West Seattle, Washington
You’ve heard a lot about the upcoming “king tides,” but the flip side of that is, we’re also in a period with very low low tides too – though this time of year they happen late at night, so they’re not as conducive to exploring. Nonetheless, some people were out last night, including Rosalie Miller, who shared four photos (thank you!) – above, Painted Anemone; below, Mottled Star:
The next two: Monterey Dorid and Gumboot Chiton:
Rosalie summarizes her experience as, “Amazing night at the beach! A gala of marine life and low-tide enthusiasts.” Tonight the low-low tide is even lower than last night – it’ll be out to -3.6 feet at 10:32 pm.
The photo is from Jordan, who was surprised to see that river otter crossing Fauntleroy Way by the ferry dock around midnight a few nights ago, “heading toward the ravine that runs though the neighborhood there. Concerned about him getting hit and also wondering if otters have been seen in these parts of West Seattle Was a very special moment when I realized it wasn’t a cat but a massive otter… it looked much bigger then a typical river otter!” Short answer – yes, you might see them in any area of West Seattle that’s not too far from water, and in fact, our last “otters crossing” reminder a year-plus ago was from the Lincoln Park area, months after one reported in Solstice Park. They cross roads to get to inland dens – and once in a while they just get lost, like the two orphaned otters who went all the way up to Hiawatha via Fairmount in 2018.
With the Seahawks having just won in OT, it’s too late for counterprogramming but we still have time this Sunday afternoon to show some of the bird photos we’ve received in recent weeks – thanks to all who’ve sent them (we publish some with our daily event lists, too). Above, Angela Summerfield‘s view of Cedar Waxwings in Fauntleroy in late November. Below, a wind-ruffled Steller’s Jay photographed by Jerry Simmons:
Danny McMillin caught a Crow and Bald Eagle in an air-supremacy battle over Alki Point:
Another Bald Eagle was watching from a perch over the Alki Promenade when spotted by James Tilley:
James also sent this photo of a Yellow-rumped Warbler seen in early December:
A Varied Thrush visited Trileigh Tucker:
In Arbor Heights, this Townsend’s Warbler was photographed by Cindy Roberts:
And two views of Cormorants – Dan Ciske says that’s Three-Fingers Mountain in the backdrop of this view:
Ann Anderson saw this Double-crested Cormorant off Duwamish Head:
Thanks again to everyone sharing bird (and other) photos – firstname.lastname@example.org – breaking-news images are also always welcome via texting our hotline, 206-293-6302.
Several readers have asked about the dead sea lion most recently washed up at Lowman Beach. It’s been marked with green paint (above is our cropped version of a photo sent by Michael), which means wildlife responders are aware of it. David Hutchinson of Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network confirms their first responders marked the carcass “and have been keeping track of its location.” They’ve been talking with Seattle Parks but: “The large number of washed-up logs have complicated any plans for removal.”
As for whether its cause of death has been investigated, Casey Mclean, executive director of SR3, responded: “The animal was externally examined when it was first reported … Due to the decomposition of the animal, a necropsy (animal autopsy) was not performed; there were also disposal logistics to consider had we decided to necropsy it on a public beach. This means that we do not know the cause of death but the animal did appear to be a healthy body weight. There are a number of things that could be the cause of death, from gunshot to killer-whale attack to some sort of illness or disease, however, without doing a thorough internal exam we cannot rule anything out.” Mclean adds this reminder: “Always report marine mammals to Seal Sitters, dead or alive, they all have something to teach us about the health of our marine waters and Seal Sitters will investigate each report.” But, she adds, you need to be aware that “the marine mammal stranding network is not responsible for disposal of dead marine mammals and often we do not have the funding to make the disposal of large animals happen. Parks may or may not have the resources and choose to remove the animal – it is logistically challenging and expensive.” She has a final note: “Keep pets on a leash since our furry friends will smell and find the carcass long before you do!” (Seal Sitters’ hotline is 206-905-SEAL.)
David emailed today to suggest a PSA about helping hummingbirds get through this subfreezing weather – “tending to their feeders diligently over the next two days will literally mean life or death for many of them.” He offered this advice:
I have four feeders. One has a small homemade heater which protects the nectar from freezing, which is nice, but really not necessary in order to help them out.
They do not feed at night, so by simply bringing your feeders in after dark, then setting them out at daybreak again does wonders. The feeders will rise to indoor room temperature overnight then stay unfrozen for sometime when they are put out at daybreak.
Speaking of daybreak, this feeding is extremely important as this is when they come out of torpor. Torpor is the short state of hibernation they go into at dark in order to slow their respiration, conserve energy, and make it through the cold night. As soon as they wake up at the first rays of light, they are very hungry and are looking for an energy boost quickly so they can warm up.
The ratio of sugar to water in their nectar is a source of energy and the regular ratio is four parts water to one part sugar. An important note that I just recently learned: One goal of maintaining the nectar for them is simply keeping it unfrozen, but another consideration is that the temperature of the nectar itself lowers their overall body temperature. Rotating the feeder a few times during the day will help them out during these extraordinarily low temperatures, like a warm cocoa versus a iced latte.
My feeders contain no metal and are short enough to fit in my microwave. I blast them long enough to bring them up to a gentle warm temperature, barely warm to the touch, and hang them right back out again. If your feeder can’t be quickly microwaved, then making a huge pot of nectar is always an option too. It will set you back a little for the raw sugar, but a huge pot at room temperature kept on the stove can be used to refill your feeders periodically throughout the next couple of days. Just pour out the frozen nectar and pour
in the room temperature nectar for the swap out.
The lack of available food means there will be a great deal of fighting among the dominant males, so I spread my feeders around my yard, preferably out of line of sight between them. I have one on each of the four sides of my house for this reason. This allows for the weaker birds to swoop in occasionally and have a shot at getting a sip. Hand warmers can also be secured to the sides or bottoms of your feeders to maintain them for a few hours. This works well, but of course they are single use and can get expensive. You would also need to acquire them by this afternoon if you don’t have any on hand.
If we can all tend our feeders diligently for the next two days it will mean many more will be able to endure what may end up being record low temperatures.
Also, unfrozen bird feeders are a huge help to all of the local birds as it’s hard for them to rehydrate when all the water is solid.
Some other quick tips for helping birds in general are here.
2:25 PM: That’s Kersti Muul‘s photo of a Trumpeter Swan seen at Alki this morning, showing signs of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza, aka “bird flu.” She says it was last seen headed toward Duwamish Head, but wants to remind everyone to keep your distance – and especially to keep dogs leashed (they’re not supposed to be on the beach anyway), as this is a contagious disease for which there is no cure. It’s also a risk to other wild birds and has led to Bald Eagle deaths, as reported here recently. Here’s background on the current nationwide situation.
10:04 PM: As Kersti updated in comments, the bird died. She emailed us to explain, “James Tilley and I hiked up and down Alki until we found it. There’s no way I wanted the eagles or dogs getting into that tomorrow. Looks like some dogs already have at least approached (paw prints in sand). Bird has been double bagged and disposed of and my report to WDFW updated.”
Another Bald Eagle with apparent HPAI – Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza – has been found, this time in Lincoln Park. Community naturalist and urban-wildlife responder Kersti Muul rescued this one too – as she had with another in Salmon Creek Ravine less than two weeks ago – and sent the photos, video, and report:
This is really sad news for West Seattle. HPAI seems to be running a course here and Tuesday morning the latest bird to be impacted is one of the mated pair from Lincoln Park. This pair successfully fledged two eaglets this year from their nest above Colman Pool.
I received a call around 8 regarding an eagle on the ground. Ironically it was near their old nest in the Grand fir by the trail junctions. When I arrived to assess, it was very obvious that HPAI had taken hold. It was having the beginnings of neurological issues.
It was coughing, and also calling to its mate, which was heartbreaking. I later learned that a Parks employee heard the pair in that area at 5 pm the previous night, which struck him odd; they don’t usually hang out there. I surmise the eagle was grounded at this point.
I transported the eagle to PAWS.
HPAI is not trivial; this is the second eagle in the area in less than two weeks, along with the snow goose. We also had a confirmed case in West Seattle recently of a Peregrine falcon. The mates are at high risk and I won’t be surprised if they show up grounded soon. They are obviously eating infected waterfowl. Diligently watching out every day now. HPAI is going to have to burn itself out.
An important reminder from Kersti – this illness is not a current problem for the birds you’d most commonly see in your yard, songbirds and hummingbirds.
By Judy Pickens
Special to West Seattle Blog
For the second year in a row, volunteer watchers tallied an exceptional number of coho spawners – 254! – in Fauntleroy Creek. This count exceeded last year’s 244 by 10, putting it in the No. 2 position behind 2012’s all-time high of 274.
Volunteers saw the first spawners in modern memory in 1994 and began organized watches in 1999. This year’s watch ran Oct. 16 – Nov. 22, with fish seen October 25 – November 15.
Why such a high number two years in a row? Veteran creek steward Dennis Hinton gives a lot of credit to human intervention.
“Three out of the last four years, volunteers have had to relocate drift logs at the creek mouth to ensure spawners could get in from Fauntleroy Cove. Most years, we’ve left them alone in the belief that they would float at high tide. This year’s log jam was especially tight, however. After we got the necessary state permit, Mark Sears led a work party in mid October to clear a path, then he and Tom Trulin checked the logs daily. This diligence paid off.”
Another likely factor, Dennis said, was that this was an especially good year for salmon returning to Puget Sound. A super pod of orcas (J, K, and L) was in the area for several days and they would not have been here without finding ample fish to eat.
Other factors: High tides, paired with low barometric pressure, gave spawners the lift they needed to enter the creek. And precipitation was sufficient to flush the creek so that they could smell fresh water.
The spawner number was not the only count of note.
“We had a real uptick in public awareness and volunteerism this year,” Dennis said. “More than two dozen watchers took turns documenting spawners and talking with visitors. Judy Pickens and Phil Sweetland opened their property so that an exceptional 440-plus people of all ages could get to creek level.”
Watchers noted where they saw spawning, and volunteers will be checking those locations this winter for “home hatch” fry to emerge from their gravel redds. They also noted a lot of fingerlings from last year’s spawning as well as cutthroat trout in for the thousands of coho eggs displaced when late spawners dug out the redds of early spawners.
To learn more about the creek, current volunteer opportunities, and the watershed stewardship fund for habitat maintenance, visit fauntleroywatershed.org.
Tonight community naturalist and urban-wildlife first responder Kersti Muul shares the story of what happened when she checked out a report of a bird in trouble at Lincoln Park. What she found includes some information you should know in case you encounter one. The problem is HPAI – Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza – and a warning, this story includes an image of a dead bird (after the jump, if you’re viewing by laptop or desktop):
Today I received a text during my monthly Audubon Neighborhood Bird Project survey, about a bird on the shore by the middle seawall.
Right now we are having another big surge of HPAI, so I went down to assess the situation and dispatch or dispose of it properly if it was dead.
As I mentioned in my recent eagle notes, cackling geese and snow geese are now getting infected. Sadly, it was a snow goose. I’ve been watching the snow geese flying north over West Seattle in the past month.
I found a large spot of diarrhea and the bird also had what we call ‘twisted neck’:
The photo and report are from Timothy Pollin, the new Senior Gardener for Seattle Parks‘ Southwest District:
I have seen a very interesting brown crow at Alki Beach a few times now. I thought it would be fun for the bird enthusiasts out there.
In his email to us, he also described it as a “caramel crow.” The scientific term is “leucistic.” We’ve featured leucistic crows here before, most notably one we had seen for years near our HQ in Upper Fauntleroy, until its death in the July 2009 heat wave. P.S. The difference between leucism and albinism in birds is explained here.
That Bald Eagle is getting care at PAWS after its rescue from Salmon Creek Ravine, south of White Center [map]. Community naturalist Kersti Muul, who also assists urban wildlife, shared the report and photos, noting her involvement tied back to last year’s rescue of the Bald Eagle nicknamed Bey.:
I received an email last night from a woman near Alki who I met while I was researching Bey. She said her friend had posted on Facebook about an eagle that needed help in Salmon Creek Ravine.
Her friend had not been able to get help from any organizations he called (typical scenario). She put us in contact, and I arranged to arrive at daybreak, as it was already dark. He gave me the lat/long, and I hiked in first thing this morning to assess.
The eagle had not moved much overnight, and was not flighted. It was, however, alert – it hopped and flapped quite a bit during capture. HPAI, or, Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (bird flu) seemed a possibility to me behavior-wise. The last three eagles I have responded to were positive for HPAI. There is no cure, and the infected bird dies in a couple of days. We are having a resurgence currently, because of migration. New species are being infected, like cackling geese and snow geese.
I hiked out with the eagle and brought it to PAWS. During the intake exam it was not ‘overtly’ symptomatic of HPAI, and it is not in quarantine. This is good as it gives it a better chance. Hoping for a full recovery.
At one point the eagle unhooded itself and it just stared in my eyes as we hiked. Whatever it communicated to me, dissolved any fear I had. I re-hooded it for its own comfort.
I am always so utterly dumbfounded when I hold a wild animal in my arms. Especially one of such majestic magnitude. While stressful and often sad, my blessings are not lost on me.
The main reason the Southern Resident Killer Whales are often back in central Puget Sound this time of year is the pursuit of their preferred food – salmon. Not far from the orcas’ recent passes, coho spawners continue returning to Fauntleroy Creek. The video above by Tom Trulin shows fish in the surf near the creek’s mouth by the ferry dock. And creek steward Judy Pickens reports that as of Wednesday, volunteer watchers had counted 155 spawners! In comparison, by mid-November last year, volunteer watchers had only seen – and then a sudden surge brought in a near-record total of 244; the year before that, only two were seen.
Today we have enough contributed bird photos for one of our periodic game-day galleries (Seahawks vs. Cardinals – it’s all about birds today). Above is Kersti Muul‘s photo of four Bushtits – tiny yet fierce-looking birds. Below, James Tilley caught Sanderlings in flight at Constellation Park:
Also from James, a Savannah Sparrow at Alki:
Vincent Marx photographed this White-crowned Sparrow along Harbor Avenue:
A Sharp-shinned Hawk caught Hans A.‘s eye in Delridge:
And John Skerratt noticed this Anna’s Hummingbird taking a break:
Though Halloween is over, we can’t resist another of Jerry Simmons‘s seasonal images – here, Steller’s Jay meets skeleton:
And he sent another one that is both a reminder and also an advance alert for next year:
If you haven’t yet taken down your Halloween decorations – particularly if they include fake webbing – the sooner the better. And you might consider not using that material next year. It’s a hazard to birds and other wildlife.
P.S. Before we go, thanks again to everyone who shares photos – email@example.com (if it’s breaking news, you can text 206-293-6302).
From a distance, if you saw those dark protrusions offshore, you might have wondered if they were orcas. If you watched for a while and noticed they didn’t seem to be moving, you might fear something worse. Someone in fact called Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network on Friday afternoon, worried what they were seeing was a dead whale. Nope – “a small group of California Sea Lions thermoregulating,” explains David Hutchinson of SSMMSN. Here’s a closer look:
We’ve reported on this before – almost every winter – the behavior is also known as “sailing.” Nothing to worry about. But if you do see a marine mammal on the beach – or appearing to be in distress offshore – the Seal Sitters hotline is 206-905-7325 (905-SEAL).
12:35 PM: Until 3 pm today, you’re invited to visit the section of Fauntleroy Creek where dozens of salmon spawners have shown up in the past week. Much of it runs through private property, so you’re asked to first go to the public fish-ladder overlook at SW Director and upper Fauntleroy Way SW and await word from a volunteer to come down. Kids welcome if accompanied by adults; dogs OK if leashed.
3:30 PM: The only salmon we saw while there was the carcass above. Judy Pickens of the Fauntleroy Watershed Council – who offered cookies to creek visitors – told us that fish died after spawning, not at the hands (or claws, or teeth) of a predator.
(Video by Tom Trulin)
Those are salmon spawners in the surf at Fauntleroy Cove, near the ferry dock, waiting to enter Fauntleroy Creek. As of late this afternoon, Judy Pickens from the Fauntleroy Watershed Council says, volunteer creek watchers had counted 31 spawners. On Saturday, you are invited to an all-ages “open creek,” noon-3 pm. Go to the fish-ladder overlook at SW Director and upper Fauntleroy Way – across and upslope from the ferry dock – where a volunteer will invite you down to creek level. You just might see one or more of the spawners, and volunteers will be ready to answer your questions. Children must be accompanied by adults; dogs are OK if leashed.
As reported here Tuesday, the first salmon spawners of the season have arrived in Fauntleroy Creek. To give you a chance to see them, volunteers will host an “open creek” on Saturday. Here’s the announcement sent by Judy Pickens of the Fauntleroy Watershed Council:
Spawners in Fauntleroy Creek – and the public is invited
Salmon watchers on Fauntleroy Creek were rewarded yesterday (10/25) when they tallied five live coho spawners and one fresh carcass in the lower creek, likely the victim of predation. The five bright fish ranged between about three and five pounds. At least two had adipose fins, indicating they could have originated in this creek as “home hatch” from natural spawning or from fry reared by students and released here. Before nightfall, watchers witnessed one spawning pair. With more rain in the forecast and 11-foot or better high tides in the offing, spawners may continue to come in from Fauntleroy Cove.
The Fauntleroy Watershed Council will host an all-ages open creek on Saturday, noon-3 pm. Make your way to the fish ladder viewpoint at SW Director and upper Fauntleroy Way SW and a volunteer will invite you down to creek level. Come rain or shine to check out the habitat, get your questions answered, and maybe see a coho spawner. Children should bring a parent and dogs should bring a leash.
Watchers expect to continue on duty during the five hours after high tide until mid November.
12:31 PM: Thanks to John McIntyre for that video of salmon in Longfellow Creek. We don’t know how many have shown up there so far this fall, as Longfellow doesn’t have a formal watching program, but we have another report from the creek that does: Fauntleroy Creek steward Judy Pickens sent word that volunteer watchers have spotted the first salmon of the season, “moving through the fish ladder into the natural channel!” Last year, watchers counted a near-record 244 fish. If you want to look for salmon, the Fauntleroy Creek fish-ladder overlook is across the street and up the embankment from the ferry dock, at SW Director and upper Fauntleroy; for Longfellow Creek, the “fishbone bridge” south of Dragonfly Pavilion (off 28th SW south of SW Yancy) is one place to look.
5:44 PM: Thanks to Kerry for sharing this in comments – video of that first arrival on the Fauntleroy fish ladder:
Judy Pickens tells us there will be an “open creek” on Saturday so you can go look for fish firsthand – we’ll have details tomorrow.
As pleasant as it was to gather in warm, dry weather for today’s annual event to call coho home to Fauntleroy Creek, the prevailing hope was for rain to arrive soon. As creek steward Judy Pickens explained it, salmon arriving near the mouth of the creek, south of the Fauntleroy ferry dock, need that flow of fresh water to “sniff out” where to go.
But the weather could change later this week, so the ceremonial call to the salmon – 244 of which showed up last year – proceeded, with songs led by musician and educator Jamie Shilling:
About 30 people participated, many of them children to whom the creek will be entrusted after its longtime stewards are gone.
To encourage new volunteer involvement, Pickens and others who have long cared for the creek offered tributes to two volunteers who have moved on in the past year, Steev Ward and Peggy Cumming. Their achievements were detailed by Pickens and another longtime steward, Dennis Hinton – everything from Ward teaching students about salmon via dissection, to Cumming obtaining a grant to eradicate invasive vegetation. Those acknowledgments segued into suggestions of ways community members can help the creek now:
Attendees of all ages were invited to write down ideas of what they could do:
Then participants were invited to post their ideas on an easel-borne card. Some of what we saw: “Learn about salmon,” “Give respect to all the fish,” “Introduce someone to the creek,” and more-classic ways to volunteer. Starting tomorrow, in fact, some of that will be happening on the creek, as the annual watch for spawners begins, with volunteers taking shifts keeping an eye out for fish. The way was cleared by a group of volunteers who cleared a logjam at the creek’s mouth – which is on private property – earlier this week. If you are interested in getting involved with Fauntleroy Creek – one of the few salmon streams within the city – you can contact the Fauntleroy Watershed Council.
Thanks for the ongoing bird photos! We have seven more to share on this football afternoon, starting above with the “real” Seahawk – an Osprey – photographed by Steve Bender. Next, a bird that never seems to look the same in any two photos, a Great Blue Heron, first by Michael Ostrogorsky:
Next in silhouette by Stewart L.
This Hawk visited Eric Taney in North Admiral:
Cindy Roberts saw this Barred Owl at Seola Pond:
A Pileated Woodpecker was on a Lincoln Park tree when Kathryn Smith saw it:
Remember that it’s still fall migration time for some birds – so the Lights Out program has good suggestions to follow. Meantime, we appreciate bird (and other) photos – firstname.lastname@example.org – thank you!
The photo was sent by Lynne, who saw that harbor seal on the shore in the Emma Schmitz Memorial Overlook area. She called Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network and alerted people with dogs to keep their distance. We followed up tonight with David Hutchinson of Seal Sitters, who tells WSB:
We did have 2 responses today. One to a pup on private property north of Lowman Beach and another further north. Seal Sitters responded to both and will be monitoring their condition if they show up again. All pups tend to be on the thin side this time of year as they are working on learning how to feed themselves. Thanks to everyone who takes the time to advise people to keep back and to call in a report to the Seal Sitter hotline – 206-905-7325.
It’s football season again and that means, when we have enough photos to share – a gallery of West Seattle birds on the Seahawks‘ gameday! Thanks so much to everyone who has shared photos. Today, we have eight to spotlight. Above, Michelle Laughlin caught a Crow and Hawk “dancing” at Alki Point (which is the location of most of these photos). Michael Ostrogorsky photographed a Black Turnstone:
From Robin Sinner, two photos – a Killdeer:
And a Great Blue Heron:
Gene Pavola spotted this GBH keeping watch:
Shellie got a visit from a Barred Owl:
Gary Jones photographed a Pileated Woodpecker:
And even the common Mallard duck can put on a show, as did this one for Jerry Simmons:
We should also note – today marks the start of Bird Safe Week!
If you have a bird photo to share – or other pic(s) – email@example.com; if you have breaking news, with or without photo, you can text 206-293-6302 any time – thank you!
Will this be another amazing year for salmon spawners returning to Fauntleroy Creek? The first people to know will be the volunteers watching for them. You could be one of them – creek steward Judy Pickens sent this announcement:
Fauntleroy Creek salmon watch to start October 16
If getting cold and wet is a small price to pay for a front-row seat on spawning season in Fauntleroy Creek, now’s the time to sign up for Salmon Watch 2022. Last year, 15 volunteers counted a near-record 244 spawners.
The watch will start Sunday, October 16, and go until about Thanksgiving. Watchers will document coho spawners in the lower creek, near the fish ladder (across from the ferry terminal). A veteran watcher will provide training during your first shift. For details, contact Judy Pickens at firstname.lastname@example.org.
October 16 is also the day of the annual all-ages drumming to call in spawners. Barring serious rain, it will start at 4:00 pm near the intersection of SW Director and upper Fauntleroy Way (across from the ferry terminal). The sound of a drum will guide you down a driveway to the site right on the creek.