West Seattle, Washington
Meet Pearl and Jam. David Hutchinson – who photographed them Sunday – reports that Jam was Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network‘s “first new harbor seal pup of the 2018 season,” resting with mom Pearl “on a rock just offshore from one of our local beaches. … If you see them at any of our West Seattle beaches, please keep back, keep people and pets away, and call the Seal Sitters’ Hotline at 206-905-SEAL (7325).” Meantime, he shared this announcement:
SEAL SITTERS’ LAST TRAINING OF THE YEAR – AUGUST 25TH
Seal Sitters is a member of NOAA’s West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network. We are responsible for responding to any marine mammal on West Seattle beaches from Brace Point through the Duwamish River including Harbor Island.
All new volunteers are required to take a 2-hour training session. Our last training of 2018 will be held in the front meeting room at the Alki UCC, 6115 SW Hinds (MAP), on Saturday, August 25th from 10 AM – Noon. This will be followed by a short Q&A opportunity. Topics covered will include: The Marine Mammal Protection Act, life in a harbor seal rookery, what is Seal Sitters’ role in NOAA’s network, information on the most common marine mammals in our local waters, your role as a volunteer in a challenging urban environment. Also discussed will be volunteer opportunities as a hotline operator, first responder, and scheduler.
IF YOU DON’T LIVE IN WEST SEATTLE – While all the different groups operating in Puget Sound are part of NOAA’s Network, each group functions separately and provides its own training. Our training would only qualify you to volunteer within the area mentioned above.
If you plan on attending, an RSVP is required. Please include in your email the full names of everyone who will be attending. If any of these are minors, include their ages. A parent or guardian must accompany all minors to the training and when they are on the beach. Seating is limited, so be sure to register early to reserve your place.
To RSVP: SealSitters.Outreach@msn.com
We know the WSB readership includes many bird lovers. Seattle Audubon hopes some might be able to help with this:
Are seabirds in Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca increasing or decreasing in numbers? Which species are changing their range? Help us find out.
The Puget Sound Seabird Survey (PSSS) is a community and citizen-science project managed by Seattle Audubon that empowers volunteer birdwatchers to gather valuable data on wintering seabird populations across the southern Salish Sea.
This season we will be expanding the project, yet again, this time north to the Canadian border and the San Juan Islands. We received funding from the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Estuary Program through the Washington Dept. of Fish & Wildlife to add 15-30 new survey sites, develop an oil spill plan and train volunteers on how to react to a spill.
You can contribute to vital seabird science by joining the twelfth season of this exciting project. We are now recruiting enthusiastic and dedicated volunteers to help us monitor the status of our local wintering seabirds. Training on survey methodology will be provided on Tuesday, 17th September at Lincoln Park, with other trainings taking place at 8 additional locations later in September and early October.
The first seabird survey of the season will take place on October 6th, 2018. Volunteers should ideally be able to identify Puget Sound’s seabird species and be available on the first Saturday of each month, October through April, to conduct a 30-minute survey. But, if determining between Lesser and Greater Scaup is a challenge, we’ll team you up with more knowledgeable surveyors. To help us determine each volunteer’s seabird identification skill level, please take this short, fun seabird ID quiz.
There are five survey sites in the West Seattle area that we need volunteers for, 10 sites in the Seattle area that require more volunteers, and numerous other sites around Puget Sound with spaces.
Learn more at www.seabirdsurvey.org and email Toby Ross, Science Manager firstname.lastname@example.org to take part.
Two similar views of tonight’s smoke-reddened sunset (along with Siberia and B.C., Northern California is a factor too, says Cliff Mass) – one with something extra. Above, David Hutchinson‘s view from Alki as the sun started to slip behind the Olympics … below, Robin Sinner‘s view, with a seabird that’s been audible inland too:
The silhouetted bird is a Caspian Tern, and their call – which some have described as “prehistoric” (see and hear them here) – has been heard more inland than we recall from previous years. We asked one of our expert local bird/wildlife watchers, Kersti Muul, about it recently and she said the terns heard away from the water are likely carrying food to a nesting colony that’s in the east Duwamish area.
6:33 PM: The photos are from Kersti Muul, one of the local wildlife advocates who had been tracking the saga of this California sea lion for the past week or so.
The sea lion, nicknamed Dudley, was severely underweight and had several signs of major illness/injury, so the state Department of Fish and Wildlife removed him this morning from the beach at Cove 3.
No veterinarian was available to euthanize the sea lion on the scene, so he had to be taken away. They would have let nature run its course, Kersti says, but he was on a public beach and that posed hazards both for him and for the public.
8:34 PM: Kersti mentioned in correspondence with us that Seal Sitters have been dealing with Dudley, and now we’ve heard from them. David Hutchinson sent this:
Since last Friday, Seal Sitters’ volunteers have been monitoring the location and condition of a lone California Sea Lion at various spots along Harbor Avenue. Nicknamed “Dudley,” this animal did not make the normal migration south this spring, possibly due to health conditions. It soon became apparent that his health was extremely compromised. He recently began hauling out at Cove #3, just north of Marination, which was a potentially dangerous spot for him and for the public. In consultation with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and SR3, it was determined that the best course of action would be capture and removal from that location. This morning a crew from WDFW, along with a specialist from NOAA, successfully removed him from Cove #3 and transported him to a WDFW facility in Lakewood. Late this afternoon, we were informed that his health was compromised to the point that euthanasia was required. A necropsy will be performed tomorrow and Seal Sitters will be notified of the results.
We want to take this opportunity to thank Steve Jeffries of WDFW and his staff, along with Jeff Harris of NOAA, for their excellent job with the capture and removal. We greatly appreciate the input and assistance of Casey McClean, Co-Executive Director of SR3, in this difficult case.
Also, Seal Sitters would like to say a special thanks to Greg Whittaker of Alki Kayak Tours and his staff for their patience and cooperation these last few days.
We’ll forgive you if you take a break from West Seattle Summer Fest for a bit tomorrow and go check out the low-low tide … which will be almost as low as today’s! Thanks for sharing photos – above, by Mark McAndrews, looking toward downtown; below, three photos of wildlife seen at low tide by Erica Sokoloff:
Tomorrow’s lowest tide is at 12:26 pm, -3.5 feet (today’s was -3.6). It’ll be the last local low tide beyond minus 3 feet until June of next year.
We’ve received multiple inquiries about dead/dying bumblebees, particularly along California SW from The Junction to Morgan Junction. One of the people who noticed was local naturalist (and more) Kersti Muul, who provided the photos. We investigated a similar phenomenon a couple years ago, and recalled it wasn’t a case of spraying – as most assume when they happen onto the bees – but was traced to a particular kind of tree. Kersti, also an arborist, subsequently noted the trees in question are lindens:
Other parts of the nation/world have noted this phenomenon. Last fall, the New York Times wrote about researchers looking into it; they hadn’t entirely solved the mystery.
Not all bees are susceptible to this, as noted in this one-sheet from Oregon. The dead bees Kersti saw/collected are almost all yellow-faced bumblebees, of the species Bombus vosnesenskii. That Oregon document also reminds us that lindens are the trees that draw so many aphids, their secretions drip onto cars parked beneath them (it’s not the sap making those little spots, it’s the bugs). But you don’t want to spray those trees to kill the aphids – because that will kill other insects, such as bees, too.
If you’re out on the West Seattle shore this morning, be on the lookout for at least one whale! Both David and Jim have sent reports of sightings off Duwamish Head in the past two hours. Likely humpbacks, but no photo so we don’t know for sure. The Whale Trail‘s website has a species guide that might be helpful if you see a marine mammal are trying to identify it.
Thanks to Kersti Muul for the tip – humpback whales have been off West Seattle much of the afternoon, and are in Elliott Bay at last report. One Orca Network commenter reports seeing them from the Water Taxi. Not sure how to ID a humpback? Here’s some help from The Whale Trail.
This morning’s sighting post was a long time ago so we’re starting a new one – multiple reports of orcas visible off Alki Beach right now. While one report has them around 58th and Alki, they’re also reported to be heading north.
9:48 AM: Thanks to Kersti Muul for the tip – take your binoculars and look toward Blake Island, where a sizable group of orcas is reported to be passing, southbound!
12:06 PM: They’re still southbound, Kersti reports – and they’re transient orcas. Now off Burien’s Three Tree Point, she says.
7:57 PM: And now they’re northbound, seen passing Alki a short time ago, per comment and e-mail.
Two reports of up to six orcas seen south of Alki Point in the past hour. Kersti Muul says they were headed southwest toward Blake Island/Manchester. It’s been squalling again, so you would want to take an umbrella as well as binoculars if you go look!
Thanks to Kersti Muul for calling our attention to an Orca Network-reported sighting of orcas between Vashon and Southworth, headed northeast “toward Seattle,” as of about an hour ago. Tomorrow, Kersti will be one of three Whale Scout volunteer naturalists helping celebrate Orca Month with you on West Seattle beaches – she’ll be at Lowman Beach [map], Thorly James will be at Colman Pool [map] in Lincoln Park, and Susann Babaei will be at Constellation Park [map]. That’s noon-2 pm Sunday, and they’ll be ready to talk with you about “Whales in Your Neighborhood” while scouting for them!
While at Fauntleroy Park earlier today for the last Salmon in the Schools release of the season (story later), we found out that forest steward Peggy Cummings had found a dead bat in the park this week. It was a very small and likely juvenile bat, and no reason, she stresses, for you to panic, but it did make us realize we should publish this week’s alert from the state Health Department, since bats do turn up in West Seattle parks:
Since May 1, four bats found in Washington have tested positive for rabies, the highest number identified in the state in the month of May since 1998. The Washington State Department of Health reminds people to call their local health department if they, a family member or a pet interacts with a bat.
Health officials routinely test for and find rabid bats, typically during the summer months. DOH wants the public to continue to take appropriate precautions if a bat – dead or alive – is found. Try to avoid contact with bats and other wild animals; do not touch a bat if possible. If you do have contact with a bat or suspect that a family member or pet had contact with a bat, try to safely capture it and keep it contained away from people and call your local health department for next steps.
It is also important to protect your pets by ensuring their rabies vaccinations are current. More detailed precautions and information can be found on the Washington State Department of Health website.
While any mammal can be infected with the rabies virus, bats are the most common animal in Washington that carry rabies. In 2017, 22 bats were tested and found to have the virus. This is up from 2016 when 20 rabid bats were identified. The Washington State Public Health Laboratories tests between 200 and 300 bats per year. Typically, between three and 10 percent of the bats submitted for testing are found to be rabid.
The state says two of those bats were found in King County, but no further specifics. Cummings says she spoke to the county Health Department today and they said she and another park volunteer who briefly handled the dead bat don’t need to worry. “Rabies is serious but very rare,” she notes. But she also wants to remind you that you and your family should steer clear not only of bats but of any dead animal they find.
One week from tonight, The Whale Trail has an invitation for you:
“Whale Trail Summer Gathering featuring Photos by Stephen Rink”
Presentation by Stephen Rink, Photographer
When: Tuesday June 5, 7:00 – 8:30
–Doors open at 6:30
Where: C & P Coffee Company, 5612 California Ave SW
Cost: $5 suggested donation; kids free
Advance tickets: brownpapertickets.com
Presented by The Whale Trail
Sponsored by Nucor Steel
Photos: Transient orcas in Monterey Bay, courtesy Stephen Rink
Summer is superpod season! Join us next Tuesday for a celebration of orcas and other whales featuring photos by Stephen Rink. Stephen has followed his passion for whales from Iceland to the Azores, and West Seattle! Stephen most recently traveled to Monterey Bay, where he witnessed a rare predation event.
Whale Trail Founder Donna Sandstrom will also share updates about SRKW recovery efforts and how you can help. Donna was recently appointed to Gov. Inslee’s Task Force on SRKW Recovery, and its Vessel Impacts working group. Hope to see you there. Buy tickets now to reserve your seat.
This is the next in the 2018 Orca Talk series hosted by The Whale Trail in West Seattle. Thanks to Nucor Steel for sponsoring this presentation!
About the Speaker
Stephen Rink is a Whale Trail volunteer who has been fascinated with whales since the age of 5. He has maintained an affinity for the ocean, and continues to travel the world to see different marine life and photograph them along the way. Stephen moved to Seattle in 2017 to be closer to killer whales and participate in recovery efforts. He hopes to continue to travel as a photographer and eventually photograph whales aboard expedition vessels in Antarctica.
About The Whale Trail
The Whale Trail is a series of sites to view orcas and other marine mammals from shore. Our mission is to inspire appreciation and stewardship of whales and our marine environment.
Through our current sites and signs, including two on every Washington State ferry, we reach more than 50 million people each year. The Whale Trail is currently adding new sites along the North American west coast, from California to British Columbia.
The Whale Trail is led by a core team of partners including NOAA Fisheries, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Seattle Aquarium, the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, the Whale Museum. Donna Sandstrom is the Founder and Executive Director. Many members of the team first met on the successful effort to return Springer, the orphaned orca, to her pod.
The Whale Trail is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, registered in Washington State. Join us!
Thanks to Gary Jones for the photo – a few orcas, transients according to Orca Network, were back in view from West Seattle this afternoon, though closer to the Kitsap side. Gary saw them from Alki Point in the noon hour; ON’s last reported sighting, less than an hour ago, was still off south Bainbridge.
9:31 AM: Just texted by Kersti Muul and by Alisa Lemire Brooks from Orca Network – at least 10 orcas reported in/near the Southworth ferry lane, northbound. On the Kitsap side, so if you’re going to go look from this side, good binoculars are a must! Let us know if you see them.
10:24 AM: As of a few minutes ago, per the Denniston Family in comments, “They are directly in front of Manchester by the big ship.” (Not sure where Manchester is? Here’s a map.)
On behalf of Seal Sitters, a photo and update from David Hutchinson:
All spaces for the June 9th Seal Sitters’ training have been filled. If you were not able to attend this session, but are still interested in becoming a Seal Sitter, please contact us at SealSitters.Outreach@msn.com and we will notify you when our next training has been scheduled.
We have had a seal on the beach twice this week and “pupping season” in south Puget Sound will be starting soon. Just a reminder, if you see any marine mammal on a West Seattle beach, keep back, keep people and pets away, and please call our Hotline at 206-905-SEAL (7325).
Remember the river otters we mentioned last night – including a pair seen making their way up Fairmount Ravine? They apparently kept going, and by morning were spotted by startled neighbors on the east side of Hiawatha Community Center. First we heard from Jennifer – then, Andrea sent the photos, video, and report:
Found these pair of cuties hanging out on Forest Ave SW by Hiawatha Playfield this morning – must have strayed too far from Mom in their adventures up from the water. Animal Control came to get them and bring them to the wildlife center in Lynnwood to be properly relocated. Thanks to all the neighbors who helped divert traffic while these little guys decided to camp out in the road!
We confirmed with Seattle Animal Shelter executive director Ann Graves that SAS Officer Cantu picked up the otters and took them to PAWS – we have an inquiry out to them as to what happens next, but probably won’t hear back until Monday.
SAS doesn’t always step into wildlife situations; Graves explains that “we do not handle ‘nuisance’ wildlife but we do respond to calls which are considered ‘rescue/assist’ situations.”
SUNDAY NIGHT UPDATE: Laura Follis from PAWS responded to our inquiry with some early info, and we’ll be pursuing more Monday. She says the otters are a female and a male, “approximately 10 to 12 weeks old. They have no obvious injuries but both are very thin so obviously orphaned. They are eating fish on their own. The male had nasal discharge that is suspicious of pneumonia and they are very susceptible to it so is going to be on a course of antibiotics. They love their pool.”
THURSDAY NIGHT: With three reader reports of river otters far uphill from the water’s edge in West Seattle, it’s time to share the alert! The photo above is from Jonathan, who spotted those two in Fairmount Ravine, near the bridge. His report came in about the same time as a note from Luke, who was bicycling in the ravine when he saw what we assume were the same two, “scurrying along the side of the road.” And last night, Emily reported seeing one “crossing the road on SW Jacobsen Road between 51st Ave SW and Beach Drive SW.” If you’re new – river otters are the ones you’ll see in Puget Sound, not “sea otters,” which are more common in the open ocean. Be especially careful on near-shore roads this time of year – some have been hit by drivers as they cross, often headed to/from an inland den. This state Fish and Wildlife Department info-sheet has more about river otters.
FRIDAY MORNING, 10:27 AM: According to a note from Jennifer, they’re even further inland now, up along Walnut.
For the first time in a long time, today we received a reader report about a coyote sighting:
Last night: a pack of coyote pups heard and spotted at 46th and Edmunds in West Seattle at 1:25 am. About eight of them, running wildly around houses looking for food.
Over the years, we’ve published coyote reports when we received them, to help people remain aware that we and these wild neighbors are co-existing. If you don’t know much about coyotes, or what to do if you see one or more, this state webpage can help.
Still looking for summer camp? Seattle Audubon says it still has room in camps it’s offering this summer in West Seattle:
Nature Camp is for children entering grades 1-9, and all children in this age range are welcome. Our camp will be based at Explorer West Middle School, with two off-site field trips each week. Though there is a fee to attend, we have a generous scholarship fund so that all children may have a summer camp experience.
Nature Camp emphasizes experiential outdoor activities that instill an appreciation of nature for children and teens. Each week is a different theme, from Tide Pool Treasures (grades 1-3) to Habitat Restoration Rangers (grades 4-6) to Young Birders for middle schoolers. Sessions range from $210-$295 and includes two off-site field trips each week. Regular camp hours are 9 am-3:30 pm, with morning and afternoon extended care available.
Seal-pup season is starting, and Seal Sitters Marine Stranding Network is recruiting – and training – volunteers. From Robin Lindsey:
There are still spaces left for Seal Sitters Volunteer Training, Saturday, June 9th, from 10 am-12:30 pm (see details here). Doors open at 9:30. Due to limited seating, RSVP is required at the website link to ensure a seat.
Seal Sitters is always in need of dedicated volunteers to keep marine mammals safe and educate the public. We do encourage children (must be accompanied by adult) to join Seal Sitters and become environmental stewards at a young age. It is empowering for those of all ages to be able to protect marine life and truly make a difference.
Harbor seal pupping season is getting underway in Washington. There are numerous pregnant seals in Central and Puget Sound. Harbor seals are generally born in our area from late June thru early September; however, there has already been a premature birth, so we can expect pups soon. We have had newborn pups in West Seattle as early as June 9th. If you are heading to the outer coast of Washington now and over the next couple of months, you might very well encounter a newborn pup. Always stay back to avoid abandonment and contact the area stranding network (for maps, go here).
To learn in-depth about harbor seal pups and to view a pupping season map, go here.
Here in West Seattle, we never know what kind of activity each season will bring. Wildlife is predictably unpredictable! That’s why Seal Sitters needs predictably reliable volunteers – since each day can bring new challenges, anything from keeping a resting seal pup safe from harm to responding to a stranded whale.
As always, if you see a seal – or other marine mammal – on a West Seattle beach or in trouble offshore, please call Seal Sitters hotline @ 206-905-SEAL (7325). Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network is a partner in NOAA’s West Coast MMSN and responds to reports of ALL marine mammals, dead or alive.
Robin adds that her photo above is “of weaned seal ‘Uno,’ who spent many days onshore in January and February resting near the water taxi.”
ORIGINAL REPORT: It’s still duck-crossing season! Thanks to Marcee Stone-Vekich for sharing her photo/video of this scene that stopped traffic for a bit on Saturday near the east end of Roxbury.
Here’s some interesting backstory on crossings like this one.
ADDED MONDAY: Commenter Alki Resident identified the ducks’ escort as Chris Greer, who has made news in another wildlife-related situation, as he and his wife fight to get back a raccoon they had rescued and long kept as a member of their family. Today another commenter, Katelyn, pointed out that the ruling in the Greers’ case had finally come down last week; it went against them but their lawyer says they’ll appeal.