West Seattle, Washington
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.
Just reported by Kersti Muul, a humpback mother and calf are in the area, north Vashon Island vicinity, emerging from Colvos Passage (the waterway along the west side of Vashon). Let us know if you see them!
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.”
Moments after we got a text about “splashes” off Alki, Kersti Muul sent word of a northbound humpback whale in the area. Let us know if you see it!
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!
Full festival details are on the official Summer Fest website. Our previous previews:
–Overview of what’s new/different this year
–Summer Fest Eve
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.
(Added: Camera view-screen image sent by Kersti)
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:
Thanks to Michael Ostrogorsky for the photos of a humpback whale seen off Alki this afternoon.
Possibly the same one Kersti Muul says is in view off Emma Schmitz Memorial Overlook (4500 block Beach Drive SW) right now. Let us know if you see it!
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.
8:03 PM: Up for sunset whale-watching? Kersti Muul sends word that transient orcas are passing West Seattle, northbound in the ferry lanes off Fauntleroy right now.
8:10 PM: Update from Kersti – they’re now passing Lowman Beach.
1:28 PM: Thanks to Kersti Muul for the tip: She says two humpback whales have been milling off Cormorant Cove (3700 block of Beach Drive). Humpbacks have grown more common in Puget Sound. Let us know if you see them!
2:10 PM: Texted photo added. Kersti says in a comment below that it might just be one humpback.
8:18 AM: Reported by Kersti Muul: Orcas, northbound, a few hundred yards off Cormorant Cove (3700 block Beach Drive).
8:58 AM: Transient orcas making a close pass, according to updates in comments below.
10:05 AM: Added photos sent by David Hutchinson – thank you!
1:35 PM: Thanks to Kersti Muul for the tip. Just as the rain starts to lift, orcas are in the area, northbound past west-facing West Seattle.
1:44 PM: Kersti says in comments that another group is “about 20 minutes behind” this one, including the hard-to-miss “Chainsaw”!
ADDED SUNDAY EVENING: Thanks to Robin Sinner for the photo!
7:42 AM: Kersti Muul reports transient killer whales are back in Elliott Bay this morning. Look toward downtown.
8:42 AM: See Kersti’s update below – they’re now in the central Sound and southbound.
11:21 AM: In addition to the updates in comments, Kersti called to say the orcas, now back in Elliott Bay, are headed toward Alki, close to shore, and “Chainsaw” is with them again.
1:22 PM: Added photos by David Hutchinson – above, you can see why this whale is nicknamed “Chainsaw.” (Also, see Kersti’s photo in comments.)
4:25 PM: Here’s a photo from Robin Sinner, also showing “Chainsaw”:
8:28 AM: Thanks to the caller who just reported at least five orcas in Elliott Bay, headed westbound toward Alki. Let us know if you see them!
(Added: Photo by Steven Director)
8:39 AM: Also just got a report from Kersti Muul, who says they’re now passing Alki and headed southwest “toward Vashon.”
8:51 AM: Kersti says the orcas are moving fast this time and already approaching the north end of Vashon, traveling midchannel.
7:47 PM: Thanks to Kersti Muul for the tip! Transient orcas are heading southbound past West Seattle right now, passing Emma Schmitz Memorial Overlook (4500 block Beach Drive SW). Kersti says the notch-finned whale nicknamed “Chainsaw” is with them.
8:08 PM: Kersti reports the orcas are now passing Lowman Beach, “and they’re close.”
10:44 AM: The transient killer whales that have been in our area in recent days are still here and headed this way again, Kersti Muul tells us. They’re in the Bremerton ferry lane, emerging from Rich Passage, she reports. Let us know if you see them!
10:52 AM: You’ll need good binoculars – Kersti says the orcas are now southbound, staying closer to the west side of the Sound.
12:12 PM: Thanks to Kersti Muul for the tip: Transient orcas are back in the area, visible now from Alki (looking north) as they head southbound.
12:24 PM: Kersti says they’re now in Elliott Bay – see her comment below.
1:54 PM: Still in the area, now back out in the main channel – see Kersti’s updates below.
10:04 AM: Orcas are in the area again – Kersti Muul reports they’re “breaching off Constellation Park.” Updates to come.
(Added: Photo by David Hutchinson)
10:15 AM: Now reported to be “off the volleyball area” on Alki.
11:58 AM: These are still the transient orcas that have been in the area recently, Kersti notes in comments. That means, among other things, they primarily eat mammals – seals and sea lions, in partiicular – while the Southern Resident orcas prefer fish.
2:38 PM: Adding more photos:
(This photo and next by Mike Burns)
ADDED: And a photo from Danny McMillin:
12:05 PM: Transient killer whales are back in the area after several sightings in recent days. Kersti Muul just sent word that transient orcas are in view from Alki, passing the mouth of Elliott Bay, southbound. Murky weather again, so you’ll need binoculars and rain gear.
3:17 PM: See comments for updates from people seeing the whales – currently reported to be passing Lincoln Park!
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