West Seattle sunset: Red-hot views, one with a bird you’ve probably heard

Two similar views of tonight’s smoke-reddened sunset (along with Siberia and B.C., Northern California is a factor too, says Cliff Mass) – one with something extra. Above, David Hutchinson‘s view from Alki as the sun started to slip behind the Olympics … below, Robin Sinner‘s view, with a seabird that’s been audible inland too:

The silhouetted bird is a Caspian Tern, and their call – which some have described as “prehistoric” (see and hear them here) – has been heard more inland than we recall from previous years. We asked one of our expert local bird/wildlife watchers, Kersti Muul, about it recently and she said the terns heard away from the water are likely carrying food to a nesting colony that’s in the east Duwamish area.

16 Replies to "West Seattle sunset: Red-hot views, one with a bird you've probably heard"

  • JayDee July 31, 2018 (6:49 am)

    Is the tern the one whose call sounds rather ragged like a gull that has a sore throat?  I’ve always wondered which bird that was.

    • WSB July 31, 2018 (7:36 am)

      That’s a good way to describe it. If you follow the link in the story, the BirdWeb page from Seattle Audubon has audio as well as a photo.

    • miws July 31, 2018 (8:48 am)

      I listened to the audio of it and thought similarly; sounded like it was on the verge of laryngitis.Mike 

  • Norskgirl July 31, 2018 (6:53 am)

    And the moon during its rise was a red orange. Like so often seen with a Harvest Moon only more orange than gold.  Glad I happened upon it to enjoy. 

  • Swede. July 31, 2018 (6:58 am)

    It’s strange how fast the smoke comes in. Sunday was all clear and normal and then yesterday really foggy! 

  • Karen Lyons July 31, 2018 (7:28 am)

    I heard the Caspian Tern in the Junction. WoW! Very prehistoric and loud! Sounded like they were shouting. Definitely something you don’t hear everyday.

    • Pelicans July 31, 2018 (10:02 am)

      Karen, I heard one too! Friday afternoon at about 6 pm, I was walking with the “Walk All Ways With Walk” sign in the Junction, and had to stop right in the middle of the intersection to look up. I know their calls well, but what was astonishing was the volume! It was really loud over the idling bus by the bank, music and engine noise from vehicles, people and everything else. I’m sure motorists thought the little old lady had finally lost it as I had to stop in my tracks to look up. And sure enough, one was flying east. I didn’t know they nested in the Duwamish!

  • Kayo July 31, 2018 (8:10 am)

    I’ve been hearing these birds for a while over on the east side of the golf course.  Thanks for sharing.  I was wondering what they were. 

  • Marianne July 31, 2018 (9:15 am)

    I hate it when birds sound like an animal in distress!

  • Betsy Hoffmeister July 31, 2018 (10:39 am)

    I call it The Grawp and I’m positive it’s what a pterodactyl sounds like. I have lived here 18 years and last year is the first I ever observed them. I was kind of obsessed with them! 

  • Lee July 31, 2018 (1:02 pm)

    For the past two weeks I’ve been seeing Caspian terns carrying fish caught near Me Kwa Mooks and flying east. Any clue on why they are fishing here when there must be fishing spots closer to their colony?

  • Jort July 31, 2018 (1:05 pm)

    These weird birds fly over our neighborhood, and this whole time I thought it was just a very “special” seagull, or perhaps a Doomsday Gull possessed by evil demons, if you believe in that kind of thing. I’m glad to hear it’s just some weird bird.

  • KM July 31, 2018 (1:58 pm)

    I hear these all over as well (Sunrise Heights)! They always wake our (indoor) cats out of a deep sleep.

  • 98126res July 31, 2018 (3:33 pm)

    So interesting. Did not know what it was until this blog.  Their call is sooo eerie, in a good way!  Powerful, always flying very fast going due west or east, over our house near Holy Rosary every night.

  • CanDo August 1, 2018 (6:27 am)

     Appreciate the info on the Caspian Tern.  I’ve heard one or two of them every morning this year, flying over the house towards the Sound and wondered what they were.  Haven’t been able to see them closely enough, so this is interesting news!  Thanks again, WS Blog!  Can’t miss that distinctive squawk!

  • sam-c August 1, 2018 (11:14 am)

    Thank you so much for the info on the bird noise !  We’ve been noticing them in our family too, but didn’t know what it was. I had assumed that’s the sound a seagull makes when it’s fighting with another bird (or something).  So glad to find out !!! Thank you!!

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