The Glaucous-winged Gulls (Larus Glauscens)is an almost ever-present fixture of Great Race Islet. This time of year from dawn to dark they can be seen occupying their potential nesting locations, building those nests, and settling territorial disputes with their neighbours. But many nights, when I head out to turn the generator off, I discover a silent and empty island; 300 gulls have simply disappeared, gone to some mysterious location I can only guess at. Do they prefer to sleep on the water? Do they feed on certain foods at night? What’s going on out there at night!
Regardless, I can tell you that Glaucous-winged Gulls are an extraordinary bird, at home on the lightest of breezes or duelling with the 50 knots gusts of an afternoon’s Westerly gale. Only in their ubiquitousness do we loose sight of their beauty and efficiency. They are masters of their realm.
In other news, yesterday there were 10 elephant seals in the yard and on the boatramp! This is a new record for Great Race. There are 4 young males, Bertha the mature female and 5 smaller females. A good-sized male is out on Middle Rock but it doesn’t look big enough to be Misery.
The Hub of Activity
Many eagles are in the reserve, most juveniles. I watched one hunt a gull this morning and was surprised how the eagle targeted an individual gull and chased it for over a kilometer out to sea before I lost sight of them both.
Update: The young e-seal seems to be doing well. I was just in the water clearing kelp from near the jetty and was able to observe it closely. Elephant seals are extremely tough and resilient; its abrasions are almost fully healed already! The one change in its behaviour I have noticed is a reluctance to come ashore. He has spent the last 48 hours in the shallow water at the foor of the boat ramp.
Animals have accidents just like we do. I happened to witness a tumble this morning when a lounging juvenile elephant seal lost its bearings and fell from the jetty. I was trying to photograph pigeon guillemots, sitting on the rocks across from the seal. When I saw it tumble I ran over and at first glance thought it was dead. It was stuck pretty good and having a tough time rolling over. After 30 seconds of struggle I used my boot to help steady it until it could roll over… I am sure it would have made it on its own but I couldn’t watch it suffer in the position it was in, and it was clearly in some distress. I normally let nature’s dramas play out on their own but the jetty is a man-made object and contributed to the seal’s predicament…. At the moment the unhappy little tyke is recovering in the water and looks like it will be OK, but it has to be hurting. I’ll monitor its recovery. Here are the pictures:
This morning 5 elephant seals were on the island, probably seeking some degree of shelter from the 35 knot Westerly wind that has been blowing all day. 4 are juveniles, but in the middle of the pile lies Bertha looking sleek and glossy-brown. She is easily identified by the large scar on her chest and her clouded left eye. Last year she arrived on Great Race on April 15th. I think she has been in the reserve for a little while now but I had not been able to identify her while she rested on Middle Rocks.
Biding their time…
We appear to have about 300 Glaucous-winged Gulls on the island this spring. My estimate is that there are about 25% fewer individuals than last spring, when I counted about 200 breeding pairs. Other animals noted in the past few days have been several Dunlins, a small flock of Barn Swallows, a Whimbrel and what resembled a Solitary Sandpiper. I also saw for the first time a Mink (Mustela Vison) on Great Race; quite a swim for the little athlete!
Erik and I did an oil and filter change on the generator. Hopefully it will be the last one and we will soon be able to afford to install a wind generator to provide the last 20% of energy we require. We run the generator about 2.5 hours a day this time of year.
We had 3 groups of student this month, 2 roofers, 3 techs from Environment Canada, and several college staff. Tour boats and fisherfolk are being seen more regularly in the reserve as the nicer weather begins. We had to ask one group of fishers to pull their lines and leave the Reserve. Infractions are almost always due to ignorance and I am lobbying the government to post a few signs which, unattractive as they may be, could go a long way towards ameliorating those infractions.
The last few days have seen many extremes in weather, from 50 knot Westerlies with hail to gorgeous, clear, sunny and warm afternoons. I enjoy watching the squall fronts marching up the Juan de Fuca Strait, passing over me, and then moving on to affect Victoria.
Race Rocks Tidal Rips
We were visited by a hawk a few days ago. I didn’t observe it preying upon anything; the gulls are a bit too big for it to take on I think….
Hawk landing on the Anemometer
Hawk perched on the Anemometer
There are about 15 Elephant Seals in the reserve at this time, mostly juveniles. 3 of them are using Great Race as their haul-out while the others are on Middle Rock and can be observed using the live webcams: http://www.racerocks.com/racerock/video1.htm
3 Juvenile E-seals April 2013 including Tag 5086, a visitor from last spring.
March ended beautifully but early April has been mostly cool and at times misty. The roofers are here today finishing off the Guest House roof, and I continue to putter away cleaning up and reorganizing everything.
Race Rocks in Fog
The surfbirds have left but several Mergansers have been making the island home.
I was lucky enough to see a Steller Sea Lion tearing apart an octopus and I caught a few pictures of a brief encounter between the sea lion and an eagle looking for scraps…
Eagle and Gull checking out a Steller’s octopus lunch