West Seattle, Washington
From a distance, if you saw those dark protrusions offshore, you might have wondered if they were orcas. If you watched for a while and noticed they didn’t seem to be moving, you might fear something worse. Someone in fact called Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network on Friday afternoon, worried what they were seeing was a dead whale. Nope – “a small group of California Sea Lions thermoregulating,” explains David Hutchinson of SSMMSN. Here’s a closer look:
We’ve reported on this before – almost every winter – the behavior is also known as “sailing.” Nothing to worry about. But if you do see a marine mammal on the beach – or appearing to be in distress offshore – the Seal Sitters hotline is 206-905-7325 (905-SEAL).
12:35 PM: Until 3 pm today, you’re invited to visit the section of Fauntleroy Creek where dozens of salmon spawners have shown up in the past week. Much of it runs through private property, so you’re asked to first go to the public fish-ladder overlook at SW Director and upper Fauntleroy Way SW and await word from a volunteer to come down. Kids welcome if accompanied by adults; dogs OK if leashed.
3:30 PM: The only salmon we saw while there was the carcass above. Judy Pickens of the Fauntleroy Watershed Council – who offered cookies to creek visitors – told us that fish died after spawning, not at the hands (or claws, or teeth) of a predator.
(Video by Tom Trulin)
Those are salmon spawners in the surf at Fauntleroy Cove, near the ferry dock, waiting to enter Fauntleroy Creek. As of late this afternoon, Judy Pickens from the Fauntleroy Watershed Council says, volunteer creek watchers had counted 31 spawners. On Saturday, you are invited to an all-ages “open creek,” noon-3 pm. Go to the fish-ladder overlook at SW Director and upper Fauntleroy Way – across and upslope from the ferry dock – where a volunteer will invite you down to creek level. You just might see one or more of the spawners, and volunteers will be ready to answer your questions. Children must be accompanied by adults; dogs are OK if leashed.
As reported here Tuesday, the first salmon spawners of the season have arrived in Fauntleroy Creek. To give you a chance to see them, volunteers will host an “open creek” on Saturday. Here’s the announcement sent by Judy Pickens of the Fauntleroy Watershed Council:
Spawners in Fauntleroy Creek – and the public is invited
Salmon watchers on Fauntleroy Creek were rewarded yesterday (10/25) when they tallied five live coho spawners and one fresh carcass in the lower creek, likely the victim of predation. The five bright fish ranged between about three and five pounds. At least two had adipose fins, indicating they could have originated in this creek as “home hatch” from natural spawning or from fry reared by students and released here. Before nightfall, watchers witnessed one spawning pair. With more rain in the forecast and 11-foot or better high tides in the offing, spawners may continue to come in from Fauntleroy Cove.
The Fauntleroy Watershed Council will host an all-ages open creek on Saturday, noon-3 pm. Make your way to the fish ladder viewpoint at SW Director and upper Fauntleroy Way SW and a volunteer will invite you down to creek level. Come rain or shine to check out the habitat, get your questions answered, and maybe see a coho spawner. Children should bring a parent and dogs should bring a leash.
Watchers expect to continue on duty during the five hours after high tide until mid November.
12:31 PM: Thanks to John McIntyre for that video of salmon in Longfellow Creek. We don’t know how many have shown up there so far this fall, as Longfellow doesn’t have a formal watching program, but we have another report from the creek that does: Fauntleroy Creek steward Judy Pickens sent word that volunteer watchers have spotted the first salmon of the season, “moving through the fish ladder into the natural channel!” Last year, watchers counted a near-record 244 fish. If you want to look for salmon, the Fauntleroy Creek fish-ladder overlook is across the street and up the embankment from the ferry dock, at SW Director and upper Fauntleroy; for Longfellow Creek, the “fishbone bridge” south of Dragonfly Pavilion (off 28th SW south of SW Yancy) is one place to look.
5:44 PM: Thanks to Kerry for sharing this in comments – video of that first arrival on the Fauntleroy fish ladder:
Judy Pickens tells us there will be an “open creek” on Saturday so you can go look for fish firsthand – we’ll have details tomorrow.
As pleasant as it was to gather in warm, dry weather for today’s annual event to call coho home to Fauntleroy Creek, the prevailing hope was for rain to arrive soon. As creek steward Judy Pickens explained it, salmon arriving near the mouth of the creek, south of the Fauntleroy ferry dock, need that flow of fresh water to “sniff out” where to go.
But the weather could change later this week, so the ceremonial call to the salmon – 244 of which showed up last year – proceeded, with songs led by musician and educator Jamie Shilling:
About 30 people participated, many of them children to whom the creek will be entrusted after its longtime stewards are gone.
To encourage new volunteer involvement, Pickens and others who have long cared for the creek offered tributes to two volunteers who have moved on in the past year, Steev Ward and Peggy Cumming. Their achievements were detailed by Pickens and another longtime steward, Dennis Hinton – everything from Ward teaching students about salmon via dissection, to Cumming obtaining a grant to eradicate invasive vegetation. Those acknowledgments segued into suggestions of ways community members can help the creek now:
Attendees of all ages were invited to write down ideas of what they could do:
Then participants were invited to post their ideas on an easel-borne card. Some of what we saw: “Learn about salmon,” “Give respect to all the fish,” “Introduce someone to the creek,” and more-classic ways to volunteer. Starting tomorrow, in fact, some of that will be happening on the creek, as the annual watch for spawners begins, with volunteers taking shifts keeping an eye out for fish. The way was cleared by a group of volunteers who cleared a logjam at the creek’s mouth – which is on private property – earlier this week. If you are interested in getting involved with Fauntleroy Creek – one of the few salmon streams within the city – you can contact the Fauntleroy Watershed Council.
Thanks for the ongoing bird photos! We have seven more to share on this football afternoon, starting above with the “real” Seahawk – an Osprey – photographed by Steve Bender. Next, a bird that never seems to look the same in any two photos, a Great Blue Heron, first by Michael Ostrogorsky:
Next in silhouette by Stewart L.
This Hawk visited Eric Taney in North Admiral:
Cindy Roberts saw this Barred Owl at Seola Pond:
A Pileated Woodpecker was on a Lincoln Park tree when Kathryn Smith saw it:
And in a double-check of the files, we found Samantha Burton‘s California Scrub-Jay photo from August:
Remember that it’s still fall migration time for some birds – so the Lights Out program has good suggestions to follow. Meantime, we appreciate bird (and other) photos – firstname.lastname@example.org – thank you!
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!
(Spawning pair, photographed last year by Tom Trulin)
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.
(Black-Headed Grosbeak, a migrant this time of year – photographed in 2021 by Mark Wangerin)
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.
In the fall, we often feature bird-photo galleries on Seahawks game days. Today, it’s in honor of the end of the Seafair airshow.
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:
Then there’s the majesty of the birds that share our neighborhoods day to day – Chi Krneta photographed these Crows (one fully leucistic) in July:
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:
Rose explains that she “had a surprise visitor to the Wild Reiki Spa the other night. I had no idea we had skunks in the Admiral/Belvidere area!” (Here’s what the state says about skunks.)
(WSB photo: Roxhill Park, this morning)
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.
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