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.
12:55 PM: Orcas were spotted off Bainbridge Island within the past hour or so, headed toward Alki (thanks to Jeff Hogan of Killer Whale Tales for the alert, which is also on Orca Network‘s Facebook page). Let us know if you spot them!
2:06 PM: No reports yet from local waters but some have been spotted southbound off the east side of Vashon Island – you’d need really good binoculars to see from here.
NOAA decision is in: ‘Lolita,’ last surviving captive Puget Sound orca, to be included in endangered-species listingFebruary 4, 2015 at 11:42 am | In West Seattle news, Wildlife | 3 Comments
(January 17th WSB photo by Patrick Sand)
Two and a half weeks ago, hundreds rallied at Alki Beach to support freedom for the last surviving captive Puget Sound orca, best known as “Lolita.” The rally was partly in anticipation of a federal decision on whether to include Lolita in the endangered-species listing that already covers her wild family members. Today, this federal news release announces, the decision is in:
NOAA Fisheries will issue a final rule to include Lolita, a captive killer whale at the Miami Seaquarium, in the endangered species listing for Southern Resident Killer Whales that spend much of the year in the inland waters of Washington and British Columbia.
While Lolita will now share the endangered listing status of the population she came from, the decision does not impact her residence at the Miami Seaquarium.
11:07 AM: Thanks to Trileigh for sounding the alert that Orca Network tipsters are reporting orcas headed north in Colvos Passage on the west side of Vashon – which means they might be visible from here at some point soon. The fog is of course complicating things, and even without fog, the whales might stay along the western shore of the sound, but we wanted to make sure you knew.
2:11 PM: The whales have gone into Rich Passage, which leads to Bremerton, as of the newest comments on the same Orca Network post we’ve linked above.
Don’t know if it’s the same coyote, but two people reported sightings in the same general area of Gatewood/Upper Morgan (map) this afternoon. The photo is from John, who e-mailed to say: “Just took this pic this afternoon on Willow, between 39th and 38th. I was walking my dog and this coyote ran out in front of us, crossing the street into the backyard in the alley.” We also got a phone call from someone who reported seeing a coyote on SW Frontenac between 39th and 40th, headed east, around 4 pm. Our most recent round of sighting reports was Gatewood-centric, too. Remember that as advised by wildlife experts, best thing to do if you see one is to try your hardest to scare it away.
Thanks to Gary Jones for the series of bald-eagle photos (mature and juvenile) from Alki (taken in this past Monday’s sunshine) – we’re mingling them with highlights for today/tonight, from the WSB West Seattle Event Calendar:
HOLY FAMILY SCHOOL OPEN HOUSE: 1:30-3 pm, Holy Family Bilingual Catholic School‘s having an open house for prospective parents. (20th/Roxbury)
KINDERGARTEN TOURS AT LAFAYETTE: If you don’t have a reservation, call fast! 1:45 pm today. RSVP info’s in our listing. (California/Lander)
SEATTLE LUTHERAN HS OPEN HOUSE: 7 pm tonight, visit Seattle Lutheran High School (WSB sponsor) and find out what J-Term is all about, among other things. Here’s our preview. (41st/Genesee)
ALL OF THE ABOVE IS JUST THE BEGINNING … options and opportunities for tonight, tomorrow, and beyond, are browsable right now on our calendar.
Some Puget Sound seabird species ‘may be turning the corner’ in a good way, 7-year analysis suggestsJanuary 20, 2015 at 4:38 pm | In Environment, Seen at sea, West Seattle news, Wildlife | 5 Comments
(All photos in this story are by Mark Wangerin. Above, rhinoceros auklet)
A glimmer of good news about the health of Puget Sound and some of its wildlife. This news release arrived via NOAA, but much of the work was done by volunteers:
A new analysis of seven years of bird sightings by volunteer birdwatchers from the Seattle Audubon Society has found positive trends in several Puget Sound seabird species that had been in historic decline.
The study tracked the occurrence of 18 seabird species at 62 sites around Puget Sound and found increased presence of 14 species, including cormorants, loons, rhinoceros auklets, and harlequin ducks. It also documented local hotspots for certain species, which may reflect especially important habitat or prey the birds depend on.
“This means that all other things being equal, if someone goes out now they’re more likely to see these birds than they would have been seven years ago,” said Eric Ward, an ecologist at NOAA Fisheries’ Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle and lead author of the research.
Many seabird species are thought to have declined around Puget Sound since the 1960s and 1970s but the new results suggest the trends have turned up for many species.
On another mostly gray, rainy day, following a stormy night, here’s a view that’s bright in two ways: Colorful undersea creatures recorded by “Diver Laura” James in the area known as the “junkyard” – and as you’ll see if you watch it, she found some sea stars:
We saw numerous young sunflower stars in the shallows, far more than I was expecting. There was a healthy medium-sized one in the 40’ depth range as well, so this is a change for the positive. Sunflower stars have been all but extirpated at many of our regular dive sites. It is still winter underwater, so we will have to wait until fall to see the real impact (how many babies show up and how many survive) The majority of the sea stars that were lost in the wasting disease are the types that spawn in the spring to mid summer. The babies will then be in the larval stage and float around in the current before they land and start growing. Baby sunflower stars start with 5 arms and then start growing pairs of additional arms, which is why you see uneven arms in the videos. That isn’t because they’ve lost limbs, it means they are growing :)
Many of the stars in the video other than the young sunflower stars and the mottled stars (there were a few) were species that were not as impacted by the wasting disease, such as Leather stars, so it isn’t a surprise to find them there. We did not see any sand stars, pink spiny stars, pisaster (ochre stars) or morning sun stars, but I’m crossing my fingers come spring/summer.
(WSB photos/video by Patrick Sand)
A gathering this afternoon around West Seattle’s replica of a powerful symbol of human freedom was organized in hopes of winning freedom for a fellow mammal held captive thousands of miles away:
Taken from her family and her Puget Sound home more than 40 years ago, the orca known as Lolita (originally Tokitae), a member of L-Pod, has spent all that time in a tank at the Miami Seaquarium. Of the dozens of killer whales captured all those years ago, she is the last survivor. This afternoon’s Alki gathering was in support of a larger rally in Miami, stepping up the pressure for Lolita to be “retired” and returned home.
From Alki Statue of Liberty Plaza, advocates, many with signs, headed on a one-mile march along the beach – here’s our video:
We estimated at least 150 supporters here; MiamiHerald.com estimates a thousand participants at today’s rally there. They heard from Howard Garrett of the Whidbey Island-based Orca Network, describing the plan already proposed for reintroducing Lolita to the wild via a sea pen in the San Juans. It’s not new, but there is a potential milestone driving the new attention – a federal ruling expected this month on whether Lolita will be officially included in the listing of endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales. That would not guarantee freedom for her, but could at least step up the pressure. According to the Miami Herald, the Seaquarium says flatly she’s not for sale and shouldn’t be freed. Meantime, back at Alki, Lolita’s supporters came from all age groups:
Advocates said that other support rallies were planned in San Diego, Los Angeles, Colorado Springs, Germany, and the UK.
Even as the number of Puget Sound’s Southern Resident Killer Whale population hovers at a dangerously low level, one of the group’s members remains thousands of miles away, captive in a tank. Tokitae is the last surviving SRKW from those captured decades ago; she has been at the Miami Seaquarium for 44 years, performing as “Lolita.” This Saturday from coast to coast, wildlife advocates will demonstrate in support of setting her free and returning her home to Puget Sound. Here in Seattle, the big gathering is a march for about a mile along Alki, starting at 1:15 pm Saturday (January 17th); meet at Alki Statue of Liberty Plaza (61st/Alki) at 1 – more info in our calendar listing. (Photo via Wikimedia)
P.S. Thanks to Steve for the tip on this – you also can paddle along the route in support – that group will leave Don Armeni Boat Ramp (1222 Harbor SW) at noon.
Check on your chickens, urban farmers. Both of today’s coyote reports mention backyard birds. Dan at 37th/Holden [map] says a coyote came into his yard today and got two of his four chickens, normally kept in a chain-link-surrounded enclosure, but let out to “free range” in the daytime, and it happened while he turned his attention away from a bit. We also heard from Janis, who says she saw a coyote at 2 pm at California/Southern [map]: “Was alerted by the chickens making noise.” Both of those locations are in Gatewood, as is a sighting on New Year’s Day that we still had in queue – Belinda saw one that day, going “down the sidewalk looking in yards in the 6500 block of 40th Ave SW.” [map]
P.S. Our usual “coexisting with coyotes” advice link includes, toward the bottom, advice on protecting poultry.
(Photo courtesy Center for Whale Research: Mom J16 and newborn J50)
One week after announcing the birth of baby orca J50, the Center for Whale Research says J50 is female – especially good news provided she beats the odds and survives, since that pod in particular has been short on breeding-age females. In a release on its website, the center also says it hasn’t quite sorted out the questions about which orca is J50′s mom – you’ve probably heard that while she was originally believed to be the calf of 43-year-old J16, experts have reasons to suspect that J16 might actually be J50′s grandmother. Whoever her mom is, ~2-week-old J50 was seen with her family, doing well, today in the northern Strait of Georgia in British Columbia
Before local students show up at Fauntleroy Creek in the spring to set salmon fry free, they spend months tending to and studying in-school aquariums – and today’s the day it all begins anew. Volunteers Judy Pickens and Phil Sweetland have spent the day ferrying more than a thousand salmon eggs from a regional hatchery to 10 schools in West Seattle and South Park. We caught them at the first one they visited, Our Lady of Guadalupe:
As they made each delivery, disinfecting the eggs in an iodine bath before they could be placed in their hatching tanks, they talked with students, who were fascinated to see what would eventually hatch into coho:
From OLG, they went to nearby West Seattle Elementary, where their visit was shorter, since they volunteer at WSES regularly. But this school has something extra-special – a tank and ornate base, courtesy of Phil:
We had to photograph it before the students crowded around, so you could see the art.
Judy and Phil live on Fauntleroy Creek, and have a deep devotion to this program – almost four years ago, we reported on their resolve to keep it going despite state budget cuts. As explained at the time, it’s not that this is making a big dent in the salmon population, but it is helping keep fish and creeks top of mind every year for a new group of students who will grow into the adults on whose actions the fish’s fate will rise and fall. Meantime, these eggs will hatch soon, and the fish will grow for a few months in the tanks in school hallways and classrooms, before creek releases in spring.
(Photo courtesy Center for Whale Research: Mom J16 and newborn J50)
After heartbreaking losses this year in Puget Sound’s orca pods, good news – a baby! Here’s the news release shared by Orca Network:
This afternoon Ken Balcomb of the Center for Whale Research confirmed seeing and photographing 42-year old J16 (Slick) with her newborn baby – now known as J50!
During an encounter off the south shores of North Pender Island in Canadian waters, Ken discovered J16 with her newborn calf, only a day or two old, snuggled in her slipstream and looking healthy and energetic.
No other female has given birth at over 42 years of age in the four decades of demographic field studies of the Southern Resident orcas. J16 was not expected to be carrying a calf due to her advanced age.
Researchers probably won’t know the calf’s gender for many months, until they are able to see and photograph the calf’s ventral markings.
The Southern Resident community was listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act in 2005, after dropping in population to only 78 members, but had recently lost a pregnant female, J32 Rhapsody, bring their numbers down to only 77 members. This birth brings the So. Residents up to 78.
Most of J pod was seen on December 24 west of Orcas Island, but J16, known as Slick, and her family were not among them. Then on December 26th, the Orca Network Sightings Network received a photograph of J16′s oldest offspring, 23-year old J26 (Mike), and another orca off the north end of Lopez Island, indicating that J16 was probably nearby, because maternal families remain in close proximity their entire lives.
9:09 PM UPDATE: We hope to add a photo when Orca Network releases one; in the meantime, you can see several on the ON Facebook page. Also, thanks to West Seattle wildlife watcher/photographer/writer Trileigh Tucker for tipping us to the happy news even before we got the news release.
9:28 PM UPDATE: Added a Center for Whale Research photo of mother and calf, republished with permission. You can see half a dozen others on the center’s website.
(WSB photos unless otherwise credited)
One more way to see wildlife in West Seattle – the display currently on view in the window at Twilight Gallery and Boutique in The Junction. Twilight’s Tracy Cilona called our attention to its unusual nature (so to speak), and we stopped by for photos.
Elijah Evenson is a Seattle-based sculptor who combines the aesthetics of a natural history museum with the concept of surrealism. In 2004 he studied sculpture at Gage academy of Fine Art and went on to study at the Seattle Sculpture Atelier in 2007. He currently has a studio at the Inscape building in the international district where he works in a variety of mediums both large and small.
The Survivors Exposition is a large-scale diorama in homage to the animals of the Pacific Northwest, featured in our window gallery for the month of December.
(Photo provided by Twilight)
(From the artist): “Every day that I live in the northwest, I fantasize about the way things were here one hundred thousand years ago. I have always felt a strong connection with the mountains in Washington, the beautiful balance of the very rich and peaceful environment. The animals that live here are elegant and yet apprehensive. There is special quietness that most of the animals share as they listen to the strong sound of the wind blowing through the trees and the rush of the rivers. Through these sounds, the soul of the mountain can be heard. The Coyote, the Elk, and the Falcon all have their own harmonies to sing. When I was in the redwoods, I came upon an elk’s skull that had been buried into a tree. The poor thing had its horns caught up in the branches until the tree eventually ate the carcass whole. Buried in the trunk was the memory of the elk. What survived was a monument of itself. This is my monument to the spirits of the forest.”
Twilight is on SW Alaska just west of California SW, and open until 7 pm tonight.
The orcas seen off West Seattle on Saturday weren’t the “transients” who spent so much time recently in the South Sound. Instead, expert whale-watchers identified them as members of J Pod, one of the three groups of endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales. Federal researchers hoping to help save the SRKW from extinction are trying to find out more about where J-Pod orcas, in particular, goes when they are not here at “home,” so once again this year, they have tagged a member of the pod. According to this report on the Northwest Fisheries Science Center website, researchers tagged J27 yesterday, while J Pod was northbound through north Puget Sound. What little they know from previous tries suggests that, more than the other two SRKW pods, this one stays closer to home. Finding out more, they say, can help them identify “critical habitat” among other things. They promise to update the page from which we got the map you see above – follow it here.
Today’s impromptu wildlife theme continues, this time away from the shore – We’ve received three reports of coyote sightings in Sunrise Heights around mid-afternoon. Jeremy shared the photos (taken from a distance – we cropped them), after seeing two “wandering down 27th near Othello” in the 2 pm hour.
Not long after that, Ellery saw two coyotes that “just strolled by in front of my house on 32nd Ave at Holden St.” That’s also where Sarah reported seeing them. (Here’s a map showing both aforementioned locations.)
If you haven’t seen coyote mentions here before … we’ve been publishing reader reports of sightings for more than seven years; here’s the archive. The more awareness, and the more that we all follow advice such as not leaving food out, the more likelihood of continuing to minimize closeup conflict. (The state Fish and Wildlife “Living with Wildlife” page that we usually recommend seems to be inaccessible right now, so here’s another page full of info/advice.)
One more story in keeping with what seems to be today’s theme (water/beaches/wildlife):
At midday on Christmas, Marianne sent word that Seal Sitters were out on the beach at Lincoln Park, guarding a pup. Before we could get out of the house, she sent the photo you see above, with a followup – the seal had returned to the water shortly after SS responder Dana arrived. That wasn’t the end of the story, though. We finally went to Lincoln Park for a walk (which resulted in these pictures) shortly before sunset. As we entered from the Lowman side, we passed the Seal Sitters group (including David and Eilene Hutchinson, recognizable from so many other volunteer endeavors) departing – seems the pup had made a comeback for a while. And now, you can read the full story of seal pup Silverbell and the humans who helped it, via the newest update on the Seal Sitters “Blubberblog.”
— Andrew Malinak (@AndrewSwims) December 27, 2014
(Added: The every-Saturday-morning Alki swim included an orca sighting!)
9:33 AM: When last we heard of whales in the area, it was late Friday, and some were reported to be heading northbound in this direction, off the east side of Vashon. Don’t know if they are the same ones, but we have multiple reports of orcas off the 1500 block of Alki right now, for starters, plus an Orca Network Facebook report of orcas off Alki Point a short time ago, possibly visible off West Seattle. We’re off to look; let us know of any sightings!
10:02 AM: Very choppy water on the west-facing shore; followed up a text about orcas at Emma Schmitz Overlook but no luck.
10:47 AM: Just saw two southbound from Brace Point!
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