West Seattle, Washington
10:23 AM: Early alert – Kersti Muul tells us Southern Resident Killer Whales are reported to be headed this way, passing Discovery Park on the north edge of Elliott Bay, southbound, Members of J-Pod this time, she says. Let us know if you see them!
11:26 AM: As Kersti notes in comments, they’ve arrived, but visibility is poor (the much-awaited rain has arrived).
10:35 AM: If you have eyes on Elliott Bay, watch for whales – just got word from Kersti Muul of “at least four orcas” seen in Elliott Bay. Let us know if you see them!
1:04 PM: Thanks to everyone for updates in comments. Kersti just texted that they’re now southbound passing Brace Point.
10:07 AM: If you can take a break for some Wednesday whale-watching, we just heard from Kersti Muul that a group of whales had been seen heading southbound through the Seattle/Bainbridge Island ferry lanes, so they should be visible from West Seattle soon if they’re not already, Let us know if you see them!
11:22 AM: In addition to Kersti’s updates in comments, we’ve also heard from Patrick via email, “Two orcas behind the ferry Cathlamet. Looks like they are fishing but they did a full breach. South of Brace Point. Heading South.”
10:09 AM: Resident orcas are in Puget Sound headed southbound, passing through the Bremerton-Seattle ferry lane at last report, Kersti Muul tells us. Let us know if you see them!
10:47 AM: Thanks for all the updates, including what Kersti’s posted in comments below, and a text we just got from Donna Sandstrom of The Whale Trail reporting they’re now “heading south … near Vashon ferry dock.”
2:40 PM: Note – if you haven’t been checking the comments – that Kersti reports they’re headed back northbound.
12:23 PM: It’s a little murky out there but if you’re up for some whale-watching, Kersti Muul tells us orcas are headed back this way, northbound off the southernmost shore of West Seattle – let us know if you see them!
12:30 PM: We’ve also heard from Donna Sandstrom of The Whale Trail, who says these are Southern Residents from all three pods. (Update: J and K, she says,)
1:16 PM: Now off Lincoln Park per multiple reports (thanks!).
2:13 PM: From Donna: “They are clearly visible from Alki looking west. Leaders are rounding the point northbound and NOAA boat is with them.”
8:08 AM: Orcas are southbound in the Fauntleroy ferry lanes, per Kersti Muul.
10 AM: Kersti’s latest update in a comment below is that they appear to be headed back northbound – so that should put them in view from here again if they continue this way.
Orcas are visible off Constellation Park, northbound, reports Kersti Muul, so you might be able to glimpse them from Alki for a while.
10:11 AM: Thanks for the tips! We’ve heard from both Kersti Muul and an unidentified texter that orcas are passing Fauntleroy, southbound. Let us know if you see them!
10:51 AM: Seems these orcas are coming home for the holiday – Kersti says they’re Southern Resident Killer Whales.
Thanks for all the tips! Orcas are back in our area today. According to the most recent report, from Jeff Hogan of Killer Whale Tales, they were southbound south of Brace Point. Kersti Muul says they’re residents (added: J Pod, to be specific). They eventually have to head north, though, so be on the lookout later!
1:25 PM: Southern Resident Killer Whales are visible off West Seattle right now, report Kersti Muul and The Whale Trail‘s Donna Sandstrom – both say they’re from K Pod, The orcas were visible from Constellation Park south of Alki Point, headed southbound. It’s been raining lightly so visibility is not great. Let us know if you see them!
2:09 PM: From south of the ferry dock, Susan Lantz-Dey reports seeing aa lone male across the water by Manchester.
4 PM: Kersti says some J Pod whales are in the area too. Still heading south, “Brace Point-ish” as of a little while ago.
If you’re interested in some Saturday whale-watching, Kersti Muul just sent word that transient orcas are reported to be in the area, emerging from Colvos Passage (which runs along the west side of Vashon Island) and headed toward Southworth. So you can try looking, with binoculars, from west-facing West Seattle. Let us know if you see them!
10:36 AM: Southern Resident Killer Whales are in the area, reports Kersti Muul – south of (update: Faye) Bainbridge, southbound, but closer to the west side of the Sound, so take your binoculars if you go looking. Let us know if you see them!
12:36 PM: Kersti says below that they’ve headed back northbound, north of here.
2:37 PM: We’ve received multiple reports of a whale breaching off West Seattle this afternoon, and it’s not an orca. A texter says they’re 100 percent sure it’s a juvenile humpback. They last saw it off Me-Kwa-Mooks/Emma Schmitz Memorial Overlook (4500 block of Beach Drive).
2:48 PM: Even the emergency crews responding to the day’s second Beach Drive water-rescue call (that call’s unfounded so far) have just mentioned the breaching whale.
3:31 PM: Thanks to Beach Drive resident Ruth Winter for sending the photo we’ve added above. She says, “It was spectacular” – something she’s never seen.
The West Seattleite who founded The Whale Trail, Donna Sandstrom, has just published a book for young readers telling the story of the event that immersed her in orca activism, the rescue of Springer the wayward whale. You’re invited to a launch event in West Seattle this Sunday. Here’s the announcement:
Whale Trail founder and local author Donna Sandstrom’s book “Orca Rescue! The True Story of an Orphaned Orca Named Springer“ was published this month by Kids Can Press.
The middle grade nonfiction book tells the riveting story of how a young orca was discovered in Puget Sound – lost, alone and 300 miles away from home. Six months later, the 2-year-old orca was rescued, rehabilitated, and returned to her family on the north end of Vancouver Island.
It’s the first and so far only successful orca reunion in history. Almost twenty years later, Springer is thriving, tending her two calves. And on the day the book was published, Oceanwise announced that she is expecting again!
The story is told as it happened, from Donna’s perspective as a community organizer on the project. Many of the events described in the book happened here, including Springer’s initial discovery by researcher Mark Sears, and a pivotal town meeting at The Hall at Fauntleroy.
The book is beautifully illustrated. Fact spreads are interspersed with the narrative, and learning resources include maps, matrilines,and a glossary. The book recently received a starred review in Kirkus Review, and is a selected pick by the Junior Library Guild.
Join Donna and other team members to celebrate the book’s publication, and Springer’s continued success. Books will be available to purchase on site from Paper Boat Booksellers. The family-friendly event is free and open to the public. Please bring proof of vaccination and wear a mask. We look forward to celebrating with you!
What: “Orca Rescue! The True Story of an Orphaned Orca Named Springer” Book launch and signing featuring members of Springer’s team
When: Sunday October 17, 3 to 5 PM.
Where: C&P Coffee, 5612 California Ave SW
Event will be held outside, weather permitting.
10:28 AM: Transient orcas are southbound in Puget Sound, just north of Elliott Bay, reports Kersti Muul. Let us know if you see them!
5:14 PM: No updates since then but Kersti just texted to say orcas are now northbound in the Fauntleroy ferry lanes.
This afternoon, Kersti Muul texted us as an FYI that a beluga whale had been spotted in Tacoma’s Commencement Bay. Then this evening, she got word of what’s probably the same one, seen off West Seattle.
The photo is by Shannon Felix, who was kayaking near Jack Block Park at the time of the sighting, around 5:30 pm. This is way out of the usual range for belugas, which – as explained in this NOAA fact sheet – are generally Arctic dwellers. But they can stray – we found this report of one off San Diego last year. Kersti says she’s consulted a beluga researcher to confirm that’s what this is.
2:38 PM: Kersti Muul texted to say they’re transients, closer to this side of the Sound.
2:41 PM: Donna says in a comment below that it’s a group of four whales.
2:54 PM: Kersti says they’re now off Alki, spotted in the 2100 block.
3:19 PM: Update from Kersti – two groups, two females and a calf off the downtown waterfront, “second group now coming into the bay … at Duwamish Head.”
Up for evening whale-watching from West Seattle’s west-facing shore? Kersti Muul reports that transient orcas that spent some time in Elliott Bay earlier are now south of Blake Island, on the west side of the Sound, so you’ll need binoculars. Let us know if you see them!
Less than a week after Southern Resident Killer Whales in J-Pod came far enough south to be seen from West Seattle, there’s word the pod has three pregnancies in progress. The state Department of Fish and Wildlife issued a news release today saying the evidence is in health-monitoring drone photography by SR3. As a result, WDFW has ordered boaters to stay at least half a nautical mile away from the three pregnant orcas and any group with which they’re believed to be traveling. The three are J36 (21 years old), J37 (20 years old), and J19 (42 years old). The SRKWs have a high rate of pregnancy loss, the emergency rule points out. So it’s hoped this order will help increase the odds of successful births.
5:13 PM: The Southern Resident Killer Whales’ first local appearance of (almost) fall could be happening shortly! Members of J-Pod have been heading south in Puget Sound all day, and Donna Sandstrom of The Whale Trail just called to say that if they continue southbound, they should be in view from West Seattle around 5:30 pm or so. Thanks also to Kersti Muul for updates on their southward journey. Both have mentioned that West Seattle researcher Mark Sears headed out to see them earlier today; Donna says Mark has seen J56, the 2-year-old whale reported to be ailing, and his early word was that she looked OK – that’s of course pending a closer assessment of her condition. Anyway, assuming the orcas keep heading this way, let us know if you see them!
5:23 PM: Don’t rush down to the shore – update from Donna, they’re milling off West Point, on the north edge of Elliott Bay.
6:38 PM: We are at the west end of the Alki promenade and are seeing one in the distance to the NW.
7:04 PM: Still seeing a few blows in that same general area.
Just a few weeks after the presumed death of Southern Resident Killer Whale K21, another resident orca is reported to be in bad shape – and this one is just two years old. News of J56’s condition is in a state Department of Fish and Wildlife news release today reminding boaters to give orcas space. In particular, the state has issued an emergency order for commercial whale-watching boats to stay at least half a mile away from J56 and the group with which she is traveling. The news release does not specify their last-known location but the Orca Network reported via its sightings email update that J-Pod was seen in the San Juan Islands earlier this week. Research has shown that vessel noise is a particular stressor for orcas, and that females tend to stop foraging for food when boats are within 400 yards. There’s more information here about giving whales space when you’re out on the water (and how to report violations if you see them).