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.

 

A No Weaner Census

Weather

  • Visibility: 15 miles
  • Wind: 5-10 knots North
  • Sky: overcast
  • Water: rippled

Ecological

  • Census day!
  • The weaner was gone this morning. Hopefully he is ok.
  • Normally I only ever see killdeer at night, but today I saw a pair off and on all day!
  1. California Sea Lions: 85
  2. Harbour Seals: 44
  3. Steller (Northern) Sea Lions: 39
  4. Elephant Seals: 1 male
  5. Seagulls unspecified: 269 (same total two weeks in a row!)
  6. Pigeon Guillemots: 241
  7. Cormorants unspecified: 57
  8. Surfbirds: 49
  9. Harlequin Ducks: 32 (16 males and 16 females)
  10. Black Turnstones: 22
  11. Canada Geese: 13
  12. Black Oystercatchers: 9
  13. Bald Eagles: 6 (2 adults, 4 immature)
  14. Killdeer: 2

Boats

  • Kyle stopped by for 1 minute to exchange the extra security camera for a new Wifi access point.
  • There were several fishing boats literally yards outside the Rockfish Conservation Area.
  • A few eco-tours came by.

Maintenance

  • Installed the new Wifi access point in the Students’ House.

Other

  • Lots of DND blasting today.
  • Small blasts at the following times:
  • 10:25, 10:27, 10:45, and 12:34.
  • Larger blasts at the following times:
  • 12:32, 12:53, 14:52, 14:54, and 15:11.

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.

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.

 

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.

Slow Day at the Race

 

Weather and Sea Conditions

Light southeast winds kept the skies grey today but clouds were high and there was no noticeable precipitation at sea level. A new dusting of snow, high on the Olympic Mountains informed the chill in the air. By evening, winds had backed to northeast 10 to 15 knots. The barometric pressure dropped steadily starting after midnight last night and at 18:30 was around 1001 hPa and still falling. The marine forecast for central Juan de Fuca Strait calls for a repeat of this morning southeast 10 – 20 knots increasing to westerly 15 to 25 Thursday afternoon. It will be cloudy with a 60 percent chance of showers in the early morning followed by a mix of sun and cloud. Sea conditions were fairly calm with a light inshore chop, rougher out in the strait and in collision with current generated turbulence.

Vessel Observations

Three whale-watching operators were observed working in the protected area this morning and one was observed in the evening. One sports fishing vessels was observed transiting the reserve today.

Ecological and General Observations

Afternoon low tides reveal Race Rocks’ high diversity and productivity of seaweeds and marine invertebrates. Many of the birds depend on the table being set when the tide is out and for millennia, the indigenous people who used the area did the same. The rock cairn burials here are a daily reminder of the human significance of the site going above and beyond the history of the lighthouse.

Back to birds, Black Oystercatcher totally depend on the riches of the intertidal. The Black Turnstones here are the only ones I have ever seen foraging in the garden but otherwise they and the Surfbirds are intertidal feeders as well.

There are eleven elephant seals moulting in the garden now and their faces are really starting to peel.

Chores and Visitors

Alex is back, the roof patches were revisited and more blown shingles were retrieved from the latest blow. Other chores were routine and there were no other visitors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Lantern Fish Found

Weather and Sea Conditions

The day started with a beautiful sunrise and then quickly clouded over, clouds pushed in by light, southeast winds. Late afternoon, the wind veered through southwest to a light westerly.  The barometric pressure, which started at 1017hPa dropped all day and was below 1010 hPa by 19:30.

Light levels were the low today and the accumulated solar radiation for the day was just over 250 Ly, measured in Langleys. That was about half of yesterday’s sunshine. Although it was calm today, the forecast has a gale warning in effect and the west wind is expected to pick up to 35 knots tonight. Monday is expected to be windy, mainly cloudy with a 40 percent chance of showers.

Vessels

Victoria’s first cruise ship of the season, went past last night and today regular whale-watching vessels including Five-Stars and Pacific Explorer were back working in the protected area after an absence of at least a month and maybe more. The more regular visiting catamaran, 4-Ever Wild, cruised through carefully and respectfully. Several sports fishers passed through the reserve slowly, today and all fishing activity observed, was outside of the conservation area. There were many vessels in the vicinity, anchored and fishing for halibut, stretching out from Beechey Head to Constance Bank.

Ecological

Several branded sea lions were photographed and included in the gallery here. The two California Sea Lions were X279 (brand still very pink) and X 10_ , where _ represents a number not yet identified. U390, from the Columbia River region was also photographed. The branded Steller’s Sea Lion noted was 524R a migrant from southern Oregon. Beulah, the large female Northern Elephant Seal was back on Great Race, adorning the lawn at first light and seven other elephant seals can be seen on Middle Rock.

At least 200 Pigeon Guillemots were in and around Great Race in the morning, but gone by early afternoon. The eagles continue to chase gulls on Great Race as well as perching on North Rock, West Rock, South Rock, Middle Rock and Turbine. The geese do not seem to be bothered by the eagles and sometimes land right beside them. There were also over 30 Surfbirds resting here today, even though none were seen during the last census. They were in a mixed flock with Rock Sandpipers and Black Turnstone on the boulder area to the east of the main house.

I found an unusual little (~2.5 cm. long) fish on the marine railway this morning. It was very fresh looking, but dead and undamaged. It looks like a member of the myctophid family.

Also known as a lantern fish, this little myctophid has a typical upturned jaw and rows of fluorescent blue photophores along its abdomen and on its sides. The photophores are packed with bioluminescent bacteria and allow the fish to communicate with light signals in the dark. The eyes are very large (relatively) because these fish are usually in very low, light conditions. Myctophids are very common fish in the ocean, but are not commonly seen, as they usually live deep, in the twilight zone and only come up during their nightly, vertical migration. I am not sure how it ended up on the ramp but currents here could have played a part.

Chores/Visitors

I went off-island briefly this morning and everything worked smoothly. Chores were routine today and there were no visitors.