West Seattle, Washington
That Cooper’s Hawk fledgling is looking to you for help. The photo is by Kersti Muul, who also brought this call for volunteers to our attention. It’s from the recently founded Seattle chapter of the advocacy group RATS – Raptors Are The Solution. Their goal is to save wildlife – and pets, too – from rat poison, by documenting its use and urging users to switch to eco-friendly methods of rodent control. For example, their call to action notes, “The owls are hooting about Seattle University, which has rid its campus of poisons and is safely managing rodents using integrated pest-management strategies.” The organization also notes:
As of May 2020, an on-going research project to evaluate effects of rodenticides on raptors by the Urban Raptor Conservancy has studied 60 deceased urban raptors (20 barred owls). They were taken to PAWS in Lynwood and tested for rodenticides in their livers.
Overall, 82% of the birds tested positive for at least 1 anticoagulent rodenticide
73% of those birds had 2 different rodenticides
55% had 3 or 4 different rodenticides
The percentage is even higher for owls alone because they eat rodents almost exclusively and their livers cannot metabolize the poisons as well.
2 Barred owls were rescued from Key Arena during construction. One died with the highest levels of second generation rodenticides of any raptor studied to date. The other was treated with Vitamin K and released.
We have hundreds of raptor (Coopers Hawks, Merlin, Barred Owl, Osprey, Bald Eagle, Merlin, Peregrine) nests in the City of Seattle. Most raptors eat rats.
Here’s what they need help with:
We need volunteers to help count rat poison bait boxes that are placed in urban bird and wildlife habitats. We will have a brief data collection training session and organize folks for social distance walk-abouts. We need to know where the rat poison is being used so that we can contact business owners and organizations’ facilities managers to urge them to use nontoxic Integrated Pest Management methods for managing rodents. Rat poison is not only killing rats; it is killing their natural predators (raptors) and poisoning the entire foodweb.
For more info, including who to contact, see this flyer.
11:18 AM: The photo and report are from Kersti Muul: Orcas southbound off south Bainbridge Island, so they could be visible off west-facing West Seattle with binoculars. Let us know if you see them!
3:39 PM: Now they’re northbound, says Kersti – most recently reported between Blake and Bainbridge Islands.
11:14 AM: Transient orcas are back in the area and heading this way. Kersti Muul says they are southbound off North Bainbridge, toward the west side of the channel, so you’ll need binoculars to look for them.
1:31 PM: Update from Kersti – the orcas are in Elliott Bay, between West Point and Alki, headed southwest as of about 15 minutes ago – “long, long down times.”
4:41 PM: Thanks to Jamie Kinney for the above three photos, from the orcas’ pass by Constellation Park. (added) And thanks to Dan Ciske for the photo below, showing a research boat with the orcas (which were off The Arroyos, still southbound, at last report).
If you see a seal on the beach – keep your distance, for their sake. David Hutchinson of Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network sent this report and photos after another rescue:
Seal Sitters MMSN responded Wednesday to the second orphaned harbor seal pup in the last 2 weeks. This thin pup was first reported in the morning on private property along Beach Drive SW. He returned to the water early in the afternoon and just after 5 PM, Seal Sitters’ Hotline received a call about a pup on Alki Beach at 55th Ave SW. Spot comparison photos confirmed that this was the same animal.
A perimeter was set up to keep people back and First Responders monitored the tiny pup while answering the many questions from folks out enjoying the sunny day. The pup stayed ashore only briefly, but returned to the beach around 7 PM. He was observed at that time to be very lethargic with tremors. Phone calls were placed to NOAA’s regional stranding coordinator to see what options were available to rescue the pup from this dangerous location and stabilize overnight. When the incoming tide began to roll the weakened pup in the surf, he was removed from the water by the Seal Sitters’ First Responder and placed above the high tide line. NOTE: Only authorized members of NOAA’s Marine Mammal Stranding Network are allowed to handle seal pups.
Casey Mclean, SR3 Executive Director and Veterinary Nurse, agreed to come for an evaluation and removal from the beach. The pup weighed 8 kg (17.6 lbs). His glucose level was very low, he was dehydrated and was suffering from hypothermia. A small umbilical stump was noted and age estimated at a week or so. Casey began some preliminary treatment including starting fluids. If this pup survives, it is hoped that he can be transferred to one of the scarce rehabilitation spots that are available.
Harbor seal birthing season is from late June through September in our area of Puget Sound. These pups would normally spend from 4-6 weeks nursing before having to face life on their own. About 50% don’t make it through their first year.
Seal Sitters would like to thank the individuals who reported this struggling animal to our Hotline. We have had to adjust some of our normal procedures because of the COVID-19 restrictions, but will be doing our best to respond to your calls.
Based on the urban location, it is highly likely this newborn seal was abandoned due to human activity. Always stay back when you see a seal pup on the beach and call Seal Sitters’ Hotline at 206-905-7325 (SEAL).
Here’s the report on last month’s rescue.
Thanks to Kersti Muul for the report – transient orcas are southbound off Eagle Harbor (Bainbridge Island), “more east in the channel.” Let us know if you see them!
Before we get back to The News – a bird break! Three beach photos:
The Bald Eagle above was photographed by Raul Baron; the next two photos are by Larry Gilpin – an Osprey:
And a Great Blue Heron:
(Sorry, we don’t know what The Catch Of The Day was!)
The photos and report are from David Hutchinson of Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network:
On Wednesday, Seal Sitters’ volunteers responded to the first harbor seal pup in West Seattle this 2020 pupping season. Early in the morning our Hotline received a report of a small pup swimming by the steps along the Alki promenade. The pup, nicknamed “Echo”, finally settled on one of the lower steps.
While Seal Sitters is the official NOAA stranding network for West Seattle, we partner with other groups to provide specialized health evaluations and care. SR3 (headquartered in Des Moines) sent their vet to do a visual assessment. Echo still had an umbilical stump present. This usually dries up and falls off by a week to 10 days after birth, so this was a very young pup. A seal pup’s best chance for survival is always with its mother, so it was decided to monitor Echo throughout the day in hopes that she might reunite with her mother at some point. The chances of a pup being abandoned due to disturbance is much higher in a busy urban environment. After many hours of rest, Echo returned to the water with the rising tide around 5:00 that evening and after a brief detour as far as the Alki Bathhouse, was seen swimming offshore to the west toward the Alki Lighthouse.
On Thursday morning, Echo was reported on a private beach west of the promenade. With the consent of the property owner, Seal Sitters responded and watched over the pup until the arrival of SR3 staff. The pup appeared thinner and there was no evidence of an attending mother. Because of this, it was decided to remove Echo and transport her to PAWS for rehab. Seal Sitters received a report yesterday morning from PAWS – Echo is female, just under 30 inches long and weighs a bit less than 20 pounds. She arrived at their facility thin and dehydrated and the hope is that she will do well in rehab.
Harbor seal pupping season is from late June through September in our area, so you may come across more pups on our West Seattle beaches over the next few months. This is typical behavior as they need to rest and warm up. Please remember to keep back and ask others to do the same. Always keep dogs on a leash and at a distance. As soon as possible, contact Seal Sitters’ Hotline at 206-905-7325.
The request in bold is extremely important – another wildlife advocate told us about Echo just before we heard from Seal Sitters, and noted that spectators were way too close and abundant when she was at the public beach, which could have led to her mother abandoning her.
6:12 PM: Thanks to Jay for the tip! He says orcas just passed Dilworth on Vashon Island’s eastern shore, northbound, so they could be visible soon from west-facing West Seattle.
7:02 PM: Eastbound – toward West Seattle! – in the Fauntleroy ferry lanes, says Kersti Muul.
Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network has an important reminder:
Harbor seal pupping season has begun in Puget Sound, and pups will soon appear on West Seattle beaches.
DON’T TOUCH SEAL PUPS! Seals regularly haul out to rest and get warm. Undisturbed, stress-free rest is crucial for their survival. Please don’t pick them up, put them in the water, or attempt to feed them.
DO NOT APPROACH! If a nursing pup has become separated from the mother, she will be scared away by humans and dogs and may not return to her pup. It’s a matter of life and death for young seals.
When you see a seal on the beach, stay back, leash your dog, and call Seal Sitters at 206-905-SEAL (206-905-7325). We respond to reports of marine mammals, both dead and alive.
How far should you stay away from seals? NOAA guidelines say 100 yards, which is the length of 15 parked cars or one city block. At our public beaches, it may be hard to to keep that distance, but simply put: if the animal notices you, begins to fidget, or starts to flee into the water, YOU ARE TOO CLOSE. Please, back off.
Because of COVID-19, Seal Sitters may not be setting up yellow tape perimeters as in the past and may not be present at all times. You can help by respecting our signage, alerting others and asking them to leash their pets. Marine mammals are protected by law; disturbing them is considered harassment and is illegal. Please report violations to the Seal Sitters hotline at 206-905-7325.
For more information, check out the Blubber Blog at BlubberBlog.org. (Seal Sitters has temporarily suspended our volunteer training until the COVID situation improves.)
Before we get back to the news … a break for online birding.
Next, a Wilson’s Warbler, photographed by Mark MacDonald:
Robin Sinn sent the next two photos – a Great Blue Heron …
And a White-crowned Sparrow:
Finally, two backyard sightings – Alex has made friends with Fluffy the Steller’s Jay:
And Lise Thivierge spotted a Brown-headed Cowbird – which has a distinctive gurgling call:
All the bird-species names above link to BirdWeb pages where you can hear as well as see the birds!
Transient orcas, seen in the area a few days ago. are back – reported off Fay Bainbridge State Park and heading southwest about an hour ago, so you’d definitely need binoculars, but this is a heads-up to be on the lookout. (Thanks to Kersti Muul for the tip!)
Somebody texted a while ago to report a beaver at Don Armeni. We suspect it’s the same critter Sharon Wada photographed earlier today, sending the pics and noting, “This guy looks like he’s surfing! So many people I talked to said this was the first time they’ve seen a beaver walking and swimming in the tideoools before swimming along the edge towards Elliott Bay. Feel free to post these pictures of what looks to be a beaver; however, some have asked if it was a nutria.”
Thanks to David Hutchinson for sending photos from orcas’ visit to Elliott Bay on Thursday evening.
These were transient orcas, not the Southern Residents.
Unlike the resident whales, transients’ food sources include other mammals – seals, sea lions, even other whales.
David’s photos were taken from Duwamish Head and the Alki promenade.
Orcas are in the area again! The tip comes from Kersti Muul, who says whales are “milling on north en of Blake Island.” Let us know if you see them!
Thanks to everyone who has continued to send West Seattle bird photos! Here are 7 more -starting with this one from John Kieltyka:
Kimberly Mickelson spotted this Great Blue Heron on a roof:
From Mark Wangerin, a fuzzy Barred Owlet:
A Red-shafted Northern Flicker visited Steven Sherotsky in Gatewood:
From Hans A. in Delridge, an unusual view of a Crow in flight:
And two from Larry Gilpin near Schmitz Park – first, an Anna’s Hummingbird:
And a Spotted Towhee:
Thanks again to everyone who continues to send photos and tips!
1:03 PM: Heads-up for whale lovers – Kersti Muul shares the news that southbound orcas were reported mid-channel off Shilshole about half an hour ago, so unless they change their direction, they could be in view now, or soon, off West Seattle. Let us know if you see them!
1:57 PM: Kersti says they’re “Visible with binocs from Alki and Sunset overlook.”
This morning, Brian sent that photo, showing a juvenile Peregrine Falcon that seemed to have encountered trouble on the low-bridge bicycle/pedestrian path. Then, tonight, an update from Joel, including more photos:
To all the concerned cyclists and walkers that saw the disoriented juvenile Peregrine on the bridge yesterday, good news, he was picked up today and transferred to PAWS for rehabilitation:
We don’t know for sure if it’s from the same nest, but another reader had recently called our attention to the Urban Raptor Conservancy mentioning briefly in this online update that three peregrines had hatched in a nest on the now-closed high bridge. We asked SDOT for more information, and they reminded us it’s not the first time:
We have a long history of working with the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Urban Raptor Conservancy’s Seattle Peregrine Project to support wildlife preservation efforts including protecting peregrine falcon nests on West Seattle High-Rise Bridge and the University Bridge. In the late 1990s, we assisted with the nest box’s placement on the bridge, and the site has produced young most years since 2005. In some years, we have also assisted the Urban Raptor Conservancy to band new falcon chicks in order to learn valuable information about the birds’ movement and migration habits. For example, in 2011 an SDOT bridge inspector discovered four young falcon chicks roosting beneath the West Seattle High-Rise Bridge, which were the offspring of a female peregrine who had travelled from a nest on a crane at the Port of Olympia.
We take extreme care not to disturb the current resident of the nest, who the Urban Raptor Conservancy informs us is a peregrine falcon born in downtown Tacoma. We are in frequent communication with Department of Fish and Wildlife and Urban Raptor Conservancy about the status of the bridge and plan to work closely with both agencies regarding the future of the bridge and nest.
SDOT also told us they and partner agencies have considered installing a streaming camera but not soon, as they “determined that it is too risky to the birds to install during nesting season (and also risky for our engineers, since the falcons are highly likely to attack anyone who comes near the nest). This is a seasonal nest, so we are considering installing a camera later this year after the fledgling season when birds have all learned to fly and left the nest.”
Thanks to Kersti Muul for the tip to keep an eye out for orcas today – as of a short time ago, “Orcas are northbound again at entrance to Colvos Passage. Two groups today – one went south and is at Pt. Defiance.” That’s Tacoma, so you might not see them any time soon, but Colvos Passage is along the west shore of Vashon Island, so if those whales continue heading northbound, they will be in view from here. Let us know if you see them!
Lots more news in the pipeline … but more great bird photos have flown in lately, so here are nine:
Above, David Hutchinson explains, “This pair of Bald Eagles has been scavenging on the carcass of a young harbor seal (last year’s pup) on the beach along the 1500 block of Alki Ave at times the last two days. The sight has attracted a lot of attention from passersby and Seal Sitters has placed informational signage up along the walkway.”
Might be one of those same two in this photo from Gene Pavola:
Next are Raven fledglings at Lincoln Park, from Mark MacDonald:
He also photographed a Caspian Tern, the seabirds with prehistoric-sounding cries:
Mark Wangerin photographed a colorful Western Tanager:
From Ryan Minch, a leucistic Crow at Cormorant Cove during low tide:
And rom Larry Gilpin – even the ordinary House Sparrow can be eye-catching:
Big thanks to everyone who shares these photos reminding us who and what else lives on our wonderful peninsula!