Standing Waves

The fine weather continued today with light outflow winds and clear skies. The barometric pressure rose to almost 1020 hPa by mid–morning and then started to slowly slide back down. This pattern is forecast again for tomorrow.

I counted 32 tour boats in the reserve today and may have a missed a few as I was busy. I talked to the Garry Fletcher, Ecological Reserve Guardian and learned a great deal.
There were Biggs Killer Whales out to the west again so many of the boats broke up their trips coming or going with a stop at Race Rocks. A few recreational fishers went through at low speed but no poaching today. The only transgression noted was a Grady White speeding. The man with the white hat and red rubber boat was back but stayed just outside the line.

Just before sunset, an enormous aircraft carrier headed past and on out to sea. Ahead of it was a container ship and behind a schooner. The volume of goods and people coming and going in Juan de Fuca Strait is really amazing and it all passes by Race Rocks. Port Metro Vancouver alone trades $184 billion in goods and then there is Seattle, Victoria, Bellingham, Spokane etc..

Corrections to yesterday’s log: 1. There are still at least two Pigeon Guillemots feeding young. 2. I forgot to count in the four Canada Geese that are here daily. 3. I got a good look at the Black Turnstones from the tower today and counted 23.

I did some research today, starting with reading a few papers on Steller’s and California Sea Lions and looking at a paper on Glaucous-winged Gull chick mortality. I talked to Race Rocks Ecological Reserve Guardian, Garry Fletcher, learning a great deal. I started a Glaucous-winged gull survey today and found 30 so far. It is important to get this done before it starts getting too damp.

The practical side of the day involved more cleaning and starting a perimeter fence for the science house. The doors of the house are no match for a 2200 pound sea lion.
I watched the creation of large, breaking standing waves today, right in front of the house/jetty. The tide was flooding in and there was no wind so there must have been some ebb pushing out against it. Pretty spectacular for a few minutes then it calmed down.

Killer Whales and Sport-fishers to the West

Another glorious day on the rock with good visibility, calm waters and a clear sky. The barometer rose gradually until noon and then dropped slightly. Barely perceptible outflow winds kept the fog out at sea and it looks like a similar forecast for Friday.

There was a lot of activity in the Reserve today with whale watching boats stopping by to see the sea lions en-route, back and forth between Victoria and the two pods of transient (aka Bigg’s) Killer Whales off to the west. The smaller pod had four individuals and passed close to the reserve heading west spending the day between Becher Bay and Beachy Head. A second larger pod was reported from further west near Otter Point by days’ end. A total of 37 tour boats were noted in the reserve and many more passed by at speed outside of the boundaries. They keep constant contact with the whales during the day and pass off to each other, on leaving the area.

A couple of recreational boats spent time in the reserve today, one photographing sea lions for several hours and the other jigging. The conservation area is bounded by the 40 meter contour, and no jigging is allowed. Jigging targets territorial fish such as rockfish and lingcod although you can catch coho that way too. The Conservation Area is enforced by DFO and is there to protect long-lived, territorial fish like rockfish and lingcod, so that their offspring can disperse to other areas with the currents. A Marine Protected area like Race Rocks becomes a source of recruitment of young fish to nearby areas that don’t have protection and this ultimately makes the fishing more sustainable.

It was census day today.
Biggs’ Killer Whales 4
Steller’s Sea Lions 243 (7 brands noted)
California Sea Lions 334 (7 completed brands noted, 1 incomplete)
Total sea lions both species = 577
Harbour Seals 142
Elephant Seal 1 (pup)
Savannah Sparrows 8 (seemed to fly off to the south across the Strait after visiting)
Double-crested Cormorants 11
Pelagic Cormorants 4
Black Turnstones 7
Sandpipers 5
Sharp-shinned Hawk 1
Glaucous-winged Gulls 99 (4 chicks still begging)
Heerman’s Gulls 5
California Gull 1
Black Oystercatchers 7
The Pigeon Guillemots were not spotted today so I assume that the chicks finally fledged and have headed off to sea. I will miss them. It is fun to watch them ride the currents and carry crazy-looking fish to their young.

There were no visitors today, although both Second Nature and Hyaku made multiple trips within a stone’s throw of the jetty, as part of student orientation week.

Sediment Filters Installed

What a beautiful, warm, summer day. The early fog to the south and west disappeared and it stayed calm and got warm. The smoke and particulates made for another spectacular sunset, this time without a cloud. The barometer has been slowly rising since last night with a bit of a leveling this afternoon and evening. It looks like they are forecasting outflow winds for tomorrow and that might keep the fog at bay.

There were 17 tour boats today and most of them were very respectful of the seals and sea lions that they were watching in the reserve. The recreational fishing fleet seemed to be off to the west towards Beachy Head and the Bait Shack. Although a few boats passed through slowly, no one was jigging in the reserve today.  Second Nature and Hyaku made several trips out and around the reserve with groups of students rotating through their orientation activities.

There were military explosions during the late morning and early afternoon.

There were only 99 adults Glaucous-winged gulls at sunset and I could only spot three young ones, (still actively begging). The rest have moved on. There is still one demented gull that is trying to nest, bringing bunches of grass and acting agitated. I wonder what happened to its internal clock? I also spotted both Heerman’s Gulls and California Gulls today. The number of cormorants, both Double Crested and Pelagics continue to rise. Every night a mystery bird arrives after dark and calls a bit. I would love to figure out what it is. It almost sounds like a Greater Yellowlegs but it is the wrong kind of habitat. I wonder if it flies out here because it is a safe(ish) place to sleep?

A lot of maintenance work was accomplished today. I started by washing the basement floor where plumber was going to be working. Courtney brought the plumber out in Second Nature in the morning and while he plumbed Courtney and I dealt with propane tanks and electric fences. It was good to be able to chat with this veteran eco-guardian who now works on the waterfront at Pearson College. I learned a lot. Now both houses have big cartridge filters in-line in and it looks like really professional.


Thunder and Lightning

It was a dramatic day weather-wise with near-gale westerlies and a heavy downpour that dropped almost one centimetre of much needed rain. Just before the sun went down there were intense rainbows. The barometer continued its slide but a nice sunset and the westerly wind warning, mean sunshine for tomorrow.

With no killer whales in sight, the whale watching boat numbers dropped to three. There were no recreational boaters fishing in the closed Conservation Area today. There were some big blasts from the military site today late morning and early afternoon. They had a vessel standing off to the northwest of the reserve talking to boaters. Although there were no visitors ashore, Second Nature came within a stone’s throw of the jetty and I waved to Courtney and the Pearson College students aboard.

This morning when I got up there were no sea lions on the jetty for the first time so I will continue my territorial patrols. I scanned for brands/tags from the top of the tower again today, and added more to the growing list. Eventually I will put a finders’ curve together to see if I am approaching the asymptote.

I was a bit grossed out to see the GW Gulls and Black Turnstones foraging in the Sea Lion messes this morning. I wonder what their parasite load is mmm? At least one of the sea lions had evidently been eating krill.

All but one of the young gulls are flying now and it was fun to watch them ‘getting a flying lesson’ from the raven this morning. Okay, I know that is way too anthropomorphic. They were all following raven who seemed to be playing the trickster, (maybe hoping they would crash for breakfast). Ravens are so good at doing aerial flips and such but young gulls are still a bit wobbly. There are still two Pigeon Guillemots carrying food to nest sites. they bring a variety of benthic fish: so far I have seen little flatfish, large gunnels a variety of sculpins and maybe a prickleback.

Other than the routine chores, more window cleaning and moving heavy concrete blocks today, I did some trouble-shooting on the computer and deleted over 11,000 items from the trash which sped things up. I started to read the camera manual with camera in hand. Yesterday’s passing Killer Whales inspired me to learn how to use the camera with the big lens.

Recovery of species and spaces at risk.

Another glorious day at Race Rocks with westerly flow, basically a repeat of yesterday weather-wise. The barometer has dropped a bit over the evening and the wind has shifted to the southwest. Here is a graph of the atmospheric pressure that can be pulled up on the website. Tomorrow looks similar, windy with a chance of showers.


There were 33 tour boats today including a few that may not have been commercial. Some of the tour boats are really enormous and barely fit in the passage. There were at least 17 recreational fishers, again with some jigging by the rentals in the closed conservation area. Amazingly, a DFO patrol boat passed by and did nothing while these folks were slaying bottom fish in the reserve. I was up in the tower and couldn’t get the K-numbers as they are only painted on one side of the boat.

I did record another four sea lion brands in between chores and spotting killer whales travelling and feeding from the southwest to the southeast. There was one large bull, one little one with (probably) its mother and at least two others. I wasn’t close enough to identify them but if they were southern residents they are very endangered.

I was thinking about their chances of recovery when I noticed they were perfectly lined up with the Elwha River valley across the Strait in Olympic National Park. It reminded me of that Margaret Mead quote “Never underestimate the power of a few committed people to change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” The recovery of the Elwha ecosystem is a remarkable story.

Not so remarkable, was the rest of my day; cleaning windows, killing flies, trying to learn how to use the camera, attempting to “train” the sea lions to get off the jetty and pursuing the regular drill of fighting entropy.

What’s your number?

It was a day without fog at Race Rocks and as the westerlies continue, some serious clouds can be seen piling up on far horizons. The barometer rose all day, which bodes well for tomorrow but there may be a few needed showers.

It was a busy day on the water with 26 whale watching boats visiting the reserve. From the expressions on the tourists’ faces, they seemed to enjoy watching the sea lions. All the skippers were respectful except for two travelling together who did not heed the go-slow zone.

There were so many recreational fishing boats that I could only keep track of the ones who were in contravention of the DFO Rockfish Conservation Area closure which runs around the reserve at a 40m depth. Many of those fishing inside the boundary were in rental boats but some of the other speed boats were doing what they do best…speeding. The Pedder Bay Marina is really good about talking to folks who rent from them and informing them about the conservation area.

I looked for tagged and branded sea lions again today and can report another nine California Sea Lions and four Stellers’ Sea Lions bringing the total number of branded individuals sighted up to 29. Eventually we will know a bit more about their stories from those numbers they carry. There are also two Stellers with neck rings cutting into their flesh and one with a flasher hanging out of its’ mouth. There are individual Harbour Seals, as well as both species of sea lions with major wounds. Speaking of wounds, there were two new, (to me), very small Elephant Seals on the ramp today, probably young of the year, judging from the size.

A few Pigeon Guillemots are still carrying into fish into the large boulder area by the jetty. The chicks must leave for sea at night as I haven’t seen any on the water and most are probably fledged by now. Each day, there are more Pelagic and Double Crested Cormorants roosting on the southwest side of the island.

The desalinator worked for a couple of hours during the sunshine today, making fresh water thanks to the solar panels.

Month end inventory was conducted today with measurements taken of all the fuel, fresh water, and equipment run times recorded.

My other task was to try and stake out a small territory on the jetty so that I can come and go and do the sampling. The Elephant Seals are no problem, they just sleep as you pass, or open one eye. Keeping the more belligerent California Sea Lions off the jetty seems to be a losing battle and has made getting out to the end of the jetty to sample seawater, extra challenging.

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.



Trustee Tour Day

The wind was out of the west today although it did swing to the southwest a few times and is trending that way now. The barometer has been slowly dropping for a few days. A few real clouds made another gorgeous sunset with a super crescent moon low in the west.

There were three tour boats today and one recreational fishing boat was noted fishing inside the reserve boundary today. They must have known as they stopped as soon as it was clear that they were being observed. There was military blasting today.

An animal census indicated 200 fewer sea lions than last week and brought to light 17 tagged and branded animals, with nine complete tag numbers recorded and seven partials. One of the Northern Sea Lions appears to have a badly embedded line around and growing into its’ neck. Only seven Glaucous–winged Gulls remain unfledged although some of the adults, presumably with failed nests are still carrying around nesting material and acting broody. At least one Pigeon Guillemot is bringing fish into the large boulder scree just west of the jetty, presumably they have a late chick there that they are feeding.

The struggle for sustainability continues and the solar panels contributed well to the island’s energy needs today even though it was not sunny all day.

Chris brought out a family group of 11 people with at least three generations today on Second Nature. They were delighted to make first hand observations of sea lion and elephant seal behaviour and enjoyed the beauty of the place.

Maintenance work consisted of the routine cleaning of solar panels, mucking out the waste, repairing the jetty fence line, collecting seawater salinity data and making biological observations. The generator was only run for an hour and a half, thanks to the solar panels.

Animal Census

Low winds today picking up in the afternoon/evening. Clear skies for most of the day. Forecasted winds of 15 knots for tomorrow morning rising to 30 in the afternoon.







Animal Census (by Anne):

Steller Sea Lions 229
California Sea Lions 388
Harbour Seals 81
Glaucous-winged Gulls 301 (including 29 chicks)
Double-crested Cormorant 3
Pelagic Cormorant 1
Canada Goose 11
Black Oyster Catcher 11
Black Turnstone 1
Greater Yellow legs 1
Very large mixed species feeding groups to the west southwest of reserve including 100s of Rhinoceros auklets, Common Murres, Heerman’s Gulls and California Gulls.

37 whale watching boats

5 recreational boats

3-4 trips from Second Nature

Baleen whale this morning spotted feeding in the same place as yesterday evening, to the SW end of the reserve.

Anne continued with training today. James from Hybrid Plumbing came out to fix the water heater this morning. Changed cartridge filters on desalinator. Prepared for shift change.



Baleen at sunset

Fog in the morning that burned off around 1030h. Winds reached 35 knots mid-afternoon. Light winds forecasted for tomorrow morning and increasing in the afternoon. Barometric pressure still dropping.

2 whale watching boats

1 recreational fishing boat

Last of the gull chicks are learning to fly. Another elephant seal arrived on the boat ramp today, bringing the number to four. Spotted a baleen whale off the SW side of the reserve at 2030h this evening as the sun set.

Courtney came out in Second Nature with a tour group this morning of alumni and then made another trip to do maintenance on the desalinator (which is now in working order). Cistern was very low so Anne and I ran the pump for most of the day. Continued with Anne’s training.