The visibility might not be much in our foggy weather – but if you’re down at eye level with the flora and fauna, as photographer Machel Spence so often is, that’s not a problem. She reports that the freezing fog did not keep the Duwamish Greenbelt bunnies from emerging – and shared the photo as proof.
(August 2011 photo by Craig Savey, taken from Harbor Island)
We love to watch orcas – now go beyond orca-watching, and take advantage of a chance for orca learning! Donna Sandstrom from The Whale Trail just sent word TWT is starting a winter series of speakers/meetings, with local orca researcher Mark Sears speaking at C & P Coffee Company (WSB sponsor; 5612 California SW) one week from tonight, 7 pm Thursday, January 24th (doors open at 6:30).
Mark has been studying and documenting whales in this area for over 30 years. He’ll present highlights from and history of his research, including updates on recent orca sightings. Join us for this fun and informal evening – learn about orcas and support The Whale Trail, too!
When you see a small research boat out close to the orcas, he’s usually on board; he’s also a West Seattleite. Advance tickets are available, since C&P space is finite; $5 suggested donation for adults, kids free, go to brownpapertickets.com. Donna adds that as a bonus, Seal Sitters and “Diver Laura” James (on behalf of tox-ick.org) will be there too.
Thanks to Gary Jones for sharing today’s marine-mammal sighting: Harbor porpoises! Not rare, experts say, but certainly not reported as open as their larger cousins (orcas, etc.) Last harbor-porpoise report we published was the sad saga of one found dead on Alki last March. According to this 2011 research, they were common in the area back in the 1940s, then dwindled, then started making a comeback.
First we received that photo from Susan at Alki Beach Dog – saying her daughter Jessica thought those were Dall’s porpoises off Alki Point this afternoon. Turns out, they were actually orcas (which Dall’s porpoises do resemble). In an exchange on Twitter, Russ Walker shared his photos:
(Here’s the rest of his set.) We didn’t get early word of this one because, while they had been spotted off North Seattle earlier in the day, the wind and waves churned things up so much, it was tough to keep track of them as they got closer.
In sharing this photo today, Jon Anderson described the big beautiful bird he photographed at Don Armeni Boat Ramp this morning as “our resident brown pelican.” Beginning to look that way, since it’s going on a month since the first sightings. (Not long after we received Jon’s photo, we spotted the pelican ourselves, and we’ll add some of our photos later to the WSB Flickr gallery – *added* here’s one of them:)
P.S. After a previous mention of the pelican, we heard from International Bird Rescue, which asks that if you see one with a blue band – which this one does NOT appear to have – please report it to them, as they are tracking hundreds of pelicans they’ve rehabilitated and released since the species came off the endangered list in 2009, and IBR says some have been spotted even further north, in British Columbia.
(Seal Sitters photo by David Hutchinson)
Their barking can often be heard, especially from the Seacrest/Jack Block Park vicinity, but sea lions don’t often come to busy West Seattle shores to rest. This week, they did, reports Robin Lindsey of Seal Sitters:
We responded to a report of a sea lion on the dock at Don Armeni on Thursday afternoon. The adult males rested there until 8 am the following morning.
Some folks we spoke to thought Seal Sitters responded only to seal pups. However, as our name Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network suggests, we respond to ALL dead or alive marine mammals from gray whales (such as the Arroyos gray whale) to small seal pups.
The California sea lion was an older adult, as evidenced by a lighter colored face. We consulted with WDFW’s marine mammal biologist, who thinks that perhaps the sea lion has some swollen lymph nodes or neck abscess. We have not seen him since he returned to Elliott Bay early Friday morning.
Seal Sitters’ number is easy to remember – 206-905-SEAL. More details of the sea lion’s sojourn are on Seal Sitters’ Blubberblog.
“We live at Alki Point and spotted a family of Orcas this morning at 8:30 am heading south,” reports Jeff Morgante, sharing these photos (thank you!).
According to comments on the Orca Network‘s Facebook page, two groups of orcas have been sighted off Vashon/Maury Islands in the past few hours – this was likely one of them. As always, if you’re near the water, keep an eye out, since they’ll have to head back north sometime!
ADDED EARLY SUNDAY: Alisa Lemire Brooks recorded this video as one group headed back north in Colvos Passage, between Vashon’s west side and the Kitsap Peninsula:
She shared it via the aforementioned Orca Network page.
11:32 AM: Earlier this morning, Jeff Hogan from Killer Whale Tales texted us about orcas sighted off Maury Island. That was a little too far south for West Seattleites to see, so we didn’t mention it here, but now he says they’re headed back north again – along Colvos Passage, on the west side of Vashon, so they might be visible a bit later off North Vashon or Blake Island. Let us know if you see them!
12:46 PM UPDATE: Commenters on the Orca Network Facebook page have seen them within the last few minutes off Olalla (map) – still a ways before they would emerge back into the open Sound off north Vashon Island.
1:37 PM UPDATE: Orca Network commenters are also talking about a DIFFERENT group heading south from Richmond Beach/Carkeek area – could be a whale of a lot of whales off West Seattle if these groups keep heading their respective ways.
The photo of a seal pup in the Alki vicinity today is courtesy of Stani – who’s not with Seal Sitters, but inspired us to check in on that group, since we hadn’t in a while. A look at the Seal Sitters website revealed it’s been a very busy week before Christmas, partly because of the record-high water levels, and this time the pups are looking healthy (read about it here, and see video too).
Just out of the WSB inbox – thanks to Alec for sharing a photo of an unusual sight in this area: A brown pelican. We’ve had scattered reports of one in the area for some days now, but this is the first photo we’ve seen/received, and now that we’re seeing it, it’s definitely a juvenile (mature brown pelicans take on more of a gray tinge, with a dingy-white head). On the open seacoast, they’re not rare – we’ve seen them from Ocean Shores to San Diego – but inland Puget Sound is rather out of the way.
11:14 AM: As if the high tide, high waves, high wind, etc. wasn’t all scenic enough – we just got a text about orcas heading southbound off Alki Point. As always, please let us know if you see them – thanks!
11:33 AM UPDATE: Just got another text – they are described as “north of Alki Bathhouse, in the Bremerton ferry lane,” still headed south.
12:45 PM: Donna from The Whale Trail called – she had them in view off Blake Island (Tillicum Village), but warned they’re tough to see because of the whitecaps.
If you’re in north West Seattle, grab those binoculars – Dan e-mailed to report orcas, sighted “mid-channel, northbound,” seen from North Admiral.
If we get word of orcas off West Seattle, we’ll always give you the heads-up – so you are hereby notified, we just got a text (206-293-6302 around the clock) about sightings “between Alki and Vashon, heading south.” As always, please share a comment (or text, or call) if you see them!
Love is not only in the air – it’s in the water. Just received that photo from Seaview resident and diver/underwater photographer Jim Bodoia, who says, “You’ve had some great photos of local nature and I couldn’t resist these two newlyweds that were hanging out about 50 feet under where the Christmas Ships sailed near the Alki Statue of Liberty. They are Saddleback Gunnels (Pholis Ornata) all paired up and nested for the holidays.”
This reminds us of two other wildlife sightings mentioned to us – no photos yet, but you should know so you can keep an eye out in case they come back around:
First – Marcia e-mailed this morning to report a snowy-owl sighting:
Big surprise this morning to look out the window and see a Snowy Owl in a fir tree nearby! It’s in the stand of tall firs in the middle of the small “greenbelt” between Juneau/Raymond and 36th/37th. Not sure how long it has been since one has been spotted in West Seattle. The crows are working hard to displace it, but it’s standing it’s ground.
She tried to photograph it but it just didn’t work out; here’s a community-contributed snowy-owl photo published here a year ago.
And WSB Forums member Mtrancourt reports a brown pelican off Alki Point, confirming it via e-mail: “… I thought it was an eagle at first, the seagulls were chasing it like an eagle. We live on the beach at Alki and it flew out a ways and then came in about 100 yards from the house before going around the corner toward (downtown).”
Thanks to Trileigh Tucker for sharing her photo of a barred owl at Lincoln Park this past Saturday; Trileigh writes, “I went out to the park … to take advantage of the brief sunshine and got lucky! It’s been so dark and dreary that I thought an owl encounter might be just the thing. The eagles are also soaring around and calling, although they haven’t yet started working on their nest, so this should be an exciting winter…” Trileigh has written about her latest sighting on her website, naturalpresence.wordpress.com.
Also on the Lincoln Park owl front:
West Seattle naturalist Stewart Wechsler has just scheduled his first guided night hike in a while, heading out to look and listen for owls at Lincoln Park this Saturday night. More information, and registration, is available via his website – go here.
(Added: Photo by Mike Scharer)
FIRST REPORT, 10:31 AM: According to a post on the Orca Network‘s Facebook wall, orcas were off Maury Island as of less than an hour ago, headed northbound – which means, headed this way. Let us know if you see them; we’ll be on the lookout too.
(Added: This photo and next one by Gary Jones, as orcas passed Alki Point)
11:49 AM UPDATE: Shirley just posted a comment from The Arroyos saying they’re visible but very close to the Vashon side. So – if you have good binoculars (or find Donna from The Whale Trail – she has extras) – you may be able to see them from Lincoln Park, Beach Drive, etc. soon.
1:23 PM UPDATE: Donna called a few minutes ago to say there were two groups, one off north Vashon, one passing Blake Island. Commenters are seeing them too, including Gary Jones seeing some near Alki Point. For our part, we just came back from a shore check from the point to Jacobsen Road, and apparently just missed them.
(ADDED: Video of orcas @ Vashon’s Point Robinson, by Kelly Keenan via Orca Network on FB)
11:18 AM: Just got a text that orcas are again headed this way – off Bainbridge Island a short time ago, and moving south. Alki Point and Beach Drive are likely the best places to go now – or Lowman Beach and Lincoln Park in a bit. Let us know if you see them! (Here’s our coverage from last Saturday’s sightings. P.S. Whether it’s whales or any other type of breaking news, text us at 206-293-6302 any time!)
11:56 AM: At Lincoln Park. Nothing visible with unaided eye, but wildlife photographer/writer Trileigh Tucker tells us she saw them with strong binocs. (P.S. We saw Trileigh at the park a bit later, and want to thank her publicly for sharing the binocs – we got a glimpse too!)
Two shoreline scenes to share tonight: First, thanks to Alki photographer David Hutchinson for tonight’s vivid late-fall sunset. According to the current forecast, we have one more clear day ahead – then clouds might start moving back in around this time tomorrow night, with an anticipated return to wet weather. Temperatures are expected to stay a bit above normal, though tonight, with the clear sky, will be cold. Looking ahead to the big holiday events next weekend – all listed in the WSB West Seattle Holiday Guide – might be rainy, but you know what they say about making predictions this far out …
(Click image for larger view)
Aaron tells us he leads wildlife-photography tours throughout the state via his business Aaron’s Photo Tours.
(Orcas and ferry, by Trileigh Tucker)
FIRST REPORT, 10:36 AM: Via Twitter, our friend Rebecca from Ravenna Blog passes along the news that orcas have been spotted headed this way, off southeast Bainbridge at last report. (No, the whales didn’t take an inland detour; Rebecca has a maritime background.) We notice this is also being discussed on the Orca Network Facebook page too. Heading off for a look – let us know if you see them!
(WSB photo – whale-watching off Beach Drive)
12:02 PM: We are at Emma Schmitz Viewpoint with Donna Sandstrom (above left) from The Whale Trail and others – the orcas are visible even with weak binoculars! They are off north Vashon.
(Tail-lobbing orca, by Trileigh Tucker)
(We should mention, if you get to whale-watch with Donna, she has GOOD binoculars to share, part of The Whale Trail’s public service.)
(WSB photo – orca spyhopping late this morning)
12:42 PM: Just got a text that they’re visible off The Arroyos, in southwesternmost West Seattle. Donna believes these whales are from resident J Pod, with the possibility of some K Pod too.
(Photo by Robin Lindsey)
One more wildlife photo this Thanksgiving night … a seal we got to see for ourselves the other day, driving on our way to something and pulling over upon noticing the unmistakable sign of a Seal Sitters stakeout, a cordoned-off area and a vigilant volunteer. They were out this week even in the worst of the rainy/windy weather on Monday. This time around, they’ve been kept busy by an adult seal nicknamed “Captain.” Seal Sitters’ Robin Lindsey writes about her on the “blubberblog.” (Robin also has a Thanksgiving message from Seal Sitters that you might want to read.)
Two of the many things for which we’re thankful – West Seattle’s wildlife, and the photographers who share their images so we in turn can share them with you. Tonight, Mark Wangerin sent these three beautiful photos – thanks, Mark! – identifying the birds he photographed on a Thanksgiving Day walk in Lincoln Park as, above, a surf scoter; next, a horned grebe:
And a pigeon guillemot:
Mark notes that the scoter and grebe are common here, and that the grebe and guillemot are sporting “non-breeding plumage.” To find out more about these birds and others found in our area, explore this Audubon website.
(Photo courtesy Dave McCoy)
At Fauntleroy Creek, Salmon Watch 2012 is over. Five late spawners showed up Saturday, then none on Sunday, reports Judy Pickens, with the overview of the record-setting season:
Eighteen salmon watchers documented 274 coho spawners in Fauntleroy Creek between Oct. 24 and Nov. 17. Our previous high was 167, in 2001. We had an estimated 290 visitors, including five school groups. Watchers were able to see that nearly all the fish were hatchery-released (not fish that started life here or came through Salmon in the Schools). All, however, are now providing valuable nutrients to the habitat and we’ll be checking for “home hatch” starting late February.
As noted in our close-up look at Salmon Watch two weeks ago, last year brought only 11 coho to the creek – but that was still better than the completely spawner-less year in 2010.
(Click image for larger view)
Thanks to Trileigh Tucker for her photos of Lincoln Park’s barred-owl pair! Some of what’s up today/tonight – BEFORE we get to a busy weekend – from the WSB West Seattle Events Calendar:
SPOKANE STREET VIADUCT CEREMONY: The four-year widening project is complete except for a few finishing touches. What was originally announced as a dedication this morning for the artwork on its columns is now a ribbon-cutting on behalf of the entire project, with the mayor among those on hand. 9 am, under the bridge, east of 1st Avenue South.
WEST SEATTLE GARDEN CLUB: Meets today from 10 AM to 2 PM at Daystar Retirement Village, 2615 SW Barton Street, in Building # 1 (you can join the meeting at any time). Registration ($5 donation) and social half-hour at 10 AM. Followed by the 10:30 AM Business meeting, and morning study with member Julie Gramm sharing her knowledge of “Creating and Maintaining a Bog Garden.” Commentary on the Design and Horticulture Exhibits precedes the 12:00 noon Brown Bag Lunch, with dessert and beverage provided by the club. The 1 PM afternoon program. “A Look behind the Scenes at HGTV Landscapers’ Challenge” will be presented by Ruth Burrus, former member of the “Landscapers’ Challenge” television-program staff. The speaker will share her experiences of what it takes to put together an episode of this TV series. Visitors welcome. More infrmation at (206) 932-2540 or www.westseattlegardenclub.com.
‘BATTLE OF WEST SEATTLE’ SOCCER: The girls’ soccer teams for Denny and Madison middle schools have both had great seasons – Denny won its division, Madison came in third in its division – and while they didn’t get to play each other during the season, they are facing off at 3:15 pm today at Southwest Athletic Complex for the West Seattle Soccer Club‘s first annual “Battle for West Seattle” Cup.
FAUNTLEROY FINE ART AND GIFT FAIR: 5-8 pm at Fauntleroy UCC Church (9140 California SW) – first of three days.
ARBOR HEIGHTS ELEMENTARY AUCTION: Doors open at 5:30 pm at The Hall at Fauntleroy. Interested in checking on last-minute ticket availability? E-mail auction chair Lucy Weber: email@example.com
LIVE MUSIC: We have listings from C & P Coffee, Feedback Lounge, Salty’s on Alki (WSB sponsors), Skylark Café and Club, and The Benbow Room on today’s calendar page – go here and mouseover/click the plus sign on any line to expand that listing.
(November 2nd photo by Scott Painter)
That photo was taken at Camp Long about 400 feet north of the lodge, by the photographer’s estimate. But as you’ll see in this roundup of recent reports received from WSB readers, they don’t by any means limit themselves to parks and greenbelts. The photographs we receive tend to show them in those settings, but here’s one spotted on a neighborhood sidewalk:
Katina, who shared that photo, explained:
My family and I encountered this coyote at the intersection of Walnut Ave SW and SW Hinds (October 28th) at 10:30 am. It was clearly injured about the neck area. It was originally sitting in the middle to the street, but began to run as our car approached. It then slowed down and just stared at us before taking off down 40th Ave SW.
Seven more recent reports are ahead, starting with a pet owner who saw two coyotes make off with her cat: Click to read the rest of West Seattle coyotes: Reader-report roundup, sightings to warnings…
12:36 PM: There’s a postscript today to last week’s big controversy over a 19-year-old diver removing an octopus from popular Cove 2 at Seacrest.
West Seattle environmental advocate “Diver Laura” James – the first person to tip us last week – monitored the proceedings in Olympia before state Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting. In our coverage last week, we focused on plans to push for protection of wildlife at Cove 2, since otherwise, the octopus catch was completely legal. The state explained that public comment was welcome at commission meetings (today and tomorrow are the first ones since the incident). James reports that the octopus catcher, Dylan Mayer, spoke during the public-comment period of today’s meeting, “on behalf of closing Cove 2 for octopus and putting up clear signage.” She adds, “Massive props go to Craig Willemsen, the owner of Silent World Diving Systems, who met with him on Tuesday and discussed it as an option.” Mayer had defended his action in various discussions, including the WSB Forum, with several posts including this one. This morning’s meeting was webcast by TVW, and video will eventually be online here.
ADDED 6:37 PM: The official state news release about what happened today, including Mayer’s comments: Click to read the rest of Octopus followup: Dylan Mayer advocates for protection in Olympia…
A new resting place for sealife and birds off Alki! A new raft has just been added to the offshore lineup, announces Jason Attaman: “It was secured to our buoy (Sunday) night. This is located at the 3000 block of Alki Avenue. It was launched specifically as a seal and other wildlife platform for all to enjoy.”
(Photos by Nick Adams for WSB)
Never mind counting votes. That whiteboard holds the count that mattered the most in West Seattle this weekend – at Fauntleroy Creek. One week after the salmon-welcoming ceremony that included the then-sad news that only seven spawners had approached, and none had made it past a hungry otter – the turnabout is huge.
This is already the biggest season since spawners returned to the creek after a “fishway” replaced a culvert a decade-plus ago:
As of Sunday evening, reported creek steward/volunteer Judy Pickens (above, with visitors Mira Ellis, 3, and Peggy Rubens-Ellis), at least 238 spawners had been counted – exponentially more than the past few years, and by far beating the 2001 record of 167. Here’s what it’s all about:
Those are salmon eggs – the hope for the next generation. More of WSB contributing photojournalist Nick Adams‘ images from the creek this weekend, as the update continues ahead:
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