West Seattle Blog... » Wildlife http://westseattleblog.com West Seattle news, 24/7 Thu, 29 Jan 2015 05:06:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 Some Puget Sound seabird species ‘may be turning the corner’ in a good way, 7-year analysis suggests http://westseattleblog.com/2015/01/some-puget-sound-seabird-species-may-be-turning-the-corner-in-a-good-way-7-year-analysis-suggests/ http://westseattleblog.com/2015/01/some-puget-sound-seabird-species-may-be-turning-the-corner-in-a-good-way-7-year-analysis-suggests/#comments Wed, 21 Jan 2015 00:38:31 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=298738

(All photos in this story are by Mark Wangerin. Above, rhinoceros auklet)
A glimmer of good news about the health of Puget Sound and some of its wildlife. This news release arrived via NOAA, but much of the work was done by volunteers:

A new analysis of seven years of bird sightings by volunteer birdwatchers from the Seattle Audubon Society has found positive trends in several Puget Sound seabird species that had been in historic decline.

(Common loon)
The study tracked the occurrence of 18 seabird species at 62 sites around Puget Sound and found increased presence of 14 species, including cormorants, loons, rhinoceros auklets, and harlequin ducks. It also documented local hotspots for certain species, which may reflect especially important habitat or prey the birds depend on.

(Harlequin duck)
“This means that all other things being equal, if someone goes out now they’re more likely to see these birds than they would have been seven years ago,” said Eric Ward, an ecologist at NOAA Fisheries’ Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle and lead author of the research.

Many seabird species are thought to have declined around Puget Sound since the 1960s and 1970s but the new results suggest the trends have turned up for many species.

The Puget Sound Partnership lists some of the species as barometers of the health of Puget Sound.

“Seeing positive trends here is good news,” said Scott Pearson, a seabird research scientist at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and a coauthor of the research. “What we may be seeing is that a number of species may be turning the corner.”

The research published in the peer-reviewed online journal PeerJ is unusual because it’s based on “citizen science,” specifically Seattle Audubon’s Puget Sound Seabird Survey that began in 2007. Researchers noted that the new analysis offers a model for how citizen observations can provide important data for wildlife agencies with limited budgets to collect it themselves.

Several of the research authors helped develop the Seabird Survey, which assesses the presence of seabirds during the winter when many species are most abundant. More than 250 experienced volunteers have participated in the survey, returning to the same sites on the first Saturday of each month from October to April. They identify birds and collect details such as how long they spent searching for birds and the bearing and distance to each bird, which helps calculate the density of each species.

“The beauty of working with birds is that there are so many people who love birding and who are very skilled at it,” said Toby Ross, Science Manager at Seattle Audubon and a coauthor of the study. “You could never do this with staff people. You’d never have the budget to send out this many people so consistently for so many years, but volunteers make it possible.”

The analysis focused on 18 seabird species that are indicators of the environmental health of Puget Sound because they are relatively abundant and depend on Puget Sound for food and habitat. It examined their presence over time at 62 public sites such as parks and piers from the northern end of Whidbey Island south to Olympia. Researchers used statistical models to translate observations by Seabird Survey volunteers into trends in the presence of each of the 18 species.

(Bufflehead)
Of the 18 species, 14 demonstrated positive trends since the survey began in 2007. They include marbled murrelet, rhinoceros auklets, loons and bufflehead and harlequin ducks. The results dovetail with other recent results, such as nesting surveys that have also found increases in rhinoceros auklets. However researchers cautioned that positive trends in sightings do not necessarily reflect increasing populations. For example, federally listed marbled murrelet populations continue to decline across Washington. The Seabird Survey will continue tracking bird sightings.

“Every year we add more data and we can do more analyses and we’ll see if the trends continue,” Ross said.

(Above, white-winged scoter; below, western grebe)

The study found declines in four species: white-winged scoter, brant, western grebe and red-necked grebe.

(Red-necked grebe)
Researchers suggested the declines might result from geographical shifts or prey declines in Puget Sound or the Salish Sea or environmental threats to their nesting grounds elsewhere. Similar citizen-science data from other areas have indicated that western grebes appear to have shifted to the south, out of the Puget Sound region.

Funding for the Puget Sound Seabird Survey was provided by Boeing, Sustainable Path Foundation, Russell Family Foundation, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Patagonia. The authors concluded that the survey approach and other citizen-science efforts could help collect many kinds of data, including indications of harmful algal blooms and ocean acidification.

For more information on the Puget Sound Seabird Survey, visit www.seabirdsurvey.org

Thanks again to Mark Wangerin for providing photos of many of the birds mentioned.

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VIDEO: Signs of hope for sea stars? West Seattle undersea sightings http://westseattleblog.com/2015/01/video-signs-of-hope-for-sea-stars-west-seattle-undersea-sightings/ http://westseattleblog.com/2015/01/video-signs-of-hope-for-sea-stars-west-seattle-undersea-sightings/#comments Sun, 18 Jan 2015 23:04:24 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=298440

On another mostly gray, rainy day, following a stormy night, here’s a view that’s bright in two ways: Colorful undersea creatures recorded by “Diver Laura” James in the area known as the “junkyard” – and as you’ll see if you watch it, she found some sea stars:

We saw numerous young sunflower stars in the shallows, far more than I was expecting. There was a healthy medium-sized one in the 40’ depth range as well, so this is a change for the positive. Sunflower stars have been all but extirpated at many of our regular dive sites. It is still winter underwater, so we will have to wait until fall to see the real impact (how many babies show up and how many survive) The majority of the sea stars that were lost in the wasting disease are the types that spawn in the spring to mid summer. The babies will then be in the larval stage and float around in the current before they land and start growing. Baby sunflower stars start with 5 arms and then start growing pairs of additional arms, which is why you see uneven arms in the videos. That isn’t because they’ve lost limbs, it means they are growing :)

Many of the stars in the video other than the young sunflower stars and the mottled stars (there were a few) were species that were not as impacted by the wasting disease, such as Leather stars, so it isn’t a surprise to find them there. We did not see any sand stars, pink spiny stars, pisaster (ochre stars) or morning sun stars, but I’m crossing my fingers come spring/summer.

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VIDEO: Alki rally, march urges freedom for Lolita, last surviving captive Puget Sound killer whale http://westseattleblog.com/2015/01/video-alki-rally-march-urging-freedom-for-lolita-last-surviving-captive-puget-sound-killer-whale/ http://westseattleblog.com/2015/01/video-alki-rally-march-urging-freedom-for-lolita-last-surviving-captive-puget-sound-killer-whale/#comments Sat, 17 Jan 2015 23:19:01 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=298419

(WSB photos/video by Patrick Sand)
A gathering this afternoon around West Seattle’s replica of a powerful symbol of human freedom was organized in hopes of winning freedom for a fellow mammal held captive thousands of miles away:

Taken from her family and her Puget Sound home more than 40 years ago, the orca known as Lolita (originally Tokitae), a member of L-Pod, has spent all that time in a tank at the Miami Seaquarium. Of the dozens of killer whales captured all those years ago, she is the last survivor. This afternoon’s Alki gathering was in support of a larger rally in Miami, stepping up the pressure for Lolita to be “retired” and returned home.

From Alki Statue of Liberty Plaza, advocates, many with signs, headed on a one-mile march along the beach – here’s our video:

We estimated at least 150 supporters here; MiamiHerald.com estimates a thousand participants at today’s rally there. They heard from Howard Garrett of the Whidbey Island-based Orca Network, describing the plan already proposed for reintroducing Lolita to the wild via a sea pen in the San Juans. It’s not new, but there is a potential milestone driving the new attention – a federal ruling expected this month on whether Lolita will be officially included in the listing of endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales. That would not guarantee freedom for her, but could at least step up the pressure. According to the Miami Herald, the Seaquarium says flatly she’s not for sale and shouldn’t be freed. Meantime, back at Alki, Lolita’s supporters came from all age groups:

Advocates said that other support rallies were planned in San Diego, Los Angeles, Colorado Springs, Germany, and the UK.

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Rally/march/paddle in West Seattle this Saturday to urge freedom for last captive Puget Sound orca http://westseattleblog.com/2015/01/rallymarchpaddle-in-west-seattle-this-saturday-to-urge-freedom-for-last-captive-puget-sound-orca/ http://westseattleblog.com/2015/01/rallymarchpaddle-in-west-seattle-this-saturday-to-urge-freedom-for-last-captive-puget-sound-orca/#comments Fri, 16 Jan 2015 03:39:32 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=298252 Even as the number of Puget Sound’s Southern Resident Killer Whale population hovers at a dangerously low level, one of the group’s members remains thousands of miles away, captive in a tank. Tokitae is the last surviving SRKW from those captured decades ago; she has been at the Miami Seaquarium for 44 years, performing as “Lolita.” This Saturday from coast to coast, wildlife advocates will demonstrate in support of setting her free and returning her home to Puget Sound. Here in Seattle, the big gathering is a march for about a mile along Alki, starting at 1:15 pm Saturday (January 17th); meet at Alki Statue of Liberty Plaza (61st/Alki) at 1 – more info in our calendar listing. (Photo via Wikimedia)

P.S. Thanks to Steve for the tip on this – you also can paddle along the route in support – that group will leave Don Armeni Boat Ramp (1222 Harbor SW) at noon.

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West Seattle coyotes: Heads up for backyard chicken-keepers http://westseattleblog.com/2015/01/west-seattle-coyotes-heads-up-for-backyard-chicken-keepers/ http://westseattleblog.com/2015/01/west-seattle-coyotes-heads-up-for-backyard-chicken-keepers/#comments Tue, 13 Jan 2015 02:18:39 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=297935 Check on your chickens, urban farmers. Both of today’s coyote reports mention backyard birds. Dan at 37th/Holden [map] says a coyote came into his yard today and got two of his four chickens, normally kept in a chain-link-surrounded enclosure, but let out to “free range” in the daytime, and it happened while he turned his attention away from a bit. We also heard from Janis, who says she saw a coyote at 2 pm at California/Southern [map]: “Was alerted by the chickens making noise.” Both of those locations are in Gatewood, as is a sighting on New Year’s Day that we still had in queue – Belinda saw one that day, going “down the sidewalk looking in yards in the 6500 block of 40th Ave SW.” [map]

P.S. Our usual “coexisting with coyotes” advice link includes, toward the bottom, advice on protecting poultry.

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Followup: Researchers say baby orca J50 is female http://westseattleblog.com/2015/01/followup-researchers-say-baby-orca-j50-is-female/ http://westseattleblog.com/2015/01/followup-researchers-say-baby-orca-j50-is-female/#comments Wed, 07 Jan 2015 23:51:29 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=297389


(Photo courtesy Center for Whale Research: Mom J16 and newborn J50)
One week after announcing the birth of baby orca J50, the Center for Whale Research says J50 is female – especially good news provided she beats the odds and survives, since that pod in particular has been short on breeding-age females. In a release on its website, the center also says it hasn’t quite sorted out the questions about which orca is J50′s mom – you’ve probably heard that while she was originally believed to be the calf of 43-year-old J16, experts have reasons to suspect that J16 might actually be J50′s grandmother. Whoever her mom is, ~2-week-old J50 was seen with her family, doing well, today in the northern Strait of Georgia in British Columbia

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West Seattle salmon: Egg-delivery day at local schools http://westseattleblog.com/2015/01/west-seattle-salmon-egg-delivery-day-at-local-schools/ http://westseattleblog.com/2015/01/west-seattle-salmon-egg-delivery-day-at-local-schools/#comments Wed, 07 Jan 2015 23:06:02 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=297369

Before local students show up at Fauntleroy Creek in the spring to set salmon fry free, they spend months tending to and studying in-school aquariums – and today’s the day it all begins anew. Volunteers Judy Pickens and Phil Sweetland have spent the day ferrying more than a thousand salmon eggs from a regional hatchery to 10 schools in West Seattle and South Park. We caught them at the first one they visited, Our Lady of Guadalupe:

As they made each delivery, disinfecting the eggs in an iodine bath before they could be placed in their hatching tanks, they talked with students, who were fascinated to see what would eventually hatch into coho:

From OLG, they went to nearby West Seattle Elementary, where their visit was shorter, since they volunteer at WSES regularly. But this school has something extra-special – a tank and ornate base, courtesy of Phil:

We had to photograph it before the students crowded around, so you could see the art.

Judy and Phil live on Fauntleroy Creek, and have a deep devotion to this program – almost four years ago, we reported on their resolve to keep it going despite state budget cuts. As explained at the time, it’s not that this is making a big dent in the salmon population, but it is helping keep fish and creeks top of mind every year for a new group of students who will grow into the adults on whose actions the fish’s fate will rise and fall. Meantime, these eggs will hatch soon, and the fish will grow for a few months in the tanks in school hallways and classrooms, before creek releases in spring.

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New hope for endangered orcas: Baby J50 announced http://westseattleblog.com/2014/12/new-hope-for-endangered-orcas-baby-j50-announced/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/12/new-hope-for-endangered-orcas-baby-j50-announced/#comments Wed, 31 Dec 2014 03:21:13 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=296716


(Photo courtesy Center for Whale Research: Mom J16 and newborn J50)
After heartbreaking losses this year in Puget Sound’s orca pods, good news – a baby! Here’s the news release shared by Orca Network:

This afternoon Ken Balcomb of the Center for Whale Research confirmed seeing and photographing 42-year old J16 (Slick) with her newborn baby – now known as J50!

During an encounter off the south shores of North Pender Island in Canadian waters, Ken discovered J16 with her newborn calf, only a day or two old, snuggled in her slipstream and looking healthy and energetic.

No other female has given birth at over 42 years of age in the four decades of demographic field studies of the Southern Resident orcas. J16 was not expected to be carrying a calf due to her advanced age.

Researchers probably won’t know the calf’s gender for many months, until they are able to see and photograph the calf’s ventral markings.

The Southern Resident community was listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act in 2005, after dropping in population to only 78 members, but had recently lost a pregnant female, J32 Rhapsody, bring their numbers down to only 77 members. This birth brings the So. Residents up to 78.

Most of J pod was seen on December 24 west of Orcas Island, but J16, known as Slick, and her family were not among them. Then on December 26th, the Orca Network Sightings Network received a photograph of J16′s oldest offspring, 23-year old J26 (Mike), and another orca off the north end of Lopez Island, indicating that J16 was probably nearby, because maternal families remain in close proximity their entire lives.

9:09 PM UPDATE: We hope to add a photo when Orca Network releases one; in the meantime, you can see several on the ON Facebook page. Also, thanks to West Seattle wildlife watcher/photographer/writer Trileigh Tucker for tipping us to the happy news even before we got the news release.

9:28 PM UPDATE: Added a Center for Whale Research photo of mother and calf, republished with permission. You can see half a dozen others on the center’s website.

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Wildlife in the window: ‘Exposition’ at Twilight Gallery & Boutique http://westseattleblog.com/2014/12/wildlife-in-the-window-expedition-at-twilight-gallery-boutique/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/12/wildlife-in-the-window-expedition-at-twilight-gallery-boutique/#comments Tue, 30 Dec 2014 23:10:10 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=296645

(WSB photos unless otherwise credited)
One more way to see wildlife in West Seattle – the display currently on view in the window at Twilight Gallery and Boutique in The Junction. Twilight’s Tracy Cilona called our attention to its unusual nature (so to speak), and we stopped by for photos.

Tracy’s description:

The Survivors Exposition

Elijah Evenson is a Seattle-based sculptor who combines the aesthetics of a natural history museum with the concept of surrealism. In 2004 he studied sculpture at Gage academy of Fine Art and went on to study at the Seattle Sculpture Atelier in 2007. He currently has a studio at the Inscape building in the international district where he works in a variety of mediums both large and small.

The Survivors Exposition is a large-scale diorama in homage to the animals of the Pacific Northwest, featured in our window gallery for the month of December.

(Photo provided by Twilight)
(From the artist): “Every day that I live in the northwest, I fantasize about the way things were here one hundred thousand years ago. I have always felt a strong connection with the mountains in Washington, the beautiful balance of the very rich and peaceful environment. The animals that live here are elegant and yet apprehensive. There is special quietness that most of the animals share as they listen to the strong sound of the wind blowing through the trees and the rush of the rivers. Through these sounds, the soul of the mountain can be heard. The Coyote, the Elk, and the Falcon all have their own harmonies to sing. When I was in the redwoods, I came upon an elk’s skull that had been buried into a tree. The poor thing had its horns caught up in the branches until the tree eventually ate the carcass whole. Buried in the trunk was the memory of the elk. What survived was a monument of itself. This is my monument to the spirits of the forest.”

Twilight is on SW Alaska just west of California SW, and open until 7 pm tonight.

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Where do the orcas go when they’re not here? One just got tagged http://westseattleblog.com/2014/12/where-do-the-orcas-go-when-theyre-not-here-one-just-got-tagged/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/12/where-do-the-orcas-go-when-theyre-not-here-one-just-got-tagged/#comments Tue, 30 Dec 2014 02:13:52 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=296624

The orcas seen off West Seattle on Saturday weren’t the “transients” who spent so much time recently in the South Sound. Instead, expert whale-watchers identified them as members of J Pod, one of the three groups of endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales. Federal researchers hoping to help save the SRKW from extinction are trying to find out more about where J-Pod orcas, in particular, goes when they are not here at “home,” so once again this year, they have tagged a member of the pod. According to this report on the Northwest Fisheries Science Center website, researchers tagged J27 yesterday, while J Pod was northbound through north Puget Sound. What little they know from previous tries suggests that, more than the other two SRKW pods, this one stays closer to home. Finding out more, they say, can help them identify “critical habitat” among other things. They promise to update the page from which we got the map you see above – follow it here.

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West Seattle coyotes: 2 together, seen in Sunrise Heights http://westseattleblog.com/2014/12/west-seattle-coyotes-2-together-seen-in-sunrise-heights/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/12/west-seattle-coyotes-2-together-seen-in-sunrise-heights/#comments Sun, 28 Dec 2014 03:35:46 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=296514

Today’s impromptu wildlife theme continues, this time away from the shore – We’ve received three reports of coyote sightings in Sunrise Heights around mid-afternoon. Jeremy shared the photos (taken from a distance – we cropped them), after seeing two “wandering down 27th near Othello” in the 2 pm hour.

Not long after that, Ellery saw two coyotes that “just strolled by in front of my house on 32nd Ave at Holden St.” That’s also where Sarah reported seeing them. (Here’s a map showing both aforementioned locations.)

If you haven’t seen coyote mentions here before … we’ve been publishing reader reports of sightings for more than seven years; here’s the archive. The more awareness, and the more that we all follow advice such as not leaving food out, the more likelihood of continuing to minimize closeup conflict. (The state Fish and Wildlife “Living with Wildlife” page that we usually recommend seems to be inaccessible right now, so here’s another page full of info/advice.)

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How Seal Sitters volunteers (and a pup) spent Christmas Day http://westseattleblog.com/2014/12/how-seal-sitters-volunteers-and-a-pup-spent-christmas-day/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/12/how-seal-sitters-volunteers-and-a-pup-spent-christmas-day/#comments Sat, 27 Dec 2014 22:26:46 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=296500 One more story in keeping with what seems to be today’s theme (water/beaches/wildlife):

At midday on Christmas, Marianne sent word that Seal Sitters were out on the beach at Lincoln Park, guarding a pup. Before we could get out of the house, she sent the photo you see above, with a followup – the seal had returned to the water shortly after SS responder Dana arrived. That wasn’t the end of the story, though. We finally went to Lincoln Park for a walk (which resulted in these pictures) shortly before sunset. As we entered from the Lowman side, we passed the Seal Sitters group (including David and Eilene Hutchinson, recognizable from so many other volunteer endeavors) departing – seems the pup had made a comeback for a while. And now, you can read the full story of seal pup Silverbell and the humans who helped it, via the newest update on the Seal Sitters “Blubberblog.”

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West Seattle whale watching: Orcas show up here again http://westseattleblog.com/2014/12/west-seattle-whale-watching-orcas-reported-in-the-area-again/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/12/west-seattle-whale-watching-orcas-reported-in-the-area-again/#comments Sat, 27 Dec 2014 17:33:09 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=296477

(Added: The every-Saturday-morning Alki swim included an orca sighting!)

9:33 AM: When last we heard of whales in the area, it was late Friday, and some were reported to be heading northbound in this direction, off the east side of Vashon. Don’t know if they are the same ones, but we have multiple reports of orcas off the 1500 block of Alki right now, for starters, plus an Orca Network Facebook report of orcas off Alki Point a short time ago, possibly visible off West Seattle. We’re off to look; let us know of any sightings!

10:02 AM: Very choppy water on the west-facing shore; followed up a text about orcas at Emma Schmitz Overlook but no luck.

10:47 AM: Just saw two southbound from Brace Point!

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West Seattle whale watching: Orcas headed this way http://westseattleblog.com/2014/12/west-seattle-whale-watching-orcas-headed-this-way-2/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/12/west-seattle-whale-watching-orcas-headed-this-way-2/#comments Fri, 26 Dec 2014 23:20:37 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=296428 Orcas are headed this way, northbound, most recently seen off Vashon Island, roughly parallel with Burien’s Seahurst Park, according to commenters on the Orca Network Facebook page; we’ve also received general tips via Facebook and Twitter. They apparently are the “transient” orcas that have spent a lot of time in the South Sound lately. We’re off to look; please let us know if you see them off our shores – we have barely an hour of light left!

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The Whale Trail’s next West Seattle gathering: ‘Find light in the dark for the whales’ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/12/the-whale-trails-next-west-seattle-gathering-find-light-in-the-dark-for-the-whales/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/12/the-whale-trails-next-west-seattle-gathering-find-light-in-the-dark-for-the-whales/#comments Mon, 08 Dec 2014 03:33:16 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=294509

(2013 photo by Trileigh Tucker)
With the heartbreaking news these past few days of the death of pregnant Puget Sound-resident orca J-32, many wonder, can anything more be done to keep the Southern Resident Killer Whales’ numbers from dwindling further? Come hear and talk about them at The Whale Trail‘s next West Seattle event, 6:30 pm December 17th at C & P Coffee Company (WSB sponsor). Here’s the announcement from TWT’s Donna Sandstrom:

With the loss of J-32, the southern resident orcas are down to just 77 individuals. Join us Dec 17 for a seasonal gathering to share our concern for and connection to these beloved and iconic whales.

Researcher Mark Sears will share photos from recent encounters with J, K, and L pods in Puget Sound. Seal Sitters and Diver Laura James will be there too.

Bring your ideas, your passion and your good energy. We’ll provide snacks, speakers, and tools to get involved.

Together we’ll find light in the dark for the whales.

(Mark Sears is one of the researchers you’ll see sometimes when orcas pass through our area, in a boat like the one in the photo above.) Tickets are $5 (kids free), available online. C & P is at 5612 California SW.

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