West Seattle, Washington
For the first time this seal-pup season, Seal Sitters have had a West Seattle visitor to protect. We mentioned this briefly in our coverage of the Alki Art Fair‘s second day; we stopped by the Seal Sitters booth near the Alki Bathhouse, and asked volunteers David and Eilene Hutchinson if the group still hadn’t had any local pup reports. In fact, they told us, the first one of the season had happened the day before – someone came up to the booth on Saturday and reported a seal pup on Alki Beach, near the volleyball courts. It went back into the water just after 9 pm.
A pup also turned up on Sunday, at some point after we talked to the Hutchinsons; we don’t know if it was the same one – we’re checking – but we have the photo courtesy of Andrea Howell. And it’s a chance for us to remind you about what to do and what NOT to do if you see a seal pup: Don’t get close to it – that’s not just a request, but federal law. Don’t touch it. Do report it to a marine-mammal stranding network so they can keep watch – in the West Seattle area, that’s Seal Sitters, and their hotline is 206-905-SEAL. Complete information on pupping season and best beach behavior is here.
Just in from Leslie Dierauf in the 3600 block of Beach Drive:
At least 2 humpback whales are cruising north on the far side of the deepwater channel. Their blows are big and straight in the air. They have small dorsal fins and are displaying their flukes. COOOOOL.
Thanks to Venkat for the photo – he spotted orcas off Colman Pool after 5 pm today; checking the Orca Network Facebook page, we verified that’s a research boat in the photo. A recent comment there had them passing Three Tree Point in Burien just before 6 – but we still have more than two hours of daylight, so if you’re by the water, keep watch, as they might head back this way. Let us know if you see them – 206-293-6302 – thanks!
10:09 AM: We’ve received multiple reports that West Seattle Water Taxi riders enjoyed a porpoise show this morning! The photos are from Bob Michaels (above) and from Nick Hesterberg (below). And we have details from Adam Aljets: “A great showing of half dozen porpoises on the 8:45 am water taxi. They swam directly up to our boat. We stopped and even circled back around to see them again.”
Identification help welcome; harbor porpoises are the ones most commonly seen in Puget Sound.
10:38 AM: Annika reports in comments that these are “common dolphins,” and the ID info online seems to correlate. They’re usually seen in warmer waters further south, but we’re finding online reports including this one from Port Angeles in June.
(UPDATED SUNDAY with commenters’ reports that, sometime after this was recorded, two of the goslings were hit and killed)
ORIGINAL REPORT, 9:37 PM: This family of five is popular. We keep getting photos and texts about sightings of the Fauntleroy white geese and their goslings, and it’s clear they are roaming on both sides of Fauntleroy Way in the ferry dock/Lincoln Park area, so we renew the alert: Please be careful in the area. Last weekend we shared a reader’s photo-story about people helping them cross the busy road, and tonight, this video came in from another reader. Sorry to say, some of what we’ve heard about hasn’t been anywhere near heartwarming – reports of a woman kicking one of them at the Cove Park beach, and of an unleashed dog going after them – note they’re fairly slow-moving, and be their angel if you see them in danger (as others have been over the years).
ADDED SUNDAY AFTERNOON: After we published this video – recorded Saturday morning, sent to us Saturday night – commenters said they’d seen only one gosling with the geese later in the day. Now another commenter reports two of them were hit and killed. If anyone can tell us more about what happened, please e-mail us at email@example.com – thank you.
LATER SUNDAY AFTERNOON: Another commenter has posted more information.
A new way to see undersea! “Diver Laura” James is shooting with 360-degree video equipment and shares two clips with us. You can benefit from the full-surround perspective by putting your cursor in the video and clicking/dragging it around, to look up, down, all around. Above, she was off Constellation Park with jellyfish; below – in the Alki Pipeline shallows with perch:
7:12 AM: Thanks to Laurie for e-mailing to report a sighting of two orcas, southbound off Emma Schmitz Overlook around 6:47 am. This would be the second day of sightings in central Puget Sound – Trileigh tipped us to this Orca Network discussion Monday, but to our knowledge they didn’t turn up right off West Seattle.
10:30 AM: Thanks to Dan Ciske for sending photos taken about an hour ago from the Seattle-Bainbridge ferry!
12:46 PM: Two recent comments (thank you!) indicate orcas are heading northbound past West Seattle shores.
1:29 PM: Still out there! Just in from Norman Sigler via Twitter:
— #StillSanders (@NormanSiglerPol) June 28, 2016
Last Sunday, our daily preview included the first photo we’d seen of Fauntleroy’s famous white geese and their babies. We didn’t know if they were roaming or ensconced somewhere – but apparently it’s the former, as Eric just sent these photos showing how he and neighbors took care to herd the family safely across Fauntleroy Way by the ferry dock. If you go through that area, PLEASE be extra careful! You can see Eric’s photos – and read the captions – by clicking the Steller image above, and then using the arrows that are toward the center of the display that should open after that.
(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.