West Seattle, Washington
Transient orcas are in view, north of Blake Island, southbound, “lots of breaching,” per Kersti Muul of Salish Wildlife Watch.
9:54 AM: Saturday morning whales! Kersti Muul from Salish Wildlife Watch tells us northbound transient orcas are just coming out of Colvos Passage on the west side of Vashon Island. Let us know if you see them!
7:24 PM: Photos added. The two above are from David Hutchinson, as seen from Alki. Below, from Helen Dolejsi:
9:43 AM: You can watch for whales off either west-facing or northeast-facing West Seattle this morning. Kersti Muul from Salish Wildlife Watch says transient killer whales are northbound, emerging from Colvos Passage on the west side of Vashon Island, toward the west end of the Fauntleroy-Vashon-Southworth ferry route. Also, she reports there’s a humpback whale in Elliott Bay, off the mid-downtown waterfront. Let us know if you see any of these!
2:46 PM: See comments for updates, including Kersti’s note that the Elliott Bay sighting turned out to be a gray whale.
1:48 PM: Southbound transient killer whales are in the area – Kersti Muul of Salish Wildlife Watch reports they’re mid-channel, passing the mouth of Elliott Bay, which means they’re likely to be in view soon from west-facing West Seattle. Let us know if you see them!
2:20 PM: Kersti says they’re spread out but the leader of the group should be visible from Lowman Beach by now, still southbound.
Two reports of whale sightings today – maybe you’ve had a sighting too? Around noon, Philip reported a whale (“not an orca”) off Three Tree Point headed north. About two hours later, Susan saw this: “I glimpsed the back half of an orca as it rolled northward, not far from the Fauntleroy ferry slip. I waited for it to resurface north of the dock… and waited… saw a blow, but its source didn’t appear to be the B&W of an orca. It surfaced again, and definitely was something other than an orca or humpback. What happened to the orca?” Humpbacks and grays are in regional waters now too; if you see a marine mammal you can’t identify, try a species guide like this one offered by The Whale Trail.
9:15 AM: Transient orcas are in view across the Sound from West Seattle, passing Southworth right now, “northbound, quickly,” reports Kersti Muul of Salish Wildlife Watch. Let us know if you see them!
9:33 AM: Update from Kersti – they’re now in view off Blake Island.
A tipster reports seeing southbound orcas between Vashon and Blake Islands. Let us know if you see them!
11:59 AM: Up for Friday whale-watching? Transient orcas are southbound, north of Alki but visible from there, reports Kersti Muul of Salish Wildlife Watch. Let us know if you see them!
2:41 PM: Thanks to Brandy for emailing to say they’re now in view off Lincoln Park’s south shore, lingering.
3:56 PM: Added, two photos above by Rick Rasmussen. Also see Kersti’s images in the comment section.
ADDED 10:57 PM: Trileigh Tucker has sent photos too – here are three:
(Thanks again to everyone who has shared photos and tips!)
If you want to take advantage of the end of our sunny stretch by doing some whale-watching, here’s an early alert that you might be able to see orcas today. That’s according to Kersti Muul of Salish Wildlife Watch, who says transient killer whales are southbound off Fay Bainbridge Park (map), headed this way. Let us know if you see them!
11 AM: Kersti says they’ve changed direction.
Just in from Kersti Muul of Salish Wildlife Watch – orcas are in the area, southbound in the Fauntleroy ferry lanes. Let us know if you see them!
9:12 AM: Just received via text:
Watching Orcas from our house near Brace Point. They’re staying put for now, seem to be fishing. They’re at the southern tip of Blake island. Middle of the Sound. Look for seagulls overhead.
Let us know if you see them too!
9:28 AM: The texter reports they’ve moved south to the ferry lanes, now off the stern of M/V Kittitas.
10:01 AM: Northbound now, per comments.
11:45 AM: And now to the south – Kersti Muul texted to say they were near the Fauntleroy ferry terminal; Robin Sinner comments that they were in view south of there.
9:12 AM: Kersti Muul of Salish Wildlife Watch reports a gray whale is off Alki right now, just 100 yards out to sea “hugging the shoreline.” Let us know if you see it!
9:40 AM: Northbound, Kersti says, headed toward Duwamish Head at last report.
Quick note for would-be whale watchers – Kersti Muul of Salish Wildlife Watch says the transient orcas that passed West Seattle headed southbound yesterday are in the area again, seen in Elliott Bay by the grain silos as of about half an hour ago.
11:49 AM: Just in from Kersti Muul of Salish Wildlife Watch: Transient orcas are southbound, just north of Discovery Park, headed this way.
12:35 PM: Still headed this way, Kersti reports in a comment.
1:14 PM: Another update from Kersti – passing Alki Point.
Thanks to Kersti Muul of Salish Wildlife Watch for another alert about whales heading this way – they’re northbound, south of Fauntleroy, right now. These are transient killer whales again. Let us know if you see them!
P.S. Kersti warns of “choppy seas,” so not optimal viewing this time.
4:38 PM: Thanks to Kersti Muul for the tip – transient killer whales are in the area, midchannel in Puget Sound, southbound, passing the mouth of Elliott Bay. Let us know if you see them!
7:06 PM: Texter says they’re in view now looking south toward the Fauntleroy/Vashon ferry lane.
Kersti Muul sends word that transient orcas are southbound just south of Blake Island, toward the west side of the channel.
Like so many things, The Whale Trail‘s annual “Welcome the Orcas” celebration went virtual this year. The announcement we published in December included an invitation to enter a writing contest. Today – news of the winners!
The Whale Trail announces the winners of its first Welcome the Orcas Writing Contest, held in December 2020 to celebrate the seasonal return of the endangered southern resident orcas to central Puget Sound. Writers Andy Havens and Hannah Lindell-Smith, both West Seattleites, took top honors in their age groups.
“We are grateful to everyone who participated, and helped us welcome the southern residents with heart, and art!” said Whale Trail director Donna Sandstrom. “With the recent additions of J57, J58 and L125, there are three new calves to welcome! The southern resident community has grown to 75 individuals — here’s to a new season of hope for the orcas, and the world.”
The Librarian, by Andy Havens (Adult Category)
J57, by Hannah Lindell-Smith (9th to 12 grade)
Love Them, Protect Them, by Lucy Larkin (Adult Category)
Orca Song, by Hannah Lindell-Smith (9th to 12 grade)
Welcome Home, Orcas, by Bobbi Fabbelano (Adult Category)
Read all the prize-winning poems on The Whale Trail’s website here; the first-prize winners are below:
by Andy Havens
The orca’s tongue is tattooed in crowblack ink
with the whole history of the Hoh
and the names of Nisqually who breathed the air
in the sacred space between hawk and bear –
hung to cure in a frozen smoke.
In the blackfish grin, written on salmon skin,
lives the library of the Lummi
and the forgotten words to S’Klallam songs
sung in the fog from which they’re drawn –
then gone like a dream’s unblooming.
But the orca speaks, too, the newer words
of submarine and ferry boat
and the sharp dialect of high skylines
that replace the flesh with the crystalline –
concrete terms being asked to float.
A blackfin ripple loops like cursive in the bay
as the orca pens the Pacific tome
and writes Sound verses beneath the surface
in a Salish hand whose arc is perfect –
the scrimshaw line of tooth and bone.
*Andy Havens is husband, a father of two, and a US Army veteran living on the ersatz island of West Seattle. He is currently writing poetry focused on Pacific Northwest geography, nature, and history. His poetry has appeared in Fragments Literary Magazine and the online journal Whatever Keeps the Lights On.
by Hannah Lindell-Smith
You are the wind.
You are the Sun and Moon that light the way.
You are the stars in the darkest of nights.
You are the rainbow after the storm.
You are the waves you swim through,
the child of the life-giving water and your family’s tears.
You are the blood of a dying universe.
You are the fighter and survivor.
You are the salmon that travel hundreds of miles
to give their lives to you.
You are the stories your family will tell you.
You are all that they will give to you,
and the love you will give to all.
You are everything that has come before.
You are the one we have been waiting for.
*Hannah Lindell-Smith is a 14-year-old from Seattle. She is a student, activist, writer, and change-maker, future and present. Watch out, world!
Along with direct action to save endangered orcas, education is key. A West Seattle resident who specializes in that – as well as research – has just been honored with a statewide award. Jeff Hogan of Killer Whale Tales has received the Outreach Award from the Washington chapter of The Wildlife Society. From the organization’s announcement, prepared for an upcoming edition of its newsletter:
Since 2000, Jeff Hogan has dedicated himself to Killer Whale Tales. Jeff had an idea that would pull together his Orca research experience with theatrical storytelling, science, and childhood education. His decision to put everything on the line to start a nonprofit is indicative of just how committed he is to ensure that the next generation understands the way consumer behaviors impact the environment, and also that science is cool!
For the first 10 years of the program’s existence, Jeff ran the program, creating and updating the program materials, delivering the program, fundraising, analyzing data, accounting, marketing, and scheduling almost entirely by himself. More recently, as the program has evolved to include more-robust data reporting and communications, Jeff has been able to rely on board members to help with some of the back-end functions, but the program materials, delivery, relationship building with teachers / researchers / major funders / other similar organizations still falls mainly on Jeff’s shoulders.
He has brought engaging environmental education to 125,000 elementary school students throughout the West Coast and Canada, and over 60,000 students have completed and returned “Kids Making a Difference Now” conservation worksheets, meaning they have taken action at home to reduce their family’s environmental footprint and help the whales. Jeff has continuously been the driving force in this nonprofit and has sacrificed personally to keep it going.
Jeff has some kind of a magical presence that inspires everyone he meets to take interest in the Southern Resident killer whales, science, and/or the environment. It is truly a remarkable talent that very few others possess. Killer Whale Tales have now converted over to online learning due to the pandemic and as odd as it may sound, it has opened up a whole new set of opportunities. Jeff is now working with children and families across the globe – from India, to the UK, and up and down the eastern seaboard of the U.S., he has “pods” of young future scientists sprouting up all across the planet!
Jeff also is a researcher. He co-authored recently published research showing that vessel noise interrupts Southern Resident Killer Whales’ feeding, especially females. Vessel noise is a major focus for advocates trying to increase the chances of saving the endangered orcas from extinction.
P.S. Killer Whale Tales is a nonprofit; here’s how to support its work.
As noted in the comment section following this afternoon’s report on transient orcas’ visit, their cousins the Southern Resident Killer Whales have a new addition.
A new calf in L pod! The Center for Whale Research (CWR) is thrilled to confirm that a new calf, L125, has been born into the Southern Resident killer whale (SRKW) community. https://t.co/pLc7lCSxQK pic.twitter.com/TSxpFbu7EP
— Whale Research (@CWROrcas) February 18, 2021
From the Center for Whale Research‘s announcement:
Following word that J, K, and L pod were in Haro Strait, CWR dispatched two boats with field researchers to photo-identify the new calf and as many other SRKWs as possible for our annual population census.
CWR’s photo-ID expert, Dave Ellifrit, captured images that show L125 with fetal folds, indicating a relatively recent birth. “It is nicely filled out and appears to be a perfectly normal little calf,” said Ellifrit.
L125’s size and shape are typical of a calf in good physical condition. The new calf’s mother is L86 [born in 1991], her fourth offspring.
Drs. John Durban and Holly Fernbach (SR3) captured drone photos of L125 and, given its size, estimate it to be 1 – 1 1/2 months old.
L125 has one living sibling, L106 (male), born in 2005. L86 has given birth to two other calves: L112 and L120, both now deceased. L112 (born in 2009) was killed by blunt-force trauma during military exercises in 2012. L120 was born and died in 2014.
L125 is the first calf born into L pod since January 2019, when L77 gave birth to L124.
The last time the Center for Whale Research encountered Southern Resident orcas in the Salish Sea was January 20, 2021 (J and K pod). CWR’s most recent previous encounter with L pod was September 24, 2020.
The other calves born into J pod in 2020, J57 and J58, were observed today and looked to be doing well.
Both of those calves were born last September.
2:52 PM: Thanks to Kersti Muul from Salish Wildlife Watch for the report – transient killer whales are passing West Seattle again, southbound right now, visible from Alki. Let us know if you see them!
3:29 PM: Via email, Robin Sinner says they’re moving southwest, with a research boat trailing.
4:16 PM: Kersti and Robin both note in comments that the orcas are now in Elliott Bay, near the grain terminal.
6:51 PM: Photos added.
The transient killer whales that passed West Seattle southbound on Sunday are headed back northbound right now, reports Kersti Muul of Salish Wildlife Watch. They were “mid-channel, close” off The Arroyos as of a short time ago. Visibility’s not the best, though, with fog in the area, but they’re out there.