Back Online

Saturday evening as the storm was subsiding, the communication lines went dead out here at Race Rocks. After trying all the normal fixes on my side, I was informed via cellphone that the problem lay at Pearson College. The College had lost power from some internal breakdown, and so no internet or phone line was being sent my way over the air. Once things were up and running again this morning, I was able to reestablish connection to the internet and phone lines.

Rather than submitting a log entry for each missed day, I will simply provide a summary of each day’s main events. And pictures as always!

Saturday 15 October 2016-Fierce Storm

  • Day began at 7:00 with winds of 15-20 knots NE.
  • 9:45 30 knots East
  • 13:00 35 knots East
  • 13:30 45 knots East
  • 14:30 50~ knots East!
  • 15:20 45 knots East, communications down.
  • 16:50 communications returned.
  • 17:00 30 knots East
  • Around 18:30 communications down for good.
  • 19:00 15 knots West
  • 20:30 30 knots South-West
  • One month remaining in my shift.

Sunday 16 October 2016-Pelican

  • 7:00 Weather
  • Visibility: 15 miles
  • Wind: 10-15 knots East
  • Sky: overcast
  • Water: 1′ chop
  • Saw a single brown pelican today!
  • Failed to get a picture though.
  • Branded California sea lion 8465.
  • 8 elephant seals on Great Race today.
  • A small group of California sea lions began sleeping on top of the e-seals.
  • To my surprise the elephant seals don’t seem to mind.

Monday 17 October 2016-Peregrine Falcon!

  • 7:00 Weather
  • Visibility: 5 miles
  • Wind: 0-5 knots East
  • Sky: overcast
  • Water: calm
  • In the early evening a pigeon flew into a window, presumably breaking its neck.
  • Immediately a Peregrine falcon swooped down to inspect its prey.
  • I assume the falcon was the reason the pigeon hit the window at such a speed.
  • The falcon then flew way up into the sky, before returning to make off with the meal.

Tuesday 18 October 2016-Bio-mimicry Visitors (and Alex!)

  • 7:00 Weather
  • Visibility: 15 miles
  • Wind: 0 knots
  • Sky: clear
  • Water: calm
  • A rainstorm appeared from about 10:00-12:00.
  • A rather sunny afternoon!
  • Kyle came out with Alex Fletcher and a biology group.
  • The 6 visitors were studying bio-mimicry.
  • How can humans improve our technology by copying successful animals?
  • The organization that they are involved with is one of our donors.
  • They were very interested in the sea lions, seals, and birds.
  • 11 elephant seals on Great Race.
  • Saw 3 brown pelicans; this time got a photo!

A Real Gale


  • 7:00 weather report.
  • Visibility: 15 miles
  • Wind: 5-10 knots N
  • Sky: overcast with showers and lightning!
  • Water: rippled
  • Larger waves by noon.
  • Wind and rain picked up in the afternoon.
  • By 17:00 wind up to 50 knots W. House shaking.
  • By 18:20 down to an average of 20 knots West.


  • Birds mostly hunkered down on the ground today.
  • Some sea lions surfing in the large waves.


  • All basic daily chores completed.


  • No boats seen in the reserve.

Delayed Storm


  • Overnight: 20 knot winds and some rain.
  • The 7:00 weather report.
  • Visibility: 15 miles
  • Wind: 5 knots NE
  • Sky: overcast
  • Water: 2′ chop
  • Some clear skies at noon.
  • Around 15:30 the wind picked up to 25 knots NE and the rain restarted.
  • About 20:15 the wind shot up to 35-40 knots NE.


  • The elephant seals were very active today.
  • There is a dead California sea lion near the derrick shed.
  • Census day.
  • Large decrease in the number of sea lions and seagulls.
  1. California Sea Lion: 294
  2. Northern (Steller) Sea Lion: 96
  3. Harbour Seal: 28
  4. Elephant Seal: 9 (6 on Great Race, 3 on Middle Rock)
  5. Seagull: 365
  6. Cormorant: 145
  7. Black Turnstone: 12
  8. Harlequin Duck: 12 (9 males, 3 females)
  9. Canada Goose: 7
  10. Black Oystercatcher: 10
  11. Savannah Sparrow: 5
  12. Bald Eagle: 1 adult on North Rock


  • Emptied the gross water in the rain barrel.


  • Did not see any boats in the reserve today.

The Advancement Team


  • Visibility: 15+ miles
  • Wind: 10-15 NE
  • Sky: clear
  • Water: rippled
  • The first of three storms is expected to arrive tonight, bringing rain and wind.
  • A rather calm day though, with exquisite views of Mt. Baker!


  • The elephant seals were in a playful mood today.


  • Reset the electric fence.
  • Stacked firewood.
  • Ran the new sea water pump into the cistern with Kyle’s help.
  • Looked at probably a dozen different systems and areas of concern with Kyle.
  • As ready as possible for the storm.


  • Second Nature brought the Advancement Team out today.
  • The Ogden Point Dive boat was in Middle Channel.
  • A few fishing boats and eco-tours passed by.


  • Kyle and the Advancement Team.
  • The A’ Team is in charge of raising funds for Pearson College and Race Rocks.

Strong Gale


  • Visibility: 15 miles
  • Wind: 0-5 knots W in the morning, by 14:00 it had jumped to 40+ knots.
  • The highest reading I saw was 48 knots, which is no longer a “strong gale” but a “storm”.
  • Sky: clear in the morning, dark clouds by evening.
  • Water: initially calm, but the wind kicked up massive waves!
  • Forecast: looks like more gale tomorrow.

48 knots winds! stormy waters!


  • 15 elephant seals on Great Race.
  • A few California Sea Lions on the jetty today.
  • One lone crane fly was attached to a window for the second day straight. The gale blew it away.
  • The same elephant seal who blocked me outside yesterday tried the same trick again! Only this time I was already inside, so I wisely used a different door.


  • Goose work.
  • Weed eating. Or “whacking” if you prefer.


  • 6 eco-tours today.
  • 1 small pleasure craft had what appeared to be a family with young children fishing in the reserve. They departed very quickly before I could identify their boat, perhaps realizing their mistake independent of me?


New Weaner on Great Race


  • Visibility: 15 miles
  • Wind: 10-15 knots E, later up to 48.6 knots W
  • 48 knots falls into the “storm” category. Only “violent storm” and “hurricane” are higher on the scale. The house is shuddering.
  • Water: 2′ chop, later at least 5′
  • Sky: overcast and some rain

Large waves 1


  • The mother elephant seal on Great Race was gone this morning, making the fourth pup a weaner. He is much smaller than the previous weaner was, and over on Middle Rock the mother is still with her pup, who was born approximately 8 days before, and is quite larger. All this makes me think the mother has left prematurely?
  • In the morning Chunk spent some time chasing the weaner, but he was too slow to catch him and he gave up, later heading over to Middle Rock.
  • Chuckles showed up on Great Race afterwards and has been watching the weaner.
  • At one point I found the weaner chewing on a wire cord underneath the big old yellow diesel tank by the Energy Building.
  • Today was the first day that I saw a great blue heron at Race Rocks! Not a first in general though, or for Race Rocks.
  • Pam Birley also noticed the heron and she took some photos with the webcam.


  • Stacked some firewood.


  • Heard one small DND blast at 10:30.

Flocks on the Rocks – Census Day


Flocks on the rocks

Flocks on the rocks: Thayer’s gulls and some double crested , Brandts and Pelagic Cormorants. Note orientation into the direction of the wind.

Ecological Happenings

  • Storm force winds in the morning with large swell from the North East leading to high seas and larges breakers on the rocks. Periods of (horizontal) rain with winds dropping later in the day.
  • Four elephant seals on the island now. The new arrival is much smaller than the female and thought to be a juvenile/subadult. There also seems to be a bond between the smaller Elephant seal and female. Could this be Squall, born here in 2012? Checks are being made to see if identifying features match.
  • Birds grouped together in flocks on the rocks while most of the sea lions stayed off the land.

Marine Vessels

  • Coastguard helicopter overhead.


  • Electrical outlet in main residence fixed.
  • Battery health test carried out with individual readings taken on each of the 96 cells.
  • Pressure washer pump stripped back down and soaked in cleaner. To be reassembled.

Census Count

Sea Lion 194
Harbour Seal 9
Elephant Seal 4
Cormorant 207
Gull 404
Oyster Catcher 42
Black Turnstone 18
Spotted during the week
Bald Eagle (Adult/Immature) 2/8
Sparrow 4
Dunlin 2
Pigeon Guillemots 8
Raven 4
Harlequin Duck 16
Canadian Geese 18


Seawater sample missed due to safety concenrs

Seawater sample missed due to safety concerns.

The latest arrival

The latest arrival.


Maternal bond? Elephant Seals are not known for this

Maternal bond? Elephant Seals are not known for this.


Scratching. Not surprising with all those Kelp flies on old wounds

Scratchy. Not surprising with all those Kelp flies on healing wounds.

Weather past week

On Dec 25th Easterly winds were gusting over 40 knots pushing swells into and over the jetty.  Zeke is seen below just above the jetty near the crane pad. The Pelicans pictured below were hovering in winds around 30 knots.

Since Dec 25th atmospheric pressure has climbed steadily reaching a high point of 1030 hPa yesterday, Jan 1.  For the past several days we have had sustained NE winds between 10 and 20 knots which demonstrates the potential for harnessing wind energy at Race Rocks, particularly in the winter months when there is less solar radiation to charge the batteries.  Pearson College is in the process of sourcing a wind generator for the island with the goal of further reducing and eventually eliminating dependance on fossil fuel electric generation in the Ecological Reserve.




Westerly swells near middle rock, Northern sea lions surfing.

Storm damage to roof of Science Centre building.

On Dec 16th in the afternoon a low pressure system moved in right over southern vancouver island bringing Easterly winds that exceeded 50 knots (measured from tower) and then switched 180 degrees, within a few hours over midnight, to Westerly winds toping out also over 50 knots the morning of Dec 17th.  As shown above atmospheric pressure reached a low of below 980 hPa, one of the lowest readings i have seen out here.

Flying sea lion

The westerly winds brought several dumps of hail and rain and created good surf conditions for Northern sealions to catch a few waves. Several shingles were blown off the Science Centre building on both the  South and North sides of the roof.

Fresh snow on vancouver island behind sea lions, gulls and cormorants on West and Middle rocks.