West Seattle, Washington
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.
Thanks to John for the photo. That’s a juvenile Brown Pelican – average 6+-foot wingspan! – not commonly seen around here, although we’ve heard of some sightings in recent months. John explains, “Saw a bunch of seagulls chasing a large bird and assumed it was an eagle. Not unusual here along Beach drive. But looking at the chase with binoculars, I was surprised to see a long beak. After the chase broke off, the bird landed on the water and swam close to shore right in front of our home.” Historically they’re most often seen along the ocean coast, though we see they’ve been visiting other parts of Puget Sound too.
This is the season when we hear of owls swooping down on unsuspecting runners/walkers. Sarah emailed to share her deterrence discovery:
As a WSB reader and an avid morning runner I have both read about AND experienced the territorial owls of West Seattle. I hesitate to say “attack” since I am the one running through owl territory, but after four separate incidents (in four completely different locations!) I was desperate for a solution. I love running in the early mornings and as it gets dark earlier, I know I’m going to run into the problem again.
Well, I tested a bunch of different things and waited a full year before writing to you just to make sure my solution worked.
I started wearing an owl mask on the back of my head. The fact that it’s an owl isn’t really what makes it successful, but that it looks like I have eyes on the back of my head. Owls won’t attack/swoop anything head-on. It is absolutely a silly solution, but since I’ve started wearing it (September of last year, after I was attacked by an owl at Lincoln Park) I haven’t been swooped at once!
I’m sure there are some other runners/early morning walkers that could use this tip!
As we’ve noted in the past, you can learn about owls – and why they “attack” – via this state Fish and Wildlife Department fact sheet.
That’s one of two seals that Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network dealt with on West Seattle beaches this past week. Seal Sitters MMSN’s David Hutchinson sent the photo and updates, with a reminder for beachgoers:
So far this has been a slow season for Seal Sitters, however the coming fall months typically can be a busy time of year. Young newly weaned harbor seal pups are heading out on their own and will even haul out to rest on our heavily used urban beaches.
This past weekend, Seal Sitters responded to a report of a dead harbor seal at Emma Schmitz Memorial Overlook. With the assistance of staff and interns from our partner SR3 (SeaLife Response, Rehabilitation and Research), the 4-foot-long carcass was recovered and transported to their facility in Des Moines. A necropsy confirmed that this animal was the victim of a boat strike.
On a happier note, on Monday Seal Sitter volunteers watched over a young harbor seal pup on a beach along Harbor Avenue. This pup, shown in the photo, was able to rest for a few hours before returning to the water due to a rising tide.
As always, if you come across a live or dead marine mammal on West Seattle beaches, please contact Seal Sitters’ hotline at 206-905-7325.
Thanks to community naturalist Kersti Muul for the tip on this. She says we’re going into a high-migration time for birds – and you can help them by turning off or dimming your outdoor lighting. The Audubon program Lights Out is explained here – its main advice:
*Turn off exterior decorative lighting
*Extinguish pot and flood-lights
*Reduce atrium lighting wherever possible
*Turn off interior lighting especially on higher stories
*Substitute task and area lighting for workers staying late or pull window coverings
*Down-shield exterior lighting to eliminate horizontal glare and all light directed upward
*Install automatic motion sensors and controls wherever possible
*When converting to new lighting assess quality and quantity of light needed, avoiding over-lighting with newer, brighter technology
BirdCast tracks migration; here’s what happened last night – check the site tonight to see what’s happening. (Kersti also tells us that the week of October 2nd has been declared Bird-Safe Week in Seattle,)
Looking for something to watch on this holiday? “The Giant Pacific Octopus” is not your everyday documentary – it looks at its namesake animal in some unusual ways, including legends and art. It’s centered in Puget Sound, and a West Seattle business is proud of its participation. From Seattle Dive Tours‘ Scott Flaherty:
Seattle Dive Tours, based in Admiral District and Seacrest, is featured in “The Giant Pacific Octopus” documentary.
The team of Seattle Dive Tours was happy to participate in this locally produced documentary about GPOs, art, history and conservation.
Maddi Frye (Seattle Dive Tours Manager and Marine Biologist) and Dr. Kelly Bushnell (Seattle Dive Tours Instructor and Ocean Historian) are both interviewed in the film.
The documentary is currently available for streaming on Tubi. We’ve also heard it may be coming to Amazon Prime Video in the future.
Thanks to Rosalie Miller for sharing three sights from today’s low-low-tide – above, the siphon of a Piddock Clam; below, a Moon Snail:
And an Anemone:
Tomorrow the tide will bottom out at -2.3 feet at 12:27 pm. The Seattle Aquarium volunteer beach naturalists are scheduled to be at Lincoln Park (8011 Fauntleroy Way SW) and Constellation Park (60th SW/Beach Drive SW) for the last time this season, 11 am-1:30 pm.
Low-low tides are back this week – not as low as earlier this summer, but low enough to get out and explore the shore, with some expert help. Seattle Aquarium volunteer beach naturalists were out at Lincoln Park and Constellation Park; the latter is where Susan Romanenghi photographed some of the turnout. For the three wildlife photos below, Michael Ostrogorsky was nearby, in the Alki Point vicinity:
Tomorrow’s low-low tide will be -3.0 feet at 11:41 am; the naturalists will be at Constellation (60th/Beach) and Lincoln (8011 Fauntleroy Way SW) 10:15 am-1:15 pm tomorrow, and 11 am-1:30 pm Saturday – their last scheduled day this summer.
The photo – taken from a distance with a long lens – is from David Hutchinson of Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network, which has a reminder for you:
We are in the middle of harbor seal “pupping season” so it was not surprising that the Seal Sitters’ Hotline received a call last week reporting a seal on the Elliott Bay shoreline. When volunteers arrived, they found an adult harbor seal, which is unusual – pups are much more common. Seals are generally very skittish and return to the water quickly when approached by people. The Hotline report stated that a couple of people were too close, taking photos and trying to feed the animal.
Under the protection of volunteers, this seal was able to spend about 5 hours resting before returning to the water in the early afternoon. Volunteers are always happy to answer your questions about the animals they are watching over.
If you spot any marine mammal on the shore of West Seattle (alive or dead), please keep your distance, keep people and pets away, and call the Seal Sitters’ Hotline at 206-905-7325.
If it’s easier to remember, the number is also 206-905-SEAL.
7:25 PM: The photo is from Caroline, who spotted that on Lowman Beach and wonders what it is: “It’s humongous! And so amazing with the colors and textures.” She and other beachgoers have been keeping it wet while the tide rolls back in, but they’re wondering what it is. We don’t recognize it; tried Google Search By Image, and while it suggests possibly a jellyfish relative, no definitive ID via photos. Do YOU know what it is?
9:22 PM: Consensus in comments seems to be that it’s an upside-down lion’s-mane jellyfish, so we’ve updated the headline.
While at Duwamish River People’s Park for the festival on Saturday, we photographed the Osprey nest atop a pole in the middle of the habitat-restoration zone. Steve Bender sent this photo of the mom and chick two weeks ago:
At Lincoln Park, Vincent Marx photographed two young male Bald Eagles:
Troy Sterk sent this photo of a young Crow a few days ago:
Speaking of young, Jerry Simmons photographed a Steller’s Jay feeding chicks in June:
Ann Anderson photographed a baby Bushtit – and if you know how small Bushtits are, imagine how little their babies must be!
Last but not least, a Great Blue Heron with a catch, photographed by Dianne Johnson:
Thanks to everyone who’s sent bird photos – with Seahawks season almost here, we’ll likely be back to publishing galleries every few weeks, depending on what comes in.
Spring isn’t the only season in which you might see baby birds. Community naturalist Kersti Muul shares a report with photos:
While doing my weekly tern-colony surveys (earlier this week), I encountered my very first baby seagulls ever.
I’ve renamed them french-fry cheetahs!
Also, They did it again!! The West Seattle crow pair who had two caramel babies (leucistic) in 2019, just fledged two more!
While leucistic birds are not considered common, or ‘rare’, it is very rare to have two in the same brood, and then have two again. I couldn’t believe my eyes and I wonder which parent carries that gene … The babies are gorgeous with pale blue eyes against their soft brown feathers and pink gapes. Both (all black) parents have a recessive gene for leucism and each chick has a 25% chance of being leucistic. They had three chicks total; one black, two brown. Interestingly enough the leucistic chicks have brown feet and pale bills which kind of belies the definition of leucism, as only the feathers should be affected. Of course I will be looking more into this!
As for the aforementioned tern colony (previous report here), Kersti says she hasn’t seen any eggs hatch yet.
We’re taking a quick mid-afternoon break from the rest of the news to show you these wildlife sightings:
LUNCH AT LOW TIDE: Dianne sent this photo of a Great Blue Heron lunching during this morning’s low-low tide:
We’ll have more low-low tide photos in a separate roundup tonight – thanks to those who’ve sent theirs so far!
BEAVER SIGHTING: Manuel sent this video from Longfellow Creek:
This was just south of West Seattle Health Club, he reports.
SKUNK SIGHTING: Rose shared the link this video:
Seven events have been announced for Roxhill Park (29th SW and SW Barton) over the next month – starting this Saturday. They’re all in the WSB West Seattle Event Calendar, too, but here’s a quick FYI: The first event is for bird fans – this Saturday (and two weeks later, on July 30th), be at the park at 9 am to meet two Seattle Audubon Master Birders for a walk to learn about local birds and how/where to see them. Details are here. If you’re interested in the longer walk on July 30th, preregistration is requested – go here.
Then starting a week from today, at 10 am July 20th and for each Wednesday thereafter through August 10th, the park will be the site of watercolor-painting sessions geared toward people 50 and up. And on July 30th, you’re invited to an afternoon-long dance festival, both as a spectator and a participant, 1-5 pm – the “Dare to Dance” festival will feature performances and workshops by dance groups and choreographers.
All of these events are free.
A week and a half ago, we published the answer to a question many West Seattle birdwatchers had been asking – where had all the Caspian Terns, squawking so distinctively as they flew over en route to a Duwamish River nesting spot, gone? Community naturalist Kersti Muul had tracked them to a new hangout atop a building on the south end of the downtown waterfront. Here’s what she has learned since then:
I was able to view the colony (Monday) and found that they have laid eggs, and may still be laying eggs as several are still bringing fish back to their mates.
I will be watching the situation closely as it is very late now, and it is just going to get hotter as summer moves along. Chicks have to be able to fly well, in order to leave with the colony in the fall and they are already two and a half months behind schedule. The colony appears to be about half of what it was last year, and I am still trying to figure out where the rest are. I will be looking at another nest site this weekend to see if they may be there. Last year the Seattle colony had 1978 nests/4000 or so adults (WDFW drone study). My drone study has about half that this year, although I still need to do a formal count.
It’s fascinating to see all the eggs just sitting closely together on the substrate with no nesting material or depressions. You wonder how they know which eggs are theirs. When there is a disturbance and they flush out, they have to come back and know which egg(s) are theirs. It is a vulnerable time for them now with eggs to protect from predators; they are becoming increasingly aggressive, live chicks will only increase this.
Wishing them success and will update again after the weekend!!
We haven’t received a coyote-sighting report in quite some time, but this one came in tonight via text – seen in Seaview. Coyote reports have dwindled in the past few years; we still don’t know whether that’s because they’ve dwindled in numbers, or are just keeping themselves out of sight. A sighting report is meant as an FYI, not a warning; if you’re not familiar with how to co-exist with coyotes, these state-published recommendations can help.
That’s a Caspian Tern, photographed in May by James Tilley. Even if you can’t recall seeing one (or more), their distinctive prehistoric-esque call has been unmistakable in flyovers (you can hear it here). In past years they’ve frequently flown over West Seattle on their way to and from a nesting spot on a rooftop near the eastern shore of the Duwamish River – one where last year’s record heat wave killed more than 100 of their chicks. This year, community naturalist Kersti Muul says, they didn’t return to nest at that spot. But they didn’t go far, she learned after research – they’re on a roof at the south end of the downtown waterfront, near the Coast Guard station. (They’re easy to hear, we learned while driving northbound on East Marginal Way toward downtown late last night.) She says more than 1,000 terns are there, but so far they don’t seem to be nesting, which means they’re two months behind schedule – usually by now, nesting season is far enough along that some of the babies are starting to take short flights.
P.S. We asked Kersti what if anything community members can do to help the terns, Here’s her reply:
This is a link for SCAN (Seattle Conservation Action Network). Seattle Audubon will notify you when opportunities arise to advocate for a Seattle-area cities where people and birds thrive. It’s a good tool to streamline advocacy on big items; people don’t have to search around.
Also, the terns were impacted by an extreme weather event last year related to climate change. We are losing canopy cover [trees] at an alarming rate throughout Seattle and King County, both illegally and legally. I urge people to be thoughtful and climate-focused when considering tree work and removals. While we are working hard to get better tree protection laws, we can simply choose to protect ourselves, our climate, our neighbors; human and non-human, by advocating for tree retention. Urban heat islands are increasing, and urban habitat is severely fragmented, and lacking. Trees are vital to the success of all species.
You might not think twice about seeing a Bald Eagle soaring overhead, or perched in a tree … but Jennifer was surprised to see these two hanging out on her neighbors’ roof in North Admiral, near 45th/Seattle, and sent the photo (thank you!).
P.S. While eagles are no longer officially a threatened/endangered species, they are still protected.
1:58 PM: Thanks to Tom Trulin for the photo! Just after noon, as we’ve previewed, the low tide was out to the lowest point of the year, -4.3 feet. The photo is from Lincoln Park, one of two places where Seattle Aquarium volunteer beach naturalists have been out to educate shore explorers. If you couldn’t get out today for a look, tomorrow just before 1 pm will bring the second-lowest low tide of the year, out to -4.1 feet. (Got a photo to share from today? email@example.com – thank you!)
4:39 PM: Thanks for the additional photos! The next two are from Bruce Gaumond at Constellation Park:
Also from Constellation Park, this one’s by Bonnie Drexler:
Even more from Constellation Park – the next three are by David Hutchinson:
8:35 PM: Even more photos – first, from Rosalie Miller, a gumboot chiton and decorator crab:
From Denee Bragg, who’s been flagging by the northwest end of Constellation Park and reports “It has been the best “office” I’ve worked at in a long time!”
From Eddie, a view of Luna/Anchor Park:
From David Dimmit:
Photographed by Ashwin Moodithaya, a moon snail:
From Dawn Hepburn at Lowman Beach:
Laura White, at Constellation Park, says, “Delightful to see also how respectful everyone was of the animals.” She sent this photo of a young explorer:
Jerry Simmons noted Bey the bald eagle out on the tideflats, with a crow hassling her:
This one’s from Yazmín Penzien:
Thanks again for all the photos!
Did you go to Fauntleroy Creek on Sunday to help give a sendoff to hundreds of volunteer-raised salmon fry left over from this year’s Salmon in the Schools fish-raising? If so, you were part of a big turnout over the short two-hour window, despite a forecast that threatened rain and delivered a shower. Creek steward Judy Pickens tells WSB that “79 people of all ages (toddler to 95) put fish in the water” over those two hours. Next up for Fauntleroy Creek – in a little over four months, volunteers will start watching for spawners to show up.
Beach news from Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network:
Pupping season in our part of Puget Sound runs from June – September. Over the next months, beach walkers in West Seattle will very likely come across vulnerable Harbor Seal pups on both our public and private beaches. These young marine mammals are protected by federal law. If you come across a seal pup using the beach, please keep back, keep people and pets away, and call the Seal Sitters Hotline at 206-905-7325.
Seal Sitters is part of NOAA’s West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network. Our territory is West Seattle, from Brace Point through the Duwamish River, including Harbor Island and the East Waterway. We are responsible for responding to all marine mammals, alive or dead, that end up on our local beaches.
Remember that it is illegal to have a dog on the beach at any of the Seattle Parks beaches in West Seattle, either off or on a leash.