West Seattle, Washington
This morning’s sighting post was a long time ago so we’re starting a new one – multiple reports of orcas visible off Alki Beach right now. While one report has them around 58th and Alki, they’re also reported to be heading north.
9:48 AM: Thanks to Kersti Muul for the tip – take your binoculars and look toward Blake Island, where a sizable group of orcas is reported to be passing, southbound!
12:06 PM: They’re still southbound, Kersti reports – and they’re transient orcas. Now off Burien’s Three Tree Point, she says.
7:57 PM: And now they’re northbound, seen passing Alki a short time ago, per comment and e-mail.
Two reports of up to six orcas seen south of Alki Point in the past hour. Kersti Muul says they were headed southwest toward Blake Island/Manchester. It’s been squalling again, so you would want to take an umbrella as well as binoculars if you go look!
Thanks to Kersti Muul for calling our attention to an Orca Network-reported sighting of orcas between Vashon and Southworth, headed northeast “toward Seattle,” as of about an hour ago. Tomorrow, Kersti will be one of three Whale Scout volunteer naturalists helping celebrate Orca Month with you on West Seattle beaches – she’ll be at Lowman Beach [map], Thorly James will be at Colman Pool [map] in Lincoln Park, and Susann Babaei will be at Constellation Park [map]. That’s noon-2 pm Sunday, and they’ll be ready to talk with you about “Whales in Your Neighborhood” while scouting for them!
While at Fauntleroy Park earlier today for the last Salmon in the Schools release of the season (story later), we found out that forest steward Peggy Cummings had found a dead bat in the park this week. It was a very small and likely juvenile bat, and no reason, she stresses, for you to panic, but it did make us realize we should publish this week’s alert from the state Health Department, since bats do turn up in West Seattle parks:
Since May 1, four bats found in Washington have tested positive for rabies, the highest number identified in the state in the month of May since 1998. The Washington State Department of Health reminds people to call their local health department if they, a family member or a pet interacts with a bat.
Health officials routinely test for and find rabid bats, typically during the summer months. DOH wants the public to continue to take appropriate precautions if a bat – dead or alive – is found. Try to avoid contact with bats and other wild animals; do not touch a bat if possible. If you do have contact with a bat or suspect that a family member or pet had contact with a bat, try to safely capture it and keep it contained away from people and call your local health department for next steps.
It is also important to protect your pets by ensuring their rabies vaccinations are current. More detailed precautions and information can be found on the Washington State Department of Health website.
While any mammal can be infected with the rabies virus, bats are the most common animal in Washington that carry rabies. In 2017, 22 bats were tested and found to have the virus. This is up from 2016 when 20 rabid bats were identified. The Washington State Public Health Laboratories tests between 200 and 300 bats per year. Typically, between three and 10 percent of the bats submitted for testing are found to be rabid.
The state says two of those bats were found in King County, but no further specifics. Cummings says she spoke to the county Health Department today and they said she and another park volunteer who briefly handled the dead bat don’t need to worry. “Rabies is serious but very rare,” she notes. But she also wants to remind you that you and your family should steer clear not only of bats but of any dead animal they find.
One week from tonight, The Whale Trail has an invitation for you:
“Whale Trail Summer Gathering featuring Photos by Stephen Rink”
Presentation by Stephen Rink, Photographer
When: Tuesday June 5, 7:00 – 8:30
–Doors open at 6:30
Where: C & P Coffee Company, 5612 California Ave SW
Cost: $5 suggested donation; kids free
Advance tickets: brownpapertickets.com
Presented by The Whale Trail
Sponsored by Nucor Steel
Photos: Transient orcas in Monterey Bay, courtesy Stephen Rink
Summer is superpod season! Join us next Tuesday for a celebration of orcas and other whales featuring photos by Stephen Rink. Stephen has followed his passion for whales from Iceland to the Azores, and West Seattle! Stephen most recently traveled to Monterey Bay, where he witnessed a rare predation event.
Whale Trail Founder Donna Sandstrom will also share updates about SRKW recovery efforts and how you can help. Donna was recently appointed to Gov. Inslee’s Task Force on SRKW Recovery, and its Vessel Impacts working group. Hope to see you there. Buy tickets now to reserve your seat.
This is the next in the 2018 Orca Talk series hosted by The Whale Trail in West Seattle. Thanks to Nucor Steel for sponsoring this presentation!
About the Speaker
Stephen Rink is a Whale Trail volunteer who has been fascinated with whales since the age of 5. He has maintained an affinity for the ocean, and continues to travel the world to see different marine life and photograph them along the way. Stephen moved to Seattle in 2017 to be closer to killer whales and participate in recovery efforts. He hopes to continue to travel as a photographer and eventually photograph whales aboard expedition vessels in Antarctica.
About The Whale Trail
The Whale Trail is a series of sites to 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. Many members of the team first met on the successful effort to return Springer, the orphaned orca, to her pod.
The Whale Trail is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, registered in Washington State. Join us!
Thanks to Gary Jones for the photo – a few orcas, transients according to Orca Network, were back in view from West Seattle this afternoon, though closer to the Kitsap side. Gary saw them from Alki Point in the noon hour; ON’s last reported sighting, less than an hour ago, was still off south Bainbridge.
9:31 AM: Just texted by Kersti Muul and by Alisa Lemire Brooks from Orca Network – at least 10 orcas reported in/near the Southworth ferry lane, northbound. On the Kitsap side, so if you’re going to go look from this side, good binoculars are a must! Let us know if you see them.
10:24 AM: As of a few minutes ago, per the Denniston Family in comments, “They are directly in front of Manchester by the big ship.” (Not sure where Manchester is? Here’s a map.)
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.)