Just got a text that up to six transient killer whales are visible from Alki right now, and heading “north into Elliott Bay.” (Transients are the non-resident orcas whose prey includes other marine mammals; residents are the members of the three Puget Sound-based J, K, and L pods, who eat fish.) Please let us know if you see them – we’ll be looking too, but don’t always have the best of luck!
(Photo and video courtesy Vlad Oustimovitch)
On the rocky shores off Emma Schmitz Memorial Overlook (4503 Beach Drive SW) at low tide today, Vlad Oustimovitch and other beach explorers were mesmerized by the sight of that small – he guessed maybe a foot and a half –
Giant Pacific Octopus octopus, as it headed toward the water, and then arrived, as Vlad’s two short clips show:
The lowest low tide will be even lower the next two days – per our favorite long-range chart, -2.3 feet at 10:42 am tomorrow, -2.5 feet at 11:23 am tomorrow.
More news in the works, but first – a photo break! Bald eagles are increasingly common sights along West Seattle’s waterfront – but have you ever seen one this up-close-and-personal? Lynn Hall shares the view from Anchor (Luna) Park on Duwamish Head. It’s been almost eight years since bald eagles came off the Endangered Species List, but as this page explains, they are still protected.
We’ve heard two reports now of a certain area on the west side of The Junction where the crows are feistier than usual right now. This one’s from Laura:
I live in the Genesee neighborhood. I was walking to work (Tuesday) morning, and was on the west side of the street on Glenn Way SW that cuts a diagonal path between Genesee and Alaska on my way to the bus at about 6:30 a.m. The street has a few really large trees on it.
Suddenly I hear a couple crows start cawing really loudly. Then, one swoops down high from a tree and right over my head. Then lots more cawing from the trees. Then another swoop close to my head. I scream and put my purse over my head and start running. Then a third swoop over my head, more cawing. Finally, I get beyond the big trees and it’s over. Assume it’s a nest they’re guarding, or they don’t like white jackets, or…. anyway, pretty alarming and thought maybe you’d want to alert readers to at least walk the opposite side of the street.
As usual with something like this, we searched online to look for expert advice to add to the reader report – and found this KING 5 report saying it’s “crow-attack season.” Lots of other crow-attack tales turn up online too, but as for practical advice and explanation – the state Fish and Wildlife Department wins again, with this “Living with Wildlife” page.
If you approach the Alki Bathhouse‘s east side while on your way to Flipper Fest – which continues until 5 pm – you’ll see that life-size inflatable orca, representing, according to a sign and to the trading card that volunteer Laura gave us, J-26, aka “Mike,” a Southern Resident Killer Whale born in 1991. Inside the bathhouse, lots more to learn at this event presented by Seal Sitters with many collaborators and partners:
It’s fun, with a lesson – how to be mindful of, and protect, the creatures with which we share our shores and waters. Even the art has something to teach:
Those images of seals (the one at right, by Denise Hughes from a photo by Seal Sitters’ Robin Lindsey are made from bottle caps, as is a jellyfish outside:
They are reminders that if you use plastic bottles, be sure to dispose of them safely so they don’t find their way into our waters, where they can do so much harm to sea life. A simple outdoor display also suggests you might want to think twice about Sky Lanterns:
They look beautiful in flight, but fall into the water or onto the ground as dangerous trash. Speaking of trash – at Flipper Fest, you can find out more about Seal Sitters’ beach cleanup coming up on June 13th, which is also the date they’ll be training more volunteers – who are needed for everything from protecting seal pups on local beaches, to helping at events like this. Find out more at blubberblog.org and at Alki Bathhouse until 5 pm today – free, but you can donate to SS by buying $1 tickets for raffles with cool donated prizes listed here.
In our seven-plus years of reporting on West Seattle coyotes, we’ve heard people often mention they bring outdoor cats inside at night, in hopes of avoiding coyote encounters. This report from Jaime is a reminder that coyotes roam in the daytime too:
I thought I should report this to the blog, even if not sure of proper procedure.
My neighbor reported to me that just last week after hearing a commotion outside his porch, opened his front door to find a young coyote who had the family cat in his mouth. He immediately yelled and tried to scare the coyote away, which did cause the coyote to drop the cat. But the cat was badly injured and subsequently died.
This was in the middle of the daytime at 50th and Hudson. My neighbor believed that the coyote had entered from the alley into their fenced front yard and grabbed the cat, who was sunning himself on their porch.
Biologists who have analyzed coyotes’ diets say this is only a small part of what they eat – more commonly, they consume rats and mice, among other things you can see listed here – but nonetheless, it can be a risk if your pet is outside, unattended, so we publish this as a neighbor-to-neighbors alert. (A wildlife agent was blunt about it in this report we published two years ago.)
Just last night, a humpback whale surprised some lucky onlookers along the West Seattle shore. No photos, but we did get one when orcas made a similarly unexpected pass-by in the Wednesday mist. Just two reminders that marine mammals are all around us – and you can do a lot to help them survive their travels through these busy, also-much-used-by-humans waters. That’s the theme of a new event coming up two weeks from today, as announced by Seal Sitters, which is presenting it along with more than a dozen other organizations/groups:
Did you know that a record number of humpback and gray whales – at least 30 – were entangled in fishing gear, mostly for crabbing, in 2014?
Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network will host “Flipper Fest,” a free educational outreach event, on Sunday, May 31st, at the Alki Bathhouse (2701 Alki Ave SW) from 1-5 pm. Make sure to stop by and learn from the experts about the marine mammals of Washington – from tiny harbor-seal pups to giant humpback whales.
The event will feature 15 organizations with interactive exhibits on pinnipeds (seals and sea lions), cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises), and invertebrates (sea stars, sea snails, etc). Meet the biologists, researchers, educators, and volunteers who protect marine life.
Importantly, there will be displays on the devastating effects of marine debris and pollution in our waters. Did you know that a record number of humpback and gray whales – at least 30 – were entangled in fishing gear, mostly for crabbing, in 2014? Already, in 2015, we are on a tragic record-setting pace. As of April, at least 25 entanglements had been reported off California alone. The line securing crab traps to buoys cuts deep through a whale’s blubber, causing serious injury or death.
At Flipper Fest, you’ll learn how to secure your crab pot to lessen drifting, derelict pots that endanger whales and often entrap and kill other sea life. It’s just one of the many ways we can keep our waters safer for those who call Puget Sound home. Visit the “Marine Debris and Pollution” exhibits at Flipper Fest to find out how you can help. At the “Cetacean Station” exhibits, you can talk to Cascadia Research about their first-hand, dangerous – and, often, lifesaving – whale disentanglements over the past years. For a photo, go to our blubberblog post.
You’ll find out why you need to be extra careful exploring the beach rocks at low tide, so you don’t destroy habitat for invertebrates like hermit crabs – or accidentally scrunch them or their young. Seattle Aquarium Beach Naturalists will be at the event all afternoon to answer your questions about this fascinating miniature world. You’ll leave knowing why it’s never a good idea to pick up or relocate these extraordinary critters.
Local businesses have donated some fantastic raffle prizes – everything from food to kayaking to area attractions. Whale-sized thanks to these businesses for their generosity! Tickets are $1 and will benefit Seal Sitters’ educational outreach and marine mammal stranding work. Drawings will be held at 2:30, 3:30 and 4:30 (you need not be present to win). There will be a special free drawing for kids attending Flipper Fest, with a chance to win a “Share the Shore” t-shirt, seal boogie board or ocean backpack.
Kids will enjoy lots of art activities, including the creation of marine-themed artwork from plastic bottle caps collected by our volunteers. There will be a face painter and, weather permitting, a life-size inflatable orca on site.
We hope to see you and your friends there! Not only is there a lot to learn, we predict you’ll have some fun doing so and leave “Flipper Fest” empowered with ways you, too, can help protect marine life.
For more information, including a complete listing of participants, raffle prizes and weekly features on the upcoming event, visit Seal Sitters’ blubberblog.
A little murky for whale-watching today but Bob Bollen happened to catch these two passing Alki Point, northbound, this morning, and shared the photo. No word of any in this area currently but the Orca Network FB page mentions current sightings off Whidbey Island.
Thanks to David Hutchinson for the photo and update:
The goslings along Harbor Ave are growing up fast and are almost a month old now. One of the original three disappeared a few days ago but they were joined by a family with 5 others late last month. Looks like that will probably be all for this year.
David also shared a photo here in April (there, you’ll also see links to his lovely gosling photos from previous years).
(WSB photo, July 2012)
The Whale Trail‘s next “Orca Talk” in West Seattle is NOT about orcas – it’s about the “Natural History of River Otters and Sea Otters,” a topic that has again stirred much curiosity because of the sightings of Puget Sound-frequenting river otters (like “Otto“!), especially along Alki. Find out about the differences between the two and a whole lot more – where do they live, what do they eat, what’s their population situation, what role do we play in their environment? – when TWT hosts Leo Shaw at C & P Coffee Company (5612 California SW; WSB sponsor) on April 30th, one week from Thursday. Doors open 6:15 pm, presentation at 7 pm, space is limited so it’s a great idea to get your ticket(s) ASAP – kids are free, by the way – just go here.
Thanks to Lindsay for sharing the video – without much notice, two killer whales headed south along Vashon Island shores earlier today, around 1 pm. She says the sighting was a surprise, while she was giving a tour of the area to two friends visiting from Colorado. Also, a texter told us of a sighting near Brown’s Point in Tacoma, so if you’re by the water, keep watch – they’ll have to come back this way sooner or later.
Headed for the water? The baby Canada Goose photo and reminder are from David Hutchinson:
Three goslings were hatched recently on the pilings north of Salty’s. A couple years ago, their father was taken to PAWS by Seal Sitters. He had been attacked by a dog and suffered a severe bite while trying to protect his goslings near the Don Armeni boat ramp.
It would be thoughtful if you come across them while walking your dog (which is hopefully on a leash) to keep at a distance. If approached, they will panic and try to scramble over the rocks to escape to the water. Often, the small goslings will fall into the crevices and become trapped. People have been pretty considerate in the past while driving on Harbor Ave by stopping and allowing them to cross the road – the grass is always greener on the other side.
This is the eighth year David has shared at least one gosling photo via WSB. From the archives:
10:46 AM: According to a text tipster and the Orca Network Facebook page, you just might see orcas between Fauntleroy and Vashon right now – heading slowly southbound, according to observers, but at some point they might turn around, so this is your official heads-up that they’re in the area. Please comment if you see them! (And we ALWAYS appreciate texted tips about so many things – 206-293-6302, any time of the day/night.)
12:24 PM: We didn’t have any luck right around 11 from the Brace Point area – but two commenters have been watching more recently – thanks for the updates!
ADDED 7:44 AM: Some video from Wednesday, posted to YouTube and credited to Alisa Lemire Brooks/Orca Network, identifying these orcas as transients, not residents.
GATEWOOD REPORT #2: Not far from there, at 36th/Myrtle (map), Eugene reports: “3 pm today. Walking up Myrtle street in broad daylight. Maybe it’s not news anymore. But it looked like a chupacabra with fur so I thought I’d mention it.”
PUGET RIDGE: Forwarded from a neighborhood list, a sighting at midmorning today near 21st/Dawson (map).
Congratulations to frequent WSB contributor “Diver Laura” James and her colleagues on that 2014 KCTS report about the sea-star die-off – they’ve been nominated for the Pacific Northwest Emmy Awards. That’s one of two nominations for Laura – her underwater photography of the sea-star situation also is part of another Emmy-nominated KCTS report, “Is Alaska Safe for Starfish?” Last year, she won one for another public-TV project, about sea otters and climate change. The full list of this year’s regional Emmy Award nominations is here; the winners will be announced in June.
Just received this from Tarah. It’s the second time in the past month or so we’ve heard about a possible bobcat – anyone else?
Hey, just wanted people to have a heads-up…I saw a bobcat in the parking lot of
Youngstown (Cultural Arts) center on Delridge. It ran off into the woods neighboring the lot. Just want people in that area to be forewarned so they can keep their animals safe.
The other possible sighting mentioned to us was three weeks ago, early morning, 59th/Alki. Here’s what the state Fish and Wildlife Department says about bobcats.
2:32 PM: The photo and story are from Pete:
My daughters, Sadie and Madeline, found an injured owl under a bush. (They thought it was fake because it didn’t move.) We called animal control and they sent an officer to pick it up and take it to the hospital.
You can see from the picture that it is very small – about the size of a hand. But the agent told us the owl is a full-grown adult “Burrow Owl.”
The owl went to PAWS wildlife rehabilitation in Lynnwood, and the agent stated it looked like it will fully recover.
We don’t know exactly where in West Seattle the owl was found, and Pete hasn’t replied to our followup yet, but we did look up some information you might find useful – the PAWS infosheet on what to do if you find an injured bird – see it here. We’re also checking on the type of owl, as online info says “burrowing owls” are only found east of the mountains in our state.
6:43 PM: Pete has replied and tells us his daughters found the owl near College Street Ravine (in Admiral). Meantime, commenters have identified it as a northern saw-whet owl.
(Photo by naturalist/researcher Jeanne Hyde, Maya’s Legacy Whale Watching)
Word started getting around last night that Puget Sound’s orcas, the Southern Resident Killer Whales, have another new baby – and researchers have confirmed that this is the fourth calf spotted in three months. Three of them, including this one, were born to J Pod. The first report came from the Pacific Whale Watch Association; one of its members, Maya’s Legacy Whale Watching, spotted the baby off Galiano Island, British Columbia, on Monday. This means the SRKWs – J Pod, K Pod, L Pod – are up to 81 orcas in the wild (and the 82nd, Tokitae/Lolita, in captivity in Florida). The newest baby is J52; it’s been exactly three months since J50 was spotted, followed by J51 in mid-February, and then the L Pod baby two weeks later.
The Whale Trail‘s first Orca Talk of 2015 drew a good-sized crowd to C & P Coffee Company (WSB sponsor) on Thursday night – but in case you couldn’t be there to hear Brad Hanson from the NOAA Fisheries Science Center talk about the Southern Resident Killer Whales and his recent research trip – which included the discovery of the newest SRKW orca calf – we recorded it on video. Two parts – above (with TWT’s Donna Sandstrom introducing Hanson) and below.
Watch TWT’s website for word of the next event!
Thanks to Norman for the tip via Twitter, and we see the Orca Network Facebook commenters are discussing it too: Orcas turned up along the Bainbridge ferry route earlier this morning and have now been seen heading south along West Seattle (Me-Kwa-Mooks, says Norman) – let us know if you see them!
Excited to hear about newest orca baby? The Whale Trail presents researcher who ‘found’ it, with tales from recent tripMarch 12, 2015 at 1:12 pm | In West Seattle news, Wildlife | 1 Comment
(Photo by Candice Emmons, NWFSC, NOAA Research Permit #16163)
That’s the newest calf found (as reported here two weeks ago) with Puget Sound’s Southern Resident Killer Whales – L121 and mother L94, with NOAA research ship Bell M. Shimada in the background. The researcher who leads the NOAA program, Brad Hanson of the Northwest Fisheries Science Center, is coming to West Seattle later this month to talk about what they saw while observing the whales and what it means for their recovery. It’s the first Orca Talk of 2015, presented by The Whale Trail at 7 pm March 26th at C & P Coffee Company (WSB sponsor). Here’s the official announcement, just received:
Researchers recently spent 21 days aboard the NOAA ship Bell M. Shimada, tracking endangered Southern Resident killer whales (SRKWs) off the coasts of Washington and Oregon. Good weather and ocean conditions allowed researchers exceptional access to the whales, including the first sighting of new calf L121, during their winter foraging period.
The winter survey addressed a high research priority to fill a major gap in our understanding of SRKWs life history—where these whales go during the winter, what they do, and what they eat.
Join us for this special presentation by Dr. Brad Hanson, NWFSC lead killer whale researcher. Be the first to hear what researchers observed, and how data collected on this cruise will help recover J, K and L pods.
Buy tickets early to reserve your seat. And hurry! This will likely sell out.
More about the speaker and TWT ahead:
Last weekend, we featured David Hutchinson‘s video of a river otter, now nicknamed “Otto,” who’s been in view lately on the Duwamish Head beaches. David – who is a Seal Sitters volunteer as well as an awesome photographer – says, “Quite a few passersby have stopped by for a look, and Otto is probably the most photographed wild river otter in Seattle.”
But there’s some sad news from the otter world, too. David and wife Eilene Hutchinson learned from a neighbor that an otter was “in the street near Salty’s. Eilene & I went down to take a look and found an otter dead in the southbound lane. On examination, this proved not to be Otto, who has a small growth on his left rear foot. We moved the otter off the roadway and contacted the city for removal.” He says it’s the second one they’ve seen in about two months, and so we’re reminding you again to watch for wildlife crossing along Harbor/Alki Avenues – river otters, for example, have inland dens, but go out into the bay to look for food, so they cross the road more often than you’d think. P.S. Thanks to David for also reminding us that you can learn more about river otters on the state Fish and Wildlife Department website.
— NOAA Fisheries NWFSC (@NOAAFish_NWFSC) February 26, 2015
Announced this morning – the third calf born to Puget Sound’s resident orcas in the past two months! First came the two babies born to J Pod – we learned about J50 in late December, and then two weeks ago J51 was spotted; and today, NOAA Fisheries announces a baby seen with L Pod as its scientists tracked the whales off the seacoast. “The calf looked very energetic,” NOAA’s Brad Hanson reported.
While whale experts warn that mortality rates are high even in the best of times, this is nonetheless yet another sign of hope for the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales. As noted when we covered one of The Whale Trail‘s orca talks here in West Seattle last fall, the resident pods previously hadn’t seen a birth in two years, and that calf did not survive.
Thanks to David Hutchinson for sharing the video of a river otter (yes, the otters you see here are RIVER otters, not sea otters, which stick to the open ocean). He explains:
The otter was responded to by Seal Sitters earlier this month at Duwamish Head. While not classified as a marine mammal, our theme is “Share the Shore,” so volunteers kept an eye on him while he was using the beach. Thought you might also want to take a look at him going through his normal grooming routine.
Drive carefully on Harbor and Alki Avenues, because river otters do cross the road, as we’ve noted here before – their “dens” are generally inland, but they go out into Puget Sound looking for food.
P.S. Speaking of Seal Sitters, if you’d like to volunteer with the group, sign up ASAP for the next training session – four weeks from tomorrow, March 22nd, but spots are limited and usually fill up in advance. All the info you need is here.
Late-night extra – another peek beneath the surface, courtesy of “Diver Laura” James. This is likely the first in a series of glimpses into the undersea world beyond the most-popular dive spots near Seacrest; in this short video, she shows you around at Cormorant Cove, the city park off Beach Drive by the Harbor West condos-on-pilings.
P.S. While you won’t see them because they were tucked away in crevices, Laura says “some surviving Ochre Sea Stars (the purple ones) and some young Mottled Stars (the orange ones)” were in view. She also calls our attention to South Sound U.S. Rep. Denny Heck‘s reintroduction of a bill to provide federal help to try to solve marine-disease emergencies like sea-star wasting syndrome – read about it here.
Three daytime coyote sightings have been reported in the past day and a half, starting with the one texted with that photo along SW Rose in Gatewood. Then this afternoon, in the span of half an hour, Vanessa e-mailed word of one in an alley between 36th and 37th and Findlay – “thin, scared-looking,” she said – followed by Christine‘s note, saying, “Just wanted to let you know that there have been two coyote sightings in our neighborhood (38th and Morgan) on Saturday, Feb. 14th and today, Monday, Feb. 16th. Both sightings occurred around 1:30 pm.” It’s mating season for coyotes, and experts say that tends to increase their daytime activity. Find out more about coyote behavior – and how to help ensure they and we keep our distance from each other – via this state Department of Fish and Wildlife webpage; if you don’t have time to read through it, short version – if one gets too close, scare it away. And don’t leave food out.
Another birth announcement for Puget Sound’s endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales – and, like the last one, this new baby has been spotted in J-Pod. Orca Network sent the news release and photo on behalf of the Center for Whale Research:
After spending the past two weeks near the west entrance of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, J pod finally came back into the interior Salish Sea waters and showed off another brand new baby whale to the few observers that braved the mist and light rain and watched the whales swim by from land and from vessels at respectful distance.
Dave Ellifrit from the Center for Whale Research, and Jeanne Hyde who first heard the whales on Lime Kiln hydrophone this morning, embarked on the Center ‘s research vessel “Chimo” to Haro Strait while CWR Senior Scientist, Ken Balcomb, watched from shore and managed communications.
The late December calf, J50, with its J16 family were seen today as well; but, the big news is that J19 and J41 were swimming protectively on either side on another new baby that we estimate is about one week old. This newest addition to J pod is designated J51, and the presumed mother is thirty-six year old J19. Her ten-year old daughter, J41, was also in attendance. The newest baby appears healthy.
This brings us to twenty-six whales in J pod, the most viable pod in the Endangered Southern Resident Killer Whale population of the US and Canada Pacific Northwest. K pod has 19 individuals, and L pod has 34 individuals for a total population of 79 SRKW’s as of today. That number can change anytime with the birth or death of one of these charismatic whales.
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