West Seattle, Washington
By Judy Pickens
Special to West Seattle Blog
Students from the Fauntleroy Children’s Center capped one of the biggest salmon-release seasons on Fauntleroy Creek since the first, in 1991.
Between April 27 and May 31, volunteers with the Fauntleroy Watershed Council hosted 730 students and some 235 adults for 17 releases in Fauntleroy Park. They brought 1,850 coho fry reared from eyed eggs through Salmon in the Schools-Seattle.
The total included 500 fry raised by volunteer Jack Lawless to ensure that, in the event of a school die-off, every student would have a fish to put in the water. His fish also enabled children from four additional preschools to have a release experience.
k(WSB photo – volunteer Dennis Hinton at left)
Elementary field trips to Fauntleroy Park included exploring nearby habitat and seeing some of the aquatic insects that comprise a large portion of a fry’s diet. Those that find enough food and protection in the creek will head to saltwater next spring as smolts.
From mid-March to late May, volunteers checked net traps in the upper and lower creek twice daily to document 41 smolts that had survived to leave for nearshore habitat in Fauntleroy Cove. Eleven of them came from the pond that formed during April’s partial blockage of the creek culvert under 45th Avenue SW.
“Finding so many downstream of the park confirmed that juveniles are making use of the entire system,” said veteran volunteer Dennis Hinton. “Those released at the big bridge in the park will linger there for a few weeks, so come have a look – but be sure to keep your dog out of the water.”
Thanks to James Tilley for the photo! He reports, “Infrequent visitor to our area – I saw a brown pelican flying along Alki on my morning walk.” They’re only brown when immature, so this is a younger pelican. In our region they’re more commonly seen along the open-ocean coast, but we do get visits here inland. They’re no longer listed as endangered by the state or federal governments, according to this state Department of Fish and Wildlife status report from last year, which also notes: “Brown Pelicans are protected from ‘take’ by federal law under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and are a ‘protected wildlife’ species by state law.” They’re big birds – wingspan up to 6 1/2 feet.
The report and photo are from Jonathan:
I was just walking to my car at 1:30 pm today, parked on the 3400 41st Ave SW block, and almost stepped on this snake. Google says it’s a gopher snake. I was wondering if it could be a pet. I gave my neighbors a head’s up, but thought I might broaden the work in case someone lost their pet. Or, you know, beware of the snake, even though it shouldn’t be venomous.
One of our favorite sources for “co-existing with wildlife” info, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, says that is indeed one of the common snakes in our state, with habitat generally “deserts, grasslands, and open woodlands.” It is indeed NOT venomous – it kills prey by squeezing, and it’s good to have around because rodents are among favorite prey.
Before we get to today’s list of events, an FYI for tomorrow – it’s likely to be one of the busiest days of the year at Don Armeni Boat Ramp, because it’s the one-day “season” for spot-shrimp fishing in nearby waters, 9 am-1 pm Thursday, May 25th. Usually the turnout fills the Don Armeni parking lot. Spot shrimp are the largest shrimp in Puget Sound, per WDFW. The state says Elliott Bay will be open this year as well as the central Sound.
Story by Judy Pickens
Photos by Tom Trulin
Special to West Seattle Blog
Installation of a new rabbi usually doesn’t include a salmon release – but it just made sense for Kol HaNeshamah, West Seattle’s progressive synagogue.
On Sunday morning (5/21), an estimated 35 people, from infants to elders, rendezvoused with Fauntleroy Watershed Council volunteers and a bucket of coho fry to release in upper Fauntleroy Creek.
“As a sacred community, we’re called to affirm life – and salmon have been central to Pacific Northwest communal life since time immemorial,” said Shannon Ninburg, KHN board of trustees member, seasonal naturalist, and creek volunteer. “We were thrilled to be able to include it as we welcomed Rabbi Sabine Meyer into our communal life.”
(Volunteer Dennis Hinton hands a cup of fish to Rabbi Sabine Meyer to start the release
She is the fifth rabbi to serve Kol HaNeshamah since its founding in 2003. After more than a decade as an educator for congregations in the Southwest, she was most recently rabbi for Tree of Life Congregation in Columbia, South Carolina.
By the last Fauntleroy Creek salmon release of the season on May 31, more than 900 students and adults will have stocked the upper creek with nearly 2,000 fry reared through the Salmon in the Schools program.
It’s been a while since our last gallery of reader-contributed West Seattle bird photos, but the contributions have continued coming in (thank you!), and we finally have an opportunity to show them to you. Above, Trileigh Tucker‘s cooling view of an Anna’s Hummingbird; Trileigh reminds us, be sure to keep water out for birds in this hot weather! Below, a California Scrub-Jay photographed by Susan Whiting Kemp in the Morgan area:
Cindy Roberts photographed two Common Loons “in a mating display”:
Jay Speidell found a Northern Flicker woodpecker making a new nest on Puget Ridge:
James Tilley caught an immature Bald Eagle landing in an Alki-area snag:
Two from Jerry Simmons: An American Goldfinch:
And a Finch:
From Arlene Rubin, a Hawk:
IDs are from the photographers; links are from BirdWeb, where you can see and hear other bird species that spend time in our region. Photos to share, from wildlife to breaking news (and beyond)? firstname.lastname@example.org – thank you!
If you’re going to the beach this weekend – watch out for tiny, spiny larval crabs. We’ve heard from two readers today reporting they’re back on Alki, and one reported a painful encounter. The other, Kaitlin, emailed to say:
As people hit the beach this weekend, just wanted to let neighbors know that there are large bands of crab larvae washed up on the beach. These spiny little friends are uncomfortable to walk on, so make sure to bring water shoes.
They’re called zoae and we published this reader report about them last year. That report noted, “It feels like glass or an itchy pinch” if you encounter them with bare hands/feet (etc.). This state Ecology Department page has more about them. Kaitlin reports seeing them just east of Alki Bathhouse.
11:59 AM: Thanks for the photos and tips. A sixgill shark washed up on Alki this morning. Wildlife experts tried to save it – Kersti Muul was there, as was SR3, but Kersti tells us they couldn’t.
em>(Photos sent by Kersti Muul)
Kersti says it was a juvenile male, seven and a half feet long. (According to this species-info page on the Seattle Aquarium website, that’s about half as long as they grow to be.) Here’s a look at its namesake gills:
And its teeth:
The state Fish and Wildlife Department was going to come get it.
ADDED 4 PM: If you didn’t already see the link in a comment below, wildlife photographer Jamie Kinney has a gallery here.
46 students from Roxhill Elementary were the first to visit Fauntleroy Creek as this year’s Salmon In The Schools releases begin.
Volunteer creek stewards help school students and staff release the fry they’ve been raising at school, a process that starts with volunteers delivering eggs from hatcheries. Over the next five weeks, 17 releases are planned at Fauntleroy Creek, one of Seattle’s few remaining salmon-bearing creeks.
The annual salmon life cycle continues in the creek with coho spawners’ return in fall – last year volunteers counted 254, one of the highest totals since creek restoration a quarter-century ago.
Even if you don’t fish, the scenery might be reason enough to catch the Fly Fishing Film Tour‘s 2023 West Seattle stop. It’s this Thursday (April 13th), 7 pm at the Admiral Theater (2343 California SW), hosted by West Seattle’s own fly-fishing specialists at Emerald Water Anglers (WSB sponsor). We’re told EWA proprietor Dave McCoy is featured in one of this year’s films! You’re invited to stop by EWA’s gear/apparel shop in The Junction (4502 42nd SW) before Thursday’s screening, “as we will be having some activities to celebrate all things fly fishing.” And you can get your ticket(s) in advance via The Admiral’s website.
Thanks to Brandy DeWeese for sharing photos of wildlife seen during low tide this afternoon at Lincoln Park. We’re not in a super-low-tide phase, but low enough to make shore exploration worthwhile.
The tide was out to -1.2 feet this afternoon and will be lower, -1.4 feet, at 2:39 pm tomorrow.
Brandy noted that the beach was relatively deserted on this drippy afternoon.
If you’re interested in guided exploration, Seattle Parks has a guided beach exploration for the April 22 low tide (register here), and Seattle Aquarium volunteer beach naturalists start their season in early June.
The photo is from Kersti Muul, who explains she got a report of a beaver along SW Thistle, and indeed, that’s what it was. So what happened next? “He’s fine. I scooted him into that yard and he ate and then bedded down in the blackberries. Most concerned for it being on such a busy road. I imagine it’s a path it takes all the time back and forth to the creek. [Longfellow] I told everyone to leave it alone and give it space.” Here’s the state Living With Wildlife infopage about beavers.
Thanks to the readers who’ve sent bird photos in recent weeks – enough for the first gallery of spring! First, two views of Steller’s Jays, above from an unidentified texter, below from Danelle Jay:
Next, a Sharp-shinned Hawk from Mark Dale:
From David Butler, a Raven:
Marc photographed this Barred Owl:
James Hiersche sent this photo of a Bald Eagle over Lincoln Park:
From Ann Anderson, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet:
Two from Mark MacDonald – a Spotted Towhee:
And a Goldeneye:
Finally, from Stringtie – a Herring Gull with a snack:
Thanks as always for sending bird photos so we can share with your West Seattle neighbors! email@example.com is the best way to send non-breaking-news photos like these, but if you decide to text instead, please include your name so we can credit you – thank you!
With longer days, more sunshine, and rising temperatures, you’ll likely spend more time outside. So Nancy is sharing an alert, intended for her neighborhood but a cautionary tale for others too:
I live at 48th Ave SW between Hinds & Spokane. Behind Madison Middle School. I wanted to warn neighbors … For the past week, a large raccoon has been showing up in my yard in afternoons, 1:30 pm (not usual nocturnal time).
He snarls & bares his teeth. He does not back down when I throw a handy object at him.
I’m a gardener & almost always outside these days. He then climbs trees to get on my roof. Two years ago,, raccoons killed all my 3 chickens in early 5 am time.
Nancy was planning to consult experts. We also suggested one of our favorite resources for urban-wildlife info, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife’s “Living With Wildlife” series. Check out this page and scroll all the way down to find the “preventing conflicts” advice.
(2017 photo by “Diver Laura” James)
Six years ago, we told you about herring spawning off West Seattle – which led to pearly eggs, like those in the photo above, on the beach, after sea birds and sea lions were seen in a feeding frenzy offshore, near “milky swaths” that are telltale signs of what’s happening. “Diver Laura” James says it’s time to watch for that again – and to report it if you see it. She tells WSB, “Our West Seattle herring spawn should be starting any day now and and it would be amazing if local readers could keep an eye out for spawning activity so we can capture the action with drone and 360 underwater cameras.” The Coastal Watershed Institute has been watching – saying it’s “been extremely predictable the last five years. You could literally set your watch to the shoals of fish, brilliant white water, layer upon layer of herring eggs, and caterwauling sea lions and birds. This year? Nothing.” But spawning has begun in an area of British Columbia, so there’s hope they’re just running late this year. If you think you’re seeing signs of spawning, you can email Laura – ljjames (at) mac (dot) com.
Tom Trulin sent that photo of a nesting hummingbird, a perfect illustration for this reminder we received from Suzanne Krom: When you’re out doing yard work (or if you don’t have a yard, if you’re out helping or volunteering in greenspaces), watch carefully to be sure you don’t unintentionally disturb one of these nests:
Hummingbirds nesting now … be super aware if you’re pruning
These tiny nests are so easy to miss! They are only 1.5 inches in diameter.
Before pruning and without touching the branches of a tree or shrub (or minimally touching, at most), carefully look for nests. They’re usually somewhat obscured by leaves. Their placement will probably be at the intersection of a stem and an anchoring branch.
If you see a nest, leave the birds alone to let them raise their young in peace. Disturbing an active nest often results in the adults abandoning the eggs/young. Let them be. A bird’s greatest secret is the location of their nest.
It’s up to each of us to respect that secret. Life is hard enough for them without us interfering in their lives.
The perfect nest in the photo was in our Tall Oregon Grape last year, located about 4 feet off the ground. The pair of Anna’s hummingbirds that frequent our yard used it twice to successfully raise their young. I moved it into our home at the end of October, when I knew their nesting season was complete.
(Video by Tom Trulin)
By Judy Pickens
Special to West Seattle Blog
Lower Fauntleroy Creek is again teeming with fish – not the 254 big spawners of last fall but the tiny “home hatch” from the eggs they left.
Volunteer Tom Trulin spotted the first coho fry on Feb. 20, a day later than last year. Within a week, dozens were darting around.
Water temperature determines how long coho eggs take to hatch, then how long alevin take to develop into fry. They start life under the protection of loose gravel and emerge as free-swimming fry. To protect themselves from predators while foraging for food, they stay near the bank or overhanging vegetation.
“The fry are less than an inch long and vary in color from light tan to very dark,” said volunteer Dennis Hinton. “Seeing them takes a lot of patience because they don’t want to be seen and are easily spooked.” He discouraged visitors to the lower creek while the fish are so fragile.
Based on the last observed spawning during the week of Nov. 15, these fry are about 13 weeks old. They will grow into fingerlings (parr), then smolts, over their year in the creek. Next spring, those that survive will migrate to salt water, then return to fresh water after two years to spawn.
The upper creek will soon be teeming, as well, when at least 500 students release the coho fry they are rearing now through the Salmon in the Schools program. Tom, Dennis, and other Fauntleroy Watershed Council volunteers are expecting to host at least 13 release field trips in May in Fauntleroy Park.
That’s an example of what our colder-than-usual weather is doing to outdoors water sources – not just drinking fountains, but also bird baths, so West Seattle naturalist Ann Anderson sent this reminder about something helpful you might be able to do before the sun goes down and the mercury heads for the 20s again (and to repeat tomorrow morning):
If you are able, please provide water for wild birds and other wildlife after an overnight freeze. This is especially important if you normally offer up a bird bath or water source that they are used to frequenting. They are depending on your consistency during these uncommon cold snaps!
Birds are particularly in need of hydration first thing in the morning when their water supply is most likely to be frozen. Few birds can peck through even a thin layer of ice, and going out to search for new, unknown resources saps valuable energy acutely needed to keep warm, When humidity takes a dive in cold weather, wildlife (like us) become somewhat parched, and once dehydrated, they are very vulnerable to cold, illness, and disease.
TO HELP: Simply pour hot water into your frozen bird bath. This quickly loosens the ice, making it easy to pop right out. Then refill it with warm water. It’s that easy, and will make a huge difference to cold, thirsty wildlife.
The forecast suggests we have at least two more below-freezing nights ahead.
As shown here last night, Seattle Aquarium beach naturalists were out at Constellation Park, helping people explore responsibly at low-low tide. Tonight we have photos of some of the wildlife they saw – the first three photos are from Rosalie Miller: Above, a painted anemone; below, northern kelp crabs:
And a rough piddock:
We don’t have the ID on this one, but Molly Al-Jawad sent the photo:
Tonight’s low-low tide, -2.5 feet at 10:18 pm, will be just as low as the one that brought explorers out last night. Meantime, you can watch this page later this year to see when the beach naturalists will be out during the summer daytime low-low tides.
As mentioned in our Event Calendar and daily preview list, Seattle Aquarium volunteer beach naturalists are out at Constellation Park right now, helping people explore what’s in view because of the nighttime low-low-tide. Thanks to Sara for sending photos!
They’re scheduled to be out until 10 pm – just look for the canopy, and the people on the beach, at 60th and Beach Drive.
But tread lightly – low tides like this one expose sealife that’s usually submerged.
P.S. The naturalists won’t be out, but tomorrow night the tide will be just as low at 10:18 pm, -2.5 feet.
If you’re a frequent WSB reader, you likely know that during football season, we feature galleries of readers’ bird photos. While we’ve gone back lately to spotlighting birds one at a time in our daily “what’s happening” lists, Jamie Kinney suggested joining in “Superb Owl Sunday.”
Jamie shared some favorite owl photos from the past two-plus years – above, a Snowy Owl; below, a Barred Owl:
Looking into our files of bird photos received in recent months, we found Kersti Muul‘s photo of a Great Horned Owl in Lincoln Park last October:
And one more from Jamie, an owl you won’t see around here – a Little Owl photographed in Scotland:
Thanks again to everyone who shares bird photos – and do check our daily “what’s happening today” lists for more, as we get them! Also, if you missed the announcement Saturday, two West Seattle parks are hosting birding events soon.
If you’re one of the many bird fans out in WSB-land, Seattle Parks environmental educator Nicole Parish-Andrews has an invitation for you:
Seattle Parks and Recreation’s Environmental Education Unit will be hosting 2 bird-watching events for the Great Backyard Bird Count on February 17th and 18th in West Seattle. One at Westcrest Park on the 17th from 3-4:30 pm (meet at the picnic tables near the P-patch), and one at Camp Long on Saturday the 18th from 10-11:30 am. You can attend just one or both. No previous birding experience? No problem! We will have naturalists there to help guide you and your family and also provide binoculars to borrow. Join us as we explore the wonderful world of birds in our beautiful local parks!
Free, no pre-registration required – just show up.
When Steve Bender sent that photo of a harbor seal, wondering about what looked like a red cap, we didn’t have a quick explanation – we’d never seen that before. So first we went to Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network. SSMNSN’s David Hutchinson recognized the “red cap” as a tag placed by their partners at SR3 when rehabilitating a seal – so the rest of the story comes from SR3’s executive director Casey Maclean.
First, if you’re not familiar with SR3, they’re a nonprofit based in Des Moines, where they have a marine-mammal rehab hospital; their name is short for Sealife Response, Rehabilitation, and Research. Casey told us, for starters, “The red dot on the seal’s head is a tag that helps SR3 animal-care staff identify them while they are in rehabilitation.” After talking with Steve about where he saw this particular seal, Casey was able to tell us more about her:
This young, recently weaned pup was found on 11/8 on the Don Armeni boat ramp and reported to the local stranding network, Seal Sitters.
(Photo from David Hutchinson, before seal was taken to SR3 for rehab)
They monitored the pup over the next 24 hours to assess the pup’s condition, and when she was still there the next day, Seal Sitters reached out to SR3 for further medical assessment. Together the groups determined it was in the pup’s best interest to be taken into SR3’s marine mammal rehabilitation hospital in Des Moines. This pup was SR3’s 48th patient in 2022.
She was in thin body condition, dehydrated, had a wound with some associated swelling and pneumonia. Despite her various health issues, she quickly improved under SR3’s care, and 67 days later she was once again swimming free. Patients are released within 30 miles of where they were found and you can help monitor patients post release! While in rehabilitation, SR3 places a small colored dot on their head to help identify individuals; with several patients in one pool it is critical to make sure everyone gets the proper treatments. The tags are glued on to their fur and will come off when they molt, which they do once a year. By reporting any sightings of seals with “dots” on their heads, you can help us learn more about their survival post-release, photos appreciated! Each patient will also have an orange flipper tag that is placed between the webbing of one of their rear flippers; these tags are permanent so that if they should be found again, we know their medical history.
Please remember that we are fortunate to share our shores with incredible marine wildlife and sometimes they just need to rest. If you are concerned about a marine mammal, please report it to Seal Sitters, 206-905-7325 – responders are available 7 days a week.
And if you see a “dotted” seal that’s not otherwise a reason for concern – happily swimming, for example, you can report the sighting to (corrected) the Seal Sitters hotline too.
SIDE NOTE: This seal has two names because of the SR3 and Seal Sitters involvement in caring for it. Seal Sitters called her “Lady Marmalade“; SR3 named her “Spaghetti.” David from SSMMSN explains, “Seal Sitters has a long tradition of naming the pups we watch over. Usually they are named by the first responder or possibly the reporting party. SR3 uses a theme for names during the season, with this year’s theme being space objects. Spaghetti is the name of a nebula.”
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