foggy this morning but burned off by noon to partly cloudy
  • Wind: 10-15 NW got continuously more calm through the day
  • Sky: partly cloudy throughout the day
  • Water: stayed consistently calm


  • A lot of ecotours came through today
  • Had a couple visitors, come by with Kyle this morning and then had Kyle and Guy come back this afternoon to help me out with a couple things


  • Census day!
    1. Steller (Northern) Sea Lions: 35
    2. Harbour Seals: 44
    3. California Sea Lions: 23
    4. Elephant Seals: 13
    5. Seagulls unspecified: 291
    6. Pigeon Guillemots: 152
    7. Cormorants unspecified: 29
    8. Canada Geese: 14
    9. Savannah Sparrows: 0
    10. Harlequin Ducks: 8 (2 female, 6 male)
    11. Black Oystercatchers: 8
    12. Bald Eagles: 2 (2 adults, 1 immature)
  • There are 2 more elephant seals than usual! so thats exciting, they stayed scattered today on the path from the lighthouse to the jetty
  • As you can see there have been a decrease in sea lions, they are no longer on the southern rocks and have moved to the main island one group on the north side and another group on the southside
  • There have been an increase in gulls, pigeon guillemots and cormorants, also the harlequins are back, I did not see them last week
  • There has also been an increase in harbour seals, when I counted them they were mostly all on the Middle Rocks but have since scattered about the South Islands as well

A sea lion on the grass


At 8:00 light North West wind,Overcast sky,13 miles of visibility.The wind became full West later and raised steadily to 30 knots in the afternoon and evening.


Chunk was back but Boss gone …The pups were moving more . (The other young male elephant seal is always around and can often be seen in the water) . Many birds now and are getting busier and noisier:pigeons guillemots ,crows,oystercatchers by pairs now,geese ,Harlequins ducks,Eagles in the morning,some shorebirds…a lot of life! In the afternoon we were surprised to see in middle of the lawn under our windows a young californian Sea lion : a branded one (940C) He had something hanging from his neck maybe a small hook and a line. We never saw a lonely Sea lion before  far from the rocks and alone? strange he looked tired?DSC_0317DSC_0624DSC_0645


it is pretty calm on the waters …we saw a few fishing boats .It is the beginning of the halibut fishing season

Student Power

The morning was quiet, overcast and uneventful, weather-wise. Light variable winds continued and the wind did not rise above 15 knots until mid afternoon when the wind became more definitely north by northeast. There is a wind warning in effect calling for south winds of 20 knots near the west entrance to the Strait of Juan de Fuca tonight. The barometer continued yesterday’s gradual fall and reached ~1003 hPa when this log was posted at 18:00. The forecast is calling for a 60% chance of showers with variable light winds becoming southwest 10 to 20 Monday evening.

Only one whale-watching vessel was observed today. They moved slowly and carefully while watching the sea lions and eagles on South Rock. The sea lions didn’t even look up.

Ecologically there was nothing outstanding to report. Spring steadily approaches and will soon be here. There were a few more shorebirds resting, grooming, bathing, feeding and sleeping on Great Race, before the next part of their journeys. Black Oystercatchers are definitely staking out territories in pairs at all the same places that were used last year and the year before. Eagles continue to be busy on all of the islets but particularly Great Race South and West. The sea lions seem truly exhausted and during the day sleep together in huddles with the two species mixed together. One new brand was noted but light levels were too low to verify the number.

Sunlight levels were surprisingly low today. This is good for a low UV index but is not so great in terms of generating solar power. Students Aziz and Sam helped by cleaning most of the solar panels, which helped us capture more of the available energy. Kyle and Keneshka helped move empty propane tanks and other outgoing gear to the end of the jetty for pick-up. Together the four students made a good team and cleaned up the student house after using it for the weekend. Sam also helped launch and retrieve the whaler in time for a test drive to check a couple of things before Chris arrived in Second Nature. That all went well.

Chris arrived for pick-up, with a guest, a naval doctor who seemed to enjoy visiting Race Rocks. He felt very lucky to have grown up beside the sea in Wales. Race Rocks reminded him of larger, more isolated seabird islands that he had visited in Wales.

Malou, a student from Greenland continued her training on Second Nature today and did very well demonstrating her ability. She made a good landing and managed to launch back out into the stream, away from the concrete jetty with no damage, a feat in itself. My limited experience driving Second Nature was that it was a tricky boat to drive, so kudos to Malou.

More Visitors

Light northeast winds continued this morning under high cloud. Light winds, combined with an extended high tide and a long period of fairly slack current made for a peaceful morning and calm waters. The wind direction started to shift eastward in the early afternoon and by dark it was coming from the west. The barometer was more or less steady today and the UV index stayed below 2, so weather-wise things were quite benign. Showers are expected for the next few days and winds are forecast to be variable 5 – 15 knots until late Sunday.

Whale watchers were out and about today and five vessels were observed working in the Ecological Reserve. There were quite a few sports fishing vessels as well but most of them stayed outside the Protected Area. One sports fisher ran through between Great Race and South Rock.

The gulls are getting closer to nesting daily. For the first time this season I observed a pair mating. It is quite a balancing act. The seals and sea lions seem to spending the whole day sleeping right now while the eagles are busy fishing and hunting cormorants and gulls.

Chris brought out the rest of the Jeanne Sauvé scholars who have been working at Pearson College for the last few weeks. It was really a treat to meet with them and learn a little about the great things they do to make the world a better place.

They reminded me of a Margaret Meade quote: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Jeanne Sauvé scholars from around the world working together to solve issues.

Jeanne Sauvé scholars from around the world working together to solve tricky issues.

Under way on Nuclear Power

There was a large roar made by ocean swells breaking and surging on the west and southwest sides of the island, at first light today. Winds abated and light southwest to west winds in the morning turned to light west in the afternoon rising to 15 to 20 knots by evening. The sky cleared by noon and stayed that way until dusk. The barometric pressure continued Monday’s trajectory, rising above 1022 hPa by mid-afternoon and holding there into the evening.. The marine forecast calls for light winds Wednesday and a few days of sunshine.

Four whale watching vessels were observed working in the Protected Area today. All four vessels went around to the outside (south) of South Rock to observe the seals, sea lions and eagles. One sports fisher was observed travelling through the reserve and dip-netting fish near the Rosedale Reef buoy. Forage fish, possibly herring seemed to be boiling up to the surface their drawing numerous eagles, gulls and cormorants.

An Articulated Tug and Barge (ATB), (barge, a loaded oil tanker), was noted outbound, this morning. When we checked for a vessel name on the Automated Information System (AIS), http://www.marinetraffic.com/en/ais/home/centerx:-124/centery:48/zoom:10 it did not show up on the marine traffic system neither did the tug attached to it as a pusher.

A report to the BC Ministry of Environment on the risk of oil spills in BC waters (http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/main/west-coast-spill-response-study/)states that barges are not required to use AIS however their tugs should register. The report goes on to say that a spill from an ATB could exceed 25,000m3 of oil. Fuel barge movement statistics provided by Canadian Coast Guard Marine Communications Traffic Services to the 2013 BC report show over 1000 fuel barges outbound from Victoria, Vancouver, Comox and Prince Rupert and another 514 transiting Victoria alone. Why are they not required to register? There have been several near-miss incidents with these oil carriers; why not use every means possible to maximize safety and reduce risk, such as AIS?

To put things in context, a show of force was led by the USS Shoup heading out to sea, followed an hour later by a very large submarine escorted by a convoy bristling with military might and expense. The usual explosions from Rocky Point put the ar in arsenal.

Ecologically, the gulls are becoming more abundant and settled in their nesting spots. Territorial disputes are a daily occurrence now as are the calmer moments of pairs just standing together gazing at and grooming each other. The Harlequin Ducks have been busy with all the whitewater activity and take their rest on the boulder beach just southeast of the main house. Pigeon Guillemots were back for a morning visit to Great Race.

Sea lions and Harbour Seals had really good daytime sleeps today recovering from the storms.

Temporary repairs were completed on damaged roofs, as was clean-up and mopping up from the storm.

Sea Spray and Flying Foam

Update at 17:40

Since writing the log the wind turned to west, southwest and came up even stronger. We have sustained gusts up to 62.7 knots. Seas are coming over the helipad and the tank-shed and boat shed roofs are being stripped off and are flying past the house. Yikes.

Sustained east, southeast winds of 30 to 40 knots, gusting to over 50, pushed seas up into breaking whitecaps this morning. Large breakers rolled down the jetty and rose up around the derrick base making seawater sampling impossible. Under heavy skies, waves crashed against the eastern face of Great Race and flying sheets of salt spray dominated the small landscape here. There was even a pocket of sea foam building up on the boulder beach and foam was flying right across the island.

Barometric pressure dropped overnight and kept going down in the morning, reaching 982 HPa by early afternoon. The highest gusts were observed late morning 53.4 knots on the Lighthouse system which we can monitor in the kitchen. Gale warnings continue and the forecast is calling for a turn to strong westerlies in the afternoon, diminishing to southwest 15 to 20 overnight. As this log is posted at ~15:00, there is no sign of it letting up and the rain has started.

It was not a day for small vessels to be out and none were seen. Pan pans on the VHF radio included an overturned Junior Flyer with a father and son (a child), clinging to the hull of the overturned vessel. Their call originated in Puget Sound and the US Coast Guard rescued them. What was that man thinking?

There is obviously a great deal of mixing going on in the sea, with all the wind and wave energy churning things. That means spring phytoplankton blooms are still some time away and early herring spawns may produce larvae that go hungry. Stratification (stable layering of the water) becomes possible when less dense surface waters (warmer, less salty, or both), float on top of denser seawater (saltier, colder or both). That layering in surface waters gives some stability for growth of photosynthetic plankton that drive the food chain and rely on light. Light levels are returning, there are lots of nutrients, so as soon as it calms down for a while there should be a plankton ‘bloom’.

On the bottom, microscopic Bull Kelp ‘plants’ are starting to grow now. They will be full size by July after phenomenal  growth fuelled by sunlight and nutrients. A few ‘old growth’ Bull Kelp were visible today, silhouetted through the waves on breaking reefs; for brief seconds as the waves crested, they stretched out fully vertical. Bull Kelp clings with tenuous holdfasts anchored through storms and calm. They are considered to be an annual species and don’t generally last much more than a year so the ones still here are very hardy.

The wild goose chase continued today as if the weather wasn’t enough to ward them off. It was too windy for the eagles and the gulls were hunkered down in nooks and hollows head into the wind in order to stand their ground against the wind. A few of the larger sea lions managed to haul out mid day. It looked too difficult (and dangerous) for the smaller animals that were seen cavorting in the waves. Again there was no sign of seals or guillemots.

Landing would have been impossible today. Even at low tide, big breakers were sweeping the jetty. Chores were routine as wind and spray permitted.

Like the farm of the same name 'Wind Whipped'.

Like the farm of the same name ‘Wind Whipped’.




Wild Easterlies

The ferocity of 40-knot easterly winds and heavy seas made for a spectacular storm day. The barometer, deflected by a big low-pressure system (965 hPa) passing by offshore, started to drop at about 08:00 this morning from the overnight high of 1008. As this piece was posted at 17:00, the pressure is 994 hPa and still falling.

A gale warning is in effect and the Environment Canada marine forecast calls for winds to veer to the south 25 to 35 tonight. The wind is supposed to drop to southwest 15 to 25 knots by Thursday morning and to light by evening. Although there was a brief period without rain in the morning, sea spray and rain mixed in the afternoon. Rain is forecast on and off for the rest of the week.

Not surprising, there were no vessels seen in or around the Ecological Reserve today. The neighbourhood explosions continued mid-day and I did not envy those standing by in the two little boats, on watch, as the winds and sea rose.

Ecologically, it almost feels like a step back into winter except for warm temperatures and longer days. The flowers are taking a beating and facing west away from the wind. Even the sea lions retreated to the sea and the young ones spent the day surfing and catching airtime. Some gulls seemed to savour the chance interact with high winds, doing skilled flying with high speed turns and tucks, while others hunkered down, facing into the wind and occasionally blown off their roosts. Geese were easily persuaded to flock off early.

Ocean surface temperature dropped from the last few days’ readings, by 0.1 degrees to 8.9o C. The mixing caused by the storm was palpable as large breakers’ tops blew off and the circular motion of the waves was exaggerated by opposing tidal currents.

There were no visitors and chores were routine. Photos were only taken through the window to save the camera from salt spray.

This photo doesn't really capture the mighty waves, but it gives you an idea.

This photo doesn’t really capture the mighty waves, but it gives you an idea.




Humpbacks to the south west

Ecological Happenings

  • Moderate winds and seas in the morning building to strong gale force winds with rough seas later on.
  • A group of 3 humpbacks were spotted feeding about 1.5nm SW of the reserve. Group observed to be heading east before they were lost in the building seas.
  • The alpha male Elephant seal went into the ocean late last night to rehydrate and didn’t return till the afternoon today.
  • Male Bufflehead seen in the surf zone to the east of the main island.

Marine Vessels

  • None


  • Logs removed from jetty.
  • Electrical outlet in Tank room fixed.
  • Engine room tidied and cleaned.
Male Bufflehead

Male Bufflehead

Group of harlequin ducks

Group of Harlequin ducks

Male and female harlequin ducks

Male and female Harlequin ducks



Peakaboo -Smaller Elephant Seal

Female Elephant seal

Female Elephant seal


Male Sea lion appears to be blind in right eye, likely from dominance fights

Male Sea lion. Appears to be blind in right eye, likely from dominance fights

Thayer's Gull in flight

Thayer’s Gull in flight

Gift from the storm

Black Turnstone

Black Turnstone

Ecological Happenings

  • A generally bright day with gentle winds and calm seas.
  • Significant quantities of driftwood have been washed up including large sections of telegraph poles and tree roots.
  • The elephant seals seem to be here for the duration. Though their route off the island (boat ramp) has only just been cleared of driftwood.

Marine Vessels

  • One whale watching tour in looking at the sea lions and birds. Good speed through the reserve, though at times strayed too close to animals.


  • Solar panels cleaned.
  • Maintenance routes of the energy centre roof scrubbed clean of slimy algal build up.
  • Boat ramp and jetty cleared of driftwood washed up in the last few days of strong winds and rough seas. Derik used to lift larger logs up for drying and cutting into firewood.
  • Windows cleaned on the main house.
    Black Oystercatchers

    Black Oystercatchers

    Sealions on South Islands

    Sealions on South Islands

    Harlequin duck

    Harlequin duck



    Fox Sparrow

    Fox Sparrow

    Black Oystercatcher

    Black Oystercatcher

    Whale watchers

    Whale watchers