West Seattle, Washington
Thanks to the texter who just sent that phone video of what appear to be two humpback whales off the Water Taxi dock at Seacrest! We’ll be heading out in a bit to see if they’re still off our shore – let us know if you see/have seen them!
Out of the WSB inbox, from Kevin:
I was running this morning and saw a whale just west of Don Armeni park. It was headed westward, slowly. The whale was young/small, but definitely a whale, not a porpoise or something. It was big, just seemingly small for a whale by my estimation. If I had to hazard a guess, 15-20′ long??
Anyhow, wanted to report it given the story last month of the whale off Vashon. The whale spouted, and I watched its back crest out of the water as it surfaced and went back down. Time was 5:20 am.
Reminder: If you see a marine mammal you think is in trouble – be sure to notify the local marine-mammal stranding network, Seal Sitters MMSN, at 206-905-SEAL.
Over the next three days, thousands of students in the Northwest will learn about our region’s endangered orcas via a field trip of sorts – an educational program taking them by satellite to a prime orca-watching spot in the San Juans. Leading the way, West Seattleite Jeff Hogan‘s Killer Whale Tales program. Here’s the announcement:
Nearly 3,000 students in grades 2-7 will join Washington State Parks Foundation (WSPF) and Killer Whale Tales at Lime Kiln Point State Park on May 23-25 for Journey to the Parks: Songs of the Salish Sea, where the stars of the show will be the endangered Southern Resident killer whales which return this time of year to regularly swim by the park. Lime Kiln Point is known as one of the best places anywhere to see orca from land, and programs will include a tour by Friends of Lime Kiln Society (FOLKS).
These three days of live whale educational programming in classrooms will be connected via satellite with student in Washington, Oregon and Alaska, Idaho, Wisconsin and Montana and a special “whale chat” RSS feed will enable written questions and feedback between the students and presenters. This amazing technology and coordination is provided by Inspired Classroom, Polycom, GCI Education, Vision Net and Alter Enterprise. The program will allow students to learn about orca and to identify different Puget Sound orca pods based on recordings. Students will also learn the tools and methods of a whale biologist, and find answers to their questions about whales using science-based thinking. Nothing like this educational event has ever been attempted in Washington state parks before.
“Each May we mark the return of the resident orcas to San Juan Island, but this May is even more special because it marks the expansion of WSPF educational programming to connect more kids and families with state parks across the state. Washington State Parks offer an embarrassment of riches for the outdoor lover and they are firmly embedded in our identity through northwest history, culture and personal experience. Interpretive opportunities like the orca program, shared with kids from under resourced communities in classrooms throughout the Pacific northwest, invite people in the region to visit and connect with parks on a deeper level,” explained John Floberg, Executive Director of WSPF.
Jeff Hogan, Executive Director of Killer Whale Tales, is an educator and a research associate with NOAA Fisheries and the Cascadia Research Collective and teaches thousands of kids each year as he visits classrooms along the west coast. This year Jeff is thrilled to be able to take his program to almost 3,000 kids in three days and to be able to interact with them live over satellite. “I am excited to work with students across the region to connect them with these fascinating and iconic animals, especially students located in cities and towns who have less opportunity for visiting the park,” said Hogan.
This three-day program is grant-funded. Look for updates here.
P.S. We asked Jeff for more information about the participating schools. His reply: “In Washington, there will be 15 elementary schools located in 11 cities that will participate. They include: Bellevue, Bothell, Federal Way, Montesano, Seattle, Silverdale, Spokane, Tacoma, Woodinville and Yakima. Public, private and parochial schools are involved. Another 15 schools in AK, OR, ID, MT, WI and NY will participate. These students live in places such as rural Alaskan communities in the Yukon and Kodiak Island as well as cities like Klamath Falls, Oregon, Couer d’Alene, Idaho and Missoula, Montana. Beyond the NW, children in New York City and a small village called Turtle Lake in Wisconsin will get to learn about and experience the wonders of orcas and specialness of Lime Kiln Point State Park on San Juan Island.”
From Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network, word of two ways you can help care for West Seattle shores and the creatures who share the beaches and waters with us – first, an announcement, second, a reminder:
Seal Sitters and the Alki Community Council will be co-sponsoring the “Sentinels of the Sound” beach cleanup at Alki Beach on Saturday, June 4th, 10 am-noon. There will be a very low tide that day, enabling access to a wide stretch of beach to remove dangerous debris. The adjacent sidewalks and street will also be scoured for trash – it is estimated that up to 80% of all trash discarded on land ends up as marine debris.
Trash poisons, maims, and kills wildlife. Lend a hand to help keep marine life safe and meet up at the Statue of Liberty Plaza. There will be a brief talk about the dangers of marine trash before dispersing to clean up the area. Last year, volunteers removed an estimated 9,000 toxic cigarette butts in approximately two hours.
Please visit our website for more details and the RSVP link. Volunteers do need to provide gloves and pickup sticks this year, but bags will be available at the sign-in table.
Now, the reminder – Seal Sitters training tomorrow!
Harbor-seal pupping season is on the horizon and Seal Sitters volunteers enable pups to rest safely on our urban beaches. We will be holding a training on Monday evening, May 23rd. There are just a few available spaces left to attend. Please visit the volunteer page of our website for info and to RSVP.
Seal Sitters welcomes volunteers of all ages.
Via text (thank you!): A “small pod of orcas” is reported to be in view right now between The Arroyos and Vashon Island, mid-channel. Even if that’s too far south for you – they’ll have to head north eventually!
We just happened to be at the West Seattle Farmers Market an hour or so ago when a text came in (206-293-6302, any time) with that photo of a coyote spotted nearby, by Hope Lutheran (42nd/41st/Oregon). No telling whether the coyote was trying to find its way to the market, church, or somewhere else, but yet another reminder that they live among us and they’re out in the daytime too. The best advice from the state’s excellent infoguide is to scare them away if you see them; our texter said a passing car had already done that.
The gray whale first seen off West Seattle two weeks ago, moving slowly and seeming sick, didn’t survive, we’ve just learned. You’ll recall that our local Marine Mammal Stranding Network, Seal Sitters, reported that researchers had assessed it and would provide an update – none followed, though, until this word that the whale was found dead and towed north for a necropsy. We received this news release from NOAA Fisheries:
A team from Cascadia Research Collective completed a necropsy Thursday afternoon on a juvenile gray whale that had been swimming injured through Puget Sound for about two weeks before dying over the weekend. Results and photos of the necropsy are available on the Cascadia website.
You can jump to that here – the photos are not gory; the cause of death isn’t known yet but Cascadia says the whale was a juvenile female, in a “highly unusual condition” when first found before it died.
Ahead, the NOAA news release continues: Read More
Since we first reported on sightings of an apparent turkey around West Seattle, we’ve continued to get reports in just about every one of our messaging channels, from comments to texts. The newest photos arrived via e-mail today from Emily, who saw it by Alki Elementary this morning while taking her daughter to school. Some wondered how the turkey has managed to range so widely across the peninsula, from Lincoln Park to Pigeon Point, if not beyond. Some have worried that it might be in danger of getting hit by a car or attacked by, oh, say, a hungry coyote. (Emily also photographed it crossing the street by the school.)
In light of those concerns, we checked today with Seattle Animal Shelter director Don Jordan, who replied: “Yes, we are aware of this turkey and according to my staff, there may be more than one.”
Aha! Anyway, Jordan continued: “Our best guess is that this turkey has gotten loose from someone’s private flock. While we don’t advocate anyone trying to capture it, if someone does, they can certainly turn it over to the Seattle Animal Shelter. Also, citizens can contact the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife if they have concerns or questions, as this would fall within their jurisdiction. If someone does capture it and turn it over to SAS, we would look to either reunite with the owner or adopt it to someone with property outside of Seattle whereas it could live out its natural life.”
We’re pretty sure that means, beyond Thanksgiving.
P.S. You might not have to worry about it too much – earlier this morning, when Julia spotted it in the Alki area, it “flew or jumped” up on a roof …
… and then down again.
Story by Tracy Record
Photos by Patrick Sand
West Seattle Blog co-publishers
Students and stewards are in the midst of a record-setting salmon-release season at Fauntleroy Creek, with more than 800 students participating in 22 release events.
But their work is being jeopardized by vandals, we’ve learned today – painful and criminal in any event, particularly so because this is all work involving students and volunteers, along an urban salmon stream whose survival is by no means guaranteed.
More on that shortly – first, here’s what the work is all about.
That group of 50 fifth-graders from West Seattle Elementary is one of the school groups scheduled to visit Fauntleroy Creek this spring to release coho fry into the creek. Speaking with them in the photo is creek/watershed steward Judy Pickens, who has long volunteered with the Salmon in the Schools program. She and husband Phil Sweetland ferry salmon eggs to local classrooms in one mad dash every school year, and then for the next step, students and teachers bring the fry to the creek.
And off they go, with volunteer Denny Hinton‘s help:
Some classes turn salmon-raising and -releasing into an even larger learning experience. A recent visit by Arbor Heights Elementary included not only a release, but also a presentation by students who are studying the creek:
In our photo are Harriet and Hannah Mae, Arbor Heights fifth-graders who, as Pickens explains, are along with classmates delving into the mystery of what’s happening with the hundreds of thousands of coho salmon that have not come back into Puget Sound from the ocean.”
They gathered on a creekside patio with Pickens, who notes, “The fall 2015 return was nearly non-existent and the fall 2016 return is expected to be at least as dismal. Under the direction of teacher Angie Nall and aided by scientists from Seattle Public Utilities, the students explored El Niño warming off the coast that killed the prey coho need to survive, ocean acidification, and pollution from stormwater runoff.”
There have been glimmers of hope. In fall 2012, more than 200 spawners returned. Every fall, volunteers take up their spots along the creek and watch with hope.
For them and for the salmon, it’s enough of an upstream swim, they don’t need any more challenges. Which brings us to the vandalism. Pickens reports two recent incidents: “One was ripping the net from our smolt trap in the upper creek. We have the trap in place in order to know how many coho have matured to migrate to saltwater – a gauge of both food abundance and water quality. A volunteer checks that trap daily and was able to make repairs within hours of the vandalism so that this important monitoring could continue.
“The other was digging stones out from a derelict section of concrete pipe imbedded in sediment at the salmon-release site. A few days ago, our volunteers discovered a sizable hole in the pipe that was diverting much-needed water from where children release their fish. A volunteer hydrologist temporarily plugged the hole with stones so that flow was restored and releases could continue. Then someone removed the stones, requiring another fix. A long-term fix can’t happen until a period of low flow this summer, so we need the pipe left alone. ‘Volunteer’ appears a lot in this report, an indication of the community’s commitment to salmon in Fauntleroy Creek and the students who cap their salmon study on release day.”
Pickens concludes, “If responsible park users can be on the lookout for destructive behaviors, we can stop this senseless vandalism.”
Tayler and Ana, graduates of the UW’s Environmental Science Program, are Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network volunteers, and that means they’re helping wildlife all over our area. Want to join them? Here’s your next chance:
Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network will be holding our “Spring New Volunteer Training Session” on Monday evening, May 23rd, from 6:30 – 8:30 pm.
For more information and to RSVP (required to attend), please visit the volunteer page of our website. We encourage children to join and become stewards of Puget Sound’s fragile marine ecosystem.
As an authorized agent of NOAA’s West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network, Seal Sitters MMSN responds to reports of all marine mammals along the shoreline of West Seattle, from Brace Point through the Duwamish River.
Join Seal Sitters, a very active network, and make a difference for wildlife!
(Video by Rick R)
That’s reader video of a gray whale seen off Brace Point this morning – likely the same whale that was moving slowly through the center of Puget Sound last Saturday. As Robin Lindsey of the Seal Sitters Marine Stranding Network reported, authorities went out to assess that whale’s health on Saturday, but they have yet to make a statement on what they found. This time of year, gray whales still in Puget Sound might be ailing and/or hungry. One died off north Vashon last month. The reader who sent the video and photo this morning said the whale was heading slowly north toward the Fauntleroy ferry dock at the time.
We have since heard from someone who saw it off Lincoln Park. Updates if and when we get them – and if you are out on the water, remember that you have to stay at least 100 yards away.
10:53 AM: We usually feature bird photos with our daily calendar update – but this sighting is too unusual to time-share with other subject matter. We’ve received two reports, with photos, of a bird seen in West Seattle, with both readers describing it as a turkey! Above and below, photos that Jodi Steele took in Lincoln Park on Sunday, south of the north play area:
And before we could publish Jodi’s sighting, another one just arrived in the WSB inbox from George Capestany, south of Me-Kwa-Mooks, who wrote, “This is a rare sighting. This morning at 9:30. Just walking around the neighborhood”:
So is it really a turkey? BirdWeb doesn’t include King County in their habitat.
7:35 PM: Commenters have a variety of opinions on what exactly this bird is. Meantime, we have an even-closer photo courtesy of JoDean, who says her daughter took it at Lincoln Park on Sunday:
Let us know if you see it!
11:29 AM: Thanks to everyone who has texted and e-mailed about this, including Delfino Muñoz, who sent the photo above: A gray whale is in the middle of Puget Sound between West Seattle and Vashon Island and may be in trouble. Those who have watched it from afar and up close say it hasn’t moved much for some time. We looked through binoculars from the south end of Emma Schmitz Overlook and also noted that it was fairly stationary. We know it’s been reported to the local marine-mammal stranding network, Seal Sitters (206-905-SEAL), and to the state. Gray-whale sightings in Puget Sound aren’t rare, but this time of year, some that don’t make it back out to the open ocean for the annual Pacific Coast migration may be lingering because they are ill or undernourished. Earlier this month, one such gray whale was first seen in the Ballard Locks and then found dead between north Vashon and Fauntleroy. We’ll update if we find out anything more about the whale that’s out there right now.
2:43 PM UPDATE: Just got an update from Robin @ Seal Sitters, that those keeping an eye on the whale might see a boat closer to it than boats are supposed to be – researchers from Fish and Wildlife and Cascadia Research Collective are headed out to try to assess the whale’s condition and make sure it’s not entangled. WSB’s Christopher Boffoli got this view from Beach Drive, though the whale is much closer to the other side:
Christopher reported the whale is definitely blowing regularly, though not moving much. Robin also says they’ve advised the Coast Guard about the whale, since it’s in the shipping lanes and they want cargo ships to know to steer clear – Christopher photographed one passing:
We’ll continue to update when more information’s available.
Our two most recent reader reports about West Seattle coyote sightings both included photos:
First, Aimee sent that photo tonight, saying:
Just wanted to give North Admiral neighbors a heads up of a coyote I saw this afternoon. The coyote crossed California heading east on Hill Street. Sorry the picture is not the best, he was fast.
We also had this in queue from Lori‘s Fauntlee Hills sighting last week:
She saw the coyote running through her backyard at 9:15 in the morning and thought it had been hanging around that area for some days.
Wondering what to do if you see one? Best thing to do is to scare it away – coexistence depends on us and them keeping apart – as explained on this state Department of Fish and Wildlife infopage.
It’s been a while since we’ve had a report about one of Alki’s road-crossing river otters; Crispin Garrott saw that one near Duwamish Head around 11 pm Sunday. So we’re reminding you to be careful – as discussed here before, the otters have dens inland and cross the road to go looking for food, among other things. More than a few have been hit and killed. So, especially at night when you might not see them, be careful in the area.
Thanks to Krista Livingston for the photo and report:
This coyote was jumping around, playing in our yard (edge of Schmitz Park) at Charlestown and 52nd Ave SW. I know you get lots of sightings. Thought the neighbors would like to know the coyotes are out day and night.
If you scroll through our archive of coyote sightings, you will definitely be able to verify that. And if you do see one, please remember that the best thing to do for your sake and theirs is to scare it away – as explained in the state’s one-sheet about coexisting with coyotes.
The photo and info are from Robin Lindsey of Seal Sitters – who deal with more than seals:
With the recent media buzz about the gray whale who wandered into the Ballard Locks, Seal Sitters thought it was a good opportunity to discuss the timely manner in which all whale (and other cetacean) sightings should be reported to the West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network.
Unless a whale is deemed in danger (such as entangled or stranded), all reports including species and as precise a location as possible, should be emailed promptly to Orca Network – email@example.com.
For whales that are indeed in trouble – or in an area where we would prefer they not be, such as in the Duwamish River or Ballard Locks, please immediately contact the NOAA West Coast MMSN hotline at 866-767-6114 with as precise a location as possible.
Seal Sitters requests that if a whale is sighted along the shoreline of West Seattle, please contact the Seal Sitters Hotline at 206-905-7325 (SEAL) and then email Orca Network. This will potentially enable our first responders to obtain an identification photograph of the whale. Databases are kept by researchers of all whales and identification helps monitor the health of the species.
I have provided a photograph to help for identification purposes showing the distinct profile of a surfacing gray whale, with its trademark mottled gray skin and “knuckles” along the ridge of the lower back. Humpbacks and other whales have a dorsal fin.
Read more on the Seal Sitters’ Blubberblog website.
P.S. And after making the official reports mentioned above, please consider letting us know, too, as whale sightings are news! 206-293-6302 text or voice, 24/7.
Join us for this rare Seattle appearance by renowned whale researcher Bruce Mate. Bruce will demonstrate how his teams use satellite-monitored radio tags to identify critical habitats and migration routes of endangered whales to protect them. His talk will focus on western and ENP gray whales, right whales, and contemporary issues for blue whales during the last few years of warm water as examples.
Bruce Mate is the Director and Endowed Chair of the Marine Mammal Institute at Oregon State University, and founder of Oregon’s Whale Watching Spoken Here program.
Bruce’s talk is hosted by The Whale Trail, and co-sponsored by Seal Sitters and the American Cetacean Society, Puget Sound Chapter. Celebrate Earth Day by learning about whales!
Tickets are $10 ($5 for kids under 12) – available now at brownpapertickets.com.
It’s been years since our last reader report about an owl attack. This morning, Rose e-mailed this report of what happened while she jogged along Harbor Avenue:
On my run this morning at about 5:20 am on Harbor Ave SW just a bit south of the 7-11 [map] I was attacked by an owl. It is literally that one stretch of Harbor that if you scream no one hears you!
It clawed my head and it looked like it was considering another swipe.
I run that stretch of road every day and have never seen an owl there. So I want folks to be alert that one was there this morning.
ps – it did break my skin and there was a little blood but I am okay. and I was able to finish my run.
Our archived reports include encounters on Bonair in 2010 and in 2011, and, later in 2011, in Lincoln Park. And web searches reveal more than a few reports from elsewhere in the city. The state’s “Living With Wildlife” one-sheet about owls offers explanation as well as advice.
Last night when I got home there was a coyote eating something in my backyard. I beat on the windows and scared it away (for a minute) before it returned to get the meal it had left behind. Unfortunately, it looks like he may have gotten a neighborhood pet, like a tortoiseshell-color cat. Since it was getting dark then, I will check the yard today for any collars or identifying information. Please encourage your readers to keep their pets inside. This coyote is much bigger than the others that seem to visit my back yard on a weekly basis. If anyone has ideas on what can be put down to keep them away, I’d love to know what would do it. I live on the Alki hillside on Lander.
The state’s main advice in the coyote chapter of its “Living With Wildlife” series is to reduce food sources – don’t leave pet food out, let alone pets – as well as scaring them away if you see them, not just with noise, but even with throwing rocks or sticks if within range.
Two sightings your West Seattle neighbors wanted to share:
NEAR MORGAN JUNCTION: Brandon just e-mailed this:
Just wanted to report that I ran into a coyote this morning while walking the dogs, in case it is news. It came out of the alley between Mills and Willow, headed across Fauntleroy and headed down Willow [map] toward Pelly Place. It was around 7:30 this morning. My wife thought that cat owners would like to know.
MID-DELRIDGE: Sunday night, a texter reported a “coyote sighting at 24th and Myrtle [map] – our first sighting in 2 years living here.”
Just because you haven’t seen one doesn’t mean they’re not around – scroll through our archives for years of sightings (many with photos). We share them to be sure everyone’s aware they share our city (among others). Most important thing you can do if you see one is to scare it away – coexistence requires a healthy distance – lots more info on that can be found in this state-produced one-sheet.
Love nature? You can do more than admire it … you can help others learn about and enjoy it. From Seattle Parks:
Live the dream – become a nature guide! Do you love sharing nature with others? Are you interested in learning more about the flora and fauna of Seattle’s many public green spaces and parks? You are the perfect candidate for the Seattle Urban Nature Guide program. SUN Guides participate in 30 hours of training and commit to providing 8 programs a year at Environmental Learning Centers and parklands near schools throughout Seattle.
Seattle Urban Nature Guides provide hands-on learning opportunities for school groups, nature programs for families and adults and Discovery Stations for all throughout the city. Volunteers’ backgrounds are as varied as the students they teach – the common thread is their desire to share nature with the greater Seattle community.
The goal of the Seattle Urban Nature Guide Program is to enhance, promote, and foster appreciation of nature by connecting citizens and students with their Seattle Parklands, by providing educational opportunities for all.
Training begins March 29. Deadline for applications is March 8. For additional information, please contact Penny Rose at firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-386–4250, or apply online.
We’re told much of the training is at West Seattle’s own Environmental Learning Center – Camp Long.