West Seattle, Washington
(WSB photo, July 2012)
Whenever you see an otter in West Seattle – it’s a river otter, not a sea otter, even if you see it splashing and diving in saltwater Puget Sound. Here’s how to do more than just gawk at them:
Woodland Park Zoo is reaching out to the community to become otter spotters to help collect information on North American river otters, which are virtually unstudied in Washington waters.
Anyone can participate in the new community science project and become an otter spotter. Information and an otter spotter form can be found at www.zoo.org/conservation/otterspotter. Otter spotter tips and etiquette, and how to distinguish a river otter from a sea otter are included.
“This is a great opportunity for our community to get directly involved in science in our backyard. The more reports of sightings we can collect, the more data we’ll have on the range and behavior of river otters,” said Michelle Wainstein, Ph.D., a local ecologist and conservationist, and the field scientist for the project.
The zoo also is launching a new field study, River Otters of Western Washington: Sentinels of Ecological Health, which will focus on otter population biology and the contaminant loads in their scat along the length of the Green-Duwamish River. This river in particular traverses a diverse mosaic of habitats, including wildlands and parks; agricultural, industrial and residential areas; and the highly contaminated Lower Duwamish Waterway.
The Green River flows from undeveloped Washington wildlands through increasingly urbanized areas to become the Duwamish River—Seattle’s major industrial corridor since the early 1900s. According to Wainstein, river otters are an important species in aquatic ecosystems because they can serve as sentinels, telling us about the health of their local environment. Wainstein and the project team hope to determine if river otters are found along the entire 80-plus miles of this important waterway. …
North American river otters are amphibious members of the weasel family and live in water systems all over Washington state. Their habitat ranges over most of North America in coastal areas, estuaries, freshwater lakes, streams and rivers. Otters prey on what is readily available and easiest to catch, with a primary diet of fish, crayfish, amphibians and birds.
All otter species are considered threatened while five of the 13 species are endangered due to water pollution, overfishing of commercial stock and habitat destruction. …
3:49 PM: The orca baby boom of the past year and a half is getting a proper celebration right now at Alki Bathhouse – with birthday cakes! Ella’s Cakes has just been announced as first-place winner, followed by Hot Cakes and BAKED. The Baby Orca Birthday Bash is on until 5 – get down here for more fun including Orca Bingo with The Whale Trail! June is Orca Awareness Month, so you can keep celebrating beyond today – and learning, too, which is a big part of what this event is about:
That’s just one educational point – without salmon, the Southern Resident Killer Whales won’t survive.
9:45 PM: A few more photos – first, our West Seattle-based orca advocates, Donna Sandstrom from The Whale Trail:
And Jeff Hogan from Killer Whale Tales:
Outside the bathhouse, Mike the inflatable orca, aka J29:
For more on Orca Awareness Month – go here.
Thanks to Marco for sharing the scene from Admiral Way, when a mallard mom and ducklings got some help making it across the street just west of 42nd SW. Marco adds, “Props to the guy who was keeping them safe in traffic!” A closer look:
(We can’t quite guess where mom was headed – Hiawatha? – or coming from, for that matter – can you?)
Two Alki photographers have noticed the local raptors clashing, and shared photos. First, from David Hutchinson:
On arriving at Jack Block Park … Eilene & I noticed a few crows dive-bombing the area above the elevated viewing platform. We thought that this behavior might indicate the presence of an eagle, so decided to walk out on the dock to check things out. About half way there, a bald eagle flew out from behind the trees and headed toward Salty’s. We thought we’d missed our chance, but when we got out on the dock, there was still one eagle sitting up at the top of the structure. He/she didn’t seem that much bothered by the crows and engaged in grooming periodically.
When an osprey arrived overhead the eagle became much more agitated and soon flew off to the top of one of the more distant, tall light standards in Terminal 5, followed by the osprey. There they engaged in a brief battle before the osprey moved on toward the nesting area south of the high bridge.
During their confrontation the osprey would dive bomb from above while the eagle would throw itself upward and turn upside down so its extended talons were pointed toward the oncoming osprey.
Second, from Gary Jones, frequent observer of these big birds’ Alki Point hangout:
A free, first-of-its-kind event is one week away, and you’re invited: The Baby Orca Birthday Bash, next Sunday (June 5th) at the Alki Bathhouse, 2-5 pm. It’s the kickoff to Orca Month as well as a celebration of all the orca calves born to Puget Sound’s Southern Resident Killer Whales in the past year and a half. The plans include:
*Orca storytelling by West Seattle-based Killer Whale Tales
*Orca bingo with prizes by West Seattle-based The Whale Trail
*Orca birthday cakes that you get to judge, with cakes donated by bakers including West Seattle’s Stuffed Cakes and BAKED
*Orca hat and fin making
*Sammy the Salmon and Mike the Inflatable Orca
*Free tote bags for the first 100 people to arrive
This promises to be both fun and educational, presented by the Orca Salmon Alliance, which highlights the fact that not only are our local orcas endangered, so are the fish they need to survive – and the more we learn about how to help them, the better their chances of survival.
You know we love birds and are honored to receive beautiful photos to share here several times a week. But – on occasion, birds can be dangerous too, especially in nesting season, and we have three recent reports to share. First one is just in from Greg:
I wanted to give a heads up to anyone that runs or walks on Fairmount (Ave) about an aggressive owl.
Last night around dusk I was running when I felt something on my head and realized an owl had clawed me. It hovered above and made a few more swipes. I scared it off and then about 100 yards later it swooped again, clawing the back of my head. I didn’t see any blood but it feels like I have a scratch – hard to tell under my hair.
It was white, possibly a barred owl – a white, beautiful bird. It was silent as it approached. The incident happened downhill of where Admiral street crosses over – basically half way between the bridge underpass and the homes on the road.
I’ve heard owls like this will repeat the behavior, so I want to make sure people are aware.
Carl reported the same thing recently:
I normally go jogging around 8-9 at night. This might I was running down Fairmount ravine in the dark when something sharp clawed my head. This was north of the Admiral Way overpass. The owl would not let go for at least 50 meters and I had to shine a light in his face for him not to attack me. He tried several more times to dive bomb me.
The ravine is not far, by the way, from where Rose reported an attack along Harbor Avenue two months ago.
Our third report: A crow got aggressive outside the West Seattle (Admiral) Library one morning this week, reported by Karin:
Have you heard about a territorial crow at the West Seattle library? I put some books in the book drop … and a crow attacked me. It followed me to Met Market, cawing and diving at me. It didn’t touch me, but it certainly scared me! I’m wondering if it was me or if I just got too close to a nest. Either way, I’m avoiding the library for a while…
Thanks to the texter who just sent that phone video of what appear to be two humpback whales off the Water Taxi dock at Seacrest! We’ll be heading out in a bit to see if they’re still off our shore – let us know if you see/have seen them!
Out of the WSB inbox, from Kevin:
I was running this morning and saw a whale just west of Don Armeni park. It was headed westward, slowly. The whale was young/small, but definitely a whale, not a porpoise or something. It was big, just seemingly small for a whale by my estimation. If I had to hazard a guess, 15-20′ long??
Anyhow, wanted to report it given the story last month of the whale off Vashon. The whale spouted, and I watched its back crest out of the water as it surfaced and went back down. Time was 5:20 am.
Reminder: If you see a marine mammal you think is in trouble – be sure to notify the local marine-mammal stranding network, Seal Sitters MMSN, at 206-905-SEAL.
Over the next three days, thousands of students in the Northwest will learn about our region’s endangered orcas via a field trip of sorts – an educational program taking them by satellite to a prime orca-watching spot in the San Juans. Leading the way, West Seattleite Jeff Hogan‘s Killer Whale Tales program. Here’s the announcement:
Nearly 3,000 students in grades 2-7 will join Washington State Parks Foundation (WSPF) and Killer Whale Tales at Lime Kiln Point State Park on May 23-25 for Journey to the Parks: Songs of the Salish Sea, where the stars of the show will be the endangered Southern Resident killer whales which return this time of year to regularly swim by the park. Lime Kiln Point is known as one of the best places anywhere to see orca from land, and programs will include a tour by Friends of Lime Kiln Society (FOLKS).
These three days of live whale educational programming in classrooms will be connected via satellite with student in Washington, Oregon and Alaska, Idaho, Wisconsin and Montana and a special “whale chat” RSS feed will enable written questions and feedback between the students and presenters. This amazing technology and coordination is provided by Inspired Classroom, Polycom, GCI Education, Vision Net and Alter Enterprise. The program will allow students to learn about orca and to identify different Puget Sound orca pods based on recordings. Students will also learn the tools and methods of a whale biologist, and find answers to their questions about whales using science-based thinking. Nothing like this educational event has ever been attempted in Washington state parks before.
“Each May we mark the return of the resident orcas to San Juan Island, but this May is even more special because it marks the expansion of WSPF educational programming to connect more kids and families with state parks across the state. Washington State Parks offer an embarrassment of riches for the outdoor lover and they are firmly embedded in our identity through northwest history, culture and personal experience. Interpretive opportunities like the orca program, shared with kids from under resourced communities in classrooms throughout the Pacific northwest, invite people in the region to visit and connect with parks on a deeper level,” explained John Floberg, Executive Director of WSPF.
Jeff Hogan, Executive Director of Killer Whale Tales, is an educator and a research associate with NOAA Fisheries and the Cascadia Research Collective and teaches thousands of kids each year as he visits classrooms along the west coast. This year Jeff is thrilled to be able to take his program to almost 3,000 kids in three days and to be able to interact with them live over satellite. “I am excited to work with students across the region to connect them with these fascinating and iconic animals, especially students located in cities and towns who have less opportunity for visiting the park,” said Hogan.
This three-day program is grant-funded. Look for updates here.
P.S. We asked Jeff for more information about the participating schools. His reply: “In Washington, there will be 15 elementary schools located in 11 cities that will participate. They include: Bellevue, Bothell, Federal Way, Montesano, Seattle, Silverdale, Spokane, Tacoma, Woodinville and Yakima. Public, private and parochial schools are involved. Another 15 schools in AK, OR, ID, MT, WI and NY will participate. These students live in places such as rural Alaskan communities in the Yukon and Kodiak Island as well as cities like Klamath Falls, Oregon, Couer d’Alene, Idaho and Missoula, Montana. Beyond the NW, children in New York City and a small village called Turtle Lake in Wisconsin will get to learn about and experience the wonders of orcas and specialness of Lime Kiln Point State Park on San Juan Island.”
From Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network, word of two ways you can help care for West Seattle shores and the creatures who share the beaches and waters with us – first, an announcement, second, a reminder:
Seal Sitters and the Alki Community Council will be co-sponsoring the “Sentinels of the Sound” beach cleanup at Alki Beach on Saturday, June 4th, 10 am-noon. There will be a very low tide that day, enabling access to a wide stretch of beach to remove dangerous debris. The adjacent sidewalks and street will also be scoured for trash – it is estimated that up to 80% of all trash discarded on land ends up as marine debris.
Trash poisons, maims, and kills wildlife. Lend a hand to help keep marine life safe and meet up at the Statue of Liberty Plaza. There will be a brief talk about the dangers of marine trash before dispersing to clean up the area. Last year, volunteers removed an estimated 9,000 toxic cigarette butts in approximately two hours.
Please visit our website for more details and the RSVP link. Volunteers do need to provide gloves and pickup sticks this year, but bags will be available at the sign-in table.
Now, the reminder – Seal Sitters training tomorrow!
Harbor-seal pupping season is on the horizon and Seal Sitters volunteers enable pups to rest safely on our urban beaches. We will be holding a training on Monday evening, May 23rd. There are just a few available spaces left to attend. Please visit the volunteer page of our website for info and to RSVP.
Seal Sitters welcomes volunteers of all ages.
Via text (thank you!): A “small pod of orcas” is reported to be in view right now between The Arroyos and Vashon Island, mid-channel. Even if that’s too far south for you – they’ll have to head north eventually!
We just happened to be at the West Seattle Farmers Market an hour or so ago when a text came in (206-293-6302, any time) with that photo of a coyote spotted nearby, by Hope Lutheran (42nd/41st/Oregon). No telling whether the coyote was trying to find its way to the market, church, or somewhere else, but yet another reminder that they live among us and they’re out in the daytime too. The best advice from the state’s excellent infoguide is to scare them away if you see them; our texter said a passing car had already done that.
The gray whale first seen off West Seattle two weeks ago, moving slowly and seeming sick, didn’t survive, we’ve just learned. You’ll recall that our local Marine Mammal Stranding Network, Seal Sitters, reported that researchers had assessed it and would provide an update – none followed, though, until this word that the whale was found dead and towed north for a necropsy. We received this news release from NOAA Fisheries:
A team from Cascadia Research Collective completed a necropsy Thursday afternoon on a juvenile gray whale that had been swimming injured through Puget Sound for about two weeks before dying over the weekend. Results and photos of the necropsy are available on the Cascadia website.
You can jump to that here – the photos are not gory; the cause of death isn’t known yet but Cascadia says the whale was a juvenile female, in a “highly unusual condition” when first found before it died.
Ahead, the NOAA news release continues: Read More
Since we first reported on sightings of an apparent turkey around West Seattle, we’ve continued to get reports in just about every one of our messaging channels, from comments to texts. The newest photos arrived via e-mail today from Emily, who saw it by Alki Elementary this morning while taking her daughter to school. Some wondered how the turkey has managed to range so widely across the peninsula, from Lincoln Park to Pigeon Point, if not beyond. Some have worried that it might be in danger of getting hit by a car or attacked by, oh, say, a hungry coyote. (Emily also photographed it crossing the street by the school.)
In light of those concerns, we checked today with Seattle Animal Shelter director Don Jordan, who replied: “Yes, we are aware of this turkey and according to my staff, there may be more than one.”
Aha! Anyway, Jordan continued: “Our best guess is that this turkey has gotten loose from someone’s private flock. While we don’t advocate anyone trying to capture it, if someone does, they can certainly turn it over to the Seattle Animal Shelter. Also, citizens can contact the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife if they have concerns or questions, as this would fall within their jurisdiction. If someone does capture it and turn it over to SAS, we would look to either reunite with the owner or adopt it to someone with property outside of Seattle whereas it could live out its natural life.”
We’re pretty sure that means, beyond Thanksgiving.
P.S. You might not have to worry about it too much – earlier this morning, when Julia spotted it in the Alki area, it “flew or jumped” up on a roof …
… and then down again.
Story by Tracy Record
Photos by Patrick Sand
West Seattle Blog co-publishers
Students and stewards are in the midst of a record-setting salmon-release season at Fauntleroy Creek, with more than 800 students participating in 22 release events.
But their work is being jeopardized by vandals, we’ve learned today – painful and criminal in any event, particularly so because this is all work involving students and volunteers, along an urban salmon stream whose survival is by no means guaranteed.
More on that shortly – first, here’s what the work is all about.
That group of 50 fifth-graders from West Seattle Elementary is one of the school groups scheduled to visit Fauntleroy Creek this spring to release coho fry into the creek. Speaking with them in the photo is creek/watershed steward Judy Pickens, who has long volunteered with the Salmon in the Schools program. She and husband Phil Sweetland ferry salmon eggs to local classrooms in one mad dash every school year, and then for the next step, students and teachers bring the fry to the creek.
And off they go, with volunteer Denny Hinton‘s help:
Some classes turn salmon-raising and -releasing into an even larger learning experience. A recent visit by Arbor Heights Elementary included not only a release, but also a presentation by students who are studying the creek:
In our photo are Harriet and Hannah Mae, Arbor Heights fifth-graders who, as Pickens explains, are along with classmates delving into the mystery of what’s happening with the hundreds of thousands of coho salmon that have not come back into Puget Sound from the ocean.”
They gathered on a creekside patio with Pickens, who notes, “The fall 2015 return was nearly non-existent and the fall 2016 return is expected to be at least as dismal. Under the direction of teacher Angie Nall and aided by scientists from Seattle Public Utilities, the students explored El Niño warming off the coast that killed the prey coho need to survive, ocean acidification, and pollution from stormwater runoff.”
There have been glimmers of hope. In fall 2012, more than 200 spawners returned. Every fall, volunteers take up their spots along the creek and watch with hope.
For them and for the salmon, it’s enough of an upstream swim, they don’t need any more challenges. Which brings us to the vandalism. Pickens reports two recent incidents: “One was ripping the net from our smolt trap in the upper creek. We have the trap in place in order to know how many coho have matured to migrate to saltwater – a gauge of both food abundance and water quality. A volunteer checks that trap daily and was able to make repairs within hours of the vandalism so that this important monitoring could continue.
“The other was digging stones out from a derelict section of concrete pipe imbedded in sediment at the salmon-release site. A few days ago, our volunteers discovered a sizable hole in the pipe that was diverting much-needed water from where children release their fish. A volunteer hydrologist temporarily plugged the hole with stones so that flow was restored and releases could continue. Then someone removed the stones, requiring another fix. A long-term fix can’t happen until a period of low flow this summer, so we need the pipe left alone. ‘Volunteer’ appears a lot in this report, an indication of the community’s commitment to salmon in Fauntleroy Creek and the students who cap their salmon study on release day.”
Pickens concludes, “If responsible park users can be on the lookout for destructive behaviors, we can stop this senseless vandalism.”
Tayler and Ana, graduates of the UW’s Environmental Science Program, are Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network volunteers, and that means they’re helping wildlife all over our area. Want to join them? Here’s your next chance:
Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network will be holding our “Spring New Volunteer Training Session” on Monday evening, May 23rd, from 6:30 – 8:30 pm.
For more information and to RSVP (required to attend), please visit the volunteer page of our website. We encourage children to join and become stewards of Puget Sound’s fragile marine ecosystem.
As an authorized agent of NOAA’s West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network, Seal Sitters MMSN responds to reports of all marine mammals along the shoreline of West Seattle, from Brace Point through the Duwamish River.
Join Seal Sitters, a very active network, and make a difference for wildlife!
(Video by Rick R)
That’s reader video of a gray whale seen off Brace Point this morning – likely the same whale that was moving slowly through the center of Puget Sound last Saturday. As Robin Lindsey of the Seal Sitters Marine Stranding Network reported, authorities went out to assess that whale’s health on Saturday, but they have yet to make a statement on what they found. This time of year, gray whales still in Puget Sound might be ailing and/or hungry. One died off north Vashon last month. The reader who sent the video and photo this morning said the whale was heading slowly north toward the Fauntleroy ferry dock at the time.
We have since heard from someone who saw it off Lincoln Park. Updates if and when we get them – and if you are out on the water, remember that you have to stay at least 100 yards away.
10:53 AM: We usually feature bird photos with our daily calendar update – but this sighting is too unusual to time-share with other subject matter. We’ve received two reports, with photos, of a bird seen in West Seattle, with both readers describing it as a turkey! Above and below, photos that Jodi Steele took in Lincoln Park on Sunday, south of the north play area:
And before we could publish Jodi’s sighting, another one just arrived in the WSB inbox from George Capestany, south of Me-Kwa-Mooks, who wrote, “This is a rare sighting. This morning at 9:30. Just walking around the neighborhood”:
So is it really a turkey? BirdWeb doesn’t include King County in their habitat.
7:35 PM: Commenters have a variety of opinions on what exactly this bird is. Meantime, we have an even-closer photo courtesy of JoDean, who says her daughter took it at Lincoln Park on Sunday:
Let us know if you see it!
11:29 AM: Thanks to everyone who has texted and e-mailed about this, including Delfino Muñoz, who sent the photo above: A gray whale is in the middle of Puget Sound between West Seattle and Vashon Island and may be in trouble. Those who have watched it from afar and up close say it hasn’t moved much for some time. We looked through binoculars from the south end of Emma Schmitz Overlook and also noted that it was fairly stationary. We know it’s been reported to the local marine-mammal stranding network, Seal Sitters (206-905-SEAL), and to the state. Gray-whale sightings in Puget Sound aren’t rare, but this time of year, some that don’t make it back out to the open ocean for the annual Pacific Coast migration may be lingering because they are ill or undernourished. Earlier this month, one such gray whale was first seen in the Ballard Locks and then found dead between north Vashon and Fauntleroy. We’ll update if we find out anything more about the whale that’s out there right now.
2:43 PM UPDATE: Just got an update from Robin @ Seal Sitters, that those keeping an eye on the whale might see a boat closer to it than boats are supposed to be – researchers from Fish and Wildlife and Cascadia Research Collective are headed out to try to assess the whale’s condition and make sure it’s not entangled. WSB’s Christopher Boffoli got this view from Beach Drive, though the whale is much closer to the other side:
Christopher reported the whale is definitely blowing regularly, though not moving much. Robin also says they’ve advised the Coast Guard about the whale, since it’s in the shipping lanes and they want cargo ships to know to steer clear – Christopher photographed one passing:
We’ll continue to update when more information’s available.
Our two most recent reader reports about West Seattle coyote sightings both included photos:
First, Aimee sent that photo tonight, saying:
Just wanted to give North Admiral neighbors a heads up of a coyote I saw this afternoon. The coyote crossed California heading east on Hill Street. Sorry the picture is not the best, he was fast.
We also had this in queue from Lori‘s Fauntlee Hills sighting last week:
She saw the coyote running through her backyard at 9:15 in the morning and thought it had been hanging around that area for some days.
Wondering what to do if you see one? Best thing to do is to scare it away – coexistence depends on us and them keeping apart – as explained on this state Department of Fish and Wildlife infopage.
It’s been a while since we’ve had a report about one of Alki’s road-crossing river otters; Crispin Garrott saw that one near Duwamish Head around 11 pm Sunday. So we’re reminding you to be careful – as discussed here before, the otters have dens inland and cross the road to go looking for food, among other things. More than a few have been hit and killed. So, especially at night when you might not see them, be careful in the area.
Thanks to Krista Livingston for the photo and report:
This coyote was jumping around, playing in our yard (edge of Schmitz Park) at Charlestown and 52nd Ave SW. I know you get lots of sightings. Thought the neighbors would like to know the coyotes are out day and night.
If you scroll through our archive of coyote sightings, you will definitely be able to verify that. And if you do see one, please remember that the best thing to do for your sake and theirs is to scare it away – as explained in the state’s one-sheet about coexisting with coyotes.