Fauntleroy salmon: Drumming on Sunday; watch starts Monday

October 24, 2014 at 9:38 am | In West Seattle news, Wildlife | 3 Comments

(WSB photo from last year’s Fauntleroy Creek gathering to call the salmon home)
Last year, they were a no-show; the year before, a record run. What will this year bring for coho salmon in Fauntleroy Creek? Steward Judy Pickens says would-be salmon spectators are already showing up at the creek but should know, no one’s seen any yet, and the official volunteer-powered salmon watch won’t start until Monday. Once they see one, she’ll share the news with us, and you’ll be welcome to come down and try to get a glimpse any time a salmon-watcher is on duty. Meantime, the symbolic start to the season is this Sunday, 5 pm, when you are invited to join in the annual “calling the salmon home” gathering at the Fauntleroy fish ladder (Fauntleroy/Director, across the street from the ferry dock, up the embankment) – bring something to drum with if you can, but not mandatory.

West Seattle whale watching: Look for orcas tomorrow

October 21, 2014 at 7:56 pm | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news, Wildlife | No Comments

Late in the day, orcas were back in the area, first time since last Friday’s throng, heading south – thanks to @sudsymaggie for tweeting the report! – so if you’re by the water tomorrow, keep watch, and please let us know (text/call 206-293-6302) if you see them. Even though weather made the viewing tougher, orca lovers were somewhat balmed, after the sadness of last night’s report that the Southern Resident Killer Whales’ first baby in two years is missing and presumed dead.

Unlike most of their counterparts, the southern residents subsist on fish, and they are here looking for chum salmon; as of last weekend, the run didn’t yet appear to be plentiful – Guy Smith on Alki Point sent a photo of a purse seiner that he said didn’t seem to be hauling much in on Sunday night (though apparently it did net some fish before departing Monday morning).

Also regarding the chum, our friends at the Kitsap Sun have published this update about how things are looking across the water.

WEDNESDAY MORNING: A sighting was reported from the Bainbridge ferry just after 7 am, by a commenter on the Orca Network FB page, a few orcas headed toward the southwest. Weather’s awfully murky today but conditions can change quickly, so …

Puget Sound orcas’ first baby in 2 years missing, presumed dead

October 20, 2014 at 10:45 pm | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news, Wildlife | 14 Comments

(Photo by Carrie Sapp)
After the Southern Resident Killer Whales came through last Friday, the experts noticed someone missing in other regional sightings – baby L120, first calf born to the local orcas in two years. No one wanted to announce her death until word came from orca experts – and now it has, shared in a news release via Orca Network:

The Center for Whale Research has confirmed that baby L120, only about seven weeks old and the third known offspring of a 23-year old Southern Resident orca known as L86, was not with his or her mother when she and other members of L pod were photographed recently in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Ken Balcomb of the Center for Whale Research said, “L86 was seen and photographed on Friday, Saturday, and Monday, all without L120.”

L120 was the first newborn Southern Resident offspring seen since August 2012. In February of that year the the body of L86′s second offspring, 3-year old female L112, washed up at Long Beach Wash. with indications of death by severe acoustic trauma.

Research conducted in recent years has shown that Southern Resident orcas depend almost entirely on chinook salmon for sustenance, with a diet of chum salmon during fall months when chinook are especially scarce.

This orca clan has suffered episodic food deficiency for many decades, as chinook salmon runs were depleted by habitat destruction, excessive harvest and dams from Alaska to California. They were also routinely shot at for decades and over 50 were captured or killed for theme parks during the 1960s and 70s, followed by wanton disposal of persistent toxins into Puget Sound that continue to impair fetal development and immune responses, especially when the whales can’t find sufficient food.

“We haven’t treated these magnificent orcas well at all. As a society we are not successfully restoring this orca community despite the many warnings and legal declarations. Our challenge is clear: bountiful salmon runs must be restored and protected or we won’t see Resident orcas in the Salish Sea in coming years.” said Howard Garrett of Orca Network.

The loss of her second baby must be especially traumatic for L86, but knowing this young orca will never grow up and reproduce is painful for all who care about this precariously dwindling extended family. Now down to only 78 members, the Southern Resident community is at or below their numbers in 2001 when alarms rang with such intensity that they were eventually listed as endangered under the ESA in 2005.

Is it time to take more dramatic protection measures? As previously announced, one proposal will be the topic of The Whale Trail‘s next Orca Talk in West Seattle, October 30th – details here.

VIDEO, PHOTOS: Orcas swim past West Seattle whale-watchers

October 17, 2014 at 8:59 am | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news, Wildlife | 10 Comments

(Starting at :15 in, you’ll see some whales – sorry for the shakiness, very long zoom!)
8:59 AM: If you’re anywhere near the water today, keep watch for orcas! Just before nightfall Thursday, the Orca Network had southbound sightings in the north Sound – first sightings that far south in quite a while. Then this morning around 7:30 am, according to West Seattleite Jeff Hogan from Killer Whale Tales, sightings were reported off Vashon Island – still southbound, but at some point, they will have to head back this way, so we’re sharing the alert. If you see whales, please let us know (text/voice 206-293-6302 is our breaking-news hotline, and this qualifies); we’ll update with any reports.

9:40 AM: Still southbound, south of us, per this ON commenter – off Point Robinson on Maury Island (across Puget Sound from Des Moines) about 20 minutes ago.

10:44 AM: Now at least some of the whales are reported to have turned and headed northbound.

12:14 PM: Jeff just texted to say that whales believed to be from all three resident pods are “trending northbound” past Three Tree Point south of West Seattle.

(Added: Photo by Greg Snyder)
1:28 PM: In view! Passing Blake Island.

1:58 PM: The research boat is visible off Blake Island – binoculars definitely needed – if you are near Me-Kwa-Mooks on Beach Drive as we are now. Some whales are ahead of it, some behind.

5:38 PM: Continuing to add visuals from today’s sightings as we get them. Above and (added) below, photos by Gary Jones, as the orcas passed Alki Lighthouse.

Protected zone for orcas? Find out about it at The Whale Trail’s upcoming Orca Talk

October 15, 2014 at 6:04 pm | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news, Wildlife | 7 Comments

Here’s word of the first presentation in a new series of Orca Talks presented by West Seattle-headquartered The Whale Trail: You’ll hear about the proposal for “A Protected Zone for Puget Sound Orcas,” 7 pm Thursday, October 30th at C & P Coffee Company (WSB sponsor). From TWT executive director Donna Sandstrom:

The Southern Resident Killer Whales are endangered and seriously declining; their 2014 population of 79 is the lowest since 1985. To aid their recovery, Orca Relief is urging NOAA Fisheries to conduct a public process that will result in a Whale Protection Zone for the SRKWs.

A well designed and enforced WPZ would provide the Southern Resident Orca a safe-haven in the very core of their critical habitat, and a relief from vessel impacts including noise, disturbance and air pollution. Bruce Stedman, Executive Director of Orca Relief, will describe the key aspects of how a protected area for the Orca should be developed and how it could help the SRKWs begin to recover.

Join us to hear the latest about the orcas, and updates from Robin Lindsay (Seal Sitters), and “Diver Laura” James (tox-ick.org).

These talks are usually sellouts – get your ticket(s) ASAP online, $5 suggested donation, kids free. C & P is at 5612 California SW.

West Seattle coyotes: Who’s seeing them and where

October 15, 2014 at 4:28 pm | In Coyotes, West Seattle news, Wildlife | 22 Comments

(Added Thursday afternoon: Coyote seen by Rebecca on SW Barton)
Maybe it’s the change of seasons. The pace of coyote-sighting reports has picked up recently. We report them for awareness and education, not hysteria – here are the most-recent reports:

TWO HIGHLAND PARK SIGHTINGS: Moments ago, someone texted about a coyote spotted today at 18th and Cloverdale. That’s the second recent report we’ve had from Highland Park; Nicole reported one seen near 14th and Trenton “with a cat carcass.”

GATEWOOD SIGHTING #1: Janet says one “walked right by me as I was doing yard work” around 4:45 pm Tuesday near California/Webster. “Did not seem afraid of me. Appeared straggly and hungry.” It was headed east and she thinks it might have come up the stairs at 44th/Webster (not far from Solstice Park).

GATEWOOD SIGHTING #2: A few hours before that, to the northeast, Elizabeth encountered one while working, similar description: “I am a FedEx driver and just followed one down the street near 38th Ave SW & Myrtle. It was extremely mangy looking and emaciated, which could be of concern. Still a rather large one though. I saw it run up a tree filled driveway toward a house (in the 4100 block of) SW Orchard. Just a heads-up!”

NEAR CAMP LONG: TH spotted a coyote around 8 pm Sunday, about to cross 36th SW at Brandon: “Probably heading towards Camp Long. He looked healthy and while he was cautious he didn’t appear afraid. I figure he was 2′ at the shoulder.”

ARBOR HEIGHTS: Wendy reported her mother-in-law spotting two coyotes hanging out at a vacant lot near 39th/105th.

WHAT TO DO IF YOU SEE ONE? Our recent texter in HP said she had called Fish and Wildlife, which advised they don’t routinely respond to sightings. That’s true and has long been so. They do have an excellent guide about coexisting with coyotes, with advice such as how to scare them away if you see them, so that they will be encouraged to keep their distance, for our sake and theirs. We link it from every coyote report we publish – so here it is again.

Video: Seen off West Seattle shores, ‘Beneath a Dark Sea’

October 4, 2014 at 8:01 pm | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news, Wildlife | 4 Comments

Last time we featured undersea video from “Diver Laura” James – observing a curious octopus – we heard clamors for more. Laura has obliged, inviting us to share the clip you see above, which she titled “Beneath a Dark Sea.” Yes, these are local waters – Cove 2, right off Seacrest.

Video: Late-night octopus-watching off West Seattle’s shore

September 28, 2014 at 2:55 pm | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news, Wildlife | 18 Comments

Thank you, as always, to “Diver Laura” James for sharing another view of what you won’t see unless you’re a diver too. From her dive last night off Seacrest, an unedited stretch of octopus-watching:

Un-cut octopus footage from 9/28 from Laura James on Vimeo.

Along with the link, Laura wrote: “We spent almost 10 minutes with this amazing beautiful creature before we had to leave because of depth, time and air constraints (though I would have happily spent all night). It turns out my buddy swam right over the well-camouflaged octopus and was checking out the den of another octopus looking to see if there were any eggs (none to be found so far). You can see me signal him by bobbing my lights. The octopus gets curious and decides it wants to come check me out (I’m actually swimming backwards in some of the video) until my dive buddy comes over and then it decides to do something even more entertaining. Upon noticing my dive buddy, it ceases advancing on me and for lack of a better descriptive, turns around and starts sneaking up on my buddy. You can actually see it hunkering down and hiding behind the log, then it squeezes under the log and boo! Octopus! It does not appear upset in any of the interactions, more curious and checking things out. It does get upset later on when it tries to invade the den of a second octopus and gets into a bit of a wrestling match.” P.S. Interesting Giant Pacific Octopus info and trivia here.

P.S. On a much-smaller scale – remember Laura’s iPhone-microscope plankton-watching? She has agreed to join us in the WSB booth at the West Seattle Junction Harvest Festival four weeks from today, so you can bring your kid(s) by to have a look at the tiny creatures that fill our seas. The Harvest Festival is set for 10 am-2 pm Sunday, October 26th.

ADDED 3:42 PM: Laura just sent an edited video with a “potpourri of critters” from the dive, so we’re adding it:

Potpourri of Critters from Laura James on Vimeo.

West Seattle coyotes: Sightings in Arbor Heights, Highland Park

September 27, 2014 at 11:29 am | In Coyotes, West Seattle news, Wildlife | 9 Comments

Two coyote sightings to share today, first ones we’ve received in a while. As we’ve done more than 150 times in the past six years, when we get them, we publish them, not as cause for panic, but in the spirit of information/education, since not everyone realizes that we share our city with them. Patricia:

Coyote sighting this morning in Arbor Heights… about 6:30 am as I was walking two spaniels north on 39th Ave SW, a coyote was spotted sitting at the edge of the yard of the demolished-for-new-construction home between SW 106th and SW 104th. Pretty big – taller than my larger dog, though not so heavy. He moved into the street and sat down, watching us. We got to within 50 feet… close enough for me so I stamped twice. He turned north then west on SW 104th. Pretty neat!

And a quick report from Cynthia on Friday evening:

Coyote spotted on Trenton and 14th Ave SW.

The reports we’ve received over the years (archived here, newest to oldest) also tend to debunk myths such as, they only come out at night, or, they only live near greenbelts. So, what to do if you see one? Most important advice: Scare it away. That and other advice from state wildlife authorities is here.

Saving the sea stars: Marine Disease Emergency Act introduced in Congress

September 18, 2014 at 8:24 pm | In West Seattle news, Wildlife | 15 Comments

(File photo, courtesy Laura James)
New hope that the mystery killer ravaging the sea-star population might be identified and stopped: “Diver Laura” James – whose sea-star monitoring project was just featured nationally again, in this MSNBC story – sent this announcement from South Sound U.S. Rep. Denny Heck:

To address the sea star wasting syndrome and other major marine disease emergencies, this week Representative Denny Heck (WA-10) and the Puget Sound Recovery Caucus introduced the Marine Disease Emergency Act. The proposed legislation would establish a framework for declaring and responding to a marine disease emergency, and to provide the science community with the resources to proactively protect marine ecosystems from being irreparably damaged by cascading epidemics.

The Marine Disease Emergency Act establishes a declaration process for the Secretary of Commerce, acting through the Administrator of NOAA, to declare a marine disease emergency. The proposed bill outlines the factors needed for a 120-day rapid response plan, including the necessary engagement of individuals and entities at federal, regional, state and local levels to assist in a coordinated and effective response aimed at minimizing the impacts and preventing further transmission. The legislation also requires a post-emergency report detailing current disease status and providing recommendations for improving responses to future marine disease emergencies.

The Marine Disease Emergency Act establishes a national data repository to facilitate research and link different datasets from across the country, as well as a “Marine Disease Emergency Fund” under Treasury in order to accept donations from the public and the industry.

“Sea stars do not function underwater in a vacuum,” said Representative Denny Heck, who represents the South Puget Sound area. “They are in fact a keystone species vital to the ecosystem. When these species face an epidemic, we must engage the scientific community in an organized, rapid-response approach to determine what can be done to halt the damage to our oceans. This could be a sign of a deeper problem.”

Professor Drew Harvell of Cornell University, who studies the ecology and evolution of coral resistance to disease, expressed support for the new policy, saying “Disease outbreaks of marine organisms are predicted to increase with warming oceans and so it’s very welcome to see legislation like the Marine Disease Emergency Act introduced.”

“When you pierce the surface of our picturesque water vistas, what’s underneath is not OK. We have sea stars that are wasting away, pulling themselves apart and limbs disappearing from their bodies. That is not OK. And it’s only getting worse,” said Sheida Sahandy, executive director of the Puget Sound Partnership. “We need the ability to respond to these kinds of emergencies as quickly as we would an earthquake or a hurricane. This action creates the support for the kind of nimble response that is required in order to react to fast-acting threats to our ecosystem.”

Representatives Heck and Kilmer co-founded the Congressional Puget Sound Caucus last year to reflect their commitment to preserving the Puget Sound. The caucus is the only Congressional working group devoted exclusively to promoting Puget Sound cleanup efforts, and builds on the legacy left by former Congressman Norm Dicks, a longtime advocate for the health of the Puget Sound. The caucus continues to be focused on promoting the three region-wide Puget Sound recovery priorities: preventing pollution from urban stormwater runoff, protecting and restoring habitat, and restoring and re-opening shellfish beds.

The question now – will the bill pass and become law? Laura is working on gathering grass-roots support, and we’ll update with ways for you to voice your opinion, if you are interested.

Followup: Your student-benefiting West Seattle wildlife calendar awaits, now in local stores!

September 12, 2014 at 9:54 am | In How to help, West Seattle news, Wildlife | 2 Comments

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).

Puget Sound orcas welcome first new baby in two years

September 6, 2014 at 8:49 pm | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news, Wildlife | 8 Comments

(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.

Seal Sitters updates: ‘Now in the throes of pupping season’

August 29, 2014 at 11:41 pm | In How to help, West Seattle news, Wildlife | 20 Comments

(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.

Part of ‘Corky Freedom Banner’ returning to Alki after 14 years

August 14, 2014 at 10:03 pm | In West Seattle news, Wildlife | 5 Comments

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.

West Seattle wildlife: Whale sighting; coyote report; raccoons…

August 7, 2014 at 2:02 am | In Coyotes, Seen at sea, West Seattle news, Wildlife | 30 Comments

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.

The state has advice on dealing with raccoons and coyotes – the former, here; the latter, here. (And lots of other species too – see the sidebar on either of those pages for the links.)

Seal Sitters signing up volunteers one last time for this year’s pupping season

July 23, 2014 at 9:34 pm | In How to help, West Seattle news, Wildlife | Comments Off

(2013 photo by Robin Lindsey)
If you’ve ever considered volunteering with Seal Sitters, there’s one more chance this season:

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.

TRAINING DATE:
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.

West Seattle wildlife sighting: White crow (or albino?)

July 20, 2014 at 2:39 pm | In West Seattle news, Wildlife | 11 Comments

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?

West Seattle coyotes: Late-night Gatewood sighting

July 20, 2014 at 5:31 am | In Coyotes, West Seattle news, Wildlife | Comments Off

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.

Seal-pup season on local beaches: What to do if you see one

July 3, 2014 at 10:13 am | In West Seattle beaches, West Seattle news, Wildlife | 1 Comment

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.

West Seattle wildlife: Eagles on a crane; coyote on Beach Drive

June 29, 2014 at 10:18 pm | In Coyotes, West Seattle news, Wildlife | Comments Off

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.)

Underwater video: State of the sea stars near Seacrest

June 29, 2014 at 10:11 am | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news, Wildlife | 2 Comments

Sea Star Survey 6/26/2014 from Laura James on Vimeo.

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.

Video: Newest close-up look at the ‘sick starfish’ epidemic

June 24, 2014 at 11:25 am | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news, Wildlife | 5 Comments

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 ljjames@mac.com, it would be a massive help.” She is helping, as you’ll see in the CCTV story, as a “citizen scientist.”

West Seattle wildlife: Stop and smell the … dandelions!

June 20, 2014 at 9:46 pm | In West Seattle news, West Seattle parks, Wildlife | 9 Comments

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.

Sick starfish: If you see any sea stars this weekend, here’s what to do

June 14, 2014 at 2:27 pm | In West Seattle beaches, West Seattle news, Wildlife | 1 Comment

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 ljjames@mac.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.

West Seattle low-tide sights: Sizable squid on Alki

June 12, 2014 at 12:01 pm | In West Seattle beaches, West Seattle live, Wildlife | 15 Comments

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.”

Premature seal pup’s short life on Alki: Did you see its mom?

June 11, 2014 at 11:45 pm | In West Seattle beaches, West Seattle news, Wildlife | 7 Comments

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.)

Happening now: Low tide in West Seattle, with volunteer naturalists at 2 beaches

May 29, 2014 at 11:52 am | In West Seattle beaches, West Seattle news, Wildlife | 2 Comments

Just before noon, the low tide will be out to -1.9 feet – great for beach exploration. As we’ve been noting for the past few days, the Seattle Aquarium‘s volunteer beach naturalists are back on duty.

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.

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