West Seattle, Washington
11:12 AM: Transient killer whales are back in central Puget Sound. Kersti Muul says there are reports of southbound orcas off Bainbridge and some further north. Let us know if you see any!
12:57 PM: Update from Kersti – some of the whales are mid-channel between Bainbridge and Seattle, still southbound.
Orcas are reported to be in our area again – transient killer whales (though we’re close to the time of year when the Southern Residents usually arrive). Kersti Muul reports the orcas are in view from Constellation Park, northbound, after previously having been seek off Blake Island. Let us know if you see them!
If you’re commuting by Water Taxi or ferry today – you might have a bonus: At least 4 orcas in Elliott Bay, southbound, reports Kersti Muul.
Thanks to Kersti Muul for the tip – she said what’s likely a baleen whale has been seen in Elliott Bay, fairly close to Don Armeni Boat Ramp at last report. (Humpbacks and grays are the most-commonly seen baleen whales around here.)
Six years have passed since that juvenile humpback whale stranded and died by the Fauntleroy ferry dock. It’s something we’ll never forget seeing – and hearing, as the 39-foot-long whale took her last breaths while people tried to save her. Later this month, the whale will be teaching posthumous lessons as part of a “walkshop” in nearby Lincoln Park. We received the announcement today from the Henry Art Museum, which invites you to the September 24th event “Care for the Stranded“ as part of its “Learning Endings” series:
On August 7, 2016, a juvenile humpback whale died on the beach just south of Fauntleroy Ferry Terminal in West Seattle. This animal was one of hundreds of marine mammals that strand every year on the northwest coast of the Pacific. These ocean-dwelling animals are mostly hidden from humans during their lifetimes, but in a stranding death, they reveal themselves to us, and call on us to care. This care can take many forms — from traditional ceremony, to scientific necropsy, to community vigil. Join Learning Endings collaborators for a forest and shoreline walk of storytelling, conversation, participation, and performance as we collectively consider what the death of the Fauntleroy humpback can teach us about the lives of these animals, those who care for them, and the entangled futures of humans and oceans.
Care for the Stranded is part of Learning Endings, a multi-part project by artists and researchers Patty Chang, Astrida Neimanis, and Aleksija Neimanis. Through a series of events, gatherings, research, and discussions, Learning Endings brings together local communities, scientists, artists, and humanities researchers to consider ecologies of care in a time of endings, with a focus on stranded marine mammals. For this Shoreline Walkshop, the Learning Endings collaborators will be joined by regional knowledge keepers Ken Workman, member of the Duwamish Tribal Council, and research biologist Jessie Huggins, as well as Canadian-based audio artist Anne Bourne.
Participants will meet at 9:30 am Saturday, September 24th, by the north parking lot of Lincoln Park (8011 Fauntleroy Way SW), and will be together for about three hours. There is no fee, but you need to register here (look for the “tickets” link). The Fauntleroy humpback was one of three whale strandings we covered on local shores last decade, along with a gray whale in The Arroyos in April 2010 and a fin whale at Seahurst Park in April 2013.
Thanks to Kersti Muul for the tip – transient killer whales are headed northbound, seen off the south end of Blake Island. Let us know if you see them!
Thanks for the tips! One texter mentioned that transient killer whales were southbound, north of Elliott Bay, so we’ve been checking for word of if/when they were in view from here, and just got that from Kersti Muul, who says they’re visible from Constellation Park, but closer to the Bainbridge Island side, so you’ll definitely need binoculars.
Thanks to Kersti Muul for the report – transient orcas are in Elliott Bay, currently northwest of Duwamish Head. She says some are continuing eastbound into the bay, Let us know if you see them!
Thanks to Kersti Muul for the tip. She says transient orcas have just emerged from Colvos Passage along the west side of Vashon Island and are close to Southworth, visible (with binoculars) from central west-facing West Seattle, heading northbound. Let us know if you see them!
6:56 PM: Earlier we noted orcas were off West Seattle, southbound. If you missed them then – you have another chance; Chris Frankovich just texted to say they are off Three Tree Point, headed northbound toward Seola/The Arroyos. Let us know if you see them!
7:43 PM: Kersti Muul says they’re passing Brace Point now.
Busy day in central Puget Sound – southbound orcas are off West Seattle (as are outrigger canoes and a marathon swimmer). Thanks to tipsters including Gary Jones and Kersti Muul who have sent word of the whales – Gary says they’re just south of Alki Point now, southbound. Let us know if you see them!
9:22 AM: If you have time to start your week with some whale-watching, Kersti Muul reports that orcas are off Colman Pool at Lincoln Park, southbound. Let us know if you see them!
10:01 AM: See comments – Kersti confirms it turned out to be a humpback.
A first-time feature at last weekend’s West Seattle Summer Fest was The Whale Trail‘s scavenger hunt and presentations to celebrate the 20-year anniversary of the rescue of Springer the orca. We asked Whale Trail executive director Donna Sandstrom how the weekend of “orca sightings in The Junction” went:
Celebrate Springer at Summer Fest was a big success! Kids loved looking for the orcas, and merchants loved hosting them. The West Seattle Junction Association handed out more than 500 maps. Kids had to work hard to find some of the orcas!
About 70 people attended the Springer presentations, where the prizes were handed out. Everyone who participated got a Springer card and a marine mammal sighting chart, that will help them spot whales in the wild. Six grand-prize winners also received a copy of Orca Rescue! and an orca plushie.
Big thanks to the West Seattle Junction Association, the Senior Center of West Seattle, Husky Deli, participating merchants, and especially our volunteers, who made it all possible.
She says this was a first for The Whale Trail and they’d like to try it again, “maybe when we Welcome the Orcas in the Fall. In the meantime we are heading up to British Columbia this weekend to celebrate Springer with her team. We are hoping the guest of honor makes an appearance too!” She adds that you can “watch northern resident orcas – sometimes including Springer and her calves – at explore.org/orcalab. You can eavesdrop as they swim through Blackfish Sound, or watch as they visit the rubbing beaches in Johnstone Strait. The A54 pod is at the rubbing beaches now!” She was joined at the Summer Fest presentations by “members of Springer’s team, including Mark Sears, the local researcher who first spotted her; Joe Olson, who took the first hydrophone recordings of her calls; Dr. Dave Bain, who recognized the calls that helped identify her; and Lynne Barre, NOAA’s Branch Chief, who came to the northwest originally to help with Springer and now leads recovery efforts for the endangered southern residents. The audience was especially excited to see one of Springer’s sticks! Mark brought one of the small logs that was used to bring her close to the boat for early monitoring and assessments.”
Thanks to Kersti Muul for the report – transient orcas are in the area, headed southbound, just south of Discovery Point on the north edge of Elliott Bay, which means they should be visible from Alki with binoculars. Let us know if you see them!
Before the night ends, we need to remind you that West Seattle Summer Fest is now only a week away – Friday-Sunday, July 15-17, in the heart of The Junction. Tonight’s preview: Celebrating Springer at Summer Fest! It’s part of a Junction Association partnership with The Whale Trail for this year’s festival, explained as follows:
Springer is a Northern Resident orca who was discovered near West Seattle in 2002, lost, alone and 300 miles away from home. Later that summer she was rescued, rehabilitated and returned to her family on the north end of Vancouver Island. Today she is thriving with two calves of her own – it’s the only successful orca reunion in history!
The West Seattle Junction Association and The Whale Trail are teaming up to celebrate Springer’s success with family-friendly activities at Summer Fest.
Follow The Whale Trail in The Junction – look for orcas in local stores! We will have a Whale Trail table on Summer Fest Eve on Thursday the 14th where kids can pick up a map of where the Orcas will be in the Junction. They find them and merchants will sign the map. On Friday-Sunday the maps will be at the Info Booth (California/Alaska). Bring the completed list back to the Junction Info booth at the festival and kids will get a ticket for each Orca they found. They take the tickets to the Orca presentations below for a chance to win an orca-themed prize.
The Whale Trail will present 3 PM showings of “Orca Rescue! The true story of an orphaned orca named Springer” on Saturday and Sunday at the Senior Center. Hear Springer’s story and learn how you can help orcas today. All events are free and family-friendly. Hope to see you there!
9:28 AM: Thanks to Carl Furfaro for the report – a humpback whale breaching off Lincoln Park, just south of Colman Pool, less than an hour ago. Let us know if you see it!
7:43 PM: Just got two notes (thanks to Gary and Andrew!) that it’s been seen in the Alki Point/Constellation Park vicinity, southbound.
8:11 PM: With just enough daylight left to offer a chance to see them, orcas are in the area. Kersti Muul just sent word that “transients, including the rarely seen T72 with a rolled dorsal fin, are heading south/southwest from Elliott Bay.” Let us know if you see them!
ADDED: If you didn’t see it in comments, here’s the photo Ian posted of T72:
Images like those from SR3 researchers have led the state to order emergency rules requiring whale-watching boats to give Southern Resident Killer Whales more space. The state’s announcement today explains the latest concerns about the endangered orcas:
With numerous whales in poor body condition and several pregnancies reported, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) today issued an emergency order requiring commercial whale-watching vessels to keep at least one-half nautical mile away from endangered Southern Resident killer whales this summer, and all boaters are urged to Be Whale Wise and do the same.
Using measurements from drone photographs, researchers from SR3 Sealife Response, Rehabilitation, and Research identified several pregnancies among the Southern Resident killer whale population and a dozen members in poor condition between September 2021 and April 2022.
“While we have reason to remain hopeful with the reports of recent pregnancies, the reality is that there are several Southern Residents that aren’t doing well and we’re very concerned about the population at large,” said WDFW Director Kelly Susewind. “We’re taking action today to address these immediate concerns, and we continue working with our partner organizations to implement the Governor’s Task Force recommendations for the long-term health of these orcas.”
According to SR3’s measurements from aerial images, three K-pod whales (K12, K20, and K27) were in the last nine months of pregnancy, and likely within the last six months (from a typical full term of 17-18 months), as of September 2021. Based on recent online videos showing a calf with K pod, it is likely that at least one of these pregnancies was successful. Another whale, L72, was determined to be in the last six months of pregnancy as of January 2021, and we expect this whale is still in late-stage pregnancy. These females had body widths consistent with those of females who subsequently gave birth in the past.
Twelve J- and L-pod members were in poor condition based on measurements of the fatness behind the skull, which puts them at a two-to-three-times higher risk of mortality. Concerningly, one of the dozen whales in poor condition (L83) also appeared to be pregnant when last measured in January 2022.
In addition to the pregnancies and orcas in poor body condition, SR3’s results identified two young whales (J53 and L123) that were exhibiting slower-than-expected growth, which is measured by length. One of these (J53) is also exhibiting lower-than-average body condition. …
Read the full state announcement here.
10:12 AM: Thanks to Kersti Muul for the report – again today, a humpback whale is in view off West Seattle. Right now it’s traveling westbound along Alki, close to the Lighthouse, “super close” to shore.
12:33 PM: Kersti says in comments that two humpbacks are in the area. Thanks to her and everyone who’s been commenting with sighting updates below!
2:03 PM: Thanks to Renee Umeno for this short but sweet clip of a humpback as it dove off Constellation Park:
7:55 PM: Thanks to Steyn Benade of Always Local Photos for the next two images:
4:26 PM: If you don’t mind whale-watching in the rain, Kersti Muul just sent word that orcas are headed southbound in Puget Sound, crossing the mouth of Elliott Bay, south of West Point.
5:29 PM: Kersti reports via the comment section that they’re in the Bainbridge ferry lanes, closer to the Bainbridge side.