West Seattle, Washington
A week and a half ago, we published the answer to a question many West Seattle birdwatchers had been asking – where had all the Caspian Terns, squawking so distinctively as they flew over en route to a Duwamish River nesting spot, gone? Community naturalist Kersti Muul had tracked them to a new hangout atop a building on the south end of the downtown waterfront. Here’s what she has learned since then:
I was able to view the colony (Monday) and found that they have laid eggs, and may still be laying eggs as several are still bringing fish back to their mates.
I will be watching the situation closely as it is very late now, and it is just going to get hotter as summer moves along. Chicks have to be able to fly well, in order to leave with the colony in the fall and they are already two and a half months behind schedule. The colony appears to be about half of what it was last year, and I am still trying to figure out where the rest are. I will be looking at another nest site this weekend to see if they may be there. Last year the Seattle colony had 1978 nests/4000 or so adults (WDFW drone study). My drone study has about half that this year, although I still need to do a formal count.
It’s fascinating to see all the eggs just sitting closely together on the substrate with no nesting material or depressions. You wonder how they know which eggs are theirs. When there is a disturbance and they flush out, they have to come back and know which egg(s) are theirs. It is a vulnerable time for them now with eggs to protect from predators; they are becoming increasingly aggressive, live chicks will only increase this.
Wishing them success and will update again after the weekend!!
We haven’t received a coyote-sighting report in quite some time, but this one came in tonight via text – seen in Seaview. Coyote reports have dwindled in the past few years; we still don’t know whether that’s because they’ve dwindled in numbers, or are just keeping themselves out of sight. A sighting report is meant as an FYI, not a warning; if you’re not familiar with how to co-exist with coyotes, these state-published recommendations can help.
That’s a Caspian Tern, photographed in May by James Tilley. Even if you can’t recall seeing one (or more), their distinctive prehistoric-esque call has been unmistakable in flyovers (you can hear it here). In past years they’ve frequently flown over West Seattle on their way to and from a nesting spot on a rooftop near the eastern shore of the Duwamish River – one where last year’s record heat wave killed more than 100 of their chicks. This year, community naturalist Kersti Muul says, they didn’t return to nest at that spot. But they didn’t go far, she learned after research – they’re on a roof at the south end of the downtown waterfront, near the Coast Guard station. (They’re easy to hear, we learned while driving northbound on East Marginal Way toward downtown late last night.) She says more than 1,000 terns are there, but so far they don’t seem to be nesting, which means they’re two months behind schedule – usually by now, nesting season is far enough along that some of the babies are starting to take short flights.
P.S. We asked Kersti what if anything community members can do to help the terns, Here’s her reply:
This is a link for SCAN (Seattle Conservation Action Network). Seattle Audubon will notify you when opportunities arise to advocate for a Seattle-area cities where people and birds thrive. It’s a good tool to streamline advocacy on big items; people don’t have to search around.
Also, the terns were impacted by an extreme weather event last year related to climate change. We are losing canopy cover [trees] at an alarming rate throughout Seattle and King County, both illegally and legally. I urge people to be thoughtful and climate-focused when considering tree work and removals. While we are working hard to get better tree protection laws, we can simply choose to protect ourselves, our climate, our neighbors; human and non-human, by advocating for tree retention. Urban heat islands are increasing, and urban habitat is severely fragmented, and lacking. Trees are vital to the success of all species.
You might not think twice about seeing a Bald Eagle soaring overhead, or perched in a tree … but Jennifer was surprised to see these two hanging out on her neighbors’ roof in North Admiral, near 45th/Seattle, and sent the photo (thank you!).
P.S. While eagles are no longer officially a threatened/endangered species, they are still protected.
1:58 PM: Thanks to Tom Trulin for the photo! Just after noon, as we’ve previewed, the low tide was out to the lowest point of the year, -4.3 feet. The photo is from Lincoln Park, one of two places where Seattle Aquarium volunteer beach naturalists have been out to educate shore explorers. If you couldn’t get out today for a look, tomorrow just before 1 pm will bring the second-lowest low tide of the year, out to -4.1 feet. (Got a photo to share from today? firstname.lastname@example.org – thank you!)
4:39 PM: Thanks for the additional photos! The next two are from Bruce Gaumond at Constellation Park:
Also from Constellation Park, this one’s by Bonnie Drexler:
Even more from Constellation Park – the next three are by David Hutchinson:
8:35 PM: Even more photos – first, from Rosalie Miller, a gumboot chiton and decorator crab:
From Denee Bragg, who’s been flagging by the northwest end of Constellation Park and reports “It has been the best “office” I’ve worked at in a long time!”
From Eddie, a view of Luna/Anchor Park:
From David Dimmit:
Photographed by Ashwin Moodithaya, a moon snail:
From Dawn Hepburn at Lowman Beach:
Laura White, at Constellation Park, says, “Delightful to see also how respectful everyone was of the animals.” She sent this photo of a young explorer:
Jerry Simmons noted Bey the bald eagle out on the tideflats, with a crow hassling her:
This one’s from Yazmín Penzien:
Thanks again for all the photos!
Did you go to Fauntleroy Creek on Sunday to help give a sendoff to hundreds of volunteer-raised salmon fry left over from this year’s Salmon in the Schools fish-raising? If so, you were part of a big turnout over the short two-hour window, despite a forecast that threatened rain and delivered a shower. Creek steward Judy Pickens tells WSB that “79 people of all ages (toddler to 95) put fish in the water” over those two hours. Next up for Fauntleroy Creek – in a little over four months, volunteers will start watching for spawners to show up.
Beach news from Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network:
Pupping season in our part of Puget Sound runs from June – September. Over the next months, beach walkers in West Seattle will very likely come across vulnerable Harbor Seal pups on both our public and private beaches. These young marine mammals are protected by federal law. If you come across a seal pup using the beach, please keep back, keep people and pets away, and call the Seal Sitters Hotline at 206-905-7325.
Seal Sitters is part of NOAA’s West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network. Our territory is West Seattle, from Brace Point through the Duwamish River, including Harbor Island and the East Waterway. We are responsible for responding to all marine mammals, alive or dead, that end up on our local beaches.
Remember that it is illegal to have a dog on the beach at any of the Seattle Parks beaches in West Seattle, either off or on a leash.
Thanks to the photographers who have shared more images of West Seattle birds – enough for a new gallery. Above, Michelle Green Arnson describes her photo as “Chestnut-backed Chickadee fledglings and their bedraggled parent.” Below, another family scene – Tom Trulin photographed two Steller’s Jays, the elder feeding the younger:
Here’s a Bald Eaglet in Lincoln Park, photographed by Steven Rice:
A mated pair of Ospreys were photographed in the new Duwamish People’s Park by Steve Bender:
Another Osprey was photographed by James Tilley while it was out fishing:
James also sent two other fishing images – a diving Caspian Tern at Alki in mid-May, followed by a Great Blue Heron:
Last but not least, a Western Tanager photographed by Lynn Shimamoto:
(All the links on species names above will take you to the corresponding page on Seattle Audubon‘s BirdWeb site, which has information about the birds, even audio clips of their calls.)
11:33 AM: Per a caller from The Arroyos, hundreds of harbor porpoises, not too far off shore, are headed northbound in Puget Sound off west-facing West Seattle. Let us know if you see them!
11:53 AM: The caller, James, also sent that photo of a few of them, to show how close to shore they were as they passed.
12:23 PM: Thanks to Chris Frankovich and Kersti Muul for word that transient orcas are headed northbound off West Seattle too, not that far behind the porpoises.
Thanks to Ann Marie for the photo, taken at 46th/Stevens. Usually indicates crows are nesting nearby; the state Fish and Wildlife one-sheet about crows includes a special section toward the end that’s devoted to the dive-bombing phenomenon.
We describe WSB as a “community-collaborative news source” because of the thousands of ways community members have contributed over our 15 years – from someone who texted us once about a traffic jam, to those who send calendar listings, to those who attend/support those events, to people who share photos of our area’s natural beauty – from neighborhood flowers to breathtaking wildlife. Among those contributing in that last category, and then some, is Kersti Muul, whose name you see here most often when whales are in the area. Kersti’s dealing with a tough break right now – literally – and could use some support. She explains:
I have been having bad vertigo and vision issues off and on for the last three months. While coming out of an episode; still slightly unbalanced, I took a hard fall at Alki on the concrete, while watching “T-63 Chainsaw” the famous orca, pass by in Elliott Bay. My camera unfortunately was broken in the fall. Nikon has just deemed the camera damage ‘beyond repair’.
For those not familiar with me, I am a scientific educator, urban conservation specialist, community naturalist, award-winning photographer, and wildlife rescuer.
I am extremely active in the West Seattle community, donating my time, expertise, and photography at no cost. The loss of my camera is devastating to me as it is my vehicle for community education, research, outreach, and it’s how I decompress from the extremely stressful work that I do.
I’m reaching out to the community to help me, so I can continue to help you!
On her crowdfunding page, Kersti elaborates: “Helping others see the world through my lens and spurring them into action has been the biggest loss so far.”
Thanks to Hugh Donnelly for the photo! That’s a Northern Elephant Seal, seen today off Lincoln Park. We reported on sightings last year – Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network noted they were becoming more common in area waters; one, nicknamed Ruckus, hung around for quite some time last July. If you see this – or any other marine mammal – on a West Seattle beach, please notify SSMMSN at 206-905-SEAL.
Thanks to Nico for sending the photo Sunday after spotting that flyby off West Seattle – American White Pelicans. They’re rarely seen in this area, though we did get a flyby photo last spring too. (The last sighting report before that was in 2013.)
This past week’s low-low tides are over, but we have a few more wildlife photos to share. The first and last photos are from Marc Milrod; the four below are from Rosalie Miller – first, a Mottled Star:
A Hermit Crab:
And a Pink Sponge:
Among the birds on the temporarily expanded beach, this Great Blue Heron:
The next stretch of low-low tides (which is the term we use for low tides out past -2 feet) is on the chart for June 12th-18th. (Seattle Aquarium volunteer beach naturalists will be at Constellation and Lincoln Parks for five of those days.)
Tomorrow is the final day this month with a low-low tide beyond -3 feet, expanding the walkable stretches of West Seattle’s shores. Tonight we have more photos to share – above, from Jerry Simmons; below, from Theresa Arbow-O’Connor:
And Rosalie Miller shared more photos of the wildlife on view – in order below are an Orange Sea Cucumber,
Dorid Nudibranch, Purple Star and Painted Anemone, and a close-up of the star:
If you remember the Sea Star die-off last decade, it’s heartening to see them. Michael Ostrogorsky included this photo from beneath the Fauntleroy ferry dock in the comment section following our previous coverage:
Thursday’s low-low tide is -3.4 feet at 2:02 pm.
As mentioned here earlier, this week brings low-low tides to West Seattle beaches. Tonight we have three photos from Rosalie Miller, whose photos of tiny plants we’ve featured previously. Above, a Lined Chiton; below, an Opalescent Nudibranch:
And here’s an Anemone:
“Gorgeous day at the beach,” Rosalie reports.
Big thanks to the photographers who have shared more views of our feathered neighbors, Above, James Tilley photographed a juvenile Bald Eagle and Caspian Tern flyby; below, Matthew Olson found a Marbled Murrelet:
Gene Pavola caught this bird (ID, anyone?) watching the water from a pole perch:
Jim Clark shares another golden view of a duck family at Seola Pond:
This Canada Goose family was on its way to Elliott Bay when photographed by Jerry Simmons:
Away from the water, Jerry also got this pic of a Black-headed Grosbeak:
This photo of a Brown-headed Cowbird is from Gary Jones:
We also feature bird photos some mornings in our daily event lists, so don’t skip those if you enjoyed these. From birds to breaking news, we appreciate pics at email@example.com or (if urgent) 206-293-6302 any time!
Thanks to Carl Furfaro for the photos of a River Otter on the beach at Lincoln Park this morning, enjoying a breakfast of fish. This gives us the opportunity to remind you of two things: One, yes, what you see here in and near West Seattle waters are River Otters, not Sea Otters, which are more common in the open ocean. Two, you might see a River Otter crossing a local street – especially streets by the water, like Alki Avenue – to get to an inland den, so while driving, be watchful for wildlife as well as people. This one, however, headed back into Puget Sound, perhaps for a second course:
P.S. Carl has a website with photos of other local wildlife – see them here.
That’s a Common Loon, photographed by Rick Rasmussen last year. One seen in West Seattle waters earlier today might be in trouble, and community naturalist Kersti Muul asked if we’d put out the word for you to watch for that loon. Kersti says it was “last seen 200 yards from shore, north of the UW buoy off Lowman Beach,” around 1:30 pm, “possibly entangled … thrashing about and not diving at all.” She says plans were being made to rescue it by boat if needed, but they haven’t spotted it again. If you do, text our hotline (206-293-6302) and we’ll forward.
Thanks for more awesome views of West Seattle birds! We start with birds you can see on the water – above, Harlequin Ducks photographed by Dan Ciske; below, Killdeer by Jerry Simmons:
A Wood Duck from Mark Dale:
Stewart L. photographed this Cormorant:
On to birds of prey – from James Tilley:
An Osprey from Danny McMillin:
From Laura Pavola, a Cooper’s Hawk:
An anonymously texted view of a Barred Owl:
Also hanging out with cherry blossoms, a Black-capped Chickadee, photographed by Finn Litton:
And Hummingbirds! A Rufous visited Trileigh Tucker:
And an Anna’s, from Matthew Olson:
One last bird for this gallery … a Golden-crowned Kinglet, photographed by Alex Gutierrez:
Thanks again to everyone who shares photos – from birds to breaking news! firstname.lastname@example.org, unless it’s breaking – you can send that to our hotline, 206-293-6302.
The photos show Terri McAllister‘s surprise discovery at Alki. You have to look very closely to see what they really are! Terri emailed us to report:
Just a tip to wear shoes at the beach in spring. At Alki beach this morning, by the bathhouse, we came across some crab zoea. Tiny little spiny buggers managed to get our bare feet and hands whenever we touched the sand. It feels like glass or an itchy pinch. A bunch stuck to our beach blanket and we got some rad photos with a magnifying glass.
No wildlife authorities are available for us to consult today for further enlightenment on this sighting – but it’s an extra reminder to tread lightly on the shore!
Thanks to local photographers sharing their work, we are able today to present another gallery of West Seattle birds! First, seabirds – above, a Horned Grebe photographed by Matt Olson at Duwamish Head, where he also saw this Red-necked Grebe:
From Jim Clark, Mergansers at Seola Pond:
James Tilley, from afar, photographed a Great Blue Heron hunting for food along Alki:
He also sent this photo of a Pileated Woodpecker at Lincoln Park:
Elsewhere in Lincoln Park, Anthony Beas took this photo – can you ID the bird?
Hummingbirds are popular subjects – Sarah Miller saw this Rufous:
And from Jerry Simmons, an Anna’s:
Barred Owls also have drawn a lot of attention lately. Marc Fendel photographed this one:
And we can’t resist publishing one more photo of the owl who photogenically hung out in an Admiral cherry tree all day – this one is from Alex Anderson:
One more big “thank you” to everyone who shares photos, from birds to breaking news and beyond – email@example.com is the best way to send them if it’s not urgent, or text 206-293-6302 if it is!
(Stonefly exoskeleton, photographed in 2018 by Dennis Hinton)
By Judy Pickens
Special to West Seattle Blog
Did aquatic insects living in lower Fauntleroy Creek benefit from the 244 spawner carcasses that have been decaying since November? You bet, according to student researchers from Louisa Boren STEM K-8.
A dozen fourth graders, led by volunteer educator Shannon Ninburg, conducted the Fauntleroy Watershed Council‘s annual early-spring count of stonefly exoskeletons on Sunday, March 27, and found the third-highest number in the study’s 22-year history.
Stoneflies live in freshwater up to three years, then crawl out to shed their exoskeletons, fly, and mate to start the cycle of life over again. Stonefly nymphs are a significant food source for juvenile salmon, plus they are an indicator of water quality as they cannot tolerate high pollution.
(Sunday video by Tom Trulin)
Teams of students counted all the exoskeletons they could find in the study area, looking on trees, bushes, fences, and bridges near the water. One team focused on measuring torsos.
They found 62 exoskeletons – the most in three years. Average size of 10 specimens was 4 cm; one measuring 6 cm was among the largest ever recorded over the years.
After reviewing their data, the students reached conclusions about why the number of exoskeletons was so high this year and why most stoneflies exited the creek where they did. After students approve the final report, the watershed council will share it with regional salmon-habitat specialists and post it at fauntleroywatershed.org.
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