West Seattle, Washington
See a seal on shore? Alert Seal Sitters! Here’s their newest update:
“Uno,” Seal Sitters’ first harbor seal response of 2018, has recently moved his favorite haulout spot from Lincoln Park to Elliott Bay. If anyone happens to see him or any other marine mammal on one of our West Seattle beaches, please contact the Seal Sitters’ Hotline at 206-905-SEAL (7325). We are having a bit of a flurry of weaned seals, anywhere from 4-6 months old, along West Seattle’s shoreline and it’s imperative they be given the space to rest and warm up. Sadly, the “weaner” Seal Sitters rescued from Lincoln Park on Thursday died overnight at the rehab facility and has been taken for necropsy.
12:41 PM: Thanks for the tip – a couple of Orca Network commenters are reported orcas seen off West Point, across Elliott Bay, described as “drifting southward” as of about 20 minutes ago. So this is early heads-up that they *might* be visible here before long. We’ll be heading out with our binoculars to look.
1:31 PM: We looked too soon. Just got a call from Jeff Hogan of Killer Whale Tales that they turned into Elliott Bay and at least half a dozen have just passed Seacrest and are “headed [northeast] toward the Space Needle.”
2 PM They have changed direction and are headed back west toward the mouth of the bay. We have also heard from Donna Sandstrom of The Whale Trail, who is watching from Luna/Anchor Park, while Jeff is with a group at Don Armeni Boat Ramp.
3:36 PM: They turned north within the past hour, Dan on Alki tells us. We ourselves caught one glimpse as they headed back out of the bay – and then lost sight.
4:00 PM: Photos added – thanks to everyone who sent them! These were transient orcas, not residents, were told – one major difference is diet; transients eat mammals, too, which means the sea lions we saw in the vicinity were being extra brave and/or foolhardy!
You might recognize that owl – Wollet the barred owl, born in Lincoln Park, photographed in 2009 by Trileigh Tucker. A few years later, in 2012, concern over Lincoln Park wildlife like Wollet factored into the community challenge to Seattle Parks‘ attempt to allow a commercial “adventure attraction” to take a chunk of the park without significant public discussion. Now, Trileigh tells the – complicated! – story, in an essay just published in Cold Mountain Review, “Love in the Time of Extinction: How a Bad Bird Saved a Good Place.” In case you’re looking for Sunday reading, we’re sharing the link – find it here.
An exciting day for 16 West Seattle schools – delivery of 2,400 eyed coho eggs for the Salmon in Schools program. We were at Highland Park Elementary, one of the newest participants, as longtime volunteers Judy Pickens (above center) and Phil Sweetland (below right) made the delivery and explained how things work.
At HPES, 4th grade teacher Danielle Meier (above left) is overseeing the program this year. Participants at other schools range from preschool to high school (Chief Sealth International is another new participant). But this isn’t just a West Seattle program – Judy and Phil are on the steering committee for all of Seattle, with 73 public and private schools having obtained state Department of Fish and Wildlife permits to raise and release fish. Today, volunteer Shannon Ninburg helped them make the rounds of local deliveries.
The students and teachers will observe the salmon growing until May, when the fry will be released there – 1,800 fry by 744 visiting students last year. The eggs are from Soos Creek Hatchery in Auburn and are not to be taken for granted, as we were reminded in 2016.
11:29 AM: If you grab binoculars and head for Constellation Park [map], you just might find Kersti Muul and Jeff Hogan there watching orcas. Kersti has texted us that whales are visible off the north tip of Blake Island, currently “milling,” though they had been observed northbound earlier.
11:47 AM: Jeff confirms that they’re visible from here, between Blake and Bainbridge islands currently.
10:25 AM: Thanks to Alisa and Kersti for the tip – if you look westward across the Sound, you might see orcas. Orca Network had a report of northbound whales headed toward Blake Island, along the west side of Vashon, as of an hour ago. We are at Constellation Park but without binocs. Let us know if you see orcas!
11:15 AM: Update – they were most recently seen passing Restoration Point on Bainbridge Island [map], which means they might be in view looking north from the west end of Alki.
3:25 PM: With less than an hour until nightfall, we don’t know how good the viewing will be, but we’re sharing the news that orcas are headed southbound in our direction, last seen off Bainbridge Island. Kersti Muul sent the tip that they’d been seen from the Shilshole vicinity, and we just checked Orca Network, where a tipster saw them off mid-Bainbridge [map] – closer to that side than this one, so if you go looking, take good binoculars!
4:22 PM: As it gets dark, one Orca Network commenter reports one male orca is visible from Constellation Park (just south of Alki Point), still southbound. Maybe we’ll see whales northbound in the morning! Let us know any time you see one (or more) off West Seattle – text or voice 206-293-6302 – thank you!
You might recall seeing that photo of a Canada goose and gosling here on WSB last April – one of many beautiful bird (and sometimes other wildlife) photos contributed by Mark Wangerin. In case you missed it, this photo drew a special honor from a showcase elsewhere – chosen as one of the 2017 top ten Seattle Times Reader Photos of the Year. Mark photographed the geese along Harbor Avenue SW. It was honored in the Northwest Flora and Fauna category. (Thanks to Gary Jones – who also contributes memorable images here – for pointing out Mark’s recognition.)
Thanks for the tips! Orcas have been seen northbound past West Seattle in the past half-hour – Bretnie reported one off Fauntleroy, Amy saw four off Emma Schmitz Memorial Overlook.
The video is from “Diver Laura” James, who continues to experiment with 360-degree video equipment, and shared that clip from one of her most-recent experiments. It was recorded in the Cove 2 area off north/northeast West Seattle.
P.S. If you haven’t viewed 360-degree video before – just “grab” it in the player window while it’s playing, and pull it around to look above, below, behind, around!
UPDATED MONDAY EVENING: If you have trouble with the clip as embedded above, try this version.
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
West Seattle-based, West Coast-spanning The Whale Trail chose an auspicious week for its annual winter gathering: It began with two opportunities to watch Southern Resident Killer Whales passing our shores, southbound Monday and northbound Tuesday.
The message of the gathering this past Tuesday night at C & P Coffee Company (WSB sponsor): It’s not too late for the resident orca population to rebound, despite being near a historic low.
Whale Trail founder Donna Sandstrom noted this is the third year they’ve had a “winter gathering,” four years since launching the ongoing series of Orca Talks. “Our tagline is connect, protect, inspire,” and she wanted everyone to feel inspired to take action, particularly toward protection – more on that later.
The first to speak were two photographers whose work you’ve seen here – Trileigh Tucker and Kersti Muul. The night’s lineup also included West Seattle-based researcher Mark Sears, often in a research boat when the resident orcas are in the area, and Lynne Barre from NOAA.
9:25 AM: Last night people watched southbound resident orcas through sunset … now we are getting reports they are headed this way northbound, likely in view from Fauntleroy “soon.”
9:31 AM: At least one is already reported in view from Emma Schmitz Overlook.
10:08 AM: Thanks to commenters for updates, most recently Peter, who sees “About 6-8 orca heading northbound, mid-channel and spread out, between Blake Island marina and West Seattle.”
2:57 PM: Texters tipped us to Southern Resident Killer Whales heading this way, southbound – Orca Network‘s last report was that some of them were seen as close as West Point on the north side of the entrance to Elliott Bay, so we’re awaiting word of whether they’re visible from this area, and headed downhill with binoculars just in case. Let us know if you see them!
3:46 PM: ON has them off, and much closer to, Bainbridge. We are looking from Constellation Park & not seeing them. (4 mins later … just spotted two along S. Bainbridge!)
4:03 PM: Still visible SB, from Constellation, as they approach north Blake Is. Among those here is Donna Sandstrom from The Whale Trail – her group’s winter gathering for orca updates is tomorrow night (see our calendar).
4:17 PM: We have to head back to HQ but as of a few minutes ago there were a few still in view off Blake, still southbound.
6:57 PM: While we were glad to be able to see the whales, we were there only with binoculars, not a camera (our photographer was busy elsewhere), so we are appreciative to receive two photos we’ve just added above.
We’ve reveled in whale-watching opportunities as the Southern Resident Killer Whales visited multiple times the past few weeks … but concern is rising, along with the joy. What’s the current reality of their situation? Next Tuesday, 6 pm at C & P Coffee Company (5612 California SW; WSB sponsor), is your chance to find out, courtesy of The Whale Trail:
There are just 76 individuals in the Southern Resident Killer Whale population – a near-historical low. What can we do to prevent these beloved and iconic pods from going extinct? Join us to hear the latest about J, K and L pods, and learn what you can do to help.
At the Whale Trail Winter Gathering, local photographers and researchers will share stories and photos of orcas and other marine mammals who share our waters. Hear about recent encounters with southern resident orcas, and other sightings near West Seattle this year.
We’ll also have signed copies of Erich Hoyt’s latest book The Encyclopedia of Whale, Dolphins, and Porpoises for sale, and other goodies!
Bring your questions, concerns, ideas, stories and poems. Together, we’ll find light in the dark for the whales.
Buy tickets now to reserve your seat. (Kids under 12 are free.) Look forward to seeing you there!
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 50 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.
C & P is at 5612 California SW.
10:28 AM: Thanks to the texter who reports Orca Network commenters have just seen orcas headed northbound past Point Robinson on Maury Island, across the Sound from Des Moines, so if they keep heading this way, they could be within view from West Seattle before too long. If they’re the same ones seen southbound yesterday, they’re Southern Resident Killer Whales.
11 AM: Orca Network commenter reports them near Three Tree Point as of about 10 minutes ago, still northbound.
11:32 AM: Texter says they’re seeing whale spouts from the Fauntleroy ferry dock vicinity.
12:48 PM: In view from Lowman, Kersti says in comments!
2:01 PM: Gary comments that at least two are in view just south of Alki Point, still northbound.
4:05 PM: Judging by Orca Network discussion, they’ve passed West Seattle now, still heading north.
2:54 PM: You’ll want an umbrella as well as binoculars if you go look for them, but we’re told by both Kersti Muul and Jeff Hogan that orcas are headed southbound past Constellation Park right now, so they should be visible for a while off West Seattle.
3:16 PM: Jeff’s moving to Emma Schmitz Overlook [map] as the orcas continue heading south.
4:17 PM: See comments for updates – they’re still in view!
Thanks to Kersti Muul for photographing the crowd at Seacrest Pier tonight – squid fishers undaunted by the chilly rain, though as also shown, the squid are putting up their inky protest. Fishing for squid has relatively simple rules, according to the state Department of Fish and Wildlife website. The season is year-round, though fall/winter is the peak time. If you’re not already a squid expert, find out more about them here.
By Dennis Hinton and Judy Pickens
Special to West Seattle Blog
Last year about this time, “Big Wally” closed the spawning season by hanging out in lower Fauntleroy Creek for two weeks. The 7-to-8-pound male coho was likely waiting (in vain) for a mate.
This year, the last of four spawners spotted in the creek was “Little Jill,” a small hatchery-released female. Collectively known as “jacks,” these immature coho come back to fresh water after only one year at sea instead of the standard two.
At about 15″ long, Jill was first thought to be a cutthroat in to feed on fresh salmon eggs. But after she zipped up and down the fish ladder for a few days, volunteers saw that her adipose fin was clipped – the way hatcheries mark smolts when they release them. Watchers last saw her November 2nd, showing signs of deterioration common to spawners.
Volunteer watcher Mark Ahlness claimed the first spawner sightings October 27 – a 3-to-4-pound female and a smaller, red-sided male. The little one was soon a carcass fluttering in the flow. A third fish came in before Jill; at least one other was spotted at the mouth, but watchers didn’t find it in the creek. No fish were seen venturing farther upstream than the fish ladder (just across Fauntleroy Way SW from the beach). Watchers saw no indication of spawning.
Given favorable high tides and creek conditions, watchers continued their surveying until yesterday (Sunday, November 19th), with no further sightings.
The watch involved a dozen volunteers this year. About three dozen visitors stopped by to check out the fish and habitat.
Previous five years’ totals: 7 in 2016, 0 in 2015, 19 in 2014, 0 in 2013, 274 in 2012.
10:12 AM: Jeff Hogan of Killer Whale Tales just called to report orcas visible southbound off Me-Kwa-Mooks [map], shortly after a texter told us that Orca Network reported orca sightings in the past hour off Bainbridge Island. We’re grabbing the binoculars to head down for a look.
10:45 AM: Some are visible off Blake, some further north and south. We are with Jeff and other watchers toward the south end of Emma Schmitz Overlook. Whitecaps on the Sound are making viewing a bit challenging.
11 AM: Jeff and Kersti Muul are still watching from the south end of Emma Schmitz – the whales are close to the other side of the Sound. We have to move on.
12:13 PM: Kersti reports in a comment that they’re still southbound, south of the Fauntleroy ferry lane now.
1:16 PM: An update from Jeff – before 1 pm, the whales were visible from Dilworth on Vashon [map], then turned northbound: “Probably K pod.”
2:09 PM: Still northbound, according to a texter who also says the whales have been confirmed as K-Pod, and according to Claire’s comment below.
3:09 PM: Brittany says via Twitter that they’re visible from Constellation Park with binoculars.
Throughout the day, both firsthand and with the help of tipsters, we reported on Southern Resident Killer Whales’ travels past West Seattle’s western shore today. As they headed southbound, they were visible through binoculars, closer to the other side of the Sound than to us – but when they turned around and headed back north, they were close to shore, visible without assistance, as you can see in David Hutchinson‘s video above and Trileigh Tucker‘s photos below:
And more video – a long look at them from Ben Maund, recorded from Lincoln Park:
Will we see them again tomorrow? Depends on where they are following the fish!
(Added Wednesday evening: Photo by Trileigh Tucker)
10:10 AM: Thanks to Kersti Muul for word that orcas have been spotted in our area – believed to be southbound between Bainbridge Island and Elliott Bay, so you would want to look from Alki, for starters.
10:37 AM: Thanks also to Alisa from Orca Network, which has at least one commenter seeing from Alki, reporting they are closer to the west side of the Sound than this side, so you’ll need binoculars.
11:05 AM: We are seeing them from Constellation Park, with binoculars. By the ship anchored off Manchester with a red hull.
11:20 AM: The biggest group is still southbound, now off the east side of Blake Island. Also here: Donna Sandstrom from The Whale Trail, who says to save the date 6 pm December 12 for a Southern Resident Killer Whales update at C & P Coffee (WSB sponsor). And a spotter is here for WSDOT, which shuts down pile-driving on the Colman Dock project when orcas are close by.
12:33 PM: Orca Network says the whales are now off north Vashon, still heading south. (Speaking of Orca Network, its campaign to free the last Southern Resident in captivity, Lolita/Tokitae, has a fundraiser at Endolyne Joe’s [WSB sponsor] in Fauntleroy, 8 am-10 pm next Monday (November 13th), with 25 percent of the proceeds to be donated.)
12:49 PM: Jeff Hogan from Killer Whale Tales says they’re visible from the Lincoln Park picnic-shelter area.
1:08 PM: They’re still southbound, midchannel, south of the Fauntleroy ferry dock. The whale-watching boat Chilkat Express (as ID’d by MarineTraffic.com) is just north of them.
2:23 PM: Now a report from Fauntleroy that they’ve turned north – at least, the one big group has – and is again visible in the ferry lane area. “Super close to shore,” Kersti tells us, viewing from Lincoln Park.
3:52 PM: They put on quite a show passing Alki Point and are now still NB in the mouth of Elliott Bay.
(Added 4:55 pm: Photo by Trileigh Tucker)
8:37 AM: Thanks to Kersti Muul for sharing the report: Orcas seen off Alki this morning, headed southwest. Let us know if you see them – commenting here is great, and/or use our 24-hour text/voice hotline, 206-293-6302 – thank you!
12:28 PM: Alisa from the Orca Network is reporting that the orcas are confirmed as Southern Residents and are now northbound again, passing the Fauntleroy ferry terminal area as of less than 15 minutes ago.
2:10 PM: Now reported to be off Lowman Beach. Thanks again for the updates!
3:33 PM: We are at Constellation Park, where the orcas are visible – albeit in major sun glare – north of Blake Island.