West Seattle, Washington
Our hotline (206-293-6302) rang this afternoon – someone wondering who to call about a dead porpoise. In West Seattle, if it’s a stranded (dead or alive) marine mammal, you call Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network, we replied – 206-905-SEAL. We just found out what happened later, with local wildlife advocate Kersti Muul sending photos and this report:
This evening there was a washed-up female harbor porpoise on the beach at low tide just South of the Lighthouse…. Initial rudimentary scans appear to reveal some issue with birthing perhaps. She was so beautiful, practically flawless and beautifully designed by nature…. I photographed her for evidence of transient orca interference but found none.
Seal Sitters was there with her and a group of us helped carry her to a private driveway where she was to be picked up for necropsy by Cascadia Research Collective.
As noted by NOAA last year, harbor porpoises had dwindled in Puget Sound until a big comeback in recent years
Thanks for the great photos sent this weekend! Here are a half-dozen more:
That’s Paul Walchenbach‘s aerial view of Alki during Sunday afternoon’s low tide. (Yes, the drone was operated from outside the park.) Next, from Guy and Joy Smith near Alki Point:
They explained, “For the last several days at Alki Point, large groups of sea lions have been feeding on schools of either smelt or herring. The seagulls get in on the action too. We’ve lived here for 23 years and have never noticed this before.” (Ed and Terry also mentioned the unusual sea lion activity.)
Matthew Saporito photographed a Great Blue Heron at Constellation Park:
A few miles away, Max Szyszkowski caught the beauty of the bay and downtown from Duwamish Head:
Another bird sighting – a pelagic cormorant photographed by Bruce Easter:
And from Jim Borrow, a busy sunset:
Thanks again – email@example.com is the best way to get us photos – and we have more in queue!
P.S. We mentioned earlier that May will have a round of tides even lower than the ones these past few days – they start on Thursday, May 25, and will continue through Memorial Day.
7:15 PM: Thanks to Jason, who’s been updating us on southbound orcas that might make it to West Seattle before dusk – newest update, they’re passing Golden Gardens Park (west of Ballard). Let us know if you see them!
7:33 PM: Another update – they’re reported to be crossing the mouth of Elliott Bay.
7:50 PM: In view from Alki (per another texter).
9:51 AM: Photo added – thanks to David Hutchinson for the view of an orca passing the north end of Constellation Park around 8 pm.
12:36 PM: Thanks to the texter who just let us know that local orca fans are tracking two groups of transient orcas headed this way (northbound) – one along the east side of Vashon, one along the west side. According to Orca Network commenters, they could be in view off West Seattle’s west shore before too long. Please let us know if you see them! Comment, or text/call 206-293-6302 – thanks!
2:07 PM: Texter says whales are visible now from Lowman Beach!
2:37 PM: And now a text that two males are passing Alki Point.
We featured some photos of Saturday’s orca visit while they were in the area – and tonight, we have more photos, this time courtesy of Kersti Muul. She explains that her photos show “T102 and his Mama T101 passing by Alki Point Lighthouse yesterday, heading south at 2:15 PM.”
Kersti told us, “They were breathtakingly close and stunning in the bright sun. There were dozens of people on shore screaming and hooting and hollering. It made me cry to see the community so enthralled by these whales. As a volunteer, my favorite thing is when someone sees them for the first time, and having a part in that process as someone once did for me. It NEVER gets old.”
Kersti also shared two photos of the research boat with Mark and Maya Sears “to show you just how LARGE these guys are. In this (next) photo it is T100E in the front and T100C in the rear.”
The transient orcas are a completely different population from the residents. One big difference – their diet includes smaller marine mammals such as seals and sea lions, while the residents subsist almost entirely on fish, primarily salmon.
P.S. One more reminder for everyone interested in whales – The Whale Trail‘s next event, featuring researcher John Calambokidis talking about the increase in humpback and gray whales in Puget Sound, is Thursday at 7 pm at the Dakota Place Park Building; tickets are available here.
2:02 PM: Just got two texts reporting orcas passing West Seattle! Both say the whales are transient orcas, southbound in the Alki Point vicinity.
2:45 PM: In the comment section, an update from Herongrrrl: “Closer to Lincoln Park” right now.
3:23 PM: Just added photos by Gary Jones from Alki/Alki Point vicinity earlier. (Orca Network says that’s a research boat with them, in the second photo.) Gary also sent this one with “harbor porpoises going the other way”:
3:55 PM: As of a few minutes ago, commenter SS says, they’re south of West Seattle and still headed SB.
6:20 PM: Donna Sandstrom of The Whale Trail shares info about the visitors in this comment. (By the way, The Whale Trail’s next event is coming up Thursday at the Dakota Place Park Building – find out about the increase in humpbacks and grays in Puget Sound!)
7:28 PM: Chris Frankovich says the orcas are headed back northbound, and shares this photo:
Chris says this shows them off The Arroyos.
They’re the whales we talk about the most, but orcas are not the only whales in our waters – increasingly, humpbacks and grays are turning up in Puget Sound too. Sometimes as beautiful sights – sometimes as tragedies, as with the humpback death south of the Fauntleroy ferry dock last August. Among the researchers and experts who came to the scene was John Calambokidis. One week from tonight, he’ll be the guest speaker presented by The Whale Trail in the historic building at Dakota Place Park (4303 California SW). Here’s the announcement:
“The New Giants of the Salish Sea: Humpback and Gray Whales Discover Our Waters”
Presentation by John Calambokidis
Thursday, April 20, 7:00 – 8:30 pm.
New research reveals insights into the return of two magnificent whales to the Salish Sea and the mysteries of their lives. Humpback whales who once roamed these waters hundreds of years ago have returned in spectacular numbers. See some of the new research documenting this return, why it has occurred and some of the implications.
Gray whales migrate along the Washington coast and some feed in outer coast waters but one intrepid group, nicknamed the Sounders, has discovered a highly profitable but very risky feeding strategy in northern Puget Sound. New research and underwater video taken by the whales themselves reveals their incredible feeding strategy from a unique perspective.
Join researcher John Calambokidis, a founder of Cascadia Research Collective who has studied large whales for over 30 years both in our waters and throughout the eastern North Pacific.
Buy tickets now to reserve your seat. And hurry! This will likely sell out.
About the Speaker
John Calambokidis is a Senior Research Biologist and one of the founders of Cascadia Research Collective, a non-profit research organization formed in 1979 based in Olympia, Washington. He periodically serves as an Adjunct Faculty at the Evergreen State College teaching a course on marine mammals. His primary interests are the biology of marine mammals and the impacts of humans.
John has served as Project Director of over 200 projects. He has authored two books on marine mammals (on blue whales and a guide to marine mammals) as well as more than 150 publications in scientific journals and technical reports. He has conducted studies on a variety of marine mammals in the North Pacific from Central America to Alaska. He serves as Project Manager of the Southern California Behavioral Response Study and has directed long-term research on the status, movements, and underwater behavior of blue, humpback, and gray whales. Some of his recent research has included attaching tags to whales with suction cups to examine their feeding behavior and vocalizations.
John’s work has been covered on shows by National Geographic, Discovery Channel, BBC, and others. In 2012 he received the American Cetacean Society’s John Heyning Award for Lifetime Achievement in Marine Mammal Science.
Tickets are available online – $10 general, $5 for kids under 12 – buy yours here.
8:33 AM: Thanks to Kersti Muul for the first tip – orcas are back in central Puget Sound today! As Orca Network commenters also are chronicling, they were seen by ferry riders – including state ferries and the Vashon Water Taxi – headed for Rich Passage, the waterway to and from Bremerton – but they could just as easily head back this way, so we’re publishing this heads-up. Let us know if you saw/see them!
1:28 PM: The orcas have spent the past few hours delighting fans in Kitsap waters – here’s a photo gallery on KitsapSun.com.
While we work on some more news stories this Sunday, another unique look at West Seattle, offshore – this time, the newest 360-degree underwater video shared by “Diver Laura” James. She focuses on what are known as the I-Beams, off Seacrest.
You’ve probably seen – or at least heard – the sea lions and seals who hang out on that mooring buoy off West Seattle’s northeast shore. Christopher Boffoli‘s photo provides a drone’s-eye view from more than 300 feet up (drone operators are required to stay below 400 feet). It also gives us a reason to remind you about the rules on the ground – we talked earlier this week with Seal Sitters at a taped-off stretch of Alki, east of the end of the sandy beach, and learned about what happened to Taffy the harbor seal. Most of the marine mammals on the buoy are California sea lions, by the way.
We got a couple questions about a state ferry under tow off West Seattle right now. It’s the former M/V Evergreen State, built in 1954, sold earlier this year. Its new owners bought it for $300,000 and plan to use it in the Caribbean, according to this Washington State Ferries news release. But it’s not headed there yet – it’s headed to temporary moorage and is expected to be towed to Grenada later this year.
12:13 PM: Thanks to Trileigh for first tip – orcas have been seen off Alki in the past half-hour, headed southbound. While we were writing this, Donna from The Whale Trail called in a tip too – look toward Blake Island.
12:46 PM: Texter says they are visible “mid-Blake” – so you should be able to see them from the Beach Drive shoreline, especially Emma Schmitz Memorial Overlook.
1:48 PM: Commenter Jen says they’re off Vashon now.
Thanks to Jim Borrow for the photo from Alki. This was the Corinthian Yacht Club‘s Three Tree Point race, third and final race in the Center Sound Series. The current U.S. Coast Guard Local Notice to Mariners shows another yacht race coming up next Saturday.
Thanks to the texter who just let us know that transient orcas (the ones who are NOT the Southern Resident Killer Whales) have been seen off Bainbridge, southbound, this afternoon. According to Orca Network commenters, they’re closer to the Kitsap side, so if you go to look, bring good binoculars. Our texter says Whale Scout will have a volunteer looking from Alki Point around 4:30.
Thanks to Alisa for the text: She says transient orcas are in the area, southbound, “slightly north of and between Alki and Restoration Point.” A little murky out there with the rain, but … let us know if you see them!
Thanks to Guy Smith for the photo, and to everyone else who texted/e-mailed – the aircraft carrier headed northbound this murky morning was the USS Nimitz (CVN 68). We’ve seen it relatively often in recent months, on a variety of semi-short trips following its big overhaul that wrapped up in Bremerton last year. No word yet what today’s departure is about.
P.S. In case you missed it – the aircraft carrier that went by on Saturday won’t be coming back – the USS Independence is on its way to a Texas scrapyard. As of late last night, the Independence and tow boat Dino Chouest were well out in the open Pacific, off Grays Harbor.
1:05 PM: Thanks to everyone who’s messaging us that an aircraft carrier, under tow, is visible right now from Beach Drive, even through the murk. It’s the decommissioned-since-1998 USS Independence, headed for the scrapyard. We’re off to try for a photo.
1:30 PM: It’s now passing south Bainbridge, more clearly in view from Constellation Park south of Alki Point. Just over two and a half years ago, another decommissioned carrier, the USS Constellation, passed West Seattle shores while also on its way to a Texas scrapyard.
1:40 PM: According to MarineTraffic.com, the orange tug is the 348-foot Dino Chouest. The Lindsey Foss is also shown as being with the Independence (which itself does not show on MT). Visible from Alki Beach now, and picking up speed.
According to the Kitsap Sun, the USS Kitty Hawk is now the only inactive aircraft carrier remaining in Bremerton, and it’s being kept in reserve until the USS Gerald R. Ford is in service (likely later this year).
Couple people (including Nate Hamilton, who shared the photo) wondered if the ferry under tow in Elliott Bay today was in trouble. We checked MarineTraffic.com for the ID, and learned it’s the new state ferry M/V Chimacum – NOT in trouble, just getting tested. Washington State Ferries spokesperson Ian Sterling confirmed that Chimacum is out on testing runs starting today. We reported last September on its christening at Vigor on Harbor Island; the ferry’s construction was finished there, after its superstructure was built at, and transported from, Nichols Brothers on Whidbey Island. Sterling says the Chimacum is expected to go into service on the Seattle-Bremerton run in late spring/early summer.
P.S. Other ferry news today … WSF announced the sale of the M/V Evergreen State.
Thanks to Gary Jones for the photo! As previewed here last night, the naval-museum ship USS Turner Joy was towed back to Bremerton today after almost a month in drydock on Lake Union (the Kitsap Sun explained last month what was planned). It’s expected to reopen for tours this weekend.
P.S. Historian Jean Sherrard published photos of its passage through the Ballard Locks.
Back on February 2nd, we showed you the museum ship USS Turner Joy, photographed by Gary Jones as it was towed past West Seattle, on the way from Bremerton to Lake Union for maintenance. Just heard KING 5 mention it’s heading back through the Ballard Locks and cross-sound to Bremerton tomorrow (Tuesday) morning, and found this confirmation:
— USS Turner Joy (@USSTurnerJoy) February 28, 2017
So if you notice a Navy destroyer passing at mid-morning, this is the one.
Thanks to those who texted photos, including that one! That was the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68), seen from Alki late this afternoon, headed back to Bremerton. It’s been gone for almost a month (we showed it outbound on January 31st) for training and inspection, according to the Kitsap Sun.