It is good to be back on Race Rocks after a winter on the road in Mexico. It seems I am not the only one returning as the Pigeon Guillemots have been returning over the last few days as well. I am planning a special entry focused on them in the next week so stay tuned!
Surfbird (Aphriza Virgata) in breeding plummage
These birds usually eat invertebrates so this picture of one eating Sea Lettuce (Ulva lactuca) is a bit unusual.
For now I think a census of the last few days is in order:
Steller (Northern) Sea Lions: 30
Harbour Seals: 100
Elephant Seals: 10
River Otter: 1
Glaucous-winged Gulls: 200
Pigeon Guillemots: 60
Northwestern Crow: 2
Rufous Hummingbird: 1
Black Oyster Catchers: 20
Bald Eagle: 10
Harlequin Ducks: 10
Black Turnstones: 30
Song Sparrow: 6
Canada Geese: 14
With the calm warm weather this week and approach of spring there has been a marked increase in vessel traffic in the reserve this week. We have been averaging 5-10 vessels a day, mainly eco tour boats like this large one in the photo.Recently there was an incident where a boater traveled through the reserve well in excess of the 7 knot speed limit. Fortunately we have a good relationship with Pedder Bay Marina and I was able to contact them and someone spoke with the operator. In my experience, the staff and management at the marina are always very cooperative and are willing to work with us to ensure that boaters are aware of the rules and that repeat offenders get reported or restricted from using their facilities. Thanks Pedder Bay Marina!
Misery has been off the main island and out of sight since about March 16. A few female elephant seals have been around, there have been 4 or 5 on Middle rock for the past few days.On the 26th I saw a Sea Otter off the south side of the island. It was mostly swimming on its back and at one point had a sea urchin it was eating on its belly. A few seals followed it as it swam towards middle rock.
See this file on one previous occurrence of Sea Otters at Race Rocks
Tomorrow is the last day of my 4 month shift at Race Rocks. Mike will be returning to take over.
I returned to the island on March 26 after spending about a week off island. While I was away a 55+ knot wind hit the island. The Guest house has been losing shingles all winter, this time it took a whole section of the roofing and tar paper off and blew it all over the island. The guardian said he heard pieces hitting the main house. A roofing crew has been out here each day since Tuesday and have nearly finished installing a new metal roof. There has also been two guys working on installing new vinyl floors in the guest house.
Today a relief guardian came out to take my place for about a week. A pair of Turkey Vultures landed on the island and an air craft carrier passed by in the distance behind Rosedale Reef. Oddly, on close examination this carrier appears to be carrying cars not aircraft on its upper deck.
See this file on Turkey Vultures at Race Rocks
There is a constant flow of shipping traffic passing by Race Rocks to and from Seattle and Vancouver each day. Once in a while there are ships that are very loud with a low, rumbling sound that I can hear and feel in the house as they pass by. This oil tanker, the Alaskan Frontier, on its way West towards the infamous Port of Valdez, Alaska, was one of the loud ones. The information below was obtained from http://ais3.siitech.com/VTSLite/AView.aspx which tracks all major marine traffic in the area.
This ship may have been louder than others because as is shown in the photo it is sitting quite high out of the water, likely empty on its way to fill up on crude in Alaska. Which means that when carrying a load it would be projecting this sound underwater, maybe louder, where sound travels further. Which begs the question: how much noise pollution are we subjecting marine mammals to in this area? What impact does it have on their ability to communicate, hunt, and navigate? It would be great to be able to listen to the sound underwater and measure these sound levels at Race Rocks.
As well as the sound, there is the unregulated emissions from these ships. On a clear busy day there is a haze that hangs over the ocean to the East. Sometimes I can smell and taste diesel fumes out here when ships are miles away. On top of this of course is the constant risk of an accident; it doesn’t have to be a tanker to spill fuel.
With the potential of an increase in tanker traffic and tanker size in this area, to handle increased production from the Tar Sands, the focus of environmental groups seems to be on the risk of increasing traffic. I think the question we should be asking is what is the impact and risk of the existing traffic? Are there any impact studies being done? More broadly: Do we value the ocean more as an access route for cheap goods or as a habitat for marine life? What is the true cost of cheap shipping? What is acceptable risk?
On a related note, I have not seen many whales this winter.
|Length x Beam
||286m x 50m
||Under way using engine
|Last Seen UTC
||3/13/2013 1:25 AM
|Last Seen Local
||3/12/2013 6:25 PM
|Rate of Turn
||3/16/2013 6:00 AM
|Pos. Fix. Dev.
There have been 6 Pearson College students staying at Race Rocks this past week for Project Week. They have been helping out with various projects on the island including scrubbing algae off of the siding of the buildings and painting baseboard trim for the guest house. On Friday Garry Fletcher visited the island to talk with students about history and biology.
During their stay there have been some stormy days with wind speeds gusting over 40 knots from the West.