West Seattle, Washington
The photo and reminder are from David Hutchinson of Seal Sitters:
Seal Sitters’ “Shore the Shore” banners have recently been installed by Seattle Parks & Recreation along a section of Alki Avenue. Just a reminder that we are now entering what traditionally has been the busiest months for harbor seal pups to rest and warm up on West Seattle beaches. For those of you who have recently moved to this area, Seal Sitters is part of NOAA’s West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network. We respond to reports of any marine mammal, alive or dead, on the beaches of West Seattle from Brace Point through the Duwamish River, including Harbor Island.
If you come across a marine mammal on our local beaches, please keep back, keep people and pets away, and call Seal Sitters’ hotline at 206-905-7325.
You can also remember that number as 206-905-SEAL.
We’ve been lucky enough to be able to share news, and photos/video, of recent orca sightings. Now, you can do something for the whales – by volunteering to help with the Orca Half Marathon next Sunday (September 24th):
Do you have a few hours to spare Sunday morning? Are you concerned about our endangered southern resident orcas and do you want to promote shore-based whale-watching? The Whale Trail needs your help!
The Orca Half Marathon will be held this Sunday 9/24 in West Seattle from 9 to 1. The Whale Trail is the charity partner for this event for the second year in a row.
The course follows the West Seattle shoreline, passing four Whale Trail sites along the way.
450 race participants are running for individual orcas. Race bibs are customized with the ID and life histories of specific whales!
Mike, the inflatable orca modeled after J-26, will greet runners, their friends and supporters at the finish line.
L-pod was in the area yesterday, making an early and unexpected return to our waters. Maybe they were checking out the course – or looking for Mike?
You Can Help! We need 10 to 15 volunteers to help to staff an aid station for the marathon (passing out water to runners).
Sign up NOW at the Orca Running website here, and be sure to tell them you’re with The Whale Trail! (Write it in the registration form.)
Once the marathon slots are filled, we also need help with Whale Trail activities, especially tending Mike. He eats a lot of inflatable salmon. ;)
Setup starts at 8:30 and we’ll close down at 1. Come for a few hours or stay all day!
Please email email@example.com and let me know what hours you can be there.
The need to protect the southern resident orcas has never been more clear or urgent.
There are 77 individuals in the population – 7 fewer than this time last year.
If the current population trend continues or worsens, J, K and L pods could go extinct in less than 100 years (WDFW 2005)
Join us on Sunday and become part of the solution for the southern residents. Meet your neighbors, have fun, and maybe we’ll see some whales!
About The Whale Trail
The Whale Trail is a series of sites where the public may view orcas and other marine mammals from shore. Our mission is to inspire appreciation and stewardship of whales and our marine environment. Our overarching goal is to ensure the southern resident orcas recover from the threat of extinction.
Through our current sites and signs, including two on every Washington State ferry, we reach more than 50 million people each year. The Whale Trail is currently adding new sites along the west coast, from California to British Columbia, throughout the southern resident orcas’ range and beyond.
The Whale Trail is led by a core team of partners that include NOAA Fisheries, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Seattle Aquarium, Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, and the Whale Museum. The Whale Trail BC is spearheaded by the BC Cetacean Sighting Network.
Many members of The Whale Trail teams met when they worked together to return Springer, the orphaned orca, to her pod. This summer we celebrated the 15th anniversary of Springer’s homecoming, coinciding with a confirmed sighting of her second calf!
The Whale Trail is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, headquartered in Seattle. Donna Sandstrom is its Founder and Executive Director.
7:58 AM: Thanks for the texted updates! Orcas are now reported to be southbound past the 4100 block of Beach Drive; we had an earlier report of some in Elliott Bay. Let us know if you see them!
8:18 AM: We have conflicting reports on direction so we’ll just amend this to “seen off West Seattle.”
8:26 AM: Thanks to Bruce Easter for the photo from the Elliott Bay sighting – added above.
What a way to start the day! Thanks to the King County Water Taxi‘s West Seattle crew for sharing that video – from the Doc Maynard, they saw orcas on this morning’s 6:15 and 6:35 am sailings, Frank Massaro tells WSB, adding that crew member Jade Farrar recorded the video during the latter.
10:09 AM: Thanks to Kersti Muul for the texted alert – she says transient orcas have been sighted headed this way, southbound toward Alki Point – one week after this visit. Let us know if you see them!
10:42 AM: Update from Kersti (also in comments below) – they’re now visible from Alki Point Lighthouse.
3:07 PM: Three photos added above, all taken by Kersti at Constellation Park. (If you see whales off West Seattle, that’s always breaking news, so please let us know, text or voice, via our 24/7 hotline, 206-293-6302 – thank you!)
Jake reports he was running in Schmitz Park this morning when what he believes was a barred owl divebombed him twice:
Happened approximately here, around 7am. pic.twitter.com/63i8e0ZI30
— Jake VanderPlas (@jakevdp) September 14, 2017
It’s been months since our last “divebombing owl” report. This particular behavior is addressed in this infosheet from the state – usually related to nesting/staking out territory for it.
The photos are from Kersti Muul, one of the first people to let us know this morning – texting our 24/7 hotline at 206-293-6302 – that transient orcas were headed this way.
She reports, “Some that have been ID’d so far (but not in total) are: T101, T102 and 36B’s, T37A1, T36,” saying T102 is the “large male” in her photos, which were taken from various spots on West Seattle’s west-facing shore.
“They traveled slow, and stealthy, disappearing smoothly into the milky, smokey horizon. Reappearing with exhale. Our beautiful marine kin. When T102 first surfaced, I was alone, as was he. It was thrilling to share a moment of peace with him.” Then she saw them again headed north this evening:
The evening pass wasn’t quite so peaceful, with one group of boaters disregarding the Be Whale Wise guidelines: “These young men went barreling towards the three Ts and everyone on shore gasped. I reported them to NOAA. This is a good example of behavior we really want to call out and change.”:
Now – here’s a way you can help educate. One of the groups Kersti works with, Whale Scout, has volunteer orientation/training events coming up – one of them not far away. Noon-4 pm September 17th at Seahurst Park‘s Environmental Learning Center. She explains: “Volunteers will be trained to help people figure out where, and how to watch whales from shore, restore salmon habitat and learn how to ID individual whales. It is an excellent opportunity to discover just how well you can watch whales in West Seattle, as well as how you can help our critically endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales, and the dwindling salmon runs they rely upon.” Here’s more information. This training will be just in time for what Kersti says is the anticipated return of the Southern Resident Killer Whales to our area, likely next month.
9:31 AM: Thanks to two texters for the heads-up via our hotline (206-293-6302) – orcas are headed this way, southbound. Kersti Muul says they were seen off Golden Gardens (Ballard); an unsigned text says they were seen off West Point on the north side of Elliott Bay. Please let us know if you see them!
10:06 AM: An Orca Network commenter says at least two are headed toward Alki Point, still southbound, as of a few minutes ago.
Last year, WSB readers tracked the deer eventually nicknamed “Westley” on his journey through West Seattle and to points south – he was first sighted on Pigeon Point in October, last reported in south King County about three weeks later. Today, a new West Seattle deer sighting:
The photos and report are from Amy:
Spotted about 15 minutes ago in our backyard. We live surrounded by the West Duwamish green belt, overlooking West Marginal Way. We’ve lived here over sixteen years, and this is the first time we’ve ever seen a deer!
We also got a call earlier this month about a deer sighting in Top Hat, but no photos and no other reports – until now.
Weather Watch Park was a seal-pup-watch park for a while Friday afternoon, but the little harbor seal that Seal Sitters Marine Stranding Network was guarding did not make it. So reported Robin Lindsey from Seal Sitters in a note to volunteers today. She says the pup was on the beach twice that day – first “forced back into the Sound by an encroaching tide,” then back on the shore in the afternoon. It didn’t appear well, Robin noted, “tiny and terribly thin with some kind of issue with the left eye.” It was still on the beach when volunteers left after dark, keeping the cove taped off, and still there early Saturday morning, appearing to be having seizures. It was taken to PAWS in Lynnwood, where euthanasia was decided as the most humane course of action due to “a number of health issues.” It weighed only about 15 pounds. A necropsy is planned.
P.S. As Seal Sitters reminded us last month, it’s pupping season around the region. If you see a seal or any other marine mammal on a local beach, or in trouble offshore, their hotline is 206-905-SEAL.
The photo is from David Hutchinson, who explains: “Some of your readers may have stopped by to take a look at an unusual West Seattle beach visitor Thursday morning, just east of the Alki Bathhouse.” It was an elephant seal – and Seal Sitters’ Blubberblog explains its odd appearance.
P.S. If you don’t already have this number in your phone, or memorized – the hotline for Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Network, if you see a seal, sea lion, or other marine mammal on a local beach (or offshore and appearing to be in trouble), is 206-905-SEAL – 206-905-7325.
Thanks to the texter who just sent that photo, saying they were seeing whales from Colman Pool on the shore at Lincoln Park, headed northbound.
One year ago today – on August 7th, 2016 – it was a heartbreaking, yet enlightening day on the Fauntleroy shore just south of the ferry dock: A 39-foot-long juvenile female humpback whale came into the shallow waters early that Sunday morning, stranded and died. Volunteers worked to see if anything could be done to get her back out to sea, but within just a few hours, she took her last breath; then the situation became more of an investigation and finally a towing operation.
Some sampling/testing was done right on the beach after the tide went out, as noted in our 12 hours of coverage, but no formal necropsy report ever emerged. Humpbacks are no longer rare in Puget Sound – that was part of the education that this one left as her legacy, reminding those paying attention that they are increasing in numbers – up and down the entire West Coast, in fact. And since then, we have indeed had many humpback sightings (like this one off Fauntleroy in June).
One of the many experts, local and otherwise, who came to the scene a year ago (as shown in our photo gallery) was John Calambokidis of Cascadia Research Collective, well known for its whale research. We contacted him recently, looking ahead to the anniversary, asking if further information had become available. His reply:
We did get some information back but (it) did not add too much. Jessie Huggins, our stranding coordinator, indicated: “The necropsy observations of severe internal damage from the live stranding event, malnutrition, and parasitism were confirmed by histopathology. There were small amounts of biotoxins detected in the feces (both domoic acid and saxitoxin) but are considered incidental (not high enough levels to have contributed to the stranding event). The exact cause of the live stranding remains a mystery”
On the second morning after the whale’s death, West Seattle-based Global Diving and Salvage towed her carcass to a spot off Blake Island for a quiet burial in about 400 feet of water.
The humpback was the first whale to strand and die on a West Seattle beach since a gray whale in The Arroyos in April 2010.
Want to volunteer on behalf of the wildlife who share our waters and shores? Next Saturday (August 12th), 10 am-12:30 pm, Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network has room for you in their next new-volunteer-training session.
Help protect wildlife! Volunteer with Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network. Seal Sitters MMSN responds to reports of all marine mammals, dead and alive, along West Seattle’s shore from Brace Point through the Duwamish River.
Harbor seal pupping season is now underway in Puget Sound. September and October are typically the busiest months for responses in our area, when newly weaned (and often struggling) pups strike out on their own and often end up alone on crowded urban beaches. This will be the final training for the 2017 Season.
On Saturday morning, August 12th, we will be holding a special training for those wanting to help protect marine mammals in West Seattle. 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 proud of our dedicated volunteers who are on duty rain or shine – we hope you will join us!
A multi-media presentation will illustrate Seal Sitters MMSN’s 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 common pinnipeds.
For more information about the training and to RSVP, please visit Seal Sitters’ blubberblog.
The training session is at Alki UCC (6115 SW Hinds), and RSVP’d participants are asked to arrive early – registration starts at 9:30 am.
Alex Rottler spotted those two jellyfish while paddleboarding about a week ago off the 5000 block of Beach Drive and wanted to share the photo. As best Alex, and we, can ID them, it’s a lion’s-mane jellyfish that used its long, stinging tentacles to capture an egg-yolk jellyfish; read about both here.
With the weather heating up, more people will be out on the beach this week – and that’s one reason why Seal Sitters Marine Stranding Network wants you to know that seal-pup season has begun in our area and the rest of south Puget Sound:
Although Seal Sitters has yet to receive a report of a newborn or newly weaned pup on West Seattle beaches this summer, there have been pups reported onshore in all directions around us. It is only a matter of time – possibly just days – until our first pup of the season shows up here, needing protection from disturbance. Seals come ashore to rest and warm up, behavior that is critical for their survival.
For those of you new to Puget Sound, harbor seal pups are born in our area from late June through the first week of September. After being weaned at 4-6 weeks old, these young pups strike off on their own, leaving the safety of rookeries, and often end up traveling to urban beaches, unaware of the inherent dangers they face there. It is normal to see a weaned seal pup alone on the beach.
We have also had a number of births over the years in West Seattle. Most often, that is not a terribly good scenario, since harbor seal moms are shy and can easily be scared away from their young; mom may not return for her pup if she perceives a threat from people and dogs nearby.
It is an extreme challenge to keep pups safe on crowded beaches and busy shoreline. If you see a seal pup onshore, please stay back, observe from a distance and call Seal Sitters hotline @ 206-905-SEAL (7325).
Please be alert when you are walking the beach. Due to the camouflage of its spotted coat, a tiny seal pup can look like a bleached log or rock onshore. They often come ashore at high tide and nestle up against the woody debris on the beach, making them difficult to see until you are upon them. The 2010 photo of seal pup Pebbles [above], tucked under a log near the Water Taxi landing, shows how effectively they blend into the environment. Seal Sitters volunteers protected Pebbles 12+ hours a day for 15 consecutive days, as the pup swam ashore just before sunrise each morning and spent the day stretching and snoozing until flop-hopping back into the waters of Elliott Bay after dark.
A member of NOAA’s West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network, Seal Sitters MMSN responds to all reports of marine mammals, both dead and alive, in West Seattle from Brace Point through the Duwamish River. Seal Sitters, an all-volunteer group, is celebrating a decade of service protecting marine life.
For more information about seal pupping season and protocol around harbor seal rookeries, please go here.
And you can find in-depth information about marine mammals and NOAA’s stranding network on Seal Sitters’ website.
It’s a birth announcement from Canada that has many here in West Seattle and around Puget Sound rejoicing too:
The heroic rescue in Puget Sound fifteen years ago of the orphaned orca Springer (A-73) and her return home 300 miles north to Johnstone Strait will be celebrated July 21-23 at Telegraph Cove, British Columbia.
Just in time for the celebration, Springer has a new calf! The calf was first spotted by CetaceaLab on BC’s north central coast on June 5th and confirmed by a Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) research survey. Springer’s first calf, Spirit, was born in 2013.
“Celebrate Springer!” brings together the 2002 rescue team to give first-hand accounts of how Springer was identified, rescued and rehabilitated. She was taken by jet catamaran to the north end of Vancouver Island and reunited with her Northern Resident family.
“Springer’s story is an inspiration on many levels,” said Paul Spong of OrcaLab. “It proved that an orphan orca, alone and separated from her family, can be rehabilitated and returned to a normal productive life with her family and community; and it showed that disparate parties with diverse interests can come together and work together for the common goal of helping one little whale.”
Fifteen years later, Springer is still healthy and now has given birth twice. They are most often seen on the north central British Columbia coast and occasionally return to Johnstone Strait in summer.
The public is invited to Telegraph Cove at 11 AM on July 22 to hear “Springer’s Story,” a slide show narration by members of Springer’s rescue team, followed by a panel discussion. At 4 PM, the new Telegraph Cove Whale Trail sign will be dedicated and at 5:30 PM, the public is invited to join in for a salmon dinner on the Boardwalk.
“We can hardly believe it has been 15 years since Springer was reunited with her family. We encourage everyone to come and celebrate this milestone with us at the Whale Interpretive Centre in Telegraph Cove,” said Mary Borrowman, director of the Center. “The most exciting news is the confirmation that Springer has had another calf and we hope we will be fortunate enough to see this famous mother with her family this summer.”
“Fifteen and half years ago Springer was orphaned, 300 miles from home, starving, sick and completely alone,” said Dr. Lance Barrett-Lennard, director of the Cetacean Research Program at Ocean Wise. “Her rescue, relocation, reunification with relatives and transition to motherhood is an incredible story. I see it as testimony to both the resiliency of killer whales as a species and to the wonderful things we humans can do when we work together on behalf of — rather than against — nature.”
“The few, well-documented records that we receive of Springer each year are testament not only to the success of her rehabilitation and reintegration with her population but also to the dedication of cetacean researchers up and down the more remote regions of our coast,” said Jared Towers, DFO’s killer whale research technician.
“The Springer success story continues to be an inspiration for all of us working on conservation in the Salish Sea,” said Lynne Barre, the lead for orca recovery at NOAA Fisheries’ West Coast regional office in Seattle. “The partnerships created during Springer’s rescue provide a strong foundation for international cooperation as well as coordination between government, state, tribal, and non-profit groups to benefit both Northern and Southern Resident killer whales.”
“Springer’s reunion is an unqualified success – the only project of its kind in history,” said Donna Sandstrom, director of The Whale Trail and co-organizer of “Celebrate Springer!” Telegraph Cove event. “To get the little whale home, we had to learn how to work together, as organizations, agencies and nations. Above all, we put her best interests first. Community members played a key role in shaping Springer’s fate. We hope her story inspires people to join us in working on issues facing our endangered southern resident orcas today, with the same urgency, commitment, and resolve.”
Find out more at The Whale Trail.
Thanks for the text – transient orcas are reported to be headed this way, southbound past West Point on the other side of Elliott Bay. Let us know if you see them!
From Alisa with Orca Network, word of orcas headed this way: “At 10:40 am there are approximately five Bigg’s/Transient orcas now grouped, in Bainbridge Island/Seattle ferry lanes, east side of the channel heading southbound slowly, sometimes stalling, skirting mid-Elliott Bay.” And she stresses that they are “going on long down times” – but still, if you have the chance to grab your binoculars and go look, you might see whales. Let us know if you do!
(Unedited video – you can hear the eagle around 1 minute in)
Twice this evening, Rob – who sent the video – reports, that drone’s been bothering a bald eagle in Schmitz Park by his home. The video is from the second sighting, and arrived before we’d gotten a chance to post Rob’s first note:
I live next to Schmitz Park and around 6:30 pm tonight a drone appeared and started flying around one of the eagle nests at the western edge of the preserve. The drone made a few close passes to the nest. The adult eagle was audibly signaling as the drone approached (there may be eaglets in this nest). Twice the adult eagle took wing due to the drone, once flying at the drone, the second time it retreated away from the nest entirely until the drone left. I don’t know where the drone came from, but it departed in the direction of Alki Beach. If it is possible for you to mention something on the blog, perhaps with a reminder that this is both not cool and a Federal offense, that would be much appreciated.
While bald eagles are no longer considered endangered, they are protected by federal law, and the illegal behavior includes “disturb(ing)” them. Also, though rules regarding drones seem to change frequently, the Seattle Municipal Code says they are prohibited in Seattle city parks.
The photo is courtesy of David Hutchinson, who explains that it shows “‘Wonder‘, a yearling harbor seal (last year’s pup) that has been using Alki-area beaches recently – watched over by Seal Sitters. Taken as usual from a distance with a telephoto lens.” Rather than saving the photo for tomorrow’s daily lineup, we’re sharing it tonight for two reasons:
-With low-low tides continuing through Monday, more people are out on the beaches, and might encounter marine mammals. If you see a seal or sea lion on the beach, or a marine mammal that appears to be in trouble, the Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network hotline is 206-905-SEAL.
-Tomorrow morning, Seal Sitters and friends will be out cleaning up Alki, and it’s not too late for you to RSVP to be part of it. They’re gathering at Alki Statue of Liberty Plaza (61st SW/Alki SW) at 9:30 am and cleaning until noon.
John e-mailed a few minutes ago to report a sighting of humpback whales headed south, south of Alki Point. Let us know if you see them!
(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 firstname.lastname@example.org – 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.