(Thanks to the person who texted us this photo from the Bainbridge ferry this morning!)
Multiple reports this morning of orcas back in the area (thanks to Barb for the first report) – we’ve heard of southbound whales sighted near Bainbridge and Blake Islands. They’re reported to be closer to the west side of Puget Sound, so you’ll need binoculars. Please let us know if you spot them!
Two coyote reports to share tonight – one sent this afternoon by an Arbor Heights resident who says her neighbors don’t believe they come out in the daytime. Check the WSB archive of coyote sightings, some with photos – they do! And/or, click ahead to read today’s report (and another one that had been in queue):
We’ve heard time and again that orca fans would like to hear about “possibilities,” not just sure-bet sightings, so: Alisa Lemire Brooks, posting on the Orca Network Facebook page, has been tracking a group for the past few hours, currently off Bainbridge and southbound until they stopped for a snack. Apparently it’s some of the transient orcas (the ones that eat other mammals, unlike the resident orcas, which eat fish) who’ve been visiting lately. They’re reported to be on the west side of the Sound, so not likely visible without binoculars. We’d love to hear from you if you see ‘em (text or call 206-293-6302) – thanks!
(4/16/14 UPDATE: Full house for the training – no more room. Seal Sitters says thanks for the support!)
(Photo courtesy Robin Lindsey)
It’s volunteer work with a view. If you’ve been thinking about helping Seal Sitters, you can sign up for the group’s next new-volunteer-training session, two weeks from today – 10 am-noon Saturday, April 26th at Alki Bathhouse, with a short on-the-beach session afterward if weather permits. The announcement from Seal Sitters‘ Robin Lindsey:
On Saturday morning, April 26th, Seal Sitters will be holding a special training for those wanting to protect marine mammals along the shoreline of West Seattle and the Duwamish River. 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 so proud of our amazing and dedicated volunteers who are on duty rain or shine – we hope you will join us!
A multi-media presentation will illustrate our 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 Western Region Marine Mammal Stranding Network and biology and behavior of seals and other pinnipeds (due to time frame, supplementary sessions will include more marine mammals of Puget Sound).
You’re asked to RSVP ASAP if you’ll be there – the link is on this page of the Seal Sitters’ site.
(Photo added 2:30 pm, by Maris Avots)
ORIGINAL REPORT, 11:53 AM: Just got a call from Donna Sandstrom of The Whale Trail – and she says orcas are passing Beach Drive right now, heading “slowly south” – she’s watching from the Me-Kwa-Mooks area and says they are VERY close to this side. Please let us know if you see them! Photos appreciated too (we’ve assigned someone to go look, but whales seem to put on their cloaking devices when we are in the vicinity).
6:28 PM: In addition to the photo added above at midafternoon, this one is courtesy of Christine:
She and her toddler watched from Lincoln Park’s Colman Pool vicinity. Thanks again for sharing photos, comments, and other updates!
Don’t just watch whales – find out about their history and evolution, at The Whale Trail’s next West Seattle eventMarch 14, 2014 at 9:00 am | In Fun stuff to do, West Seattle news, Wildlife | 1 Comment
(Protocetus; image provided by The Whale Trail)
How did whales get to be whales? That’s the next installment in what we can safely say is West Seattle’s most popular lecture series – though it’s never just a lecture! – organized by The Whale Trail. And you’ll want to get your ticket now for “Biology & Evolution of Whales: The Historic Return of Mammals to the Sea,” presented by Jim Kenagy, Curator of Mammals, Emeritus, Burke Museum, and Professor of Biology, Emeritus, University of Washington. He’ll speak at C & P Coffee Company (WSB sponsor), 7-9 pm Thursday, March 27th:
Why do whales and dolphins have finger bones in their flippers? Did you know that today’s cetaceans are descended from ancestors who once lived on shore, and then returned to the sea?
Join us on March 27 to hear more about this amazing chapter in evolution.
This is the third in a series of Orca Talks 2014 hosted by The Whale Trail in West Seattle. The program also features updates from “Diver Laura” James (tox-ick.org) and Seal Sitters. Buy tickets ahead of time and we’ll save you a seat!
You can do that by going to this brownpapertickets.com page. (Kids are free!)
Michelle e-mailed to say Seal Sitters spent the day watching that little harbor seal on the Beach Drive shoreline near Harbor West Condos (about two blocks south of Alki Point), and she wanted to send out “a heads-up so folks who walk their dogs off leash on the beach don’t end up in a bad situation for both the dog and the seal.”
Michelle got her photos via a 200mm lens, so though it looks close up, she was quite some distance away. P.S. Thanks also to Carrie Ann for heads-up about a pup at Don Armeni on Monday – we didn’t get a chance to write about it, but she said Seal Sitters were on that case too.
1:37 PM: We’ve heard from a few people about that sighting off Lincoln Park – and just got the photo from Paul via the WSB Flickr group. He and others wondered if it’s in distress; we pointed them to Seal Sitters – our area’s and Paul reports they suggested it might be a “rafting” sea lion, which, now that we’ve seen the photo, we would tend to agree. Paul points out the apparent injury on the sea lion’s fin. We’re not sure what if anything can be done to check on whether it’s in distress, but did want to publish this to share some information for anyone else who notices it – the photo makes it clear it’s not a whale, which some had suspected. (Here’s a 2011 story featuring photos of sea lions rafting and fishing, also off Lincoln Park; rafting is also explained toward the end of this page on the Seal Sitters website.)
11:59 PM: See comments for a vigorous discussion and more information, including the correction that this was “sailing” rather than “rafting.”
All 7 goslings with their parents were hanging out near the Water Taxi dock today. Photo shows everyone trying to crowd under mom’s wing on this cool February afternoon.
This makes the seventh year David has shared gosling photos here. Quick selection from the archives:
(Photo by Lloyd Moody)
No salmon, no Puget Sound resident orcas. Find out how the fish are doing at The Whale Trail‘s next event, just announced:
The Whale Trail Presents: Salmon Recovery Efforts in Puget Sound
Presentation by Jeanette Dorner, Puget Sound Partnership
Salmon are the key to the recovery of the endangered southern resident orcas. How are the salmon populations of Puget Sound doing, and what can we do to help?
Jeanette Dorner, Puget Sound Partnership, will discuss the current health of salmon populations in Puget Sound, what kinds of challenges salmon face for their continued survival, and what people are doing to recover salmon populations to healthy harvestable levels in Puget Sound.
Jeanette is the manager of the Ecosystem and Salmon Recovery Program at the Puget Sound Partnership and coordinates the regional partnership to implement the federal ESA Puget Sound Chinook Salmon Recovery Plan.
Join us on February 27 to learn more about this iconic species.
Buy tickets ahead of time and we’ll save you a seat! And hurry – this will likely sell out.
This is the second in a series of Orca Talks 2014 presented by The Whale Trail. The event also features updates from Laura James (tox-ick.org) and Seal Sitters, and photography from Judy Lane.
Don’t wait to get tickets – it’s usually a sellout crowd.
(Click image for larger view)
Dennis Cheasebro shared that photo of what he believes was a humpback whale, spotted off West Seattle today:
Photographed at 1:34 PM, February 16, 2014, from the Lincoln Park bluff. It was breaching, tail flipping and swimming fast southward, close to shore. I’ve never seen a humpback before, but the small, dull-pointed dorsal fin on top of a low hump seems to be diagnostic.
8:05 PM: Our experience with humpbacks is limited to their distinctive flukes, through binoculars, in Alaska. We’ve looked around at various whale-sighting sites and no other reports of this today; the species-ID page on The Whale Trail‘s site seems to affirm Dennis’s ID. Any other confirmations/opinions/sightings?
9:04 PM UPDATE: Thanks to Kelly for pointing out, in comments, photos published to TWT’s Facebook page not long after we published this – so, humpback it is!
Seal Sitters has been receiving calls about a deceased California sea lion on Alki Beach. We want to take this opportunity to update your readers.
This animal carcass washed ashore last month on a private beach along Beach Drive SW. Seal Sitters responded, documenting and marking it with non-toxic paint at that time. Since then, a succession of high tides has moved the carcass and it is now near the west end of the Alki promenade. Marine mammals can transmit disease, so please keep kids and pets at a distance. Seal Sitters has been in contact with Seattle Parks & Recreation and Animal Control concerning this animal and arrangements for removal are being made. We will continue to monitor this situation.
The California sea lions that forage and rest in Puget Sound are largely males and can reach 8 feet in length and weigh up to 850 pounds. Females rarely migrate to our waters. Healthy sea lions are extremely mobile on land and can be dangerous. Never approach or disturb live sea lions.
We’d like to remind all WSB readers that Seal Sitters is the NOAA designated marine mammal stranding network for West Seattle. As such, we respond to all calls regarding live or dead marine mammals on our beaches. There have been calls directly to NOAA and the Coast Guard concerning this animal and those calls are simply referred back to us by the respective agencies.
Seal Sitters MMSN thanks the West Seattle community for all the help protecting marine mammals. If there are any questions or to report marine mammals on the beach, please call our hotline at 206-905-7325.
One of the region’s most dedicated orca watchers, Alisa Lemire Brooks, recorded that video while watching the pod of transient killer whales sighted in central Puget Sound on Saturday, in the Edmonds area, thought at one point (as mentioned here) to be headed southbound for a while. For orca fans, we have to share this video in case you haven’t seen it already, particularly because of one moment – around 3:10, one of the orcas breaches, fully out of the water, and since they weren’t too far offshore, it’s a much better view than usual. The “transients” are also known as Bigg’s killer whales, and have one big difference from the “resident” orcas – they eat marine mammals such as seals and sea lions; the residents eat fish. Hat tip to the Orca Network, whose Facebook page is where we found the link to Alisa’s video.
There’s a chance we will see orcas off our shores before the day’s out, according to sightings reported on the Orca Network Facebook page – they’ve been seen as close as south Bainbridge Island. Conflicting reports about which direction they’re heading, so we’re sharing this alert just in case. Please let us know if you see them from West Seattle – 206-293-6302 is our breaking-news line, text or voice any time – thanks!
Months after first word of starfish (sea stars) dying off in many areas – particularly here in Northwest waters – scientists still haven’t figured out why. British Columbia, one of the first places where it was noticed, remains perplexed. Californians have noticed. Here in West Seattle, eco-advocate “Diver Laura” James has been taking periodic surveys in “Cove 1″ at Seacrest to survey the situation. As the video shows, still pretty bleak. But this dive was more than a survey, Laura explains:
Saturday night was a bit of a departure from our regular survey dives. A researcher up at the Port Townsend marine labs has 30 healthy stars and was ready to do an experiment to help understand the transmission of the disease, but was having a bit of a hard time getting some sick subjects. Pycnopodia (the sunflower star) like the ones that we helped collect up at Mukilteo all die too fast once they are infected. So it was up to us to find some either _very_ freshly sick pycnopodia (who could make it to the labs) or more likely some of the purple stars (pisaster) that we’ve been videoing at cove 1. Luckily I’ve learned to recognize the early stages of the illness in the Purple stars and also the Orange colored mottled stars. Each has its own subtlety and can only be seen when you have spent some time studying the healthy counterparts side by side with video of the sick.
My concern on this dive started early:
(Photo by Mark Sears)
A year and a half ago, The Whale Trail hosted a celebration marking 10 years since the “family reunion” for Springer, the young orca found in Puget Sound and reunited with her family in Canada. One year later – just last summer – scientists discovered Springer had become a mom. Her inspiring story continues – and The Whale Trail’s first Orca Talk of the year will bring you into it. Just announced:
Celebrate Springer! The true story of how an orphaned orca went home.
Twelve years ago, the orphaned orca Springer (A-73) was discovered in Puget Sound – lost, alone, and 300 miles away from home. Five months later, she was rescued, rehabilitated, and returned to her pod near the north end of Vancouver Island. In July 2013, she was seen with her first calf! The project is the only successful orca reintroduction in history.
Why did this project succeed while others have failed? What did we learn from the Springer project that can help orcas today?
Join us to hear the true story of how Springer went home, from researchers and organizers who were part of the project team. Help us celebrate the 12th anniversary of this historic undertaking, and the little whale who changed our lives!.
This is the first Orca Talk of 2014, 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 and Puget Soundkeeper Alliance).
Buy tickets ahead of time and we’ll save you a seat! And hurry – this will likely sell out.
Thanks to Cheryl for sending word of the sighting – she texted to say it was “right off the Water Taxi dock for the 8:45 sailing … heading toward Salty’s as we pulled away. Tail slaps, surface blows, and fluke waves. Amazing!” (206-293-6302 any time with breaking news, text or voice, and yes, a whale sighting is breaking news!)
Now THAT’S a game face. West Seattle nature writer/photographer Trileigh Tucker shares photos of a peregrine falcon encountered Saturday at Lincoln Park. And it had opponents, too:
(Click image for larger view)
Trileigh tells her story of the encounter here, with more photos.
You’ve seen the pups onshore, you’ve seen the adults briefly peek from the water before submerging … but unless you’re a diver, you just don’t get this kind of look at harbor seals. The occasion was somber – “Diver Laura” James was back off Seacrest, checking on the dying sea-star population – but she and her diving companion were delighted by the harbor seals who joined them, as their video shows. While to the untrained eye, the seals might seem to be looking for something they’re just not finding, Laura says that’s not it at all: “Very typical for the West Seattle harbor seals. They were hunting for the little golden fish that are illuminated by our dive lights. They’ve learned through the years that divers are great as ‘hunting assistants’ and they utilize our dive lights to help them capture shiner perch for dinner. They actually teach their offspring (or the smaller seals) to do it.”
As for the sea stars – no good news, nor even answers, yet; separate update to come.
If hummingbirds spoke, we imagine these two might have sounded like the seagulls in “Finding Nemo“ – “mine, mine, mine, mine.” The feeder fight between these two Anna’s Hummingbirds was captured by Vlad Oustimovitch in Gatewood, and we thank him for letting us share it. (The local Audubon Society talks about Anna’s hummingbirds and their feeder behavior here.)
After two reports in the past half-hour, we’re putting this out as an alert. While river otters spend a lot of time on land, they’re not usually seen as far from the water as 35th/Fauntleroy/Avalon. One report was from Erin, who wrote, “I SWEAR I just saw a river otter running through the 7-11 parking lot on 35th and Avalon!” shortly after we got a note from Cait that began, “I know this might sound crazy but I’m pretty positive I just spotted an otter alone on Fauntleroy next to the WS Bridge.” So if you’re in that area – be on the lookout!
P.S. If you haven’t seen a river otter before – here’s what they look like. Learn more about them via another great state-produced Living With Wildlife info-sheet.
12:18 PM: Whale-watching alert on this sunny Sunday: Orcas are back in central Puget Sound and headed southbound past West Seattle – Trileigh Tucker just called from Lincoln Park, where she has them in view.
12:33 PM: Donna Sandstrom from The Whale Trail just called with an update; she’s also watching the orcas from Lincoln Park and says they are headed “slowly south” – they’re now south of the Fauntleroy-Vashon ferry lane.
ADDED EARLY MONDAY: Alisa Lemire Brooks, expert whale-watcher and photographer, shared this video via the Orca Network Facebook page, from the Sunday visit:
Thanks to two photographers for sharing beautiful views of bald eagles in West Seattle this past week. Top photo is by Leroy Lewis, from the 3000 block of 50th SW; next three, by Gary Jones at Alki Point:
Think you know everything about bald eagles? Check the Audubon Society‘s info page!
(October 2012 reader photo, by Katina, taken in an Admiral neighborhood)
An unexpected phone call this New Year’s Eve: Aaron the federal wildlife agent called to ask us to share another reminder about keeping your dog(s) safe from coyotes. “We are seeing an increase in coyote calls concerning predation on small dogs at night in West Seattle,” he said. “It’s easily prevented by going out with the small dogs at night as they are let out to relieve themselves. It sounds like simple advice, because it is, and can really help keep your small dogs safe. Removing this attraction can help keep coyotes focused on more natural food sources.”
This is the same advice Aaron offered in another phone call last July, which followed his appearance before the Highland Park Action Committee two months earlier. As we wrote then, he says that even dogs staying in their own yards might be “coaxed” by coyotes to come to the edge of the yard, where the larger canines can grab them. As for cats? As with dogs, if they’re outside and unaccompanied, they’re at risk.
He told us tonight he wants to get this advice out again “to (help) keep coyotes wild in our part of the city.” And they’re out there – if you haven’t seen our coverage before, five years of sightings are archived here). Sightings we’ve heard about this month include:
*Early morning, near Fauntleroy Church/YMCA
*Late morning, 9700 block 30th SW, “jumped our back fence and headed east towards 28th and Safeway”
*Early evening, California Lane (North Admiral)
*Early afternoon, crossing Fauntleroy Way at SW Rose Street: “Moving up from the park into the neighborhood”
What if you come face to face with one? Best advice: Scare it away. That too will help keep them wild, which is what’s best for them, us, and our pets, experts stress, over and over again. More advice here.
The photo (click for a larger view) is by Katheryne Martinez, who shared it on the WSB Facebook page, asking for help identifying what kind of fish the cormorants were fighting over. We seem to have a winning answer, “sculpin” – though opinions varied from there – but we wanted to share the photo here too. Katheryne caught the cormorants on camera near Don Armeni Boat Ramp.
3:08 PM: Latest update on orcas headed this way: Donna from The Whale Trail says they are still reported southbound, off Richmond Beach, so whether we see them here before nightfall depends on how fast they are moving, among other factors.
4:07 PM UPDATE: Still north of Elliott Bay, according to commenters on the Orca Network Facebook page.
(Click any photo for a larger view)
If you didn’t get a chance to go look for orcas when we published word this morning that they were heading this way – here’s the next best thing. (Or maybe better – we went to look and missed them anyway!) West Seattleite Trileigh Tucker, our first tipster again today, got great photos, including breaches.
They are of course beautiful simply swimming by:
The ferry in the top photo is one of the bigger ones on the Seattle-Bainbridge run. This time of year, orca sightings here usually mean they’re chasing salmon runs to chow down on. For some orca facts and figures – go here. And thanks to everyone who shared sighting info this morning/afternoon, so that others had a chance to go look for them too!
10:30 PM: Mike Russell is also sharing photos – here’s a link to his Facebook gallery, for starters.
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