The 2015 West Seattle wildlife-photo calendar featuring images by Mark Wangerin - a frequent WSB contributor (thank you!) – is now available. It’s been about four months since we shared the news that this 12″ x 12″ calendar was in the works, as a fundraiser for environmental programs at Chief Sealth International High School, where Mark taught from 2002 to 2012. Now the calendar is on sale at local stores including J.F. Henry, Merryweather Books, and Curious Kidstuff (WSB sponsor) in The Junction, and West Seattle Thriftway (WSB sponsor) in Morgan Junction. According to Mark House Publishing, if you’re interested in a bulk order of the $14.99 calendar, that “can be personalized with logos and/or contact information for no additional charge” (markhousepublishing.com or 206-660-6982).
(L-pod orcas – file photo, shared here in 2009 by Jeff Hogan of Killer Whale Tales)
Just a week ago, the Kitsap Sun reported that Puget Sound’s orcas, the Southern Resident Killer Whales, were down to their lowest population level in almost 30 years, after two deaths this year, and no new births in two years. Tonight, some good news: The Center for Whale Research, which had reported the population down to 78, says it’s up to 79, with a new baby spotted in L Pod, same pod that had the last SRKW birth in 2012. In a Facebook post, CWR says the baby, to be known as L120, was with L86. You can see a photo on Orca Network‘s FB page.
(Photo by David Hutchinson)
Banners are up along Alki to ensure you know that, as Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network‘s Robin Lindsey reminds us, “We are now in the throes of harbor seal pupping season.” And with that, Robin shares four updates/reminders, including the banners’ installation, but beginning with the loss of a pup last weekend:
****Area rookeries are bustling with seal pups, a good majority of them now weaned. These pups are striking out on their own and Seal Sitters has responded to 5 pups in the past week in 5 different locations here in West Seattle.
(Photo by Robin Lindsey)
As usual, the pups have been thin. Sadly, seal pup “H2Otis” (above), who spent Saturday evening and Sunday morning at Emma Schmitz Viewpoint, had to be taken to PAWS Wildlife Center but died en route. The pup had multiple bite wounds to the head and flippers, but the species of animal that inflicted the bites could not be determined in the necropsy. The wounds were not the cause of death. He was much thinner than we realized due to difficulty of a visual assessment.
We cannot stress enough that each year, seal pups are mauled and killed by off-leash dogs in Puget Sound. Off-leash dogs were on the beach just before “H2Otis” came ashore (we do not believe he was bitten at Emma Schmitz on Saturday night) and have been there each day since. We ask dog owners to please respect wildlife and understand that even the most well-behaved dog can be unpredictable and cause terrible harm.
****Seal Sitters MMSN, as a member in good standing of NOAA’s West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network, has just renewed our contract with NOAA to respond to live and dead marine mammals from Brace Point through the Duwamish River (including Harbor Island). This contract gives us the authority to close off public access and establish necessary perimeters to protect both marine mammals and the public at large. All marine mammals are protected from harassment by the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Violations will be documented and reported to NOAA’s Office for Law Enforcement (OLE) and WA Department of Fish and Wildlife Enforcement for prosecution.
We would like to note as well that boarders, kayakers and boaters need to stay an appropriate distance (100 yards) from the mid-channel Elliott Bay buoys when sea lions are present. In addition to the California sea lions that are now returning to the area, these haul-out sites are occasionally used by Steller sea lions, both protected by the MMPA. Violations are being documented and turned over to NOAA’s OLE.
Included as a requirement of this contract is to examine dead marine mammals and enter documentation into NOAA’s national database. We ask residents to please call Seal Sitters’ hotline @ 206-905-SEAL (7325) if there is a live or dead marine mammal on public or private beaches.
****Thursday, Seattle Parks employees hung 10 “Share the Shore” banners (top photo), featuring an illustration of a harbor-seal pup, along Alki Beach. The banners are displayed annually on light poles stretching from the Bathhouse to Duke’s Chowder House. The graphics are intended to raise awareness that September and October are the high season months for harbor seal pups to seek refuge on our shores. Read more here.
****Lastly, our usual reminder that if you see a harbor seal on the beach, stay back, keep people and dogs away and call our hotline at 206-905-SEAL (7325). Undisrupted rest is critical to a seal pup’s survival – and, as proven by the unexpected demise of “H2Otis,” it is a fragile existence at best.
An advocate of freedom for captive orcas is on a journey from San Diego to Canada, stopping on Alki tomorrow evening with a historic display: Part of the “Corky Freedom Banner” that was displayed on Alki 14 years ago. We’ve just heard about this from Terri, who is organizing the event with Christine Caruso, the Seattle teacher who is on the West Coast journey. “Corky,” Terri explains, is an orca who has been captive longer than any other at SeaWorld San Diego, captured in British Columbia 45 years ago. In 1999, children around the world made pieces comprising a mile-long banner urging freedom for Corky; it was shown at various stops along a bus tour, including Alki, in 2000, as reported by The Seattle Times (WSB partner). Christine is traveling with pieces of that original banner; you can see them and talk with her 6:30-8 pm Friday at the west-end picnic area of Alki Beach.
It’s a wild place we live in … three reader reports to share:
WHALE WATCHING: Heard about the humpbacks in the area this past week or so? Colleen saw one and shared the photo:
A little late since this was Saturday night…..While boating with friends from West Seattle to Bainbridge Saturday evening around 5:15, we spotted a whale … We were so excited, our pictures are not that good. … It was awesome and unbelievable to be so close (our friends turned off their Bayliner’s engine as we watched the whale).
COYOTE REPORT: From Paul in North Admiral:
Just thought I’d pass on news of a coyote sighting in front of my house (Monday) morning on 42nd Ave between Seattle and Atlantic Streets in North Admiral. 4:30 am, I was leaving to go fishing, and a neighbor was walking his dog. We all must have come upon the coyote at the same time, and it took off running. Healthy looking adult. I’ve seen one here before, but it’s been several years.
RACCOONS: From Sean in Gatewood:
Spotted this mom and four youngsters at 8:30 (Monday) morning in my backyard. Very cute, but I’d prefer they dig holes elsewhere.
Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network’s final training for the 2014 seal pupping season will take place on August 9th. There will be no further trainings until late fall due to time constraints on volunteers.
Last year’s record-breaking pupping season stats in West Seattle (from late July’s first response to a newborn seal pup to the end of the year’s weaned pups) included 163 responses to marine mammals, including 66 positively identified seal pups. This 2014 season has begun unusually early in West Seattle with responses in June to one full lanugo seal pup “Luigi,” a second premature pup, and full-term “Junebug” who is now in rehab at PAWS Wildlife Center.
Saturday morning, August 9, 2014
10 am – 12 pm (doors open at 9:30 am; plan to arrive early to register and receive paperwork – training begins promptly at 10)
Alki UCC Church 6115 SW Hinds, Seattle
Please RSVP on blubberblog for the training to assure seating.
*Note to parents: All children accompanying adults must be able to sit quietly through an almost-two-hour presentation (with break).
Unlike most marine mammal stranding networks, we encourage children to participate in Seal Sitters – supervised at all times, of course, by a parent or guardian. We are so proud of our amazing and dedicated volunteers who are on duty rain or shine – we hope you will join us!
A multi-media presentation will illustrate our educational work in the community and the unique challenges of protecting seals and other marine mammals in an urban environment. Included in the training is an overview of NOAA’s West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network and biology and behavior of seals and other pinnipeds (due to time frame, supplementary off-season sessions will include more marine mammals of Puget Sound). For additional questions and info or to be placed on a contact list for future training opportunities, please e-mail us.
Contact info is here.
Thanks to Bob Venezia for sharing the photo – he reports seeing that crow near Lincoln Park before noon today. Is it albino, or “just” white? Experts explain there is a difference. We learned a bit about non-black crows back in 2008, when “Leucy” the leucistic crow appeared in this WSB story (that bird died the next year on our record 103-degree day). Has anyone seen this bird before?
First coyote report in a while. It’s from Chris:
At 11:45 PM I saw a coyote in the middle of the California-Southern intersection [map]. I was 1/4 block away from it, on the east side of California at Elmgrove. I got a pretty good look at it. I was with my dog and it stopped and looked at us and turned around and went west on Southern towards Northrup. I crossed the street and looked down Southern and it turned around and looked at us again from mid block then continued west on Southern past Northrup. It looked like a healthy young one. I was glad it was wary of us.
Making sure we and coyotes stay wary of each other is a major recommendation of experts – here’s what else the state has to say.
That little harbor seal photographed by Adem at the Fauntleroy ferry dock last weekend wasn’t technically a pup, Robin Lindsey from Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network explains, but rather a yearling. However, the season of seal births IS now under way, and if you see a little seal on a local beach, it’s most likely a nursing pup and it’s critical that you keep your distance so its mom won’t be scared away when she comes back for it. It’s also important to call Seal Sitters – 206-905-7325 (SEAL) – so they can help.
Earlier this week, rescuers had to intervene after a nursing pup got stuck in the rocks by Duwamish Head; the story is on their Blubberblog website. That pup, nicknamed Junebug, was the third spotted on West Seattle shores already this season, which Robin says is the earliest on record.
Two wildlife notes from the inbox tonight – Karen, who lives in The Junction, reports three eagles spent at least 10 minutes on the 4030 California construction crane, “perching, circling, landing again and again … much chirping and activity.” They looked like two adults and a juvenile, she says, perhaps flight lessons for the younger one. Eagle sightings in West Seattle certainly aren’t rare, but this is the first on-a-crane report we’ve received.
In the early evening, Phyllis and Jeff reported, “Coyote sighting – about 50-60 lbs and wandering through our yard in the 5000 block of Beach Drive. Looks like he/she has been searching for food, as our backyard was all dug up. Usually don’t see them during the daytime! Our kitties are inside!” (We have actually had more than a few daylight reports over the years. This info from state wildlife experts explains what to do if/when you see one, day or night.)
From “Diver Laura” James, that’s the latest underwater look at the state of sea stars (aka “starfish”) at Cove 2 near Seacrest. Earlier this week, we featured video from a CCTV report on the sea-star dieoff, with Laura among the interviewees, in her role as a “citizen scientist.” The newest report was published last night on SeattleTimes.com (WSB partner), with a West Seattle focus, though our area is far from alone in experiencing the epidemic. Meantime, Laura summarizes what she observed in the video (from a dive on Thursday) as:
I’d gotten reports of baby stars showing up so figured it was time to go take a peek. It is really only one species that is showing what is hopefully signs of recovery (they still have to make it to ‘large’ size before it counts) the Evasterias or “mottled star”. Only a few pisaster (the purple ones) and zero pycnopodia (sunflower stars).
A reminder – if you spot sea stars on the beach or in the water, your observations can help too: sickstarfish.com.
Scientists still haven’t figured out what is causing the mass die-off of sea stars (aka “starfish,” though they’re not fish) in our waters and many other places along the Pacific Coast. The clip above, shared by West Seattle’s “Diver Laura” James, is the latest in-depth look at the crisis. Laura (and her dad!) are interviewed as part of the report, which was produced for China’s English-language network CCTV (you also can view it on the CCTV website here).
Meantime, as noted here earlier this month, your observations are important if you see starfish, living or dead – republishing what Laura told us during the recent low-low-low tides: “There’s a variety of ways to share the information – optimally through the surveys linked here. If people don’t have time to fill out a form if they could just use #sickstarfish [social-media hashtag] or manual entry on www.sickstarfish.com or even just e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org, it would be a massive help.” She is helping, as you’ll see in the CCTV story, as a “citizen scientist.”
It’s not just nuts that will stop a squirrel in her tracks. Trileigh Tucker shares the photos:
I encountered this incredibly photogenic squirrel foraging along the south part of the Lincoln Park beach. She appeared to be a nursing mother; maybe eating the dandelions somehow provides special nourishment to provide for her young?
Trileigh writes about nature and publishes more of her photos at naturalpresencearts.com.
The tide’s coming back in again after the mega-low -3.3 at noontime. But it’ll be almost that low tomorrow, and if you went out on the beach today – or plan to do so tomorrow – “Diver Laura” James has a request for you: Everyone studying the sick starfish is hoping for a new round of surveys with this weekend’s low tide, so if you saw any starfish, alive or dead, there’s a variety of ways to share the information – optimally through the surveys linked here, but Laura adds: “If people don’t have time to fill out a form if they could just use #sickstarfish [social-media hashtag] or manual entry on www.sickstarfish.com or even just email me at email@example.com, it would be a massive help.” She was planning to do a walking survey near Seacrest, to reach divers and others in the area.
12:01 PM: “Washington’s squid are generally less than a foot long,” says this state Department of Fish and Wildlife page. Well – not this one that Carrie Ann photographed during this morning’s low tide. She says, “Looks to have a bit of wear and tear from hitting rocks and scavengers pecking at it, but still impressive to see up close.” Humboldt squid? Reminiscent of this one five years ago.
2:46 PM UPDATE: In comments, Lynn says it’s believed to be a “robust clubhook squid.”
Wildlife advocates tried but were unable to save the life of a prematurely born seal pup that appeared on the Alki shore on Monday. Robin Lindsey from Seal Sitters Marine Stranding Network tells the story of “Luigi” in an update on Blubberblog, and adds in a note to WSB:
Yesterday was a terribly sad day for all of us that looked after Luigi, estimated to be only a day old when reported on Alki Monday. For the past two days, onlookers were so considerate and caring and understood the urgency about keeping the area free of disturbance in hopes that mom would return. There are a number of reasons that this pup might have been abandoned on our shore – not the least of which is that the mom may have died during the birth. We are hoping that anyone who might have noticed an adult seal on shore Monday at Alki or nearby – or one offshore that appeared to be in distress – will contact us so we might help unravel this mystery.
It is no mystery, however, that if people and dogs are too close and scare away a mother seal, she will often not return for her pup if she feels threatened. As always, dogs continue to be a problem on our public beaches and put wildlife at risk.
In the photo here, you can see the long lanugo coat that indicates she was born a month prematurely, a very difficult hurdle for survival. To our knowledge there has not been a live lanugo birth in West Seattle before – certainly not in the almost 8 years I have been doing this. Pupping season is just now getting underway in South Puget Sound rookeries and full-term pups generally start being born in late June. Usually, we see our first pup in West Seattle in early July, but the height of the season is September and October as weaned pups disperse from the rookeries.
Usually, a pup turns up on shore just to rest while its mom is out looking for food. If you see one – as Robin mentions, the season is about to begin – or if you have information on the circumstances of Luigi’s birth, call 206-905-SEAL. Robin also adds a vital reminder: “Only authorized members of NOAA’s Marine Mammal Stranding Network can handle marine mammals. It is against the law to touch, move or feed them.” (It really IS a network, including volunteers like SS – the most recent NOAA map with contacts is here.)
Part of the corps, John Smersh (who you might know from longtime WSB sponsor Click! Design That Fits in The Junction), shared the photos from Constellation Park south of Alki Point. The naturalists are there and on the Lincoln Park beach by Colman Pool until 1 pm today; here’s their schedule for the rest of the week, and on into summer. In just two weeks, you’ll see some even lower tides, bottoming out at -3.3 feet on June 14th, lowest it’ll get this summer.
Two ways you can help West Seattle wildlife via Seal Sitters:
(WSB file photo from one of the previous Seal Sitters-co-sponsored cleanups)
JUNE 14 CLEANUP: Get trash off Alki Beach, before it gets into the water and into/onto seals and other marine life. Join Seal Sitters and co-sponsors for a beach cleanup 9:30 am-12:30 pm three weeks from today, Saturday, June 14th. One of the co-sponsors, PAWS Wildlife Center, will talk about the threat wildlife faces from beach debris, and the difficulty of rehab for rescued wildlife. This cleanup is in honor of Sandy the seal pup, rescued and rehabbed by PAWS and then found dead in abandoned netting, and of the gray whale that died in The Arroyos, then was found to have a stomach full of plastic debris. Bring your own gloves if you can, and meet at Alki Statue of Liberty Plaza (61st/Alki Ave SW) at 9:30 am June 14th – RSVP via the link in this announcement on Seal Sitters’ Blubberblog.
HOIST A MUG WITH A HELPING HAND: Seal Sitters has also announced that Rock Bottom Brewery downtown (1333 5th Avenue) has offered to raise money via donating all proceeds from $2 pints of a specific ale fold next Tuesday night (May 27th), 5-8 pm – if you’re downtown, stop by! Details on Blubberblog.
This year’s salmon-release season at Fauntleroy Creek is at the midpoint, reports watershed/creek steward Judy Pickens: “We’ve hosted some 350 children so far, who have introduced an estimated
900 coho fry into the creek.” She shared that short video clip, recorded by volunteer Peggy Cummings during the KapKa Cooperative School‘s salmon-release visit. That’s volunteer Dennis Hinton helping the students in/by the water, and mostly off-camera, that’s the voice of KapKa staffer Jamie Shilling, leading the singing and drumming. This week and next, nine school visits remain before this year’s round of releases is done (here’s our coverage of the season’s first one).
From the WSB inbox, two coyote reports – first one sent this morning by Debbie:
Just saw a coyote heading east on 108th Street toward 35th [map] in Arbor Heights.
And this note from Russell is about a Wednesday morning double sighting:
Just wanted to warn our neighbors in Gatewood that my wife spotted two very healthy coyotes in the intersection of SW Monroe Street and 41st Avenue SW [map] at 3:45 am (Wednesday morning). After a few minutes they headed south on 41st.
Our standard footnote: We share coyote reports on occasion in the interest of being educational; believe it or not, we still hear from and about people who don’t realize coyotes live in the city, or think you’ll only see them next to greenbelts, or at night, or … It’s in the coyotes’ interests and ours that we keep a wary distance apart; this info from the state explains how (including this key advice: if you see one, try to scare it away).
Another honey-bee swarm in West Seattle today, this time in North Admiral, this time on private property, where Meredith made that sign to let passersby know about the bees. A beekeeper from the Puget Sound Beekeepers Association “swarm list” was expected within a few hours, but this time, the bees found their own new home, Meredith reports. While handling the Westwood Village swarm we covered yesterday, beekeeper Clay Cook had explained that they might hang out in a temporary spot like this for 15 minutes up to 2 days, until one or more “scouts” return with word of a perfect new home – so apparently in this case, they found one.
12:47 PM: On our way to check out multiple reports of a bee swarm at Westwood. We mention it in advance because beekeepers have asked us to mention as often as possible, please do NOT panic, do NOT try to poison them – swarming is natural, especially this time of year, and the best thing to do is to contact somebody on the Puget Sound Beekeepers Association‘s swarm list to come remove them – if you can’t just wait them out. Here’s our recent story about all this.
1:31 PM: We are here and a beekeeper (above, in hat) is too. He says this is a relatively small group, maybe 20,000. They break off from a hive and hang out 15 minutes to 2 days until a scout brings back word of a suitable new spot. He will hang out after collecting these so the scouts come back. Photos shortly.
2:01 PM: Photos added. The beekeeper, Clay Cook (who is on this year’s list of PSBA beekeepers to call about swarms), says it’s home turf for him since he works part-time at Westwood Village. He said that bees swarming like this generally would have left their original hive not far away, so any of the “scouts” that scattered while he was up there and didn’t make it into his box would likely find their way back to that nest.
It was heartening to see people stopping and remarking how cool it was to see the bees, instead of getting scared and bolting (of course, it’s understandable if you’re allergic; one passing driver slowed down and then, when informed that the buzz was about bees, said she needed to get out of there since she is).
The eagle’s not always regal. (Click the image to see the full-size view.)
Thanks to Christopher Frankovich for sharing! Your caption?
What looks to be a record-setting month of salmon-fry releases at Fauntleroy Creek has begun. On the warmest day so far this year, Roxhill Elementary students came to the creek after school today to release salmon they’d been raising:
Longtime volunteer Dennis Hinton was there to assist the students in carefully transferring the little salmon into the creek:
Creek steward Judy Pickens has drawn up the schedule for the next four weeks and tells WSB, “We expect to see at least 600 students this year in a record 20 releases.” Then in the fall, there’s another round of volunteer activity in the annual watch for returning salmon – last year was pretty much a bust, while the year before set a record.
(Thanks to Shannon for sharing this photo via the WSB Facebook page)
2:54 PM: If you missed seeing them earlier this week – those two orcas are back in the area again, just passing Alki Point moments ago and headed south. Thanks to the tipster who sent word of this; the Orca Network Facebook page also has sightings reports, and mentions that NOAA has been tracking them, so you might be able to spot them by looking for a research boat. Please let us know if/where/when you see them!
ADDED 10:21 PM: Thanks to Trileigh Tucker for two more orca photos – above and below this line.
(Added 8:55 am: Photo by Carolyn Newman)
Lots of orca-watching going on this morning, from Beach Drive to Elliott Bay, where the newest reports are from – likely the same two transient male orcas who have been visiting the area for the past several days. Photos shared via Twitter:
— Jonathan Evans (@jhewiz) April 23, 2014
— Melinda Simon (@melindasimonsea) April 23, 2014
8:38 AM: Found out they started the day off West Seattle pretty early – James was watching them off Fauntleroy in the 6 am hour! Meantime, another photo tweeted from the Water Taxi vicinity (Seacrest Boathouse/Pier, 1660 Harbor SW, in case you are new in the area):
— KellyD (@kdbokay) April 23, 2014
— Russ Walker (@russ_walker) April 23, 2014
9:36 AM: Thanks again to everyone who has tweeted, e-mailed, texted/called (206-293-6302 any time), Facebooked – speaking of which, Melinda posted video of the orcas off Beach Drive; not embeddable, unfortunately, but here’s a direct link to see it on FB.
A wild sight outside West Seattle’s PCC Natural Markets (WSB sponsor) store on Monday – a honeybee swarm! (Thanks to K for the photo.) This reminds us that it’s the season for a reminder – If you spot a bee swarm, don’t panic about them, don’t poison them, don’t even spray them with water – check out this info from the Washington State Beekeepers’ Association, and then this page from the Puget Sound Beekeepers’ Association, which includes a link to this year’s list of beekeepers you can call to remove the swarm (which is what we’re told PCC did – called a beekeeper).
P.S. While checking those pages, we discovered that the Puget Sound Beekeepers Association’s monthly meeting is tonight (not in WS, but in case you’re a beekeeper and not already involved with them, thought we’d mention it given the timing).
P.P.S. Learn more about bees – and celebrate their vital role in our ecosystem – at the second annual West Seattle Bee Festival on May 4th; info here.
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