West Seattle, Washington
That’s a River Otter on the beach at Lincoln Park; Linda Rackner sent us the photo earlier this month. Another reader email brings the sad reminder that you have to watch for these creatures inland as well as on the beach or in the water: Mary and Mike emailed earlier this week to report, “On returning from a walk at Lincoln Park, we saw a car heading north swerve and an otter wiggling out the other side. We stopped, called Seal Sitters, and they said Animal Control was the proper entity to call. So they were called. We presume the otter was dead as it no longer moved. A parking patrol made sure Animal Control was coming. Maybe we need an Otter Crossing Sign for Fauntleroy. Sad to see an otter killed, and there was a cat immediately interested.” They say this happened just south of the south entrance to the south Lincoln Park parking lot. Otters cross roads to get to inland dens – they’ve been seen well away from the water.
Early-morning runners, beware. Here’s what happened to Bill, and he’s not the first:
I was attacked by an owl this morning on my run in North Admiral around 5:50am. This happened at the intersection of SW Atlantic St and Sunset Ave SW [map] and the owl followed me for several blocks diving at me trying to attack. It took my hat and scratched up the back of my head. I was able to prevent further injury by walking away backwards, yelling and waving my arms. My research says this can happen around this time of year. Runners in this area should be aware!
The state Fish and Wildlife Department fact sheet about owls notes, “Most aggressive behavior from owls (barred owls and great horned owls are the most often reported) is motivated by defense of their territory or young, or their search for handouts.” (Around here, it’s usually Barred Owls.)
Thanks to everyone who’s sent photos, we have another gallery of West Seattle bird sightings, always fun on a football afternoon. The top photo is by Kersti Muul, who explains it’s a Virginia Rail:
A rare treat to see in West Seattle. Was called by the Port to assess an injured bird and was stunned to find that it was a rail. I’ve never seen one here, and they are rare to see anyway, easier to hear. Very secretive, marsh-dwelling birds. This one had taken up residence behind the bathrooms at Jack Block Park. Stunning bird, and great camouflage.
Down in The Arroyos, Mark MacDonald photographed a Killdeer:
Next photo is from Robin Sinner, who says this Surfbird is “back from the tundra”:
Meantime, this Rufous Hummingbird will soon depart, according to Mark Wangerin:
Mark also sent this photo of an American Goldfinch:
Two views of California Scrub-Jays – first, from Susan Hayes-McQueen:
And from Jerry Simmons:
Finally, a photo taken from a Fauntleroy-bound ferry by middle-schooler Eva, who saw a Great Blue Heron sharing space with a seal:
(Just a reminder if you haven’t clicked – all the bird species names are linked to their pages on the Seattle Audubon BirdWeb, which includes photos and audio files of the birds’ calls.)
Thanks to Kersti Muul for the photos. What looked to someone like a seal pup at a distance off Duwamish Head earlier this week …
… turned out instead to be a bottomfish called a cabezon:
Despite her extensive wildlife involvement, Kersti says she’s never seen one of those before.
They’re not rare or endangered, though. This state Fish and Wildlife Department fact sheet says, “Cabezon is the largest of the sculpin species found in Washington waters.” They can grow to over three feet long.
5:13 PM: The Southern Resident Killer Whales’ first local appearance of (almost) fall could be happening shortly! Members of J-Pod have been heading south in Puget Sound all day, and Donna Sandstrom of The Whale Trail just called to say that if they continue southbound, they should be in view from West Seattle around 5:30 pm or so. Thanks also to Kersti Muul for updates on their southward journey. Both have mentioned that West Seattle researcher Mark Sears headed out to see them earlier today; Donna says Mark has seen J56, the 2-year-old whale reported to be ailing, and his early word was that she looked OK – that’s of course pending a closer assessment of her condition. Anyway, assuming the orcas keep heading this way, let us know if you see them!
5:23 PM: Don’t rush down to the shore – update from Donna, they’re milling off West Point, on the north edge of Elliott Bay.
6:38 PM: We are at the west end of the Alki promenade and are seeing one in the distance to the NW.
7:04 PM: Still seeing a few blows in that same general area.
Nice day to go to the beach – but if you do, heed this reminder from David Hutchinson of Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network:
West Seattle is entering its busiest 2-3 months for vulnerable harbor-seal pups using our local beaches. We ask that everyone please be alert and report any marine mammals you come across to the Seal Sitters’ Hotline at 206-905-7325. The young harbor seal pup in the photo was chased into the water yesterday by an off-leash dog. Remember, dogs are not permitted on Seattle Parks’ beaches, either off or on a leash. This pup appears to have some respiratory issues, which is common for many pups during the fall months. It is critical that these animals are able to rest undisturbed.
ADDED TUESDAY NIGHT: We don’t know whether it’s the same seal, but Cindy Roberts photographed this one basking at Constellation Park today:
That Harbor Porpoise got into trouble at Constellation Park south of Alki Point today. With NOAA approval, local marine-life advocates got it back into deeper water so it could swim away. We got first word of this from Kersti Muul, who was among those who helped, along with Jeff Hogan from Killer Whale Tales (below), and SR3.
Kersti says the porpoise came back in after the first assist but then after a second nudge was “heading northwest pretty much on its own.”
P.S. If you see a marine mammal in trouble or on the shore, Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network is at 206-905-SEAL (206-905-7325). Do not attempt to handle any animal yourself.
Continuing our tradition of publishing bird-photo galleries during Seahawks games when we can … the top photo by Mark McDonald is the “real seahawk,” an Osprey, with prey, over Arroyo Beach. Also in flight, a Brown Pelican – not that common around here – photographed over Alki by Jerry Simmons:
Mark Wangerin photographed a Pigeon Guillemot seemingly on the run:
Great Blue Herons don’t always look regal, Greg Snyder‘s photo reminds us:
And we go inland for the last two photos – Vlad Oustimovitch photographed fledgling Cooper’s Hawks with lunch:
Big thanks to everyone who sends photos, from birds to breaking news – firstname.lastname@example.org – thank you!
Walking on the Lincoln Park waterfront path Thursday evening, we spotted the tape and signage that Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network puts up when they’re guarding a visitor on the shore. They explained a harbor-seal pup – first one they’ve seen on a West Seattle beach this pupping season – was resting among the driftwood. We couldn’t see the pup from the path, but SSMMSN’s David Hutchinson got a long-lens photo and sent it to us early today:
He says it’s a “very young harbor seal pup, nicknamed ‘Xico’ by one of our new volunteers – pronounced Chico.” Reminder that if you see a marine mammal on shore – or one offshore that seems in distress – please notify SSMMSN at 206-905-SEAL.
Thanks to the Seola Beach neighbor who sent that photo of Ruckus the Northern Elephant Seal, resting on a private beach during today’s low tide. The neighbor says he was under watch so curious onlookers could be kept at a distance. As Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network has explained, he might be getting ready to molt; if you see him, keep them updated with a report to 206-905-7325 (905-SEAL).
Here on WSB, our wildlife coverage used to include coyote reports (archived here) – not as warnings, but to raise awareness that they share the peninsula with us. Or – shared. It’s been a long time since we’ve received a coyote report, and despite living near multiple greenbelts, we haven’t heard or seen any lately either. We’ve wondered from time to time if they’ve truly dwindled here, or whether we’re just not hearing (about) them. Then we got a note from researcher Sam Kreling, a UW Ph.D. student, who is leading a study of Seattle’s coyote population. Kreling not only noticed our lack of recent coyote reports but added, “I’ve been attempting to find coyote scat in West Seattle for my research and haven’t really had any luck over the last couple of months.” The research is a collaboration between UW and the Woodland Park Zoo, “studying Seattle’s coyote population through non-invasive methods, aimed at understanding their diet, limit conflict, and their population demographics,” because “there have only been really limited insights to Seattle’s coyotes and much is still unknown about urban carnivores in general, so this study aims to help understand urban carnivores as a whole, and Seattle’s specific population of coyotes.” They’ve been working on it for almost a year, and when complete, they hppe the study will “inform Seattle management decisions on coyotes, identify regions that may be more prone to human-coyote conflict than others, and increase the general scientific knowledge surrounding urban wildlife.” So if you have any West Seattle leads for researchers, email email@example.com.
We’ve been waiting for a relatively quiet Sunday afternoon to feature non-bird wildlife photos received in recent weeks – and it’s here. Above and below, the first two photos are by Jerry Simmons, seen on the shore – a gunnel and crab.
David Hutchinson is often out watching, and photographing, sightings on- and off-shore. He shared the two photos below – a crystal jelly:
And a rabbit:
In the forest, Mark Wangerin, who often shares beautiful bird photos, spotted this raccoon:
Another raccoon was photographed by Rose De Dan of Wild Reiki and Shamanic Healing, who has many animal-encounter stories to tell. She shared a few photos with us this summer too. She says this raccoon was in a cherry tree, inspecting whether the fruit was ready to eat:
Below, Rose’s photo of an opossum enjoying fresh apples:
She says the opossum is a frequent visitor, and tells a story – with video – on her website.
Thanks to everyone who shares West Seattle photos – wildlife, breaking news, more – firstname.lastname@example.org or text 206-293-6302, any time!
An update from David Hutchinson of Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network:
Seal Sitters continues to monitor our visiting Northern Elephant Seal since he was first spotted in West Seattle waters on July 16. He had previously been sighted in the Des Moines/Redondo area in early June. The volunteers at SR3 (the newly opened Marine Mammal Hospital in Des Moines) named him “Ruckus” considering all the attention and excitement he was creating. To our knowledge, he has not hauled out on any public beach in West Seattle, but with the cooperation of property owners along the Sound, Seal Sitters’ first responders have been able to check on his location and condition.
While elephant seals vary somewhat in color through shades of brown and gray, they all go through an annual “catastrophic molt.” During this process they shed their top layer of skin and fur in chunks which results in a dramatic change in appearance and they remain on the beach for an extended period of time. This is normal, but can give the impression that the animal is sick or dying.
If Ruckus is still in our area when he molts, we hope he can find a quiet safe beach. If you should come across him while out walking our beaches, please keep a respectful distance and report his location to the Seal Sitters’ Hotline at 206-905-7325.
The top photo is of Ruckus on a private West Seattle beach on 7/18, while the bottom photo is of a molting female Northern Elephant Seal on a downtown Seattle beach back in April of this year. Female elephant seals molt in the spring while males molt later in the summer.
Thanks to Paul Benade of Always Local Photos for the latest view of the Northern Elephant Seal that’s lingering in West Seattle waters – he was seen off the 4100 block of Beach Drive. If you see him, here’s what you should know, courtesy of Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network.
Thanks to reader reports/photos, we’ve been telling you these past few days about an unusual visitor to West Seattle waters/shores, an adult male Northern Elephant Seal. Most recent sighting we’ve heard of was this morning, near Lowman Beach. Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network‘s David Hutchinson sent this followup today from the seal’s extended Saturday visit north of there:
Seal Sitters would like to thank our West Seattle neighbors who contacted us concerning the elephant seal on their beach yesterday. Seal Sitters’ first responders were permitted to access the location and continue to monitor his movements and condition. This male northern Elephant Seal may turn up at other spots around the West Seattle peninsula.
Elephant Seals are deep divers and capable of holding their breath for many minutes. While on the beach, they may appear to be deceased. Just a reminder, this is a very large wild animal and may respond aggressively if disturbed. Observe from a distance and let the Seal Sitters’ Hotline (206-905-7325) know his location. If viewing him on the beach from a kayak or paddle board, please keep a respectful distance and allow him to rest – NOAA recommends 100 yards.
Here are a couple links to some information about this unusual visitor to our area:
2:31 PM: Thanks to Lura for the video. The Northern Elephant Seal that’s been seen in West Seattle waters lately (here’s our Friday report) hauled out on a stretch of private Beach Drive shore today. If you see it elsewhere, let Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network know, 206-905-SEAL.
5:30 PM: Lura has since updated us that the seal has moved on.
4:25 PM: Thanks to Kersti Muul and Eric Shalit for the tips – another elephant seal is in view off West Seattle. Eric saw it off Emma Schmitz Memorial Overlook (4500 block Beach Drive) around 1 pm; Kersti just texted that it’s headed slowly southbound, still in that area. It’s an adult male Northern Elephant Seal – the Seal Sitters update we published recently talks about their appearance in local waters.
ADDED 7:41 PM: The photo and update are from David Hutchinson of Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network:
Seal Sitters was contacted about this animal just before noon today. Volunteers were at Emma Schmitz Overlook for a period of time, early this afternoon, monitoring this seal just in case it came ashore. We believe this is probably the same animal that was hanging out in Puget Sound further to the south earlier in June. If you spot it in our area, please call the Seal Sitters’ hotline at 206-905-7325.
So far, no turkey experts have come forward to offer opinions on whether the turkey who appeared in West Seattle recently is the same one who hung out here for a year before heading south in April 2020. So we’re not so sure about calling this one THE West Seattle Turkey. But this turkey’s newfound fans have named her anyway. Meredith, who sent the photo above, says, “We’ve decided to call her Henrietta. She’s been sleeping here for over a week so we thought she needed a name.” The turkey’s adopted area is just a bit south of the 2019-2020 sightings-rich area southeast of Admiral. Lisa D., in the short video below, described her as “neighbor turkey”:
Henrietta (or whatever you want to call her) is still drawing attention from neighborhood pets too – Alan sent this photo:
The state Fish and Wildlife Department notes that turkeys are more common in eastern Washington, but does say “small populations” pop up here west of the Cascades now and then,
Thanks for all the photos! So far no definitive opinions on whether the turkey that’s just turned up in West Seattle (here’s our report from Saturday) is THE turkey who spent a year here before departing, southbound, in April 2020.
This one seems to be a fan of apartment courtyards among other habitats:
It doesn’t seem particularly daunted by people or their pets:
Let us know if the turkey turns up in YOUR neighborhood!
The photos and report are from David Hutchinson of Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network:
Harbor seal pupping season is now underway in our area of Puget Sound. Over the next months, you may come across a vulnerable newborn or newly weaned pup on any of our local beaches. It is against Federal law to feed, touch, disturb or move a harbor seal pup.
Many of you are already familiar with Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network. For new residents of West Seattle, we are part of NOAA’s West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network, covering the shoreline from Brace Point through the Duwamish River, including Harbor Island and the downtown side of the East Waterway up to the Coast Guard station. Seal Sitters responds to all reports of marine mammals on the beaches, alive or dead. If you come across any marine mammal on shore, please keep your distance, keep people and pets away, and call Seal Sitters’ hotline at 206-905-7325.
Harbor seal pups are nursed by their mothers for only 4-6 weeks before being left on their own. Pups that show up this early in the season may well have a mother offshore; it’s very important that people keep their distance. If there is any disturbance nearby, a seal mom may abandon her pup. That was the case with “Echo,” the first pup Seal Sitters responded to last year. Echo still had a short umbilical cord stump attached and was estimated to be just a few days old. When no mother returned to Alki Beach for Echo, she was taken to PAWS. After a successful rehabilitation, she was released back into Puget Sound. Only members of the Marine Mammal Stranding Network are authorized to handle and transport marine mammals.
Another seal you may find resting on our beaches is the northern elephant seal. More of this species have been showing up in local waters. In April of this year, Seal Sitters provided volunteers in support of our network partner to the north, Sno-King Marine Mammal Response, to help protect a young female elephant seal “molting” on a downtown Seattle beach. A numbered flipper tag revealed that this animal had been born in early 2020 in the Año Nuevo colony in California. Recently, there have also been a number of sightings of a male elephant seal in Puget Sound to the south of West Seattle. These animals are very large, irritable and unpredictable when going through their lengthy molt, so please keep a safe distance.
Seal Sitters’ hotline (206-905-7325) is staffed from 8 AM – 8 PM, 7 days a week. Early or late calls – if no one is available when you call, please leave a message.
*Please note that all photos were taken with a telephoto lens.
Thanks for the photos/tips! Turkey sightings north of The Junction has people wondering if this could be THE West Seattle Turkey – which hasn’t been seen around here in more than a year. The photo above was taken near 42nd/Andover on Friday; the one below, the same area, this morning:
And this one is from 41st/Dakota, also this morning:
If you’re new – The West Seattle Turkey captivated the peninsula, working her way north from the southwest end of West Seattle starting in April 2019, eventually settling in the Admiral/Belvidere area, occasionally making forays away. Then she started heading back south again, crossing out of the city limits after this Seola sighting in April 2020. The last sighting of any kind mentioned to us was in south King County later that month. Her origins were never determined.
(Video by Claire Fitterer)
Could this be the same bird? Average lifespan of a wild turkey hen is reported to be about three years.
The photo is from Trileigh Tucker, who is among the West Seattleites wanting to ensure you remember our feathered (and furry) friends in the mega-hot weather ahead. She points out it’s not just about bird baths and water bowls:
PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE put plenty of water out for the birds and your own animals, in the shade, under shelter so they don’t have to risk emerging from their protection. It’s going to be hard on them as well as us.
In addition, try spraying any shrubs in your yard with a hose — the little birds love taking a bath in the leaves. In less than 2 minutes after I did this (twice) this morning, chickadees and bushtits were bathing, so sweet to watch.
WATER THE BIRDS!!
9:54 AM: Saturday morning whales! Kersti Muul from Salish Wildlife Watch tells us northbound transient orcas are just coming out of Colvos Passage on the west side of Vashon Island. Let us know if you see them!
7:24 PM: Photos added. The two above are from David Hutchinson, as seen from Alki. Below, from Helen Dolejsi: