WEST SEATTLE WILDLIFE: The reason for sea lions’ Beach Drive brunch

12:22 PM: Those are just a few of the sea lions hanging out off Emma Schmitz Memorial Overlook (4503 Beach Drive SW) this midday, some “sailing” while taking a break from an all-you-can-eat brunch. Birds too:

Consensus so far seems to be that they are feeding on spawning herring.

That would seem to be borne out by the water color difference you can see in this reader-contributed video from Terence:

Here’s a story about a similar recent event up north. Our archives show a local spawning event three years ago.

P.S. Thanks for all the tips on this!

ADDED 4:32 PM: Kersti Muul sends this photo of herring eggs on the shore:

And from Erica Sokoloff, two more Beach Drive sights – first, a tern (those are the birds with the prehistoric-sounding screech); second, a sea lion nosing out of the water:

ADDED LATE SUNDAY: Aerial view from “Diver Laura” James:

We asked Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network‘s David Hutchinson about the phenomenon:

The Hotline has had a number of calls recently about sea lions offshore, with people expressing concern that they were entangled or injured. We encourage people to call and report these sightings to the Seal Sitters Hotline (206-905-7325) so we can keep track of this activity and just in case a sea lion is actually in distress. A couple weeks ago, our contact at WDFW reported there were herring spawn events in the area (Purdy, Indianola, Case Inlet) which are likely attracting those large numbers of sea lions. Most of these animals will be heading out of our area within the next month.

23 Replies to "WEST SEATTLE WILDLIFE: The reason for sea lions' Beach Drive brunch"

  • Jon April 19, 2020 (12:26 pm)

    Oh no, the salmon need those herring.

  • Marianne April 19, 2020 (12:38 pm)

    I wonder if those are the little fishes I saw under the water taxi dock last week. There were 100s of thousands of them. 

    • Sea lion lover April 19, 2020 (4:24 pm)

      I was a little upset that some kayakers were not giving appropriate distance to the animals. At one point a sea lion felt the need to bark at a kayak that was within a few feet of it. Be respectful, people! Maybe we need some signage to remind people how to maintain distance from wildlife. 

      • Richard Maloney April 20, 2020 (5:14 am)

        Totally agree. We watched a number of kayakers paddling right up to these beasts as if they were going to be friends. Stupid.

  • Graciano April 19, 2020 (1:07 pm)

    Not to worry I’m sure the salmon are getting fair share

  • carol April 19, 2020 (1:18 pm)

    I happened past on my bike to see this glorious sight-I thought probably about 50-75 seal lions (and seals?)   and 2 juvenile eagles were to be seen as well.  What a wonderful treat for a Sunday morning.  And good job on the social distancing, viewing humans! It was great to enjoy it with my fellow neighbors.

  • Rick April 19, 2020 (1:50 pm)

    My father in law’s condo is right across the road and he tells me they were barking it up around 4:00 AM and were out there quite a while. Once it was daylight he could see them. Must have been some feast!

  • AlkiJames April 19, 2020 (2:27 pm)

    Photo from when they were off Alki the other day feeding

    • Jayjay April 19, 2020 (3:45 pm)

      That is an amazing photo, thank you for sharing!

    • Fluffs April 19, 2020 (10:09 pm)

      Wow!  Thank you!

  • Mj April 19, 2020 (2:53 pm)

    She Sea Lions are very hungry, they are still eating, it’s almost 1500

  • cdad April 19, 2020 (3:09 pm)

    I was riding my bike and noticed the sea lions feeding. I have lived in West Seattle for over 12 years and have never seen this happen. Does it have to do with less pollution into the sound from the run off of cars. Also I have noticed the water looking cleaner and more turquoise in color. Maybe I am just going crazy being stuck at home but the sound has been beautiful lately.

    • WSB April 19, 2020 (4:17 pm)

      The turquoise in this case was from the spawning herring. As noted in our archive link at the story’s end, when this happened three years ago, it was a surprise because this is not a historic herring spawning ground.

      • herongrrrl April 19, 2020 (4:44 pm)

        That event 3 years ago didn’t attract the same throngs of sea lions, though. I’ve lived here my whole life and have never seen so many in this particular spot. My guess is it’s the gang that usually hang out on the big barge buoys off Seacrest. Now wouldn’t it be exciting if some of the mammal eating transient killer whales showed up? ;)

    • TWST April 19, 2020 (6:19 pm)

      I’ve definitely noticed a change in the atmosphere, less air and noise pollution, I bet wildlife is appreciating this. I hope Orca watchers and photographers are keeping an eye out! Thanks for sharing wildlife updates, WSB!

    • Richard Maloney April 20, 2020 (5:22 am)

      I last saw this many back in spring of 1986 or so.  About 40 were floating, on their backs, just off Me Kwa Mooks. Nothing like this since then.

      • newnative April 20, 2020 (9:21 am)

        I don’t recall what kind of occasion it was but I have seen a marine shindig like this off constellation park, with a bunch of seals, sea lions, birds. I believe it was low tide. 

  • John April 20, 2020 (9:02 am)

     The herring eggs on the shore photo is a  memory of my time as a salmon buyer,  mid seventies, in Bristol Bay Alaska  when we packed small wooden boxes with Herring Roe on Kelp, a regional delicacy in Japan.

    • J-Ru April 21, 2020 (8:44 pm)

      Guess that explains why the salmon are starving. Hope this doesn’t spur people to start collecting herring eggs for cash on the Puget Sound.

    • Tom April 21, 2020 (10:55 pm)

      John – This may be a good topic for discussion at the Fish Divoteers golf tournament in September!

  • Diverlaura April 21, 2020 (12:16 am)

    https://youtu.be/7mZrs_glFt8Aerial Video :)

    • Marian Johnson April 22, 2020 (12:45 pm)

      Thanks so much for posting this awesome and beautiful event!

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