Census day and find “6 Spots” the harbour Seal!


Another calm day with 9 knots,North East wind at 8:00AM ,Calm sea,Cloudy to some sunny periods,Visibility over 13 miles. Sea water :7.1 degrees Celsius


I thought to have seen the famous seal on Turbine Rock this morning. there was a beautiful spotted Seal and actually the first one like that I ever saw…but when I went to do the census I discovered 7 or 8 spotted ones all together on South Island so…I am not sure anymore …Is “6 spots “around or not?…I let Pam to be the expert and the judge . Again Chunk :he spend the afternoon closed to Guy working at the cleaning of the railway (drifting wood again).A lot of activity for the gulls on the fish banks. In the night I have been awaken by the Sea Lions for the first time in those Winter months


3 Watchers  and a police boats going towards Esquilmalt..some small fishing boats closed to Pedder Bay.



Cormorants :90

Harbour Seals :17

Elephants Seals:6 (2 pups,2 females ,2 males)


Harlequin Ducks :8 seen this week

Geese:6 seen this week

Black Turnstones: a few

Sea lions : 200


A Subdued Day on the Rock

Light northeasterly winds and grey skies made for a subdued day. The barometric pressure dropped a little, from 1020 to 1010 hPa. The forecasters are calling for a westerly gale starting after midnight, with showers and a risk of a thunderstorm.

Five whale-watching vessels were observed working in the protected area today and there were lots of sports fishing boats in the area, not fishing in the Fisheries and Oceans conservation area.

The usual Saturday dive charter was operating in the protected area and had his divers in the water on the ebb tide. They were picked up over by Turbine Rock.

Ecologically, more migrants are passing through each day. More Dunlin were spotted today, all with two legs. There were larger numbers of Black Turnstone and Surfbirds today as well. California Sea Lions are hauling out on Great Race again now, a little too close to the house for a quiet night. Geese are starting to arrive in the middle of the night too and they always do a lot of honking on touch down.

Work was mostly cleaning up and packing for a few days away. If the weather cooperates, I will head home tomorrow and Riley will take over until March 31st. I look forward to reading Riley’s blog.



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’.




Canada Geese


  • Wind 15-20 knots NE increasing to 25-30 overnight. Sky partly clear.
  • First flock of Canada Geese on the island since I arrived, they didnt stay very long.


  • pleasure craft-31 pleasure craft, appearing to travel over speed limit in reserve
  • On Dec 30 an incident was recorded involving an eco tour vessel passing through the narrow channel between south islands and great race. We received an email from the captain Dec 31.  I replied to his email Jan 2.


  • cleared boat ramp
  • cleaned battery terminals and contacts on derrick engine
  • cut and chopped firewood



  • Wind NE 15-20 increasing to 25 knots, clear sky, temperature low.
  • Census. Numbers are low or zero for some species likely due to persistent cold temperature and wind which causes them to seek more shelter.  Notable there is a relatively high count of Califiornia sealions, most of which were sheltered on the leeward, south side of Great Race:
    • California sealions: 102
    • Northern sealions: 72
    • Elephants seals: 2M 1F
    • Harbour seals: 53
    • Bald Eagles: 2A 1J
    • Cormorants: 27
    • Gulls: 40
    • Harlequin ducks: 4


  • 2 ecotour


  • Reboot of overloaded UPS in tower, communications restored.
  • Wood clearing, cutting and chopping
  • checking for potential freeze ups due to cold temperature

Storms and Surf Scoters

Baby Harbour seal -Around 2 ft long

Baby Harbour seal -around 2 ft long

Ecological Happenings

  • Storm warning with high winds overnight and gale force in the morning. Overcast with lashing rain at points.
  • Small Harbour seal pup seen on the boat ramp first thing.
  • Surf Scooters seen to the south of the main island in the afternoon.
  • The Bald Eagles were seen buzzing flocks of gulls and cormorants on the rocks, driving the gulls into the air and the cormorants to sea. The gulls retaliated by mobbing the Eagles in the air and driving them off.
  • The female Elephant seal was absent this morning and did not return all day. The smaller Elephant seal seemed like it was looking for her through the day. The males barely moved and snoozed through the storm.
  • Sea lions rafted together and played in the surf jumping clear out the water at times.

Marine Vessels

  • None


  • Jetty cleared of driftwood from yesterday’s storm.
  • Logs at the student house re-stacked as they had been blown over in the high winds last night.
  • Pressure washer pump lubricated and reassembled.
Surf Scoter

Surf Scoters

Small Elephant seal looking for female

Small Elephant seal

Sealion raft

Sea lions rafting

Sea lions playing in the surf

Sea lions playing in the surf

Black Oystercatchers preening and hiding from the wind

Black Oystercatchers preening and hiding from the wind

Adult (left) and immature (right) Thayer's Gulls

Adult (left) and immature (right) Thayer’s Gulls

A Busy Day at Race Rocks

A northeasterly wind gusting 20 – 25 knots brought clouds and moisture in the morning and against the flooding tide it really made the waves in Middle Channel stand right up, creating a bit of a roller coaster effect. It was much nicer in the afternoon as the northeast dropped to ~ five knots and remained calm through sunset.

The barometer continued to rise today and reached ~1018 hPa before steadying. The forecast calls for light westerlies and some sun tomorrow with periods of rain on Tuesday.

There was quite a bit of whale-watching activity today: 20 visits by commercial operators were observed in the reserve. The sea otter is a definite attraction as are the sea lions. Island Explorer out of Port Angeles takes the sustainability prize for the day, travelling at a very low speed, staying in the middle of the channel and giving the wildlife a respectful distance. Seven sports fishing boats were observed in reserve today. Of those, four of them were speeding and one was fishing and then speeding in reserve. Time for more communications to the boating public who might not be as aware as the commercial operators about rules of conduct in the Ecological Reserve.

The sea lions continue to crowd ashore to moult and wedge themselves in tightly together in order to raise skin temperature for their important hair change. The soil here is full of sea lion hair, moulted Northern Elephant Seal skin with very short fur and is rich in guano from the nesting seabirds. No wonder the spring flowers are so spectacular. A Great Blue Heron visited Great Race today, an unusual sight here on the rock.

No visitors today. Chores were routine and entropy fighting.


Steller Sea Lions sparring in the water. Note the forward pointing vibrissae (whiskers). These animals spend hours play fighting.

Steller Sea Lions sparring in the water. Note the forward pointing vibrissae (whiskers) of the animal on the right. These animals spend hours play fighting.

Collection of sealion brand observations continues. This Stellers was branded as a pup in southern Oregon.

Collection of sealion brand observations continues. This Stellers was branded as a pup in southern Oregon.

It is possible that this California Sea Lion is recovering from having a plastic strap removed from its neck. Veterinarian Marti Haulena of the Vancouver Aquarium removed straps from several individuals last year. Aquarium

It is possible that this California Sea Lion is recovering from having a plastic strap removed from its neck. Veterinarian Marti Haulena of the Vancouver Aquarium removed straps from several individuals last year. Aquarium

Sea lions silhouetted by a beautiful Race Rocks sunset.

Sea lions silhouetted by a beautiful Race Rocks sunset.





May 26

It was another steady, west by southwest day, blowing 15 to 20 knots, from morning to night and clearing out the clouds for a glorious afternoon and evening. There was just enough marine haze on the horizon to make a great sunset. This morning barometer gradually rose to 1016 hPA and then started a slow decline after noon ending up at 1014hPA just before 8:00 PM. The forecast is calling for strong westerlies to continue with a mix of sun and cloud.

Only four whale watching boats were observed in the Ecological Reserve today and everyone was on their best behaviour.

Ecological happenings were subtle today. More sealions are hauling out on Great Race including a few very chunky Stellers bulls. The California Sealions seem to putting the call out for others within hearing range to come and bark in concert. There are more birds mating wherever you look, the Canada Geese goslings are growing incredibly fast and the bull kelp is now forming a broad canopy even on the high tide. The gull bolus contents are shifting to more ‘forage fish’ bone content from the earlier strong bias toward chiton plates and the adults are feeding each other in practice for parenthood?

The Bald Eagles continue to fly in and scare all the gulls, geese and oystercatchers and it looked like they caught something today, but I am not sure what..

Chris and Courtney brought Second Nature out in the afternoon with two visitors from Scotland, (an alumna and her husband), and the two relief eco-guardians Guy and Christine who will be here for the summer. Chris, Courtney and Guy delivered diesel for the generator, using the derrick, barrels, a drum dolly and a fair bit of sweat. It looked scary to me but they pulled it off with aplomb and Chris said it is easier, safer and less risky than the old method, so that is really great.

My chores today were routine. I am going to post this now and update it with photos later in case the Internet goes down again in between. Must run and shut down the generator.



Finally Field Exam.

It blew west 15 – 20 knots all day as the barometer slowly climbed to 1016 hPa and leveled off. The early, overcast sky gave way to sunshine by late morning and it continued brilliantly until sunset. The forecast is for more of the same with the strong wind warning continuing.

Two whale watching boats were observed working in the Ecological Reserve and both followed guidelines and regulations, treating the Reserve and its wildlife with respect. Several sports fishing boats passed through the Ecological Reserve at low speed and only one halibut sports fishing boat was slow to slow, in the go-slow zone, doing at least 15 knots but eventually remembering and slowing.

All of the ecological happenings reported on, in the last week or so continued today. Great Race was busy with Northern Elephant seals coming and going from their bathing routines, moulting, sleeping and jousting. The gulls, guillemots and oystercatchers continued to prepare for the next generation and Canada Geese were out and about, promenading their goslings. A raven was seen taking one small gosling that had been noted dead earlier, near a nest in front of the science house. Both species of sealion seem more vocal this week, with the Steller’s mostly on West Rocks and the Californians more spread out but definitely back at South Islands.

Today was busy with visitors as Laura and 36 first year marine science students arrived early to do their marine science field exam. Chris and Courtney, shuttled the class out in Second Nature and Hyaku. An extra trip in Hyaku brought out author Peter Johnson who is researching lighthouses for an up-coming book, along witha guest photographer. Hanne, a second year marine science student from Pearson College also arrived on that trip and she photographed the first years hard at work and enjoyed observing elephant seals with Courtney.


Connor continuing to learn from nature even as he writes exam.

Ha biodivers

Ha finishes off answers on biodiversity and species richness, surrounded by diverse intertidal species.

more biodivers

Determining a relationship between tidal height and intertidal diversity.

marsci exam west

‘Delightful dichotomies and wondrous waves’ is the intriguing title of this exam station.

My family continued their visit and helped out in lots of different ways, from assisting boats and people on the jetty, to encouraging me in becoming more proficient and comfortable running the derrick. I assisted Laura and students with the field exam, which is very unique. This is one exam the students will  never forget.




Musical Rocks

It was another west wind kind of day. It was already blowing 20 knots at dawn and stayed a fairly steady, 15 – 20 most of the morning and afternoon. It increased to 20 – 25 in the evening. A strong wind warning remains in effect with a chance of showers and drizzle predicted for tomorrow. The barometer remained fairly steady all day, just below 1010.

A dive charter operator worked in the Ecological Reserve today with divers and tourists top-side as well. Two whale-watching vessels were observed in the Ecological Reserve. There may have been more as I went ashore for a few hours.

Sealions are starting to haul out on the jetty again. When I arrived in March and for April they were hauling on South Islands. From there, they moved to West Rocks and now juveniles of both species are moving back to south Islands and seem interested in Great Race, especially the jetty.

Sealions are back on South Island after trying out the other rocks.

Sealions are back on South Island after trying out the other rocks.

The elephant seals continue their daily rituals of interacting through fighting, piling up against each other, sleeping, moulting and for most of them, taking at least two ocean swims daily. The tagged female 5086, just starting her moult was here again today as was the young male 5850, who is almost finished his moult.

Female #5086 on day two at Great Race.

Female #5086 on day two at Great Race.

Mian5086 length

Floyd spent a long time in the water today, tucked in behind the kelp bed in his personal little bay. Like 5850 he spent quite a bit of time draping kelp over his head and playing around with it.

floyd's kelp bonnet

Floyd as a tiny weightless animal in the ocean.

floyd's thalassiotherapy

Kelp wrap anyone? Great for an epidermal moult.

Floyd singing his very nasal ocean song.

My family has arrived for a visit. Chores are routine and there are lots of hands on deck to help with maintenance and repairs.