West Seattle, Washington
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).
6:15 PM: Thanks to Kersti Muul for the tip: Transient orcas are reported in Elliott Bay, close to the Alki shore, headed westbound (and out of the bay). Let us know if you see them!
7:26 PM: Added photos sent by David Hutchinson from the whales’ pass by Constellation Park.
Just in from Kersti Muul, word that transient orcas are back in the area – southbound off Blake Island. Let us know if you see them!
This weekend, Elliott Bay is open to chinook-salmon fishing. So fishing boats were on the water this morning while activists gathered on land to demand action they say can keep the chinook from going extinct, along with another species of mammals that needs them even more than we do – the Southern Resident Killer Whales. Specifically, the Endangered Species Coalition and other groups want four dams on the Lower Snake River in Eastern Washington breached so chinook salmon can reach spawning grounds more easily. This weekend they hosted “Rally for the River” gatherings in six spots around the Northwest, and the rally spot in Seattle was just west of Seacrest. Some supporters came from afar:
Those two are members of the North Olympic Orca Pod, from Port Townsend and Port Angeles. The sign mentioning the Elwha refers to a dam removal project from last decade, considered a success. But that was just part of the puzzle for saving chinook salmon. Four hydropower dams on the Snake River in eastern Washington must be breached, advocates say, before it’s too late (read the backstory here). Time is ticking, with the presumed death of another Southern Resident orca K21. A moment of silence for him was part of the speaking program at the rally, featuring representatives of the Endangered Species Coalition, Duwamish Tribe, Environment Washington, and Orca Conservancy.
It’s not a matter of demolishing the dams, they contended – “All we have to do is move some gravel aside and let them run free.”
After speeches, some rally participants kayaked to Jack Block Park …
… while others walked.
They’re particularly looking for support from Washington’s U.S. Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, and have a take-action webpage here. The politicians, for their part, have said that any plan for the dams must address other factors too, such as electricity generation and farmers’ needs.
3:20 PM: Transient killer whales are southbound on the northwest edge of Elliott Bay, reports Kersti Muul. Some of the orcas are toward the east side of the channel. Let us know if you see them!
7:02 PM: Just got a call (206-293-6302 is our hotline, 24/7) – they’re in view south of the Fauntleroy ferry terminal, “at least 4.”
7:43 PM: Photos added – thanks to the senders!
Orcas are in central Puget Sound again today, Kersti Muul reports. They’ve already passed south West Seattle and are headed – still southbound – toward Three Tree Point, she says, but at some point they’ll have to head back this way, so be on the lookout and let us know if you see them!
Transient killer whales – they’re the seal-eating type rather than salmon-eating resident orcas – should be in view again soon. Thanks to Kersti Muul for the tip – she says they’re emerging from Colvos Passage west of Vashon Island, headed northbound. Since they’re on the other side of Puget Sound, you’ll want to use binoculars. Let us know if you see them!
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Four big signs of that progress drew a lot of attention last month – the new T-5 cranes that arrived from China. Their arrival sparked some discussion among WSB commenters about whether the dock modernization project is bad news for Puget Sound’s endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales.
No, says Fred Felleman, a Seattle port commissioner whose background, before taking office in 2016, was in environmental advocacy. (Checking WSB archives, the first time we mentioned him was when he spoke to the Port Commission in 2015, voicing opposition to the use of T-5 for staging Shell‘s Arctic oil-exploration fleet. That was one of the interim uses T-5 has seen since it went out of regular cargo service in 2014.)
Thanks to Kersti Muul for the tip – transient orcas are headed northbound, off the Southworth ferry terminal at last report, so if you’re going to look for them, take binoculars!
1:33 PM: Donna Sandstrom from The Whale Trail just called to say Orca Network is reporting that transient orcas are southbound, passing Blake Island right now – close enough to the other side of the Sound that you’d want to look through binoculars. As always – let us know if YOU see them too! (Added – video from readers who did see them while out on the water:)
6:58 PM: Kersti Muul from Salish Wildlife Watch says the whales are now in Elliott Bay, headed toward downtown! (Added, David Hutchinson‘s photo taken while they were in the bay:)
If you’re out by the water in west-facing southwest West Seattle, you might get a view of transient killer whales Orcas are headed southbound, off Fauntleroy, reports Kersti Muul of Salish Wildlife Watch. If you miss them now, you might see them later on the northbound swing!
Thanks to Kathy Weitz for the photos from an early morning orca sighting – they were southbound then but northbound now, off Blake Island per Kersti Muul of Salish Wildlife Watch.
These again are transient orcas (also known as Bigg’s Killer Whales) – which are seen in our area more often than the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales.
1:36 PM: Since Puget Sound dead-ends, if whales swim by southbound, they’ll eventually have to head back northbound … and that’s what’s happening right now. Kersti Muul of Salish Wildlife Watch says transient orcas are northbound right now, visible from west-facing West Seattle (after swimming the other way yesterday) – look toward Southworth. Let us know if you see them!
2:04 PM: Kersti reports in a comment that they’re now off Blake Island.
5:33 PM: Southbound transient killer whales are in view from Alki looking north – the orcas are passing Bainbridge Island’s Eagle Harbor now, says Kersti Muul of Salish Wildlife Watch. They’re toward the west side of the channel, though she warns that the heat rising off the water is a visibility challenge. Let us know if you see them!
5:55 PM: Kersti says they’re now crossing the Bainbridge ferry lanes.
8:17 PM: In addition to the various updates in the comment section below, Kersti just texted to say they’re passing the Fauntleroy ferry dock, closer to this side of the Sound.
Transient orcas are in view, north of Blake Island, southbound, “lots of breaching,” per Kersti Muul of Salish Wildlife Watch.