West Seattle, Washington
(Photo by Robin Lindsey)
As this weekend winds down, here’s a plan you can make for the start of next weekend: Lend a couple hours next Saturday morning to help Seal Sitters keep Alki Beach wildlife from being harmed by trash. Here’s the announcement:
Let’s clean up our act! Join Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network and co-sponsor Sno-King Marine Mammal Response on Saturday, June 24th, as we clean up Alki Beach and surrounding sidewalks and streets to help reduce the impact humans have on our fragile marine ecosystem and save wildlife (photo is a typical early morning scene at Alki during warmer months). Trash on the beach becomes treacherous in the water. The “Sentinels of the Sound” cleanup is from 9:30-noon with assembly at the Statue of Liberty Plaza (Alki Avenue SW and 61st Ave SW).
All marine life is endangered by marine debris and plastics pollution. Many, many thousands of marine animals and sea birds are injured and die each year from derelict fishing gear, marine debris, and pollution. They are entangled and drowned by nets and gear – strangled and contaminated by plastics.
Harbor seals (who do not migrate and are year-round residents) and resident Puget Sound orcas, both animals at the top of the food chain, are especially hard hit by pollutants from storm runoff and plastics that break down into microscopic particles and enter the food chain. These deadly toxins are then stored in the blubber of marine mammals and passed on in mothers’ milk to nursing young.
You can truly make a difference for wildlife. Come on down and grab a bucket and pair of “pluckers” (if you have your own, please bring them). RSVP is requested – e-mail email@example.com – to ensure there are enough materials on hand. If you can’t attend on Saturday, you can make every trip to the beach a personal cleanup day by taking a bag and gloves along with you to pick up and dispose of trash. Every little bit helps!
Please visit Seal Sitters’ website to learn more, in-depth, about the dangers of marine debris and pollution.
One week from tonight, you have the chance to learn about the ECHO (Enhancing Cetacean Habitat and Observation) Program with The Whale Trail, which explains that this is “a Vancouver Fraser Port Authority-led initiative aimed at better understanding and managing the impact of shipping activities on at-risk whales throughout the Salish Sea.” The presentation is at 7 pm next Thursday, June 22nd, at the Dakota Place Building (California/Dakota). From the announcement:
Krista Trounce, the ECHO Program Project Manager, will present how the ECHO Program is working with national and international collaborators to develop mitigation measures that will lead to a quantifiable reduction in potential threats to whales as a result of shipping activities.
Learn about the projects the ECHO Program has completed and is currently working on: Strait of Georgia Underwater Listening Station to measure vessel noise levels, regional monitoring of ambient noise in the Salish Sea, a Mariner’s Guide to Whales in the Pacific Northwest, large whale strike risk assessment, a trial slowdown of commercial vessels, and others. Hear how the ECHO Program and our collaborators are educating mariners, industry partners and the public about the impacts of underwater noise on marine mammals.
Krista will speak to the ECHO Program long term goals, and how the Salish Sea will benefit from their research and initiatives. Buy tickets now at bpt.me/2974083 to reserve your seat. And hurry! This will likely sell out.
This talk is the third of four Celebrate Springer events, commemorating the 15th anniversary of the successful rescue, rehabilitation and release of Springer (A73) the orphaned orca, and the transboundary partnerships that made it possible.
8:27 PM: Thanks for the texts and photos – we started the day with a humpback whale sighting report and 14 hours later, we’re getting more reports, with the whale reportedly in view right now off Alki, around 63rd SW. The photo above, with the whale’s fluke in view, was texted earlier this evening. With the night’s community meetings over, we’re off to see if we can finally get a firsthand glimpse ourselves!
Sunset whale-watching on Alki. pic.twitter.com/wjXCuxNCNL
— West Seattle Blog (@westseattleblog) June 7, 2017
9:13 PM No firsthand whale sightings but we did find Donna Sandstrom of The Whale Trail – she said two humpbacks had been swimming back and forth but just swam out of view.
10:43 PM: Adding the photos above and below, from Kersti Muul, who watched the two humpbacks through the day – the photos are from the Me-Kwa-Mooks area.
Kersti says it was a “great day for shore-based whale watching!”
ADDED 6:40 AM WEDNESDAY: Jim and Vanessa both report at least one humpback back in view this morning, off Alki and Beach Drive. More later!
ORIGINAL REPORT, 5:53 AM: Andrew reports a humpback off Alki this morning – spotted near 57th SW [map], “and it looked like it was heading toward the Bay.” One was seen off Fauntleroy Monday morning and evening, as reported here (with video added last night).
6:26 PM: See comments for other later sightings – and right now we have e-mail of a sighting northbound off Beach Drive, Cormorant Cove most recently.
ORIGINAL REPORT, 11:36 AM: Thanks to the texter who reports a humpback whale about 100 yards off the Fauntleroy ferry dock. We don’t know yet if it’s the same humpback reported in Elliott Bay on Sunday – Orca Network confirmed the ID on that one (BCX1251) and also is reporting this morning’s sighting.
ADDED 9 PM: Thanks to John Schuh for video of the humpback slapping its tail, repeatedly! Also note the comment below saying the whale – or, another humpback – was seen again tonight.
Today, you don’t have to wait for a whale sighting off West Seattle shores to learn about the “Whales In Your Neighborhood” – just go check in with The Whale Trail and friends at Constellation Park before 2 pm, as previewed on our calendar. It’s part of Orca Awareness Month – next local event, a cleanup at Alki one week from today and a Whale Trail-presented talk on vessel traffic’s effect on whales – info’s all here.
ORIGINAL REPORT, 9:40 PM TUESDAY: Thanks to Lura for the video recorded tonight along Beach Drive SW, south of Me-Kwa-Mooks. Those are two young river otters, first spotted, she told us, under a car – as you can see in the video, they emerged from beneath one car, and loped along to a spot beneath another one. While river otters are often seen swimming in Puget Sound off West Seattle shores, their dens are on land, so you might suddenly see one crossing your path (as shown in our 2012 photo from Duwamish Head) or crossing a road … be careful!
P.S. Want to know more about river otters? Take a deep dive with this state Department of Fish and Wildlife infopage.
ADDED WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON: Didn’t realize until a message from Cassie that today is World Otter Day!
Thanks to Joan for the photo and report this afternoon:
I finally got a picture of a coyote in the Longfellow Creek Holding Basin, south side, located just east of 24th SW between Holden & Webster [map]. He saw me and jumped back so this is the best I could get.
This coyote is scrawny and thin. I saw another that looked young and healthy last week.
People are still letting their dogs run loose here so this is a heads up – go to the offleash park instead and keep your dog safe.
If you’re not sure what a coyote looks like, you can browse our archive of coyote sightings and see other, larger photos from past sightings. You’ll also want to read the state’s advice about coexisting with coyotes.
Our hotline (206-293-6302) rang this afternoon – someone wondering who to call about a dead porpoise. In West Seattle, if it’s a stranded (dead or alive) marine mammal, you call Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network, we replied – 206-905-SEAL. We just found out what happened later, with local wildlife advocate Kersti Muul sending photos and this report:
This evening there was a washed-up female harbor porpoise on the beach at low tide just South of the Lighthouse…. Initial rudimentary scans appear to reveal some issue with birthing perhaps. She was so beautiful, practically flawless and beautifully designed by nature…. I photographed her for evidence of transient orca interference but found none.
Seal Sitters was there with her and a group of us helped carry her to a private driveway where she was to be picked up for necropsy by Cascadia Research Collective.
As noted by NOAA last year, harbor porpoises had dwindled in Puget Sound until a big comeback in recent years
An amazing story that unfolded just west of here 15 years ago, with many West Seattleites involved, will be retold and celebrated starting this Saturday. Donna Sandstrom of WS-based The Whale Trail shares the explanation and invitation:
“Celebrate Springer!” marks the 15th anniversary of the dramatic rescue in the waters off of Vashon Island of the orphaned orca Springer (A-73) and the heroic efforts by Washington and British Columbia teams working together to return her safely to her home 300 miles north in Johnstone Strait at the north end of Vancouver Island.
Today, Springer is still healthy and in 2013 had her first calf, Spirit. They are most often seen on the north central British Columbia coast and occasionally return to Johnstone Strait in summer.
The 2002 Springer rescue team will reconvene at 1 PM on Saturday, May 20, at the Vashon Theater to tell “Springer’s Story,” first-hand accounts of how Springer was identified, rescued and rehabilitated.
“Celebrate Springer!” will also feature a dance performance by Le La La Dancers, who were present at Springer’s release, and followed at 5 PM by The Whale Trail sign dedication at the Point Robinson Lighthouse Park.
Sponsors for the Vashon Theater event are Jody Peetz and Pete Schroeder, Marine Mammal Veterinarian. Tickets are available in advance from Vashon Theater tickets (go here).
The Point Robinson location has been identified by The Whale Trail as one of the best places to watch whales from shore. The new sign was funded by the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife and customized for the Point Robinson site with the assistance of Vashon resident Rebecca Benson, Point Robinson historian Bruce Haulman and Vashon Park staff Eric Wyatt.
“Life is filled with magical moments,” said Vashon Parks executive director Elaine Ott-Rocheford. “I count myself lucky to hold a front row seat to many spectacular sights from our own beloved park system. We are thrilled about the new Whale Trail sign being posted at Point Robinson Park, as it provides a ready education about the natural marine life wonders to be viewed from the park’s shoreline. The posting of the sign represents a perfect tribute to the story of Springer, the orphaned Orca, who was rescued off the north end of Vashon Island.”
The new Whale Trail sign is one of three funded by the state Fish and Wildlife Department. Others will be dedicated in the summer at Fay Bainbridge State Park and at Point Defiance.
“WDFW provides services that link our quality of life to healthy natural resources and ecosystems,” said Deputy Chief Mike Cenci with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Police. ”It’s a privilege to be a partner in this project where the public can view and appreciate the spectacle of these Northwest icons from shore. Watch for and wave at the Fish and Wildlife Police Boat that ensures protection of the whales.”
“Springer’s story is an unqualified success – the only project of its kind in history,” said Donna Sandstrom, director of The Whale Trail and organizer of the Vashon Island event. “We hope her story inspires people to join us in working on issues facing our endangered southern resident orcas today, with the same urgency, courage and resolve.”
“Celebrate Springer!” events will continue in June and July with programs at NOAA Fisheries, Whale Trail Orca Talk, Whale Trail sign dedications, and conclude with a three-day program at Telegraph Cove, British Columbia, where Springer was released in 2002 and rejoined her Northern Resident family.
Out of the inbox this afternoon, from Lorabeth:
I wanted other WSB readers to know there is a dive-bombing crow guarding territory immediately in front of the entrance to the Admiral Branch of the Seattle Public Library.
He hit me in the head and made several more attempts as I hurried to get out of the area. I think there may be a nest in one of the trees near the front steps.
I called the library and also alerted them. Will wear a hard hat next time!
WDFW’s ‘Living With Wildlife‘ one-sheet about crows includes info about dive-bombing.
10:53 AM: A big turnout of birders got the party started early at this morning’s Urban Bird Treaty City celebration at Lincoln Park. The “treaty” covers the entire city of Seattle, but Lincoln Park was chosen for the event, which began with two guided bird walks at 10 am (that’s one group in our photo above), and is about to segue into the 11 am ceremony. The Urban Bird Treaty program is almost two decades old, and has these three goals:
*Protect, restore, and enhance urban/suburban habitats for birds.
*Reduce urban/suburban hazards to birds.
*Educate and engage urban/suburban citizens in caring about and conserving birds and their habitats.
Read more about the program here. Updates ahead, as this morning’s event continues!
12:19 PM: Just back from the park, where the celebration continued with the actual signing:
— West Seattle Blog (@westseattleblog) May 5, 2017
The pens were wielded by Robyn Thorson, director of the Pacific Region for the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and Jesús Aguirre, Seattle Parks and Recreation superintendent. That followed almost an hour of speeches, punctuated by an adorable performance:
Performance by the adorable Whizz Kids Academy students from Magnolia @ Urban Bird Treaty celebration pic.twitter.com/fqMmqZERmD
— West Seattle Blog (@westseattleblog) May 5, 2017
Two short nature songs were presented by preschoolers from Whizz Kids Academy in Magnolia. They weren’t the only youth representatives:
— West Seattle Blog (@westseattleblog) May 5, 2017
15-year-old Louis Kreemer, a Roosevelt High School student, was introduced as the youngest student in the current local Master Birder class. He noted that the Urban Bird Treaty comes with some direct expectations for us all, including keeping cats indoors, architecture design that minimizes risk to birds, and some “Lights Out” nights, because of the importance of protecting birds. A political representative spoke too:
Linh Thai, from US Rep. Adam Smith‘s office, noted that “conservation is a nonpartisan issue,” and said, “If the birds and bees are gone, we’re next.”
Before the official signing, Superintendent Aguirre told what he called his “bird story”:
— West Seattle Blog (@westseattleblog) May 5, 2017
A few more photos and notes to come. And on the subject of what else you can do – here’s how to protect birds from colliding with your windows.
Two notes from Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network tonight.
First, harbor-seal pup Taffy, who we’ve told you about before, is now in rehab. From Seal Sitters’ Robin Lindsey:
Early Saturday morning we were finally able to capture seal pup Taffy, whose health issues were a growing concern, especially because of the potentially dangerous location of her chosen stretch of beach at Alki. After coming ashore almost every day for over a month (with the exception of a couple of weekends when the beach was so busy with activity), her health had begun to take a downturn. Thankfully, she started out as a quite robust, older and wiser seal pup, now estimated to be 8 or 9 months old. …
Thanks to the public for being tolerant of a semi-permanent tape closure of the small grass area along the sea wall, right above her favorite little nook. Because she was so wary and skittish, she was often scared back into Puget Sound by people standing too close above her. Even with the tape buffer zone, Taffy could not get undisrupted rest. It’s tough for wildlife to find quiet spots to rest and forage in urban areas.
Taffy spent the weekend being stabilized and treated at PAWS.
Robin was awaiting an update on Taffy’s injuries and possible infection and plans to update Blubberblog here.
Meantime, want to volunteer with Seal Sitters? Here’s your next chance to jump in!
Seal Sitters will be holding our volunteer training/Spring Session on Saturday morning, May 13th – RSVP is required to ensure seating.
For details about the training and to learn more about Seal Sitters and NOAA West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network, please visit our website.
The photo above shows volunteer Sarah, who enthusiastically protected Taffy and educated the public – even in the cold rain. We are always in need of additional great, reliable volunteers!
10:44 AM: Above, that’s Fauntleroy Creek volunteer Dennis Hinton with students from Genesee Hill Elementary, one of more than a dozen schools releasing salmon fry into the creek this spring. Before release season is out, creek steward Judy Pickens tells WSB, volunteers will have worked with about 750 students from all over our area. This is all a followup to a big day in January when volunteers delivered salmon eggs to local schools, who started learning about the life cycle by nurturing them until the fry are set free. More photos later!
11:54 AM: Added:
Shortly after arrival, there’s always a briefing. And of course, the stars of the show are along for the ride:
The GHES students also got to meet EarthCorps volunteers who are working this week in nearby Kilbourne Ravine:
From left, above, are EC’s Nathan, Imani, and Ellen.
We told you recently about Lincoln Park joining Seattle Audubon’s Neighborhood Bird Project. This Friday, the park will again be on centerstage of the local birding world – as the site of a ceremony that will declare all of Seattle to be an Urban Bird Treaty City. And you’re invited. Here’s the announcement from Seattle Parks:
On May 5, 2017, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) joins Seattle Audubon, Audubon Washington, Heron Habitat Helpers, Seattle Parks and Recreation Department, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and other partners to sign a treaty designating the City of Seattle as an Urban Bird Treaty City.
The treaty-signing celebration will begin at Lincoln Park in Seattle on May 5 at 11 a.m. Seattle Audubon volunteers will lead a bird walk prior to the treaty signing at the park at 10 a.m. The public is encouraged to attend both the bird walk and signing ceremony.
The event will recognize Seattle’s migratory bird conservation and education accomplishments, and celebrate the renewed commitment of partners to develop programs in Seattle to protect birds and their habitat, as well as connect people to the natural world.
The Urban Bird Treaty program is a collaborative effort between federal, state, and municipal agencies, non-governmental organizations, and academic institutions to create bird-friendly environments and provide citizens, especially youth, with opportunities to connect with nature through birding and conservation.
“We recognize the important role urban areas play in conserving migratory birds,” said Seth Shteir, Conservation Manager at Seattle Audubon Society. “By becoming an Urban Bird Treaty City, we hope to inspire Seattleites to keep the city healthy and safe for birds and people.”
Today there are more than 25 Urban Bird Treaty cities across the nation working to conserve and restore bird habitat. Seattle will fill an important missing link as it joins San Francisco, Portland, and Anchorage as an Urban Bird Treaty City, thus protecting the Pacific Flyway – a migratory super highway for birds.
“Migratory bird conservation is only possible through collaboration with partners,” said Robyn Thorson, Regional Director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Pacific Region. “We are proud to recognize the efforts of many diverse partners in the Seattle area whose work has led to this milestone signing, and eager to see what the continued power of collaboration will produce for birds in the Puget Sound area.”
“At Seattle Parks and Recreation, our mission is to support healthy people, a healthy environment, and strong communities. The Urban Bird Treaty program will help us achieve all three of these goals by encouraging Seattle residents to be active and connect to nature through birding opportunities at local parks and open spaces, and by providing educational programs and volunteer opportunities that bring together diverse groups of residents, especially youth,” said Jesús Aguirre, Superintendent of Seattle Parks and Recreation.
“I am pleased to collaborate with our municipal, academic, and non-profit partners to designate Seattle as an Urban Bird Treaty City. Seattle has been an environmental leader of historic proportions, and the Urban Bird Treaty program helps build upon our rich tradition of conserving urban wildlife habitats. This program not only helps protect the vital Pacific Flyway—a migratory super highway for birds along the West Coast—it also supports new education opportunities for residents, especially young people, so they can learn about the unique birds and ecosystems of our beautiful city,” said Debra Juarez, Seattle City Councilmember and Committee Chair to Parks, Waterfront, Libraries, and Seattle Center.
Launched in 1999, the Urban Bird Treaty program emphasizes habitat conservation through invasive species control, native plant restoration, bird-safe building programs, bird and habitat monitoring, and education programs.
The celebration will be held near Lincoln Park’s north play area.
What you see in Kersti Muul‘s photo above aren’t bubbles – they’re herring eggs. And their presence is “a big deal,” we’re hearing from her and from “Diver Laura” James tonight. This area is not a documented Puget Sound spawning ground for herring (this infosheet shows the areas that are), so wildlife watchers have nothing to compare it to – but they’re seeing not only the eggs, but also sea lions offshore feasting on the herring (that explains the second photo in this gallery we published early today, as well as other reports of sea-lion groups offshore last weekend), and gulls with beakfuls of herring:
Kersti says, “I encourage people to be on the lookout for it as well, and to tread lightly right now in the nearshore during these very low tides!” She has been in contact with the state Fish and Wildlife Department, as has Diver Laura, who says WDFW will be sending somebody up for a firsthand look. Here’s a closeup photo she shared tonight:
Because this isn’t a historic spawning ground, the state hasn’t historically sampled here, so, she explains, “we simply have zero data,” and it’s not known yet whether this is a return or a cycle. Both point out that the significance of this might also be future effects on construction and other activities on the shore, since without documentation of this previously, there are no rules/laws about habitat protection.
P.S. Here’s more background information about herring in Puget Sound. Followups to come!
7:15 PM: Thanks to Jason, who’s been updating us on southbound orcas that might make it to West Seattle before dusk – newest update, they’re passing Golden Gardens Park (west of Ballard). Let us know if you see them!
7:33 PM: Another update – they’re reported to be crossing the mouth of Elliott Bay.
7:50 PM: In view from Alki (per another texter).
9:51 AM: Photo added – thanks to David Hutchinson for the view of an orca passing the north end of Constellation Park around 8 pm.
6:09 PM: Thanks for the tips – we’ve had scattered reports of orcas in the area this afternoon but right now, multiple reports that they’re visible off Blake Island, headed north. Let us know if you see them!
7:03 PM: Just got a text (206-293-6302 is our 24/7 number) from someone who saw them from the Bainbridge-Seattle ferry. So if you’re looking … they’re still out there, and there’s still enough light at this point of the evening to facilitate whale-watching!
One more tale of kindness before night’s end … this one, like the one we featured earlier today, happened in The Admiral District.
The photo is from Monica, who first messaged us this afternoon asking for advice on who to contact to help with ducklings that fell into a storm drain near Admiral/44th. Within minutes, she reported that bystander teamwork resolved the ducks’ dilemma:
With the help of a security guard at Bank of America, about 5 other people, and a really patient line of traffic on Admiral Way, we were able to lift the grate, hold a man while he hung upside down and grabbed the five (ducklings), and reunite them with the mama. The birds were so relieved and it was quite emotional seeing them all reunited. A big shoutout to the security guard who directed all the traffic!
The photo was from after the rescue – Monica says they followed the duck family a while to be sure they wouldn’t head back into traffic. This time of year, watch out for bird families everywhere … a duck family was also seen recently crossing the road in Fauntleroy’s Endolyne business district
Even if you’re not a full-fledged birder, you know West Seattle is a great place for bird-watching. And now it’s drawn a special designation related to that: Kersti Muul tells us that Lincoln Park is now part of Seattle Audubon‘s Neighborhood Bird Project:
The NBP started in 1995 and Lincoln Park is the first new addition in over a decade!
Basically, the NBP utilizes citizen science to monitor species diversity throughout the city of Seattle.
Audubon volunteers, under the guidance of a group leader for each park (I am the leader for Lincoln Park), conduct bird surveys once a month on a set date and time. The data we gather is then entered into a master database. The data are used to monitor urban bird abundance, assess the effectiveness of restoration projects, and to educate volunteers regarding their neighborhood habitat, phenology, etc.
Audubon encourages volunteers to pick a park that is in their neighborhood for this reason, as it makes them a stronger and better educated advocate for their locale. Anyone interested can contact Toby Ross, science manager at Seattle Audubon (firstname.lastname@example.org).
You can find out more about the NBP here.
Seattle Audubon, by the way, is the source for the BirdWeb infopages we link to species names in the captions of the bird photos featured atop many morning previews on WSB (thanks to the wonderful local photographers who share them, some of whom are involved in the NBP) – BirdWeb provides a wealth of information about each species found in Washington, including what the birds look like, what they sound like, and where their habitats and ranges are.
It’s not really spring until one of our area’s wonderful wildlife photographers shares a photo of a Canada goose with at least one downy yellow gosling … this is the first one we’ve received this year. Mark Wangerin photographed them along Harbor Avenue SW – drive/ride carefully in that area, as they’ve been known to cross the road.
12:36 PM: Thanks to the texter who just let us know that local orca fans are tracking two groups of transient orcas headed this way (northbound) – one along the east side of Vashon, one along the west side. According to Orca Network commenters, they could be in view off West Seattle’s west shore before too long. Please let us know if you see them! Comment, or text/call 206-293-6302 – thanks!
2:07 PM: Texter says whales are visible now from Lowman Beach!
2:37 PM: And now a text that two males are passing Alki Point.
We featured some photos of Saturday’s orca visit while they were in the area – and tonight, we have more photos, this time courtesy of Kersti Muul. She explains that her photos show “T102 and his Mama T101 passing by Alki Point Lighthouse yesterday, heading south at 2:15 PM.”
Kersti told us, “They were breathtakingly close and stunning in the bright sun. There were dozens of people on shore screaming and hooting and hollering. It made me cry to see the community so enthralled by these whales. As a volunteer, my favorite thing is when someone sees them for the first time, and having a part in that process as someone once did for me. It NEVER gets old.”
Kersti also shared two photos of the research boat with Mark and Maya Sears “to show you just how LARGE these guys are. In this (next) photo it is T100E in the front and T100C in the rear.”
The transient orcas are a completely different population from the residents. One big difference – their diet includes smaller marine mammals such as seals and sea lions, while the residents subsist almost entirely on fish, primarily salmon.
P.S. One more reminder for everyone interested in whales – The Whale Trail‘s next event, featuring researcher John Calambokidis talking about the increase in humpback and gray whales in Puget Sound, is Thursday at 7 pm at the Dakota Place Park Building; tickets are available here.