West Seattle, Washington
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
After a year full of new hope for survival of Puget Sound’s resident orcas, what will 2016 bring?
On the first Thursday of the new year, The Whale Trail invites you to its next Orca Talk in West Seattle – this time looking at the ecology of the “transient” orcas who visit our waters; registration for the 7 pm presentation on January 7th at C & P Coffee Company (WSB sponsor) is open now.
If you’re interested, you’ll want to get your tickets fast, since the last Orca Talk of 2015 brought a sold-out full house. Good news is, it’s on video:
NOAA researcher Brad Hanson spoke at C & P on December 3rd to talk about the Southern Resident Killer Whales’ baby boom. At that time, the count stood at six in less than a year, and as if that wasn’t exciting enough, two more babies have been announced since then.
— Dave Stockman (@dbstock) December 31, 2015
ORIGINAL REPORT, 1:07 PM: That’s video just tweeted by Dave from SW Spokane Street, another midday sighting. We’ve published several reports recently (archived with seven-plus years of coyote news on WSB), but video is relatively rare, even in this time of ubiquitous video capability. Our customary link: What you should know about coyotes, including how to increase the chances we and they can keep a healthy distance from each other. And if you want it a bit more bluntly – here’s our 2013 story on what a federal wildlife agent wants you to know.
P.S. Coyote reports often inspire us to check around online to see what’s happening in other cities. We just found this notable report from Los Angeles, where a federal researcher – described, however, as “unfunded” – has been using GPS collars to track urban coyotes.
ADDED 9:45 PM: Another clip – this time from Ted Johnson, recorded at a bluffside home in west Admiral at sunset:
11:14 AM: Just got a text from Jeff Hogan of Killer Whale Tales that orcas are reported northbound between Lincoln Park and Alki Point – and per Ron‘s tweet, below, they are apparently toward the north end of that range:
— Ron Creel (@roncreel) December 31, 2015
Sometimes they change direction, stop or slow – let us know if you see them on this beautiful sunny last day of 2015! (206-293-6302, text or voice, is always the best way to reach us when something is happening *now*.)
11:42 AM: Update from Jeff – the aforementioned area is where he’s seeing them, between Alki Point and Bainbridge, headed north. But he advises viewing from a higher elevation; he’s been watching from the blufftop spot at Seattle/Sunset in North Admiral.
Yes, coyotes do emerge in the daytime. The photo is courtesy of Michael, who says, “Just saw this guy at 12:30 at 35th and Hinds!! End of 35th arterial.” [map] We also had a text about this time Saturday, mentioning one seen “running down at Admiral at 53rd.” Though they’re believed to do most hunting at night, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife’s “Living With Coyotes” one-sheet advises they do go out in daylight if they’re hungry. Remember, authorities advise that the best way to encourage them to keep their distance is to do your best to “haze” them if you see them – yell, wave your arms, throw rocks.
Archived WSB coyote reports are here, newest to oldest.
We publish reader reports about coyote sightings periodically, with educational intent as much as anything. Within the past half-hour, we received a text (on our 24/7 hotline, 206-293-6302) from someone saying there are “coyotes in the yards at 52nd/Charlestown.” Too dark for a photo, the texter says. Meantime, back on Monday, here’s what Rose saw:
First time I have seen a coyote traveling the open streets and sidewalks in broad daylight. This one looks like it has either completely shed all its fur or it has mange. Came up 39th and turned onto Lander Street cruising the neighborhood. I know for sure it was a coyote because my cat Manitou, who happened to be outside at the time, froze until he went by across the street, then ran like greased lightning for the back door and wanted IN with a very bushed tail. Wise cat, and something he never does about dog.
If you haven’t read this information about coexisting with coyotes before – it’s worth a look. Most important advice: If you see one, do what you can to scare it away, for its sake and yours – yell, wave your arms to look “big,” even throw rocks.
(From this month’s WS Art Walk, Mark Wangerin with the fundraiser calendars featuring his photos)
One more chance to buy the West Seattle Wildlife Calendar, with wonderful photos by Mark Wangerin (who’s shared many here on WSB in recent years) – tomorrow, 8 am-noon, at C & P Coffee Company (5612 California SW; WSB sponsor). Laura Robb from Mark House Publishing just sent word that students from Chief Sealth International High School (whose environmental-education programs benefit from calendar proceeds, and where Mark used to teach) will be there. Or – order online!
(Photo by Dave Ellifrit)
Puget Sound’s endangered orca pods – the Southern Resident Killer Whales – have another calf, the eighth in the past year. The announcement came tonight from the Center for Whale Research:
Another new Baby in J Pod!! Designated J54 – sex unknown.
Mother is J28, a twenty-two year old female Southern Resident Killer Whale in the Pacific Northwest. The mother had a previous baby designated J46, a female, born in 2009 and still surviving. This brings the known births of Southern Resident Killer Whales (SRKW) to EIGHT since last December, and the total population of SRKW’s as of now to 84 known individuals. 1977 is the only previous year in the past forty years in which as many baby killer whales were born into this community of whales, and there were nine in that year. From calculations accounting for all reproductive age females, we estimate that typically up to nine babies could be produced each year, but there is usually a high rate of neonatal and perinatal mortality, and we have seen only three babies annually on average. In the years immediately following poor salmon years, we see fewer babies and higher mortality of all age cohorts.
The new baby, J54, was first seen on 1 December 2015 by several whale-watchers near San Juan Island, and photographed with J28 by Ivan Reiff, a Pacific Whale Watch Association member. However, the 1 December photographs were not conclusive in that they did not reveal distinct features of eyepatch and “saddle” pigment shape that could unequivocally rule out that it was not another baby being “baby sat” by J28. Today’s photographs in Haro Strait between San Juan Islands and Vancouver Island confirm the distinct features required for alpha-numeric designation. The new baby is estimated to be two and a half to three weeks old as of now. The family, including mother and sister, grandmother, aunt, uncles, and cousin, and other J pod members continued North in Haro Strait and Swanson Channel by sunset. Presumably, they are destined for the Strait of Georgia where J pod spent an extended amount of time last December.
It is clear that the SRKW population (in particular J pod) is investing in the future, and that survival of all of the new calves and their mothers and relatives depends upon a future with plentiful salmon, especially Chinook salmon, in the eastern North Pacific Ocean ecosystem. This may be problematic with pending and unfolding Climate Change that is anticipated to be detrimental to salmon survival, in the ocean and in the rivers. Warmer ocean waters are less productive, and rivers without continual water (no snow melt – rains runoff too quickly) and with warmer water are lethal to salmon. The Pacific Salmon Foundation and Long Live the Kings are non-profit organizations concerned with the declining survival of juvenile salmon in the Salish Sea, and the Center for Whale Research is a non-profit organization concerned with the survival and demographic vigor of the Southern Resident Killer Whales in the Salish Sea and coastally from Vancouver Island to California. Please get involved and support these important environmental organizations.
The SRKWs’ baby boom started late last year.
West Seattle’s Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network hopes you can help them find and help this injured pup. From Robin Lindsey:
I wanted to let you know that Seal Sitters’ first responders are on high alert for a harbor seal pup with a serious neck wound, most likely from a fishing net or line. Today, we received a call that a pup was on the inaccessible beach at Jack Block Park. The pup was positioned such that a rescue would have been difficult and most likely would have resulted him escaping into the water, but he was able to get some much-needed rest on the beach.
We would like to ask your readers to please be on the lookout for any seal pup on the beach and call our hotline @ 206-905-SEAL (7325) immediately if you see one. It is our fervent hope that we will be able to capture this pup and take him for treatment. Please note that only members of NOAA’s Marine Mammal Stranding Network are authorized to handle marine mammals. Please keep a distance (and dogs leashed) and call Seal Sitters.
Marine debris and other toxic trash pose grave dangers to marine wildlife. We have expanded a section of our website that offers more details about the dangers marine mammals face – and ways to help.
This is the third positively identified pup that Seal Sitters has responded to in the past week along Elliott Bay’s shoreline, after a strangely quiet pupping season.
Thanks so much – we appreciate the extra eyes on the beach!
At this past Thursday’s Orca Talk event, presented by The Whale Trail, Robin detailed just how “quiet,” and unusual, this season has been. That’ll be part of our upcoming report on the event.
(L123, spyhopping with L103; photo by Mark Malleson)
The Center for Whale Research has announced that Puget Sound’s orcas – the Southern Resident Killer Whales – have had their seventh baby in a year, and it was first spotted off West Seattle! Here’s the CWR announcement:
The seventh calf born into the endangered Southern Resident killer whale population in the last 12 months was confirmed yesterday. Photographs taken by CWR associate Mark Malleson confirmed the existence of a new calf born to L pod. The new calf will be designated L123.
This is the first documented calf of 12-year old L103 of the L4 matriline. L123 was first photo-documented on November 10th, 2015 by Alisa Lemire-Brooks and Sarah Hisong-Shimazu from Alki Point, West Seattle. CWR research assistants, Melisa Pinnow and Jane Cogan, later captured some distant shots on November 22nd near the Jordan River in B.C.
Due to poor visibility and unfavorable sea conditions, it took several weeks to confirm that there is indeed a new calf in L pod. We frequently use eye patches to positively identify new calves which can easily be obscured by poor conditions and surface waves.
While a new calf born to this struggling population is certainly cause to celebrate, it is important to remember that another SRKW also means another mouth to feed. With each new calf that is born, we continue to emphasize the need to focus on wild Chinook salmon restoration efforts. Especially the removal of obsolete dams that block wild salmon from their natal spawning habitat, such as those on the lower Snake River. We will continue to monitor the new calf in the next several weeks and provide updates whenever possible.
The November 10th orca visit was a popular one, our archives remind us – maybe you saw the calf and didn’t realize it at the time! The orca baby boom was a big topic at this past Thursday’s Orca Talk, presented by The Whale Trail; we will be publishing a story about it tomorrow – but even the researcher who presented the talk, Brad Hanson, didn’t have word of the calf then.
Thanks to the person who texted us to point out that the Orca Network has two reports of orcas in the Fauntleroy/Vashon vicinity within the past hour. Seems they were headed southbound, so out of range for most of the West Seattle shore by now, but what goes south must eventually head back north, so keep an eye out, and please let us know of any sightings – text/voice at 206-293-6302 is always the quickest way to get us, 24/7, if something is “happening now.”
Two sightings from Saturday, one with photos. First, from Karen in Arbor Heights:
This was taken in front of my neighbor’s house on 98th Ave SW between 37th & 39th (our backyards border Fauntleroy Park). This was my (indoor cat’s) first sighting of the year but normally we have a lot around here starting in October. I assume the warmer weather kept them away?
This coyote had black & gray fur but as you can see, they have lost (molted?) most of it so it must be freezing. At one point, he/she looked like a sweet fawn but I the doubt dog walkers thought that.
People stop & always are surprised they come out during the day. I see them head into the woods at night but I normally see them galloping all over the neighborhood during the day.
Hopefully, the family of seven raccoons living in my storm water drain stays safe (swimming in my community pool).
I have a virtual varmint zoo growing out of my backyard.
She said the coyote showed up around 1 pm on Saturday.
Via text, we received a report a few hours after that: “Very sick, mangy-looking coyote walking west on Thistle near 35th. Just now, very brave, must be desperate for food or warmth.”
Here again is the state’s info-sheet about coyotes and co-existing with them. Our online research suggests the fur problem would be more likely mange than molting, as the latter generally involves shedding winter coats when the weather warms up.
(Photo of J-53 by Mark Sears – NOAA research permit 16163-01)
The baby boom among Puget Sound’s orcas has given new hope to the humans who love them. You’ll hear more about them – and the Southern Resident Killer Whale adults – at The Whale Trail‘s next Orca Talk event, just announced for 7:30 pm December 3rd at C & P Coffee Company (WSB sponsor):
Over the past year, six new calves have been born to the Southern Resident Killer Whales (J, K and L pods). What does that mean for this endangered population – how healthy are they overall? What have we learned over the past year, and what are the most pressing questions still to be addressed?
Join us to hear the latest findings and future research directions, presented by Dr. Brad Hanson, NWFSC lead killer whale researcher.
This is the second in the 2015/2016 Orca Talk series hosted by The Whale Trail in West Seattle. The event also features updates from Robin Lindsey (Seal Sitters), and “Diver Laura” James (tox-ick.org). Come early and share some holiday cheer!
Buy tickets now to reserve your seat. And hurry – this will likely sell out.
Haven’t heard of The Whale Trail before? At the heart of it, as executive director Donna Sandstrom describes it, it’s “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. Through our current sites and signs, including two on every Washington State ferry, we reach more than 30 million people each year. The Whale Trail is currently adding new sites along the North American west coast, from BC to California. The Whale Trail is led by a core team of partners including NOAA Fisheries, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Seattle Aquarium, the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, and the Whale Museum.”
Back to tickets for the event – $5 suggested donation; kids free. Go to this Brown Paper Tickets page.
1:39 PM: Just got this text:
Flock of big white swans (tundra?) swimming off Arroyos heading north. Big white with long black bills, very beautiful, local birders will want to see them. I am at Seola Beach so they already passed us – couldn’t get a picture, they are majestic, someone should try for a good photo from maybe Brace Point if they get up that far.
We’re going to go look, though, given our odds with orcas, that’s no guarantee.
2:35 PM: Struck out on the bird search, too. We went down to a viewpoint near Brace Point – no unusual birds in view. A little choppy with the wind out of the north, too. But a beautiful afternoon to visit the beach anyway!
Our phone video is the first look at post-cleanup freedom for 13 of the birds captured at the oil-contaminated White Center stormwater-retention pond. A team from PAWS just brought them back to the area and joined state and county reps in opening the carriers and watching them go free. We first reported on the pond problem a week and a half ago; last Friday, the state announced that a WC food-manufacturing business, La Mexicana, had taken responsibility. They say the pond is now clean enough for the birds to return to it safely, but they were released this morning across the street at Steve Cox Memorial Park. As you can see in the video, all 13 brought back by PAWS this morning were mallards; crews have captured 78 in all, a mix of mallards and Canada geese. Four birds did not survive, including two that were euthanized, according to the state Ecology Department.
ADDED 2:20 PM: A few more photos and additional information about today’s release and the cleanup:
Ecology spokesperson Larry Altose says oil-recovery efforts wrapped up at the pond yesterday, as contractor National Response Corporation removed the last cleanup materials. NRC’s subcontractor Focus Wildlife captured the oiled birds and, Altose says, “housed and treated the birds at the Progressive Animal Welfare Society Wildlife Center in Lynnwood,” where, he adds, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife “supplied a bird rescue trailer to provide extra space for the effort.”
Of the 61 birds still in treatment after today’s release, he adds, 27 are mallards and 34 are geese. All four of the birds that died were mallards. A WDFW spokesperson confirmed that this is the largest bird-rescuing operation in our state in some time, in terms of spill recovery.
Meantime, as for the birds released today …
… they were last seen taking a few test flights around the field. If you see oiled or distressed birds, WDFW asks, call 800-22-BIRDS, but don’t “approach or handle the wildlife,” the state asks, adding that “WDFW asks dog and cat owners in the area to keep their pets under control, as oiled birds are less able to escape from animal attacks.”
P.S. In addition to reporting to the state, the federal EPA also tells us they are interested in information about environmental violations – here’s how to report them. (You can also call the local office directly at 206-553-8306.)
Could a bear somehow have made its way into a West Seattle greenbelt? Nancy says she and her friend are sure that’s what they saw today:
My friend and I went for a walk behind the houses on Snoqualmie and Beach Drive [map] today around 1 PM. At the crest of the walk, in the clearing, we both very clearly spotted a brown bear. It looked rather rangy. When it saw us, it headed our way and we ran down the path to a home near the greenbelt. We called police.
Bears were part of the West Seattle ecosystem a century or so ago, stories show. But no bear sightings have emerged in West Seattle in the eight years we’ve been doing news here – though, just before that, there was the 2007 saga of a bear swimming from Vashon to Des Moines.
P.S. If it really was a bear, it would almost certainly be a black bear – here’s the state Fish and Wildlife infosheet about that species.
P.P.S. Larry reminds us in comments that a bear turned up in Ballard in 2009.
(WSB photo from last weekend, as wildlife rescuers capture an oiled Canada goose)
One week after a neighbor noticed oil contaminating a stormwater-retention pond in White Center, the state Ecology Department announced that a food company has taken responsibility. La Mexicana says it was transporting oil that accidentally spilled and will pay the costs of cleanup and wildlife rehabilitation; 51 birds have been captured for cleaning and treatment, says the state, and one had to be euthanized. Full details of the state’s announcement are on our partner site White Center Now.
Photographer Mark Wangerin has kindly shared dozens of West Seattle wildlife photos here again this year, often beautiful bird photos in which he invests an amazing amount of time and talent – you don’t just walk up to a spot in a park, see a bird on a branch, snap a photo, and walk away; sometimes it’s an hours-long stakeout. And again this year, he’s donated photos for the West Seattle Wildlife Calendar that’s being sold as a benefit for environmental programs at Chief Sealth International High School, where he taught for a decade. The printing run was expanded this year but the $14.99 calendars are still going fast; here’s how to get one, including a special event tonight:
*They’re also on sale while supplies last during regular business hours at West Seattle Thriftway (California/Fauntleroy, WSB sponsor); Emerald Water Anglers (42nd/Oregon, WSB sponsor); J.F. Henry (4445 California SW); and West Seattle Nursery (California/Brandon).
*If you know a Sealth 9th grader, ask about a calendar. If not, e-mail email@example.com.
*Last but by no means least, a few remain available for online purchase at markhousepublishing.com.
(Added: Photo by Trileigh Tucker, taken from Lowman Beach)
2:13 PM: An update from this morning’s report of southbound orcas … a fairly sizable group is now heading northbound and has drawn a crowd off Emma Schmitz Memorial Overlook on Beach Drive. Unless they change direction again, you should be able to watch them along the Beach Drive shoreline for a while. Visible without binoculars – look for the blows and the small research boat!
2:24 PM: They’re heading north fairly quickly, and now out of Emma Schmitz range, so if you’re still heading out, try Constellation Park south of Alki Point. What we’ve been watching is a group of eight or so traveling very close together.
2:36 PM: We’ve had to head back inland but a texter says they’re now visible from Weather Watch Park (Beach Drive & Carroll).
9 AM: As mentioned in our traffic/transit roundup – since the report was from a ferry – orcas are back in the area this morning. Just after 8 am, commenting on one of our stories from last week, Michele reported, “A big pod of killer whales just showed off for the passengers on the 7:50 ferry to Southworth! Huge pod going south!” She didn’t report which side of Vashon they were passing – which would make a difference for visibility from here – but Orca Network regulars say it’s the east side, so they might still be visible from south West Seattle, and of course they’ll have to head back this way eventually. Updates appreciated if you see them! (You can also text our 24/7 hotline, 206-293-6302.) *Just as we were publishing this, we also heard from Donna Sandstrom of The Whale Trail, who reports researcher Mark Sears confirmed they’re southbound off north Vashon.*
1:30 PM: Per commenters and text, they’re now passing Fauntleroy, northbound.
2 PM: We and quite a few others are along Emma Schmitz, hoping to see them soon. One request, if you’re in a car and happen to see this … please don’t idle.
2:13 PM: Saw them! They are off Emma Schmitz, midchannel. Look for the blows, and the small research boat. Visible WITHOUT binoculars! We’ve opened a new story here.
(WSB photo from Sunday)
On the third day of cleanup at an oil-contaminated White Center stormwater-retention pond, we’ve just obtained the newest information from state Ecology Department spokesperson Larry Altose:
Workers made progress on Saturday and Sunday, rescuing oiled waterfowl and removing oil from the pond near 13th Avenue Southwest and Southwest 100th Street in unincorporated King County.
The Washington Department of Ecology is coordinating the response, in cooperation with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks. Ecology has hired a spill response contractor and a wildlife rescue organization for the cleanup.
The spilled material appears to be about 50 to 100 gallons cooking oil that entered the pond via the county stormwater drainage system. County and Ecology staff have been tracing storm drains to search for the source of the spill. No additional oil has entered the lake since a citizen first reported the spill late Friday afternoon.
Cooking and other edible oils, while less toxic to wildlife, still cause environmental harm. When birds contact the oil it coats the feathers so that the animals lose insulation and buoyancy. Oil damages habitat for other aquatic life, reducing oxygen levels and creating physical impacts on the water surface and shoreline.
Crews from Focus Wildlife International have captured 14 oiled birds, four mallard ducks and 10 Canada geese. The birds received initial treatment near the scene in the organization’s special trailer. They were transported for further treatment at the Progressive Animal Welfare Society’s Wildlife Rescue Center in Lynnwood.
Workers hope to capture approximately 20 other oiled birds, some of which have flown to other ponds, lakes or fields in the area. No wildlife deaths have been reported.
Meanwhile, other workers continue to tend oil spill cleanup materials placed in the pond to collect the oil, which has spread into a slick over much of the surface. Crews succeeded in preventing oil from draining out of the pond, which flows into nearby Hicklin Lake.
The cleanup has reduced the amount of oil seen on the pond over the past two days. Ecology’s contractor will measure the amount of oil recovered in cleanup materials to better determine the size of the spill.
The on-site response effort, which involved 25 people on Saturday and 18 on Sunday, continues to step down to about 9 responders today.
Our first report, on Saturday, is here; our Sunday followup is here. As we’ve noted previously, this county-owned area of unincorporated King County had already been the subject of extensive cleanup efforts – focused on the land, rather than the water, because of problems with encampments and drug use during the non-rainy months – here’s a report from last month, published on our partner site White Center Now.
Just in from Fauntleroy Creek steward Judy Pickens:
(Photo courtesy Nathan Franck)
On Oct. 21, science students from Our Lady of Guadalupe School sampled Fauntleroy Creek for aquatic insects to understand how much food is available to salmon fry and how clean the water is. The insects in the lower creek will have another year to grow because the salmon watch closed today with no fish. That means the lower creek will have no “home hatch” of hungry fry this winter. Very few coho made it back to Puget Sound this fall from the Pacific.
Volunteers have been keeping watch for three weeks, since just after this year’s drumming/singing/welcoming gathering. The spawner turnout has varied wildly in the 20-plus years since restoration work made Fauntleroy a salmon creek again. Last year, 19 were counted; the year before, none; the year before that – 2012 – set a record with 274. West Seattle’s other salmon creek, Longfellow, has no formal count, but we’ve had several reports of sightings.
9:13 AM: Missed your chance to go look for orcas during their recent weekday visits? Maybe today is your day. Jeff Hogan from Killer Whale Tales just texted to share a report of orcas seen in the Vashon ferry lanes. No initial word of their direction. Take your binoculars; most of the time they’re closer to the Vashon side than the West Seattle side. More when we hear it.
10:15 AM: No further reports – and the murky weather is a complication – but if they’re in the general area, they might switch directions, so you never know where/when they will turn up. Please comment if you see them – thank you.