West Seattle, Washington
On behalf of Seal Sitters, a photo and update from David Hutchinson:
All spaces for the June 9th Seal Sitters’ training have been filled. If you were not able to attend this session, but are still interested in becoming a Seal Sitter, please contact us at SealSitters.Outreach@msn.com and we will notify you when our next training has been scheduled.
We have had a seal on the beach twice this week and “pupping season” in south Puget Sound will be starting soon. Just a reminder, if you see any marine mammal on a West Seattle beach, keep back, keep people and pets away, and please call our Hotline at 206-905-SEAL (7325).
Remember the river otters we mentioned last night – including a pair seen making their way up Fairmount Ravine? They apparently kept going, and by morning were spotted by startled neighbors on the east side of Hiawatha Community Center. First we heard from Jennifer – then, Andrea sent the photos, video, and report:
Found these pair of cuties hanging out on Forest Ave SW by Hiawatha Playfield this morning – must have strayed too far from Mom in their adventures up from the water. Animal Control came to get them and bring them to the wildlife center in Lynnwood to be properly relocated. Thanks to all the neighbors who helped divert traffic while these little guys decided to camp out in the road!
We confirmed with Seattle Animal Shelter executive director Ann Graves that SAS Officer Cantu picked up the otters and took them to PAWS – we have an inquiry out to them as to what happens next, but probably won’t hear back until Monday.
SAS doesn’t always step into wildlife situations; Graves explains that “we do not handle ‘nuisance’ wildlife but we do respond to calls which are considered ‘rescue/assist’ situations.”
SUNDAY NIGHT UPDATE: Laura Follis from PAWS responded to our inquiry with some early info, and we’ll be pursuing more Monday. She says the otters are a female and a male, “approximately 10 to 12 weeks old. They have no obvious injuries but both are very thin so obviously orphaned. They are eating fish on their own. The male had nasal discharge that is suspicious of pneumonia and they are very susceptible to it so is going to be on a course of antibiotics. They love their pool.”
THURSDAY NIGHT: With three reader reports of river otters far uphill from the water’s edge in West Seattle, it’s time to share the alert! The photo above is from Jonathan, who spotted those two in Fairmount Ravine, near the bridge. His report came in about the same time as a note from Luke, who was bicycling in the ravine when he saw what we assume were the same two, “scurrying along the side of the road.” And last night, Emily reported seeing one “crossing the road on SW Jacobsen Road between 51st Ave SW and Beach Drive SW.” If you’re new – river otters are the ones you’ll see in Puget Sound, not “sea otters,” which are more common in the open ocean. Be especially careful on near-shore roads this time of year – some have been hit by drivers as they cross, often headed to/from an inland den. This state Fish and Wildlife Department info-sheet has more about river otters.
FRIDAY MORNING, 10:27 AM: According to a note from Jennifer, they’re even further inland now, up along Walnut.
For the first time in a long time, today we received a reader report about a coyote sighting:
Last night: a pack of coyote pups heard and spotted at 46th and Edmunds in West Seattle at 1:25 am. About eight of them, running wildly around houses looking for food.
Over the years, we’ve published coyote reports when we received them, to help people remain aware that we and these wild neighbors are co-existing. If you don’t know much about coyotes, or what to do if you see one or more, this state webpage can help.
Still looking for summer camp? Seattle Audubon says it still has room in camps it’s offering this summer in West Seattle:
Nature Camp is for children entering grades 1-9, and all children in this age range are welcome. Our camp will be based at Explorer West Middle School, with two off-site field trips each week. Though there is a fee to attend, we have a generous scholarship fund so that all children may have a summer camp experience.
Nature Camp emphasizes experiential outdoor activities that instill an appreciation of nature for children and teens. Each week is a different theme, from Tide Pool Treasures (grades 1-3) to Habitat Restoration Rangers (grades 4-6) to Young Birders for middle schoolers. Sessions range from $210-$295 and includes two off-site field trips each week. Regular camp hours are 9 am-3:30 pm, with morning and afternoon extended care available.
Seal-pup season is starting, and Seal Sitters Marine Stranding Network is recruiting – and training – volunteers. From Robin Lindsey:
There are still spaces left for Seal Sitters Volunteer Training, Saturday, June 9th, from 10 am-12:30 pm (see details here). Doors open at 9:30. Due to limited seating, RSVP is required at the website link to ensure a seat.
Seal Sitters is always in need of dedicated volunteers to keep marine mammals safe and educate the public. We do encourage children (must be accompanied by adult) to join Seal Sitters and become environmental stewards at a young age. It is empowering for those of all ages to be able to protect marine life and truly make a difference.
Harbor seal pupping season is getting underway in Washington. There are numerous pregnant seals in Central and Puget Sound. Harbor seals are generally born in our area from late June thru early September; however, there has already been a premature birth, so we can expect pups soon. We have had newborn pups in West Seattle as early as June 9th. If you are heading to the outer coast of Washington now and over the next couple of months, you might very well encounter a newborn pup. Always stay back to avoid abandonment and contact the area stranding network (for maps, go here).
To learn in-depth about harbor seal pups and to view a pupping season map, go here.
Here in West Seattle, we never know what kind of activity each season will bring. Wildlife is predictably unpredictable! That’s why Seal Sitters needs predictably reliable volunteers – since each day can bring new challenges, anything from keeping a resting seal pup safe from harm to responding to a stranded whale.
As always, if you see a seal – or other marine mammal – on a West Seattle beach or in trouble offshore, please call Seal Sitters hotline @ 206-905-SEAL (7325). Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network is a partner in NOAA’s West Coast MMSN and responds to reports of ALL marine mammals, dead or alive.
Robin adds that her photo above is “of weaned seal ‘Uno,’ who spent many days onshore in January and February resting near the water taxi.”
ORIGINAL REPORT: It’s still duck-crossing season! Thanks to Marcee Stone-Vekich for sharing her photo/video of this scene that stopped traffic for a bit on Saturday near the east end of Roxbury.
Here’s some interesting backstory on crossings like this one.
ADDED MONDAY: Commenter Alki Resident identified the ducks’ escort as Chris Greer, who has made news in another wildlife-related situation, as he and his wife fight to get back a raccoon they had rescued and long kept as a member of their family. Today another commenter, Katelyn, pointed out that the ruling in the Greers’ case had finally come down last week; it went against them but their lawyer says they’ll appeal.
2:03 PM: Thanks for the tip! Orcas are in the area this afternoon – just got a report that at least three are visible southbound between Blake and Vashon Island. As always, if you’re going to go look, take binoculars. And let us know if/when you see them!
3:00 PM: Kersti Muul just texted to say they’re visible south of the Vashon ferry dock, on the Vashon side.
Thanks to Gary Jones for the photos, which were too sweet to put on hold until, say, tomorrow morning’s highlights. Notice in the top photo that Harbor Seal #1 is just hanging out at low tide off Constellation Park, with somebody peeking from the water to the left … and then deciding to get out and join the basking.
Flagging us to the same scene via Twitter, @1fox2fox noted, “As always, please be respectful to these sentinels of the Sound qnd give them space.” And if they come ashore, give Seal Sitters a call … 206-905-SEAL. P.S. Low-low tides are coming up later this month – lower than -2 feet for four afternoons starting Wednesday, May 16th.
4:42 PM: Thanks to the texter who reports seeing a lone whale – bigger than an orca, they believe – headed west along Alki, off Anchor/Luna Park a little while ago. We’re not seeing any other reports of what’s in the area, but earlier this week heard about at least one lone dolphin/porpoise sighting. So let us know if you see it too! (And if you’re an orca fan… remember The Whale Trail‘s Orca Talk in just a few hours – details in our preview.)
5:48 PM: More sightings reported in comments – but no confirmed ID yet.
The weather could not have been more perfect for the start of salmon-release season at Fauntleroy Creek this morning. Fifth-graders from Alki Elementary became the first students this year to visit the creek to release fry they’ve been raising.
Once the fry were in the creek, it was time to watch and wait. That involved polarized sunglasses to help with potential sightings.
Fauntleroy Watershed volunteers will be helping students with their releases for the next month-plus. This all traces back to January, when more than a dozen schools received salmon-egg deliveries as part of the Salmon in the Schools program. Then in fall, volunteers watch the creek for returning coho; they counted four last fall.
“Current Research to Support Recovery Actions for Southern Resident Killer Whales”
Presentation by Brad Hanson, Northwest Fisheries Science Center
Tuesday, May 1, 7:00 – 8:30 (doors open at 6:30)
Cost: $5 suggested donation; kids free
Advance tickets: brownpapertickets.com
With just 76 orcas in J, K and L pods, the Southern Resident Killer Whale population is nearing its all time low of 71 individuals. Is the population still viable – can they be saved? What have we learned over the past year that will help these orcas recover, and what are the most pressing questions still to be addressed?
Join us to hear the latest findings and future research directions, presented by Dr. Brad Hanson, NWFSC lead killer whale researcher. Buy tickets now to reserve your seat. And hurry – this will likely sell out. This is the first in the 2018 Orca Talk series hosted by The Whale Trail in West Seattle. Thanks to Nucor Steel for sponsoring this Orca Talk!
About the Speaker
Brad Hanson joined the Northwest Fisheries Science Center in April of 2003. Previously, Brad worked as a Wildlife Biologist at the National Marine Mammal Laboratory in Seattle, WA. Brad received a Ph.D. from the University of Washington where he worked on the development of improved tag attachment systems for small cetaceans. He also holds an M.S. in Fisheries from the University of Washington and a B.A. in Zoology also from the University of Washington. Brad is an ecologist and is currently studying foraging and habitat use of Southern Resident killer whales and health assessment of harbor and Dall’s porpoises.
About The Whale Trail
The Whale Trail is a series of sites where the public may view orcas and other marine mammals from shore. Our mission is to inspire appreciation and stewardship of whales and our marine environment. Through our current sites and signs, including two on every Washington State ferry, we reach more than 50 million people each year. The Whale Trail is currently adding new sites along the North American west coast, from California to British Columbia.
The Whale Trail is led by a core team of partners including NOAA Fisheries, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Seattle Aquarium, the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, the Whale Museum. Donna Sandstrom is the Founder and Executive Director. The Whale Trail is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, registered in Washington State. Join us!
11:58 AM: These ducks seem to be taking Urban Wildlife Week very seriously. The photo is from Cindi Barker, who is worried about their safety but hasn’t gotten any help/ideas so far – she has tried Seattle Animal Shelter and SPD’s non-emergency line. They are currently in the area behind O’Neill Plumbing (WSB sponsor) on California north of Fauntleroy.
12:13 PM: Update from Cindi: “They got away from me under fences . Last seen northbound 6000 block 42nd and possibly along alley. Godspeed!” So – beware of ducks.
P.S. It really is Urban Wildlife Week (here, Seattle Wildlife Week).
Our area’s precious green spaces can’t be taken for granted. In realization of that, the Fauntleroy Watershed Stewardship Fund was announced earlier this month, and we have an update from creek steward Judy Pickens:
The fund to enable ongoing stewardship of Fauntleroy Creek and Fauntleroy Park now has $3,600 toward its initial goal of $30,000.
The Fauntleroy Watershed Council announced the fund on March 1 in the wake of ever-decreasing grant funding for restoring and maintaining Seattle’s natural areas. EarthCorps, an international conservation training program, is accepting tax-deductible donations on behalf of the council and its trainees will do the lion’s share of the work that’s funded.
“This early response is greatly encouraging,” said Peggy Cummings, a member of the council’s executive committee. “Our main concern is being able to maintain restoration already done at public expense so those investments aren’t lost.”
Ensuring that the creek is safe for students is a particular focus for donations. Volunteers will be hosting 19 salmon releases starting April 27, which will bring an estimated 750 students to the watershed.
Find out more about the fund at the council’s table at Tuesday night’s Fauntleroy Food Fest, 6 pm in the Hall at Fauntleroy, or at www.fauntleroywatershed.org.
The FFF is the Fauntleroy Community Association‘s annual membership meeting – community members are invited to enjoy tastings from local restaurants, to find out more about what’s going on in the community – with a multitude of groups (like the Watershed Council) and agencies participating – and to renew FCA membership. (The Hall is at 9131 California SW.)
Lots of nature fans in WSB-land. If you’re among them, this volunteer opportunity from Seattle Audubon just might be something you would enjoy:
Help Sanislo and Lafayette students have FUN!
Finding Urban Nature (FUN) is Seattle Audubon’s free environmental education program in Seattle Public Elementary Schools. The program needs volunteers at Sanislo and Lafayette Elementary Schools for lessons in April and May.
FUN introduces 3rd and 4th grade students to the nature in their own schoolyard habitat, and examines how each organism depends on others to survive. Volunteers lead small groups of four to six students through a series of outdoor investigations, which teach kids to use their senses and scientific practices to discover the importance of urban biodiversity firsthand.
Volunteers devote about two hours a week for four weeks to lead 4-6 students through each lesson, with the support of the school’s FUN Team Leader and classroom teachers. No previous teaching or science background is necessary. Training is provided and a background check is required.
FUN trainings are held at the end of March and in early April. Contact Wendy at FUNvolunteer@seattleaudubon.org or call 206-523-8243 ext. 110 if interested.
1:14 PM: More sightings at sea – this time, whales! Thanks to Kersti Muul for letting us know that orcas are on the west side of the Sound, passing Blake Island, headed southbound. So if you go look – bring good binoculars.
1:40 PM: In a comment below, Jen says it appears they’re turning west, toward Southworth.
(Orcas seen with West Seattle in background, 2009 photo by Terry Wittman)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
“Our theme for this year is matching our learning with action,” says The Whale Trail‘s executive director Donna Sandstrom.
She made that declaration toward the start of her West Seattle-based, but far-ranging, organization’s latest event, an educational/social/inspirational gathering at C & P Coffee Company (WSB sponsor) a month and a half ago. The featured topic was the salmon on which Southern Resident Killer Whales – our region’s endangered resident orcas – depend. How to help ensure their survival, and that of the SRKWs, was the focus of guest Jeanette Dorner, executive director of the Mid-Sound Fisheries Enhancement Group, speaking to TWT for the third time. Dorner said she has been working for 20 years to restore salmon in Puget Sound, starting with a salmon stream along her parents’ property in Pierce County.
The orcas eat salmon that come from all over the region, so “what we can do … there’s a seed of hope in that,” Sandstrom said. “It may take decades to take down a dam,” but there’s other action that can be done right now. She shared views of whales and salmon – which have “been in the news a lot lately.” Mainstream media coverage can leave people a bit confused and without context about the biggest issues facing salmon here, she warned. “Many people are not aware that we have a federal recovery plan for Puget Sound salmon,” Dorner noted. “We have a road map in the salmon recovery plan … there’s a chapter for every watershed.” She said the plan wasn’t written by “a bunch of NOAA scientists in a back room,” it was written with assistance of communities. The Lake Washington/Cedar/Sammamish Watershed Chinook Salmon Conservation Plan has a 10-year update, in fact.
Her main focus: Habitat. That’s what affects salmon the most, she said.
Mike e-mailed to say he’s called it in, and he advises that people and pets keep their distance. He saw the raccoon, appearing “severely injured” as he described it, on SW Dakota between 47th and 49th SW. Here’s what the Seattle Animal Shelter (aka “animal control”) says about injured/ill wildlife. Other animal-involved situations? Info here.
1:12 PM: Thanks to Kersti Muul and Alisa Lemire Brooks for updates on two groups of orcas that have been in the Central Sound so far today (including one group that veered westward into Kitsap County waters). Kersti just texted to say that she “has eyes on” one group right now, northbound between Blake Island and Bainbridge Island, visible from Alki Point and vicinity, but on the west side of the Sound, so you’ll need good binoculars. She says a “large male” is in the lead.
3:03 PM: Kersti says the whales “have disappeared” from view.
2:53 PM: Thanks to Kersti Muul, who pointed out via text that an Orca Network commenter reported orcas off Fay Bainbridge Park on north Bainbridge Island [map] about an hour ago – if they continued southbound, they could end up off West Seattle. Kersti is watching from Constellation Park south of Alki Point and “not seeing anything yet,” but we thought we’d share the potential heads-up. (And whether or not you get to do any whale-watching today, remember The Whale Trail has an event tonight!)
5:21 PM: Now alongside north Vashon, per comments, as dusk approaches.
You know the Southern Resident Killer Whales are in trouble. Part of the problem: Their main source of food is in trouble too. But how much do you really know about where things stand, and how to – if you can – help? This Thursday, The Whale Trail invites you to an event that’s certain to educate and inspire you. The announcement:
Saving Salmon in Puget Sound
Presentation by Jeanette Dorner
Thursday, February 15, 7:00 – 8:30 pm.
C & P Coffee Company, 5612 California Ave SW
$5 suggested donation; kids free!
Advance tickets: brownpapertickets.com
Puget Sound is an important producer of salmon for our endangered southern resident orcas (J, K and L pods). Fourteen Regional Fisheries Enhancement Groups work with landowners and community partners around the state to identify and implement salmon habitat restoration projects. Join us to learn more about their ongoing work, especially in our own Seattle backyard.
Jeannette Dorner, Executive Director of the Mid Sound Fisheries Enhancement Group, will bring us up to date on salmon recovery efforts in this critical part of the orcas’ range.
The Mid Sound area includes the Green – Duwamish watershed, the Cedar/Sammamish/Lake Washington watershed, the watersheds of Eastern Kitsap County which drain into Central Puget Sound, and all the Puget Sound shorelines in the Central Puget Sound area in King County and Kitsap County.
With the survival of the southern residents at stake, it’s even more important to support and invest in local salmon recovery efforts .
This is the first Orca Talk of 2018, presented by The Whale Trail in West Seattle. The event will also feature updates from Seal Sitters.
Following the presentation, join us for a discussion about the southern resident orcas. Get up to speed about current issues and initiatives, and learn what you can do to help. With just 76 individuals in the population, it’s all hands on deck for the whales!
About the Speaker
Jeanette Dorner has a long history working to recover salmon in Puget Sound. She worked for 11 years as the Salmon Recovery Program Manager with the Nisqually Tribe, coordinating the protection and restoration of salmon habitat in the Nisqually watershed. She played a lead role in helping facilitate with partners major salmon restoration projects including the 900 acre restoration of the Nisqually Estuary. She then worked as the Director of Ecosystem and Salmon Recovery at the Puget Sound Partnership, supporting the work of hundreds of partners around Puget Sound to protect, restore and clean up their rivers, streams and Puget Sound shorelines. In 2017, Jeanette became the Executive Director of the Mid Sound Fishery Enhancement Group.
Jeanette is also the mother to two wonderful kids. Part of her passion to recover salmon habitat and to preserve and protect this beautiful place we call home is to try to pass on to her children a home where they can continue to enjoy the natural wonders of this place with their families – going to watch orcas swimming through Puget Sound, visiting salmon spawning in our local streams, and hiking in the majestic forests of the Pacific Northwest.
About The Whale Trail
The Whale Trail is a series of sites around the region where the public may view orcas and other marine mammals from shore. Our mission is to inspire appreciation and stewardship of whales and our marine environment. Our overarching goal is to ensure the southern resident orcas recover from the threat of extinction.
Through our current sites and signs, including two on every Washington State ferry, we reach more than 30 million people each year. The Whale Trail is currently adding new sites along the west coast, from California to British Columbia, throughout the southern resident orcas’ range and beyond.
The Whale Trail is led by a core team of partners including NOAA Fisheries, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Seattle Aquarium, the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, and the Whale Museum. Our BC planning team is led by the BC Cetacean Sighting Network.
Many members of the Whale Trail teams met when they worked together to return Springer, the orphaned orca, to her pod. Executive Director Donna Sandstrom was inspired by the project’s collaborative success to found The Whale Trail in 2008.
The Whale Trail is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, registered in Washington State. Join us!
Have you seen a seal lately? Many have, and Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network is busy. Here’s an update from volunteer David Hutchinson:
While Seal Sitters’ “Blubberblog” site has not been updated recently, due to ongoing technical difficulties, our volunteers have been on duty responding to vulnerable young harbor seals hauled out on West Seattle beaches. Our normal busy season (September – November) was slower than usual but 2018 has started off with a flurry of calls to our Hotline (206-905-7325).
One seal, “Uno,” has accounted for the majority of responses this year. After first coming ashore on January 4th near Colman Pool, Uno has decided that the shoreline of Elliott Bay is her preferred location (you can tell it’s the same harbor seal by comparing the spots on the faces). She has become a familiar sight to passersby who frequently ask our volunteers how Uno is doing that day. Monday, volunteers were stretched thin when two additional young seals came ashore at separate locations in West Seattle.
Responses to these live seals is a positive experience compared to the one-week period in January when we had to deal with three near the north end of Lincoln Park that weren’t as fortunate. One was reported as deceased on the raft at that location, and another dead animal was recovered from Lowman Beach. The third arrived onshore with respiratory distress. After being examined by a NOAA consulting vet, that seal was transported to PAWS, where it later died. All three animals will be necropsied by WDFW.
We have received a number of inquiries about becoming a volunteer. These people will be receiving an email notice when a final date is set. As of now, Seal Sitters plans on holding its next training session in the late spring. Look for an announcement at sealsitters.org.
P.S. Bonus underwater seal video! This is from “Diver Laura” James – not Uno, she says, but another harbor seal, and a very curious one at that:
That’s some of her 360-degree-video equipment; she promises to share its video soon.