Caught in the Fog

Weather

  • Visibility: from 0-15 throughout the day, mostly 0
  • Wind:  10-15 SW
  • Sky: overcast in the morning caught in the fog most of the day and overcast again around 5:30pm
  • Water: choppy less than a metre

Boats/Visitors

  • Some ecotours today

Ecological

  • plenty of sea lions around

Notes

  • My fog horn was going off for hours today
  • ran the desalinator a bit, trying to get back up to a full tank
  • the electric fence was pretty tangled today but I got it back up

Sun and Fog

Weather

  • Visibility: 0 Miles this morning, the fog horn was going off for a good portion of the morning but I am getting a very clear and beautiful sunset now
  • Wind:  10-15 SW which went up and down slightly throughout the day but around 10ish knots
  • Sky: thick fog for a bit and then it cleared right up in the afternoon
  • Water: pretty flat

Boats/Visitors

  • Quite a few ecotours came by today

Ecological

  • The unspecified birds are still around and I have determined them to be black turnstones, however it is weird to see such a high number of them at once so it is possible there are some other species of surfbird mixed in there too

Notes

  • Had some power issues today, hopefully get everything fixed tomorrow and the dryer won’t die on me halfway through drying my laundry

Lazy Day

Weather

  • Visibility: 15 Miles
  • Wind:  10-15 SW
  • Sky: overcast some rain
  • Water: pretty flat throughout the day

Boats/Visitors

  • A few ecotours came by today

Ecological

  • Definitely more sea lions everyday plus that one female elephant seal that is sticking around

Notes

  • Puttered around today, almost have a full water tank again, and enjoyed taking photos of the frequently napping sea lions
  • Now that there is more cloud cover the solar panels aren’t bringing in a lot of energy so I do need to run the generator to run the desalinator

Foggy Day

Weather

  • Visibility: 10 Miles sometimes less throughout the day
  • Wind:  10-15 SW sometimes a bit lighter sometimes a bit stronger
  • Sky: Cloudy this morning for a bit and then foggy for awhile, cleared up in the afternoon now you can see some blue sky and sunshine
  • Water: mostly flat a little choppy

Boats/Visitors

  • Had a special visit at 6:30 this morning, the Parliament Secretary to the Prime Minister of Canada and Minister of Youth dropped by for a quick visit

Ecological

  • Have to update my census, I saw an elephant seal this morning, a young female
  • the unspecified birds in the photo from yesterday are a type of gull that I still have not identified
  • There appears to be more sea lions everyday

Census Day

Weather

  • Visibility: Started off at 10 miles but closed in to the point the fog horn was going off for a good part of the morning and then a sunny break this afternoon and back to pretty cloudy now
  • Wind:  10-15 W this morning picked up to above 30, same direction
  • Sky: pretty cloudy with a little break in the afternoon
  • Water: pretty flat but the current is very visible and moving

Boats/Visitors

  • A few ecotours today

Ecological

  • plenty of sea lions, not really seeing elephant seals, also there was about 26 of these birds I will post a picture of but I wasn’t what bird it was, will look into it.

Census

  • Stellar Sea Lions: 176
  • California Sea Lions: 153
  • Elephant Seals: 0
  • Harbour Seals: 24
  • Unspecified Gulls: 212
  • Pigeon Guillemots: 0
  • Cormorants: 18
  • Canada Geese: 8
  • Oystercatchers: 8
  • Harlequinn Ducks: 0
  • Crows: 0
  • Unspecified bird: 26

Notes

  • Have not spotted the river otters again
  • Sea lions refused to budge when I went to get the water sample, I gave up and found a way around the one that would not move
  • They somehow dragged a ladder down the jetty so I had a tough time retrieving that because the ladder was attached to a rope that got wrapped around a rock, I managed to bring it up behind the boat shed, also the boat shed door looks to be in pretty rough shape the sea lions are always piled up against it

Sept 3, 4, 5 and 6th

I am back on Race Rocks and am very happy to be here, I had some log in trouble so this post will be for the past few days.

Weather,

On the third it was nice and sunny with little breeze, it was so nice I could run the desalinator without the generator. Started getting cloudy the next couple days and this morning the fog horn went off for a few minutes.

Ecological

I will be doing the census tomorrow but so far the number of sea lions seem to be growing, I have not seen any elephant seals, the harbour seal are right in there with the sea lions and I saw a river otter or two running around last night.

Other

Plenty of whale watchers coming around everyday, a couple sailboats and other than that the DnD seem to be blasting consistently which the sea lions aren’t too happy about.

That sums up my first few days back, I will be doing the census tomorrow and here are a few pictures from the last couple days.

Uneventful Weather: Perhaps a Small Blessing.

The weather at Race Rocks was spectacularly uneventful today. The barometer creeped down, little by little all day, to end not much lower than it started, at 2018 hPa. The sky was overcast with a bit of drizzle from time to time. Winds were light and at ground level the wind never got over 10 km/hr. The whole thing fizzled out into a patchy fog as darkness fell.

I didn’t see any tour boats in the Ecological Reserve today other than the Dive Boat from Ogden Point. There were plenty of sport-fishers, but all outside the reserve, trying to catch halibut. The currents are so strong here that they have to anchor to fish a specific spot and it looks like it can be challenging.

There were over 100 Pigeon Guillemots here today and it was a treat to watch them in their new, bright plumage as they bobbed and dove in the currents. The Glaucous-winged gulls are also looking very dapper in their new feathers and they seem to be spending a lot of time head dipping and bill raising and generally shuffling around looking like they are biding their time for the perfect alignment of day length and the Milky Way for nesting. Bald Eagles, two adults and sub-adult were hunting on Great Race today and they would make the gulls all lift off from time to time. That was the big excitement of the day. It was generally just a blissful sort of day.

My student visitors left in the late morning, picked up by Chris Blondeau in Second Nature. It was such a treat to have them on the island for my first few days. I felt lucky to have such an auspicious start. These students may be humble but they are really very special. I found out during our safety briefing that the five young ladies from Greenland, Guatemala, Quebec and young man from New Brunswick, were collectively trained as fire fighters, first-aid responders and counsellors, as part of their duties at Pearson College. These young people have my respect and are really using education as “a force to unite people, nations and cultures for peace and a sustainable future.” When I asked them what made their stay on the rock special and why it should be maintained as part of Pearson College, they mentioned things like peacefulness, quiet, nature, hopefulness, the importance of the marine protected area. They also said how great it is to just get away and how lucky they felt, to be able to come to such a special and beautiful place.

As we said our goodbyes on the jetty, they presented me with a hand-drawn thank you card and a can of Maple Syrup from Quebec. How sweet! There is something about Maple Syrup that is beyond delicious.

I did the regular chores today, getting back into the routine of spot checks, VHF monitoring, seawater sampling, washing solar panels, clearing walkways, running the generator and generally fighting entropy. I also managed to clear a few pernicious, waterlogged chunks of wood that were blocking the marine railway, which was really satisfying. It was fun to use the pee-vee and pike pole and I managed to stay mostly dry.

Back on the Rock

Last night’s storm blew in just as shift-change finished. Nick Townley waved goodbye from Second Nature as Chris Blondeau, still in his dry-suit from the diving activity, pulled the vessel out into the tidal stream and headed her back to Pedder Bay.

Nick Townley

Nick Townley ( a photo from last fall, selfie?).

Six students from Pearson College came out to the rock for the weekend and I started my shift with great company. Their goal was to catch up on studies (and sleep (my guess)) and to have their own experience in this gem of a biodiversity hotspot.

As we unpacked and settled into the two houses, heavy rain followed the black horizon moving in quickly from western Strait of Juan de Fuca. It was very nice to be snug inside as it was a wild night with heavy squalls. There were quite a few rattles and thumps that I didn’t recognize from last fall’s storms. Morning broke with gusts over 30 knots in the tower and alternate clearing skies and rainbows shone through and faded out on all sides. It was a white water scene with wind and current colliding in a frenzy. The barometer which had taken a nose dive Thursday and Friday, climbed back up to over 1024 HPa from Friday’s low of 1009. By noon, the westerly winds had dropped to 12 knots and the afternoon and evening was uneventful; overcast with showers and light winds shifting to northwest.

Although there was no fishing activity in the Ecological Reserve (ER) today, five wildlife viewing tour boats were noted. I was surprised by the number of both Northern and California sealions still hanging out and there were at least 75 Harbour Seals hauled out in the afternoon (not a complete count. I saw two pairs of adult bald eagles and numerous other birds including Canada Geese, Black Oystercatchers, Harlequin Ducks, Black Turnstones, Pigeon Guillemots, Double-crested and Pelagic Cormorants and an interesting mix of gulls. Many of the Glaucous-winged Gulls are already paired up and getting excited about spring. They are scattered around Great Race in all the places that there were nests last year. A much more condensed flock of gulls with about 100 birds was hunkered down in the lee of the rock on the west side of the science house. This flock was a mix of some unexpected visitors including Herring Gulls, Ring-Billed Gulls and even a few California Gulls, probably en route somewhere else. As dusk fell last night I heard the calls of Killdeer and it really felt like my home away from home.

It was great to get back up the tower again and have a good look around and for fun and more exercise, I started clearing off some of the winter’s woody debris accumulated on the marine railway. Greenlanders Hana and Malou joined in and we made it into a bit of a game, practicing our aim and strengthening arms. When we finished there was a stream of wood heading out to sea and we hoped that the whale watching boats were avoiding the busy tide lines.

Elephant seals occupy

The barometer climbed right out of its 996 hole today and there was glorious sunshine mixed with dark and nasty, west to southwest squalls. Some of the gloomier squalls also brought thunder and lightening. Band after band of bright and dark passed from the southwest. There was also a substantial groundswell. All of the weather drama made for a spectacular sunset.

Oct24 sky

Six brave whale watching boats were observed in the Ecological Reserve today and the folks in open boats must have had an interesting time during the big, mid-afternoon windstorm with a sudden and sodden downpour. I was out in the middle of it too, standing by, on the end of the jetty, waiting for a landing, but was too rough. It was gusting ~ 25 knots when I left the lighthouse to meet the boat and there were about 300 sealions hauled out in front of the science house.

There were also five adult Brown Pelicans on South Rock in the middle of this tempest’s blast. They can huddle down into a very low aerodynamic, face into the wind, posture and they didn’t get blown away.

The sealions retreated to the water during the deluge and have only now hauled out again en masse, three hours later. Many of the Stellers are in full molt now and some of them are looking quite scruffy. ‘Flake’ is the only Northern Elephant Sea of the ten blocking the jetty this morning that looks like he is still moulting. He may have a skin condition, as it is quite pink and raw looking.

The biggest of this crew is starting to “sprout” the big proboscis for which the adult males are famous. It looked to me like it was quite uncomfortable and kept awaking and thrashing around and garbling. They must feel really heavy on land after being at sea so much of their life.

Flake, (top left) and other Northern Elephant Seals have taken over the entrance to the boat shed and jetty.

Flake, (top left) and other Northern Elephant Seals have taken over the entrance to the boat shed and jetty.

 

The seal on the left kept awaking from sleep disturbed and the one on the right would grip him each time it happened. I wonder if it hurts having your nose grow that fast?

The seal on the left kept awaking from sleep disturbed and the one on the right would grip him each time it happened. I wonder if it hurts having your nose grow that fast?

Today was census day and the results are listed below. I missed the Harbour Seals due to the ferocity of oncoming squalls but will try to catch them tomorrow.

Steller Sealion 318

California Sealion 381

Northern Elephant Seal 10

Canada Goose 22

Greater White-fronted Goose 1

Harlequin Duck 5

Double-crested Cormorant 118

Pelagic Cormorant 19

Brown Pelican 5

Black Turnstone 9

Surfbird 5

Sanderling 3

Western Sandpiper 2

Dunlin 2

Black Oystercatcher 12

Killdeer 2

Glaucous-winged Gull 150

Thayer’s Gull 1200

California Gull 2

Western Gull 7

Heerman’s Gull 4

Gull sp. 50

Common Murre 3

Fox Sparrow 2

Dark-eyed Junco 1

Savannah Sparrow 15

 

 

 

Fog and sunshine

There was a tiny bit of rain with fog early today and then it switched back to near gale westerlies with heavy fog interspersed with sunshine. It is a beautiful starlight evening and the westerly continues to drop. The barometer held fairly steady today with a slight increase this evening. Environment Canada says that a strong westerly wind warning stays in effect for Sunday with a chance of showers.

There were ten whale watching boats in the Reserve today and they were all well behaved. A dive charter boat with eleven divers aboard came through the reserve but I am not sure where they dove.

Two male kayakers , one in a green kayak and the other in a reddish-brown kayak came through the passage on the south side of Great Race in the early afternoon and caused a sea lion stampede. They then proceeded to fish right in the closed conservation area. There were also two recreational boats fishing in the marine protected area.

A few more sea lion brands were observed today including one seven year-old female Steller’s Sea Lion that was branded as a pup in 2007 at Rogue Reef , near Gold Beach in southern Oregon.

This was my first day to not see Elephant Seals and California Sea Lions have taken over the jetty and marine railway. Some of them are a bit scary looking and do not want to move so that I can do seawater data collection.

Three River Otters were out and about in daylight today. Usually you don’t see them and just guess that they are around in the evening as all the gulls lift off and call. There were two young, very healthy-looking animals with an adult. Maybe that it why there are so many Glaucous-winged gull chick mortalities here? (Just a guess.)

Alex was quite excited to see some of the old lighthouse artifacts including parts of an old Fairbanks-Morris engine. He also pointed out where the old granite light-keepers house had been removed from its attachment to the base of the light tower.

The tasks today were the basic, regular tasks of  cleaning the solar panels, running the generator, launching and bringing the boat back up in order to drop off Alex, repairing the jetty fence (twice) and taking the salinity measurement. Tomorrow is month-end report time.