Sea Lions, Boats, & Other Stuff

Weather

  • Visibility: 15+ miles (Mt. Baker visible)
  • Wind: 5-10 knots West
  • Sky: overcast
  • Water: rippled

Ecological

  • Census day!
  • Two California sea lions with neck rings. Poor guys.
  • Two sea lions with brands.
  • California: X168
  • Steller: 678
  • Saw a few California sea lions with head injuries, as well as one Steller.
  1. California Sea Lions: 678
  2. Northern (Steller) Sea Lions: 533
  3. Harbour Seals: 37
  4. Elephant Seals: 5 on Great Race
  5. Seagulls unspecified: 449
  6. Thayer’s Gulls: 235
  7. Glaucous-winged Gulls: 20
  8. Cormorants unspecified: 357
  9. Brandt’s Cormorants: 10
  10. Pelagic Cormorants: 6
  11. Double Crested Cormorants: 4
  12. Black Turnstones: 20
  13. Canada Geese: 5
  14. Dunlin: 1
  15. Savannah Sparrow: 1
  16. Bald Eagle: 1 adult

Maintenance

  • Ran the saltwater pump into the cistern for 5 and a quarter hours.

Boats

  • A handful of eco-tours came by today. At least 5.
  • One of the boats caused a minor sea lion stampede on the east part of Great Race.
  • My photos only show the tail end of the stampede.
  • Much more happened between the “pre stampede” photo and my end shots.

A Very Nice Day

Weather

  • Visibility: 15+ miles (Mt. Baker visible)
  • Wind: 5-10 knots North
  • Sky: clear and sunny
  • Water: calm
  • A very beautiful day, with a nice sunset
  • A good night for stargazing!

Ecological

  • Conducted the weekly animal census.
  • Saw several branded sea lions today.
  • California sea lions: U690, U105, and 8427 (I think I got those correct)
  • Steller sea lions: 420Y and 347Y (those are definitely correct)
  • Also saw one sea lion with a neck ring, presumable from plastic.
  • No harlequin ducks today.
  • One of the male elephant seals was trying to mate with the female.
  • This seems like an odd time of year for that?
  1. California Sea Lions: 728
  2. Northern (Steller) Sea Lions: 493
  3. Harbour Seals: 48
  4. Elephant Seals: 5 Great Race (4 males, 1 that I think is a female)
  5. Seagulls unspecified: 672
  6. Thayer’s Gulls: 247
  7. Glaucous-winged Gulls: 30
  8. Cormorants unspecified: 329
  9. Double Crested Cormorants: 24
  10. Pelagic Cormorants: 11
  11. Brandt’s Cormorants: 2
  12. Black Turnstones: 19
  13. Canada Geese: 6
  14. Black Oystercatchers: 6
  15. Dunlins: 2
  16. Savannah Sparrows: 2

Maintenance

  • Cleaned the solar panels.
  • Tidied up a few odds and ends.
  • The usual chores.

Boats

  • A few eco-tours today.
  • One rental boat came through the middle of the reserve.

Visitors

  • No visitors today.
  • Quite a nice, relaxing day today.
  • The kind of day that makes one appreciate being alone.

The Dunlin!

Weather

  • Visibility: 15 miles
  • Wind: 0-5 knots East
  • Sky: overcast with showers
  • Water: 1′ chop

Ecological

  • Saw one California Sea Lion with a nasty looking neck wound.
  • Conducted a census today.
  • Several bird species notably absent today.
  • No Harlequin Ducks, Savannah Sparrows, or Black Oystercatchers.
  • The Sparrows have been absent all week; I suspect gone for the winter.
  • I’m sure the Harlequins and Oystercatchers are still around.
  • Only saw two Heermann’s Gulls; I think last weeks group was just passing through.
  • I did see my first Dunlin of the season though!
  • And lots more Black Turnstones than in previous weeks.
  • They like to splash around in the rain puddles.
  1. California Sea Lions: 606
  2. Northern (Steller) Sea Lions: 181
  3. Harbour Seals: 12
  4. Elephant Seals: 7 (2 on Great Race, 5 on Middle Rock)
  5. Seagulls unspecified: 586
  6. Thayer’s Gulls: 114
  7. Glaucous-winged Gulls: 76
  8. Heermann’s Gulls: 2
  9. Cormorants unspecified: 356
  10. Black Turnstone: 33
  11. Canada Geese: 3
  12. Bald Eagles: 3 (2 adult, 1 immature)
  13. Dunlin: 1

Maintenance

  • The usual chores.
  • Reset the electric fence which has been faring unusually well.

Boats

  • A surprising number of eco-tours today, given the weather, day of the week, and month.
  • I counted at least 10.

The Cackling Goose!

Weather

  • The 7:00 weather report (plus developments).
  • Visibility: 10 miles (later 15)
  • Wind: 0-5 knots South (15-25 knots West noon onwards)
  • Sky: overcast and raining (sun in the afternoon)
  • Water: calm

Ecological

  • All the elephant seals except for the smallest guy were off island today.
  • I did see 6 of them playing in the water near the jetty.
  • Improved my seagull identification skills today.
  • This was the first day I noticed many Heermann’s Gulls.
  • Fun to watch the lone cackling goose wander with the larger Canadians.
  • Saw one branded California Sea Lion: U975
  • Saw one California Sea Lion with a plastic neck ring.
  • Conducted an all day animal census.
  1. California Sea Lions: 434
  2. Northern (Steller) Sea Lions: 219
  3. Harbour Seals: 59
  4. Elephant Seals: 7
  5. Seagulls: 1077 (Tentative 85% Thayer’s, 15% Glaucous-Winged)
  6. Cormorants: 375 (Tentative: 30 Pelagic, 25 Double Crested, 14 Brandt’s.)
  7. Heermann’s Gulls: 50
  8. Black Turnstone: 24
  9. Canada Geese: 11
  10. Black Oystercatchers: 10
  11. Harlequin Ducks: 3 (1 male, 2 female)
  12. Cackling Goose: 1
  13. Savannah Sparrow: 1
  14. Bald Eagle: 1 adult on South Rock

Maintenance

  • Extended my new fence set up.
  • Removed the fence in front of the students’ house.
  • It was never very effective, and is less needed now.
  • Ran the desalinator in the afternoon.

Boats

  • Several eco-tours came by today.
  • One small boat was observed speeding in the reserve.

Pearson College Rocks.

Weather and Sea Conditions

Winds: Up to 30 knots, west-northwest

Sky: Clear with patches of heavy fog in the morning.

Visibility: Mostly good 15 nm, except in fog.

Barometer: 101.5 falling Wednesday evening

Forecast: Wind dropping tonight and then switching and increasing to east 10 to 20 late overnight and to west 20 to 30 knots Friday afternoon. Rain overnight and Friday morning. Chance of showers Friday evening. Strong wind warning in effect.

Vessels in Ecological Reserve

Whale watching vessels: Two were observed working in Ecological Reserve (ER) both moving carefully in the fog. No other commercial operators, noted in ER today.

Sport fishing vessels: Two noted in Reserve today: one observed fishing in ER and the other sped through ER not slowing even through Middle Channel where there were hundreds of animals in the water.

Ecology  The islands within the ER are receiving enormous amounts of biogenic material daily from resting pinnipeds and birds. Although the guano accumulated in the summer drought has been partially washed away by recent rains, nitrogen loading is significant in this biological hot-spot along with accumulation of sea lion hair and gull feathers from the moulting animals. There are also daily additions to the hard remnants from predation events, which include shell, bone, teeth, scales and exoskeletons. Vegetation in the sea lion haul-out areas has been removed by trampling now and levels of faeces and urine are very ‘high’.

The waters around the ER continue to support feeding Humpback Whales daily and large multi-species feeding flocks. Three Humpback Whales were observed today on the west and south sides in and adjacent to ER. Most of the big flocks close to the islands are multiple species of gulls, dominated by Glaucous-winged Gulls.

Thayer’s Gulls arrived late today and a large flock was observed preening and resting on the southwest side of the island at sunset. These Thayer’s gulls have flown in to winter on the Pacific coast, from Canada’s high arctic where they nest.

A single male Killer Whale was observed during the early evening feeding in the mouth of Pedder Bay near the Navy Buoy.

Sustainability   Inverter frames re-screwed.

Visitors   A first year biology class from Pearson College visited today with their teacher Emily and conducted inter-tidal population studies in tidal pools. Two Pearson College volunteers also came along. Kyle transported everyone in two trips on Second Nature.

Maintenance and Operations  Both fences repaired. Discussed temporary roof patches (March) on storm damaged roofs, (boat shed, tank shed and derrick house) with Kyle. Noted foghorn not operating consistently during fog events.

 

Hard Headway

Brandt's Cormorants making a break for more sheltered area

Brandt’s Cormorants making a break for more sheltered area

Ecological Happenings

  • Gusting gale-force winds from the North East and high seas with 2m swells rolling through.
  • Birds hunkered down on the rocks while the sea lions mainly spent the day in the ocean away from the breakers on the rocks.
  • The male Elephant seals spent the day on the main island with two female seals on Middle rocks.

Marine Vessels

  • None

Maintenance

  • Logs cleared from jetty.
Thayer's gulls sitting it out

Thayer’s gulls sitting it out

 

Census Count

Sea Lion 169
Harbour Seal 18
Elephant Seal 4
Cormorant 187
Gull 323
Oyster Catcher 24
Bald Eagle (Adult/Immature) 1/6
Harlequin Duck 4
Dunlin 8
Bufflehead 1
Black Turnstone 12
Spotted during the week
Humpbacks 3
Orca 6
Marbled Godwit 1
Black Legged Kittiwake 1
Surf Scoter 3
Pidgeon Guillemots 15
Surfbirds 25
Oyster Catcher 63
Bald Eagle (Adult/Immature) 2/8
Harlequin Duck 18
Raven 3
Black Turnstone 48
Brandt's Cormorant trying to make headway in the galefore winds

Brandt’s Cormorant trying to make headway in the gale fore winds

A Stormy Census

Ecological Happenings

  • A Stormy day on the Rock with Gale force winds and large swell running.
  • Sea lions rode out the winds in the ocean swells, rafting together in large moving masses or surfing in groups.
  • The two Bull Eseals stayed on the island.

Marine Vessels

  • Navy vessel on manoeuvres outside the reserve.
  • Accompanying Navy helicopters flying out from the ship over the reserve at night.

Maintenance

  • Some driftwood cleared from the boat launch ramp after the winds dropped.
  • Camera 2 re-set. Further investigation needed to resolve the network problem.

Other

  • Number of animals in the reserve was affected by the storm (and maybe the counting too due to conditions!).

Census Count

Sea Lion 135
Harbour Seal 4
Elephant Seal 2
Cormorant 37
Gull 212
Sparrows 2
Surfbirds 3
Oyster Catcher 10
Black Turnstone 28
Raven 2
Spotted during the week
Bald Eagle (Adult/Immature) 2/8
Sparrows 5
Surfbirds 12
Oyster Catcher 18
Black Turnstone 12
Harlequin Duck 18
Canadian Geese 3
Bufflehead 1
Whales (Humpback) 2
Thayer's gulls hunkered down

Thayer’s gulls hunkered down

Surfs Up

Surfs Up

Catching a wave

Catching a wave

Jetty

No Landings today!

 

Elephant seal hiding from the storm

Elephant seal hiding from the storm

Black oystercatchers

Black oystercatchers

Sumo-sized Sea Lions

It was a copycat kind of day, weather wise, the same as yesterday and the day before. Calm, very light winds and clears skies. The barometer continued the drop started on Sunday and is now below 1012 hPa again. The forecast is calling for a switch to light winds west 10 -1 5 and a mix of sun and cloud until Friday when showers are expected..

Whale watching traffic in the Ecological Reserve was fairly light with only eight observed visits. All the operators did really well today. They slowed on entry, went with the current, drove in a responsible way that respected the protected area and saved speeding up until they were clear of the reserve. This is the sort of cooperative behavior that is the norm for sustainable operations in reserve. Observations were made of “sports” fishers hauling in lingcod and rockfish in the Race Rocks Rockfish Conservation area.

Although there may have been more elsewhere, there was no lack of whale action around Race Rocks today. Three Biggs Killer Whales were spotted travelling from east to west through Race Passage in the morning and a Humpback Whale went the other way, in the afternoon, spending some time feeding close to North Rocks. There large multi-species feeding flocks in the same area. Perhaps there are balls of forage fish there.

I saw a large kelp raft, first of the season, sweeping out to sea with the ebbing tide today. This annual kelp becomes more and more prevalent in the tidelines as autumn progresses and the winter storms will remove most of it before spring. It is a great carbon sink that fixes large amounts of carbon, which will eventually become entombed on the bottom. Not all of it goes out to sea and sinks though. Kelp that lands on shore is a key part of near shore food webs relying on this large volume of rotting biomass to fuel new generations of shore spawners and out going young salmon.

Chores were routine again and the sunshine is allowing for recovery of freshwater lost earlier in the month. The level is almost back up to where it was on September 5th. There were no visitors.

 

The Tie That Binds

It was another northeast day, with really not much happening weather wise. It blew NE about ten knots, was mostly overcast in the morning, with some sun in the afternoon. The barometer rose gradually all morning and then started to slowly slide after noon. It is expected that tomorrow’s southeast will bring rain, starting late tonight.

The whale watching boats were busy in the afternoon with Humpback Whales to the southeast of Race Rocks and more activity out to the west. A total of eight tour boats were seen in the Ecological Reserve.

Today was mega-fauna census day and these are the results:
Steller Sealion 298
California Sealion 508
Harbour Seal 79
Northern Elephant Seal 9
River Otter 2
Canada Goose 22
Greater White-fronted Goose 1
Harlequin Duck 5
Double-crested Cormorant 61
Pelagic Cormorant 15
Black Turnstone 9
Surfbird 5
Black Oystercatcher 38
Glaucous-winged Gull 145
Thayer’s Gull 1482
California Gull 3
Western Gull 7
Heermann’s Gull 35
Gull sp. 52
Common Murre 1
Common Raven 2
Fox Sparrow 2
Savannah Sparrow 15

Here are a couple of shots of Surfbirds, alone and with Black Turnstones.

Surfbirds resting in the Jetty Bay.

Surfbirds resting in the Jetty Bay.

Subi & Bltu
The census was challenging due to the numbers and species of gulls and the fact that both Steller Sealion and Harbour Seal numbers were lower than expected during the morning count, so they were re-counted in the early evening. I generally like to count Harbour Seals on the morning low tide but the tide wasn’t really doing much today. The evening counts were higher for both the Steller and the Harbour Seals. Two new Elephant Seals arrived today. They are both moulting, the smaller one hung out with the dual tagged three year-old, which appears to be staying on. The bigger animals may have gone back to Middle Rock as there were still six animals visible there.

Ring-necked animals as well as tagged and branded animals were also re-surveyed today. I am still working on the branding data from a month ago. Two of the ring-necked Steller Sealions that have been observed since August are still here and languishing as the plastic straps cut into the backs of their necks. I am putting out an appeal to the disentanglement crew again.
Euju plastic_strap Oct16
Euju oct 16 close-up
The second ring-necked animal ‘highlighted’ here is also branded on its’ left side 946R. I believe that it was branded at its’ natal colony which from the R should be Rogue Reef in southern Oregon. From the number it was branded after 2009 but I will find out more.

If it is not lying on its' left side this ring-necked Steller's Sealion is easy to tell apart from the others.

If it is not lying on its’ left side this ring-necked Steller’s Sealion is easy to tell apart from the others.

Like the other Steller it has plastic strapping, which is visible on the ventral surface.

Like the other Steller it has plastic strapping, which is visible on the ventral surface.

This is a bit gory but I hope it will inspire the disentanglement team to come to Race Rocks.

This is a bit gory but I hope it will inspire the disentanglement team to come to Race Rocks.

The Atlin Post passed by Race Rocks today but did not slow. Must have been in a hurry.

The Atlin Post passed by Race Rocks today but did not slow. Must have been in a hurry.

Did not do much maintenance today other than the basic cleaning, making water with the desalinator and electricity with the generator.

Fogimatrix.

The weather here was dominated by fog today. It lifted in an interesting way this morning so that you could see out and under the fog for several miles yet there was thick fog above, at very low elevation. The rising sun shone through this clear layer, creating a weird and wonderful lighting effect from below. By mid-day the fog had burned off and sunshine prevailed at sea level. There was still fog in the shipping lane and the tops of the Olympic mountains were visible. The fog flowed back in by mid-afternoon and thickened steadily after that, pushed in by a westerly fog wind. During the day there wasn’t much wind until late afternoon/early evening when it picked up to 15 to 20 knots from the west. The barometer continued its slow trend downward that started a few days ago and the forecast looks relatively good until rain on Friday.

There was a fairly steady parade of whale watching boats in the Ecological Reserve today. They were looking at Humpback Whales, Harbour Porpoise and of course the Sea Lions. Sixteen tour boats were noted although I may have missed some in the fog. One of the tour operators had the chance to see a really big (tyee) spring salmon swimming through the kelp forest.

There were sports fishers catching Coho, Spring and Chum Salmon to the south and west of Race Rocks and many sea lions were also busy catching salmon while at the same time helping to feed the gulls with their scraps, not out of any benevolence, just because they are messy eaters.

There are many gulls here now including Glaucous-winged, Glaucous-winged hybrids and Thayer’s gull which are challenging to distinguish. I look forward to doing the census first thing tomorrow to try and figure out how many of which species. The Heerman’s Gulls continue to benefit from sea lion salmon treats which they certainly can’t do where they breed in Mexico. I like watching them. They are very beautiful and have a interesting feeding behaviours that they may have learned from birds like skimmers where they live rest of the year. They fly with their lower bill hanging down just above the water and occasional skim the water with it, catching small prey.
There are many sea lions on the west side of the island now and the westerly wind carries the dusty grime from them onto everything in its path. The Savannah Sparrows feed in and around the sea lions.

These little Savannah Sparrows forage through the sea lion waste picking up morsels and probably a few parasites.

These little Savannah Sparrows forage through the sea lion waste picking up morsels and probably a few parasites.

Elephant Seals have been hauling out on Middle Rock for over a month and now some are back on Great Race again. There was a small one hauled out on the northeastern side and a bigger one on the railway with the sea lions.

This Elephant Seal is napping with California Sea Lions on the marine railway.

This Elephant Seal is napping with California Sea Lions on the marine railway.

Washing the solar panels took a long time this morning. They were really dirty. I will do them after the census and it will probably take even longer, tomorrow as I want to shovel off the organic stuff that has accumulated before the electrician arrives to work on the panels. Today I readjusted to life on Race Rocks, finished the month-end report for September, did the seawater sample, made freshwater with the desalinator, ran the Lister generator and sorted photos as well as sea lion brand and entanglement data.

This entangled California Sea Lion has been spotted repeatedly since the end of August.

This entangled California Sea Lion has been spotted repeatedly since the end of August.