West Seattle, Washington
Thanks to everyone continuing to share West Seattle bird photos with us so we can share them with you! Time for a weekend gallery. Above and below (with a shrimp snack), Mark MacDonald photographed Common Mergansers.
Here’s another seabird – a Cormorant drying itself, photographed by Stewart L.:
Two views of Anna’s Hummingbirds – first, from Jerry Simmons:
And from Gentle McGaughey:
Max Welliver shows us a Red-breasted Nuthatch:
From Mark Dale, a Cooper’s Hawk:
And here’s a tree full of Crows, photographed by Michael Burke:
If you catch a great view of a local bird, firstname.lastname@example.org – thank you!
3:12 PM: Thanks to Kersti Muul of Salish Wildlife Watch for the tip: Orcas are in view from West Seattle right now! They’re visible from Constellation Park, east of mid-channel, Kersti says, southbound, passing Blake Island. Let us know if you see them.
3:29 PM: Update from Kersti – they’re “just hanging” off Emma Schmitz Memorial Overlook (across from Me-Kwa-Mooks – she says they’re transients so they may well be hunting (transients eat other marine mammals, unlike resident orcas, who focus on fish).
4:22 PM: Among those who’ve seen them, Mike Jensen:
— Mike Jensen (@mjtwit) January 14, 2021
ADDED THURSDAY NIGHT: Along with the photos in comments, here’s another one – from Kersti:
That’s a Pine Siskin, photographed in West Seattle by Mark Wangerin in December 2019. At the time, he told WSB that they seemed to be showing up in larger numbers. That’s happening again this year, and it’s led to a health problem that has at least one wildlife-advocacy organization suggesting you temporarily take down your feeder(s) to save birds’ lives. Geoff M. emailed us to point out this alert on the PAWS website, which says in part:
We are currently witnessing one of the biggest reported irruption years of Pine Siskins in the United States. Irruptions are sudden, dramatic increases in the abundance of an animal, in this case caused by conifer cone shortages in northern North America. The large flocks we are seeing all over western Washington are incredible to witness. However, this event has caused pine siskins to gather in even larger numbers around bird feeders, which can increase the spread of Salmonella, a potentially fatal bacterium. PAWS has admitted 68 Pine Siskins in the last 60 days and the admissions staff are fielding multiple calls daily about sick siskins.
Usually, we recommend removing feeders for a few weeks when a sick bird is found nearby and cleaning the area thoroughly. However, the flocks are so large and cases so frequent right now, we recommend removing your feeders even before you detect a sick bird until the irruptive migrants move on. Learn more about how to combat salmonellosis here and check out our website for general recommendations about bird health in your yard.
Geoff says, “This is affecting West Seattle, and in the past few days we’ve noticed a few dozen sick and four dead siskins and have since taken down our feeders for the time being.”
Thanks to everyone who sent bird photos so we can continue our mini-tradition of galleries on Seahawks game days. Above, Danny McMillin photographed a Bald Eagle; below, two photos from Michelle Green Arnson – first a Spotted Towhee and (in the background) House Finch:
Below, a Townsend’s Warbler:
Next, two closeups of Anna’s Hummingbirds – first, by Jerry Simmons:
Next, by Nicholas Chesarino:
Gentle McGaughey sent this photo of a Ruby-crowned Kinglet:
Max Welliver photographed a Hermit Thrush:
Another thrush – from Mark MacDonald, a Varied Thrush:
Mark Dale photographed this Cedar Waxwing:
And one of our favorite birds ever, the ever-raucous and colorful Steller’s Jay, photographed by Theresa Arbow-O’Connor:
(All the species links go to pages on the Seattle Audubon BirdWeb, where you can learn more about the birds and even hear their calls.)
From the scanner: Someone called 911 to report a “small bear cub” seen near 35th SW/SW Trenton. The dispatcher told officers it would be reported to the Department of Fish and Wildlife. Checking our archives, we had a bear-sighting report five years ago, in the Beach Drive greenbelt vicinity.
Seahawks Sunday often means WSB bird-gallery day … so here we go!
Vince Marx shares an uncommon sighting – a Rock Sandpiper, photographed at Seacrest:
This weekend’s rain slicked back the usually spiky crown on this Steller’s Jay, photographed by Jerry Simmons:
Robin Sinner caught a Red-breasted Nuthatch just hanging out:
A splash of color from Mark Wangerin‘s view of a Townsend’s Warbler:
Here’s a Brown Creeper at Lincoln Park, spotted by Mark MacDonald:
And from Mike Burns, a hummingbird:
Big thanks to everyone who sends photos, whether it’s birds, breaking news, Christmas lights, other sightings … email@example.com (or text 206-293-6302 if it’s urgent).
Whenever orcas are in our area, we share the news – and today’s news is how local advocates are inviting you to be part of the virtual “Welcome the Orcas” celebration. Here’s the announcement:
The Whale Trail and Seal Sitters invite the public to celebrate the annual return of the southern resident orcas to central Puget Sound. For 2020, the annual celebration has been transformed from a 1-day event into a series of activities that anyone can do from home. The community can show creativity and support for J, K, and L pods while maintaining physical distancing. The endangered orcas return to central Puget Sound each fall and winter, following chum salmon runs that are a critical part of their diet. The recent birth of two new calves is a ray of hope for this struggling population.
How to celebrate:
Put a Whale In your Window! Children and adults are invited to download, color, and display a welcome sign in their window. Use the downloadable template, or make your own. Display the sign in your window and share on social media with #welcometheorcas.
Write for the Whales. Write a poem or share your story. Share what the orcas mean to you, and your hopes for their future. Do you have a favorite orca, or orca story? We want to hear about it! Orca-themed prizes will be awarded for the top three poems or stories in each category: K-2nd grade, 3-5th grade, 6-8th grade, 9-12thgrade, adults. Limit of 3 submissions per person. Submission accepted on The Whale Trail’s website. Prizes are non-monetary. Winners will be announced in January 2021.
Snap a Selfie! Take a picture of your welcome sign. If you live near a Whale Trail site, show us what you see. (Wear a mask, maintain social distancing, and follow all other COVID restrictions.)
“There’s nothing like seeing J,K or L pods in our own backyard, an urban fjord where they have thrived for thousands of years,” says Whale Trail director Donna Sandstrom, a former member of Governor Inslee’s Orca Recovery Task Force. “In one human generation we’ve brought them to the edge of extinction, through threats that are all human-caused. Join with us to welcome the orcas with heart and art and commit to making the Salish Sea a place that can sustain them again.”
From a high of 98 animals in 1996, the southern resident population has declined precipitously, to a current near-historical low of 74 individuals. In 2019 Governor Inslee’s Task Force recommended 49 actions to recover the southern residents by increasing prey availability, reducing toxin accumulations and reducing noise and disturbance. Welcome the Orcas offers a creative way to celebrate our connection to the orcas and confirm our commitment to protect them.
Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network was founded in 2007 to protect marine mammals and to educate the public about our shared environment. “The Whale Trail is a natural ally in this work, said Lynn Shimamoto, Co-Investigator of Seal Sitters. “We are thrilled to join with all our partners in welcoming the orcas back to Puget Sound.”
Welcome the Orcas is co-sponsored by The Whale Trail, Seal Sitters, and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Southern Resident orcas are back in the area for the second consecutive day! Kersti Muul of Salish Wildlife Watch says it’s K-Pod this time, southbound, north of Alki Point. Let us know if you see them!
We’re overdue for another West Seattle bird gallery! So here we go – first, two leucistic (explained here) birds – a Black-capped Chickadee photographed by Lynn Shimamoto, above, and a Northern Flicker photographed by Mark Wangerin, below:
Mark also photographed these Horned Grebes:
Grebes have caught other local photographers’ attention lately, too. Here’s a Red-necked Grebe photographed by Matthew Olson:
Next, Western Grebes photographed by Stewart L.:
Stewart also sent this photo of immature Horned Grebes:
From James Tilley, a Belted Kingfisher:
Also from James – Brant in the surf:
Before we leave the seabirds/shorebirds, Jerry Simmons got.a unique zoomed-in view of this Great Blue Heron:
Also looking fairly fierce in the close view, a Golden-crowned Kinglet photographed by Mark MacDonald:
(Each species link above goes to a Seattle Audubon BirdWeb page where you can read about the bird and even hear its call.) A huge THANK YOU to everyone who shares photos, whether of birds or breaking news (or Christmas lights, crime reports, etc.) – firstname.lastname@example.org, or text 206-293-6302 if it’s urgent!
12:36 PM: Southern Resident Killer Whales are back in our area! Kersti Muul of Salish Wildlife Watch reports J-Pod whales are southbound, visible from Alki right now, closer to the Bainbridge Island side of the Sound, so definitely binoculars are needed. Let us know if you see them!
1:24 PM: Donna Sandstrom from The Whale Trail says they’re visible off Alki Point, and if you need a point of reference, researcher Mark Sears has his boat out nearby.
2:32 PM: See comments for updates. Reported off Lowman Beach as of a short time ago.
It’s that time of year again when turkey is on many minds … and headed for so many ovens. But thoughts have also turned to the wild turkey who surprised and delighted West Seattleites for many months. Several readers have messaged or commented recently asking what ever happened to The West Seattle Turkey. (Some had names for her – Tallulah and Admiral Belvidere among others – but we just referred to her as TWST.) The first sighting we heard about was in April 2019, in Arbor Heights. She headed northbound and eventually settled in the Admiral area, most often seen near West Seattle High School, with some side trips – including a perch on a Junction crane. Then around the time the pandemic really blew up back in March, she started heading south, with a sojourn in Gatewood, then finding her way back to Arbor Heights in early April, and eventually leaving West Seattle altogether – after this sighting, she crossed the city-limits line, and so far as we’ve heard, never came back. Last report we got was a Kent sighting in late April. Some time later, we contacted Regional Animal Services of King County to ask if they by any chance had rounded up a turkey. They had – but it was definitely not the same turkey. So TWST’s fate remains a mystery. It was speculated she roamed because she was looking for love; we hope she found it.
Here at the end of a gray day, we have bright and beautiful bird photos, courtesy of West Seattle photographers who sent them to us to share with you. Above, David Hutchinson photographed a Harlequin Duck at Constellation Park; below, a Red-breasted Sapsucker, photographed by Mark Wangerin:
Two from Jerry Simmons – an Anna’s Hummingbird in front of fall color:
And a Great Blue Heron:
Also featuring a bird perched on a piling, the photo below by Lynn Hall takes its brightness from the blue sky and blue water as a Cormorant looks toward downtown:
Carrie C. sent this photo of a Golden Pheasant sighting in Highland Park last month and we just realized we hadn’t included it in previous bird galleries:
Thanks again to everyone for sharing photos – whether birds or breaking news or other West Seattle sightings – email@example.com any time.
11:13 AM: Two groups of orcas are heading in our direction, from opposite directions, according to Kersti Muul of Salish Wildlife Watch: Transient orcas are northbound, passing Three Tree Point a little while ago, while Southern Resident Killer Whales from J-Pod are reported to be southbound, off mid-Bainbridge Island at last report. Let us know if you see any of them.
12:15 PM: See comments for updates – thanks to everyone providing them!
By Judy Pickens
Special to West Seattle Blog
Despite perfect conditions, salmon watchers on Fauntleroy Creek recorded only two coho spawners this year, both at the mouth.
The watch began October 18, when a record 60 people attended the annual drumming to call in spawners. Nearly 30 volunteers kept watch through November 15.
“We had more singles and doubles and families watching this year than in any year I can remember,” said veteran watcher Dennis Hinton. “We even had an artist who came many times in search of the right light for a painting.”
Without the spawners needed to host an “open creek” event, watchers nonetheless welcomed 45 visitors to get a close look at the fish ladder and spawning habitat.
The two spawners they documented were at the mouth near the ferry pier, not in the spawning reach on the east side of Fauntleroy Way SW. He speculated that the female may have ventured into fresh water, then fallen back to the tidepool where she died, near where a male carcass was later found.
High winds and tides caused logs to jam tightly under the ferry pier, which may have prevented fish from reaching the creek. Volunteer Mark Sears led two work parties to untangle the logs (photo above) and checked every day when tides were especially high to see of more logs were blocking.
The last time the creek had zero spawners was 2015. Coho and chum numbers were also low in Longfellow and Piper’s creeks, as was the sport catch in the Sound.
Last year’s count was 19; in 2018, 18. A record was set in 2012, when watchers counted 274.
Kersti Muul of Salish Wildlife Watch reports orcas are visible West Seattle again – northbound, visible from Constellation Park south of Alki Point, right now. This time, transient killer whales, coming out of Rich Passage off south Bainbridge Island.
12:52 PM: Might be some whale sightings from West Seattle this afternoon – Kersti Muul from Salish Wildlife Watch says Southern Resident Killer Whales are southbound, headed this way, passing Shoreline at last report, and close to this side of the Sound. She says photos indicate they include members of J-Pod and K-Pod.
1:10 PM: Kersti says they’re now south of Carkeek Park, still southbound, “spread east to west across the channel.”
1:34 PM: Now in view from Alki, Kersti reports in a comment.
2:49 PM: Donna Sandstrom from The Whale Trail is at Constellation Park, waiting for the orcas to come into view south of Alki Point. She says visibility and light is excellent. She also has an important reminder: If you’re going to go whale-watch, WEAR YOUR MASK and socially distance.
3:12 PM: Both Donna and Kersti say they’re now stretched out between north Blake Island and south Bainbridge. Donna says the visibility is so good, you can even see them without binoculars.
On recent Sundays, while some watch that bird-inspired football team on TV, we’ve been featuring birds here on WSB. We start this gallery with two from Mark MacDonald – above, a Bonaparte’s Gull; below, a Golden-crowned Kinglet:
Two from Jerry Simmons – a Steller’s Jay coping with the rain earlier this week:
And a Bald Eagle onshore:
An Anna’s Hummingbird, from Mark Wangerin:
One of our area’s ever-photogenic Great Blue Herons, photographed by Stewart L.:
As always, the linked species names go to Seattle Audubon BirdWeb pages where you can learn more about that bird and even listen to its call/song. Thanks again to everyone sharing photos, from birds to breaking news – firstname.lastname@example.org any time.
Again today, Seahawks Sunday brings a WSB bird-photo gallery! Thanks for more great photos this week, starting with Jerry Simmons‘ photo, above, of a Belted Kingfisher at Don Armeni Boat Ramp. Jerry also sent this photo of a Great Blue Heron:
Also sharing a Heron view: Eric Bell, who saw this one while he was at the Southworth dock, waiting for a ferry to Fauntleroy:
Another shorebird: At Jack Block Park, Mark Wangerin photographed a Killdeer:
Inland, Mark caught sight of this Golden-crowned Kinglet:
From Robin Sinner, this Ruby-crowned Kinglet:
Vlad Oustimovitch photographed an American Wigeon at High Point Pond:
Next, a Gull with a super-size meal, photographed by Stewart L.:
MJ Feiner saw this Barred Owl in a tree near Gatewood Elementary:
Thanks again to everyone for sharing photos – whether birds or breaking news or other community happenings – email@example.com or text 206-293-6302!
2:27 PM: Orcas are in the area again! The photo is from Elton, taken from Alki, and arrived in the WSB inbox just as we got a text from Kersti Muul of Salish Wildlife Watch that the whales were in the area – she says they are now southbound off Alki Point. Donna Sandstrom of The Whale Trail just called with the news too. Let us know if you see them!
2:47 PM: These orcas are moving fast – Kersti says they’ve already passed Me-Kwa-Mooks/Emma Schmitz Overlook (4500 block of Beach Drive SW), still southbound.
3:08 PM: Now approaching Vashon, per comment/text updates. (Thanks again!)
8:07 PM: David Hutchinson sends this photo:
These visitors were transient orcas (Bigg’s Killer Whales), not the Southern Residents. The big difference: Transients eat other marine mammals, not just fish. David also sent this photo of sea lions staying, warily, close to shore:
They were seen off Constellation Park, south of Alki Point.
2:55 PM: This bird has been causing a stir the past few days – and today we finally received photos. Above is Larry Gilpin‘s photo of the Snowy Owl, seen near 52nd and Charlestown around noontime. Joe K. sent the photo below from earlier in the day, on “the north end of Genesee” (might be that same roof):
The Audubon BirdWeb page for the Snowy Owl explains that it’s an “irregular” visitor to this area in winter. We published a few reader photos of sightings like this one in the early 2010s, but nothing recent – until now.
ADDED 7:15 PM: Thanks to David Hutchinson for this evening photo of the Snowy Owl:
At last report, he said, it was hanging out on a roof near Schmitz Park. And just as we were adding his photo, Kersti Muul from Salish Wildlife Watch sent this one that she had previewed in comments:
We have a mini-tradition going – if the Seahawks are on TV, we feature birds on WSB. So here’s the latest edition, with 10 views of your feathered neighbors, photographed by WSB readers. Above, Jerry Simmons‘ photo of a Steller’s Jay enjoying peanuts. He also photographed this Anna’s Hummingbird:
Mark Wangerin caught one in flight:
He also photographed a Townsend’s Warbler:
And this Northern Flicker:
Here’s a Chestnut-backed Chickadee with a Douglas Fir seed, photographed by Robin Sinner:
Mark MacDonald found a Wilson’s Warbler going after a spider in Arbor Heights:
And a Ruby-crowned Kinglet in Lincoln Park:
Finally, a Gull undaunted by the size of its potential prey, photographed by Stewart L.
And if you haven’t seen the eagle photos featured in today’s daily preview – go here. Thanks to everyone for sharing what they’re seeing – firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-293-6302, from birds to breaking news!