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WEST SEATTLE BIRDS: Battle of the Great Blue Herons

Thanks to Laurence Shaw for this series of photos from Alki during low tide earlier this week.

He says, “I was lucky enough to witness a pair of Great Blue Herons battling over a spot of lunch near the 1300 block of Alki Ave SW.”

“Happy to report that the bird who made the catch ultimately held on to its prize.”

What’s the long-term solution for waterfront driver gatherings? Residents, police discuss @ Alki Community Council

(WSB photo: Quiet moment on Beach Drive by Constellation Park, May 13)

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Would removing parking solve the problem of drivers gathering along West Seattle’s public waterfront?

That was one of the suggestions as residents of three Alki-area neighborhoods dominated the discussion at the Alki Community Council‘s onlne meeting last Thursday night.

The meeting began with an update from Southwest Precinct operations commander Lt. Steve Strand. While police have launched their seasonal emphasis at Alki, he warned that the city’s COVID-19-related budget crunch is reducing the amount of money available for overtime to staff those extra assignments (and others). Nonetheless, extra officers were planned for two of the three days on Memorial Day weekend.

Addressing the driver-gathering concerns, he said the “Stay Healthy Streets” designation for Beach Drive by Constellation Park (and then Alki Avenue west of 63rd) was inspired by the ongoing problems there. The situation worsened after the Don Armeni Boat Ramp parking lot was closed, he noted, displacing the “car clubs” who liked to gather there. He acknowledged that the problem keeps shifting, and noted that they’re “looking at long-term solutions” if, as has been suggested by SDOT, the Constellation Park-side change is temporary.

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WEST SEATTLE LOW-LOW TIDES: Today and beyond

(WSB photo)

That’s the view from the west side of Duwamish Head a little over an hour ago, as we head toward this month’s lowest tide, -2.9 feet at 1:09 pm. If you’re headed out walking/running/rolling, the views are great – and the crowd thinner, at least when we were out – the further east/northeast you are along Alki Avenue (and part of Harbor Avenue as well). Tomorrow brings a low-low tide too, -2.6 feet at 1:46 pm, and then on Monday it’s -2.0 at 2:33 pm. Later this month, the tide will be out to -2.1 feet on Memorial Day (Monday, May 25th). Next month, it gets even lower, with tides out to -3 feet and beyond on June 5, 6, and 7.

P.S. The Alki shore is of course far from the only place to enjoy the low-low tide view. Don Brubeck took this photo at midday Friday along the West Seattle side of the Duwamish River:

SEEN AT ALKI: SPD Mounted Patrol helping ‘Keep It Moving’

Thanks to Alki photographer David Hutchinson for the sighting. While Alki and other major city parks are NOT closed this weekend, the city’s new exhortation is to “Keep It Moving,” with accompanying signage (as shown here Thursday). That’s not so much of a challenge on a cooler, gray day like today, but if anyone needs prodding, officers from the SPD Mounted Patrol is on hand. The horses are actually based in West Seattle, on the east edge of Westcrest Park in Highland Park.

WEST SEATTLE SCENE: Starting the week with a splash

The photo and report are from Jessica:

Dominic, my son, is insisting we jump in the Sound every Sunday morning so we get a fresh start to the week in this time of Corona. He’s a 5th grader at STEM-Louisa Boren.

Anyone else with new routines to mark the time? westseattleblog@gmail.com – thank you!

WEST SEATTLE SCENES: At the beach

On the last night of winter, Alki was a popular place. We drove over for a look after several people messaged us, worried that too lttle social distancing was happening. Most of what we saw was people walking in couples or family groups – but not all – remember, keep your distance! Meantime, it was defintely a lot like a summer night – cars and motorycles being shown off:

The wind and waves finally calmed down – but earlier this week, some great scenes we wanted to share before it’s too late:

The view above is from David Hutchinson – below, looking the other way, from Theresa Arbow-O’Connor:

And this one, also from earlier in the week, is by Chris Frankovich:

More sunshine is forecast tomorrow – and then at 6:30, join Alice Enevoldsen‘s equinox sunset watch online!

WEST SEATTLE SCENE: Debris deluge

Thanks to Jim Borrow for that photo from Upper Alki. He explains:

It’s very difficult to capture this late winter phenomenon with a camera, but the outgoing tide after the 12.0 high at 9:16 a.m has cleaned the local beaches of much of the wood and debris (mostly wood) that has collected over the past year. There likely is an increased amount because of recent river flooding and landslides into the Sound have generated more debris than normal. This band of debris stretched out into Alki side of the mouth of Elliott Bay across our view from Alki Pt. toward Duwamish Head & the city front, gradually dissipating as it drifted to the NE. There have been higher tides, so the wind and wave conditions must have been just right to keep the debris in the water and pull it away from shore. Overall the drift lasted about 1.5-2 hours. Of course this is cyclical and the debris will be redistributed and elsewhere along the shoreline, with a new load deposited on our beaches.

Late last night, Chuck S. sent this photo of what it looked like on Friday along the Beach Drive shore:

Our friends at Beach Drive Blog have posted about this, saying they checked with state and county agencies, who also believe the debris is from recent inland flooding carrying it to Puget Sound.

FOLLOWUP: About Alki’s double harbor-seal weekend visit

(Photos by David Hutchinson. Above, the younger “visiting” seal)

Saturday night, we reported on Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network volunteers keeping watch on two harbor seals who turned up on Alki Beach. Here’s a followup from SSMMSN’s David Hutchinson:

Saturday afternoon, Alki Beach played host to a couple of harbor seals. It was very unusual that one of them was an adult (below).

Adult harbor seals rarely haul out on a populated beach as they have learned to be wary of humans. The fact that this animal would choose Alki, and based on body condition, some coughing and lethargic behavior, all indicate the adult seal was likely suffering from pneumonia. Many young seals are also struggling with health issues this time of year. That is why it is critical that people stay far back so these animals can rest safely.

All marine mammals are protected by federal law. If you spot any on our beaches, please keep back, ask others to stay at a distance, and leash any pets. Be sure to call the Seal Sitters Hotline at 206-905-7325. Just a friendly reminder that it is illegal for dogs to be on any Seattle Parks’ beaches on or off leash.

West Seattle weekend scenes: Sandbags and seals @ Alki

Seen on Alki tonight – above, the full moon rising in the distance, the reason for “king tides” that have led to a line of sandbags along the water-side edge of Statue of Liberty Plaza. Next high tide will be 12.4 feet at 5:44 am; this week’s king tides (here’s a chart) peak with a 12.9-foot high tide at 7:24 am Wednesday (February 12th). Walking a bit further east along Alki, we discovered Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network volunteers taping off part of the beach because of two harbor seals:

That’s the best we could do with two on-their-backs seals – top one, older and a bit scrawny-looking, second photo, a pup – at sunset. Remember that if you see a marine mammal on the shore, or in distress offshore, call SSMMSN at 206-905-SEAL.

READER REPORTS: Beach debris at Constellation Park

No snow yet, but it’s been breezy, with “king tides,” and late today, we got two separate reports of debris washed up at Constellation Park south of Alki Point. The photo above is from Chaucer, who says, “An expensive-looking floating platform bigger than a queen size mattress has washed ashore at Charles Richey Sr Viewpoint.” The photo below is also from Constellation Park, sent by Chemine, who reports: “There is a large chunk of styrofoam attached to concrete that is washed up on the beach. … It is eroding and distributing pieces of styrofoam all over the beach.”

This comes wtth high “king tides” – nearly 13 feet tomorrow just after 7 am. Here’s what you can do about major beach debris. For Seattle Parks beaches, you can notify Parks for starters – the 24-hour maintenance-request line is 206-684-7250. As mentioned in our coverage of a beach cleanup last year, you also can report beach debris via the MyCaast app.

UPDATE: Annual Christmas-tree bonfire on Alki

9:11 PM: Thanks to the texter who sent photos from a briefly sizable Seattle Fire response at 58th and Alki. Turns out tonight’s the night of the annual unofficial Christmas tree bonfire:

Though the SFD response was quickly downsized, radio communication indicates the remaining SFD personnel on the scene are now asking for SPD help with “crowd control.”

9:52 PM: The SFD log shows the call now closed. Meantime, David Hutchinson sent this photo:’

FOLLOWUP: Investigation confirms sea lion was 9th pinniped shot dead in recent months

(Photo by Kersti Muul, last week at Constellation Park)

The most-recent California sea lion to wash up dead in West Seattle had indeed been shot. That’s the update we received tonight from Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network:

Seal Sitters just received results from the radiographs taken of our most recent dead California sea lion, towed from Constellation Park to Don Armeni boat launch for necropsy on the 3rd. This is the sea lion that had originally washed ashore on a private beach further south on Christmas Day.

The X-rays confirm that the animal was shot in the head. Projectiles will be removed from the skull and turned over as evidence to NOAA Office of Law Enforcement.

The most current Fall/Winter statistics to date of pinnipeds (seals and sea lions) confirmed shot dead in Central and South Puget Sound now stand at 9. An additional 4 deaths are suspicious, but cause was not confirmed.

For more info, go here.

As always, please report all marine mammals on shore, live or dead, to Seal Sitters’ hotline @ 206-905-SEAL (7325).

A year earlier, at least a dozen shot sea lions were found in central Puget Sound.

FOLLOWUP: Sea-lion carcass towed from Constellation Park

January 3, 2020 6:14 pm
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 |   West Seattle beaches | West Seattle news | Wildlife

Another update on the California sea lion found dead this past week on West Seattle’s shore – the photo and newest info are from David Hutchinson of Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network:

Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network is happy to report that the California sea lion carcass that had been on the beach at Constellation Park was successfully removed today. The carcass was towed by Mark Sears from that location over to Don Armeni Boat Ramp, where a limited necropsy was performed by Casey Mclean, Executive Director of SR3. Samples were taken for x-ray. At this point no cause of death can be confirmed.

This was a cooperative effort and Seal Sitters would like to especially thank Mark for his assistance. Also, we greatly appreciate the part played by Seattle Parks & Recreation. Parks’ staff coordinated with Mark and provided the equipment needed to move such a large, heavy animal. They will also be responsible for final disposal.

Previous reports: Here (Thursday) and here (Tuesday).

VIDEO/PHOTOS: Hundreds splash into 2020 @ Alki New Year’s Day Polar Bear Swim

“What a great way to start the year!” That’s one of the comments we heard as people dried off and warmed up after this morning’s Alki Polar Bear Swim, which for most lasted less than a minute, as you can see in our two videos recorded at different spots along the beach. It was an occasion for much photography – before, after, during:

Then there was the matter of what you choose to wear into the water:

Organizer Mark Ufkes, as usual, sported a megaphone for the countdown:

Immediately afterward, the sun emerged, and snow-covered Olympics peaks did too:

Briefly outshining the sun, a Christmas-tree inferno in one of the fire pits:

The air and water temperature were about the same at swim time this year – 50 degrees.

P.S. If you’re looking for an excuse to go back into the water off Alki BEFORE the 2021 New Year’s Day Polar Bear Swim, mark your calendar for the February 22 Special Olympics Polar Plunge fundraiser.

WEST SEATTLE WILDLIFE: Last seal pup of 2019?

Thanks to Kim for the photo. She says Seal Sitters Marine Stranding Network volunteers were out this morning keeping watch over that harbor seal at Lincoln Park. Remember the number in case you ever spot marine mammals on the beach, or in the water but in distress – 206-905-SEAL.

SIDE NOTE: Checking the Seal Sitters’ Blubberblog to see if anything had been published about this sighting, we found this week-old post about a rescue we hadn’t heard of previously – a California sea lion in trouble off Harbor Island, saved via teamwork involving multiple organizations, agencies, and businesses.

Dead sea lion found on West Seattle beach

(WSB photo)

On private shoreline south of Lowman Beach Park, volunteers from Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network are dealing with a dead sea lion. They describe it as a full-grown male, appearing to be in good condition aside from a wound which they are calling “suspicious.” Though a necropsy would be required to make the determination, two experienced wildlife observers who tipped us to the discovery say it might have been shot. Seal Sitters says the removal plan is still a work in progress; they’ve been working on securing the carcass, with high tide three hours away.

P.S. If you see a marine mammal on the shore – or in potential distress offshore – Seal Sitters’ hotline is 206-905-SEAL.

FOLLOWUP: What’s next after dead sea lion removed from West Seattle shore

From David Hutchinson of Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network tonight, the photo and more information on Tuesday’s sea lion removal and necropsy on the West Seattle shore:

Seal Sitters would like to thank Seattle Parks for their participation in the removal of the deceased California Sea Lion from the shoreline yesterday. They moved the carcass from Cove #3, along Harbor Avenue, over to the Don Armeni boat ramp where Casey Mclean of SR3 performed a limited necropsy due to the advanced stage of decomposition. Parks’ staff has arranged for the disposal of the carcass now that the necropsy has been completed. Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network had been tracking the location of this dead animal as well as another that had floated up on Port of Seattle property last Saturday.

Yesterday was a busy day for Seal Sitters. As well as coordinating and assisting at the necropsy site, our volunteers responded to a dead harbor seal pup on the other side of the West Seattle peninsula and watched over a live pup resting on the rocks along the Elliott Bay shoreline. Seal Sitters responds to all reports of marine mammals on West Seattle beaches – alive or dead. Please contact our Hotline (206-905-7325) if you observe any of these while out on local beaches. Our volunteers are on duty to protect any live animals and are responsible for entering details about any dead ones in NOAA’s online database.

We asked a followup about whether the necropsy had revealed anything about why the sea lion died: “All we can say at this point is that the sea lion was robust. Due to the very advanced decomposition after being dead for several weeks or more, the necropsy was much more limited than if the animal was fresh dead. The skull was removed and taken for x-rays.” They’ll report back if those show anything.

FOLLOWUP: Sea lion removed from Seacrest beach

October 15, 2019 10:07 pm
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 |   West Seattle beaches | West Seattle news | Wildlife

For everyone who wondered why that dead sea lion remained on the beach at Seacrest Park for several days – here’s why: Moving one is no easy task, given their weight. The photo sent by Rodney Mash shows today’s removal with the help of heavy equipment. The state Department of Fish and Wildlife tells WSB they “helped with coordination” of the removal but the necropsy was to be done by SR3; we don’t have any information yet on what happened from there.

FOLLOWUP: Why the dead sea lion is still on Seacrest shore – and word of another nearby

Saturday night, after several questions, we reported on a dead sea lion on the beach at Seacrest Park. It’s still there, leading to more questions today because it’s so visible from the Water Taxi dock, so we followed up with Lynn Shimamoto of Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network, who answered our weekend inquiry too: “I’m in contact with Fish & Wildlife and SR3 to see if they can do a partial necropsy. It will then be up to Parks to dispose of the carcass since it’s on their property but Parks can’t do this for a couple more days for logistical reasons. Seal Sitters posted a sign near the carcass warning people of the health hazards and asking them to stay away. Interestingly, we responded to another dead sea lion on Saturday. This second carcass is on Port property and we hope it can be examined as well.” Pending potential necropsies, what killed the sea lions is unknown. (Photo courtesy Keri)

About the sea lion at Seacrest

October 12, 2019 11:08 pm
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 |   West Seattle beaches | West Seattle news | Wildlife

We’ve received multiple questions about a sea-lion carcass at Seacrest Park. We referred the first texter to Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network and then checked late tonight to see what they’d found. Seal Sitters’ Lynn Shimamoto replied:

We responded to a report of a dead sea lion at Cove 2 this afternoon. The carcass is in an advanced state of decomposition. We don’t know the cause of death or whether it will be necropsied. We marked it with green paint in order to identify it in case it floats away.

If you see a beached or struggling, or dead, marine mammal, Seal Sitters’ hotline is 206-905-SEAL.

FOLLOWUP: Here’s who will replace Beach Drive seawall

(Corps of Engineers photo, 2014)

Announced this morning:

The Seattle District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, awarded a $3 million contract September 27 to Redside Construction based in Bainbridge Island to replace an existing seawall in West Seattle.

The project will replace the existing 500-foot-long seawall at Emma Schmitz Memorial Overlook, 4503 Beach Dr. SW, that was constructed in the 1920s and has experienced significant erosion and damage from storm events. We anticipate construction in mid-2020.

The new seawall will be a “soldier pile” (system of vertical piles spaced at a regular interval with material in between to create a wall) design, built a few feet seaward and a few feet higher than the existing seawall, and equipped with safety handrails that the current seawall lacks. This design will minimize the impact on the beach, address rising sea level concerns and create better contours for the restoration landscaping on the landward portion of the overlook area.

The Army Corps has partnered with Seattle Parks and Recreation to design and build this coastal storm damage reduction project under Section 103 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1962. Coastal storms and erosion continue to threaten public infrastructure located in and around the project footprint, including a 54-inch King County sewer main, a main public arterial, City park property, and other underground utilities.

The Seattle Parks project page is here; our coverage of a Q&A community meeting about the project back in July is here. Community comments were first solicited in 2014, when the project was estimated to cost $2.3 million.

Busiest time of the year for Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network

(Pearl the harbor seal [front], with her pup Minnie Pearl [middle], sharing their favorite rock with another large adult seal)

The photo and update are from David Hutchinson for Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network:

Seal Sitters is now entering what has historically been our busiest months. Harbor seal pups, born June-September in our area, and weaned after only 4-6 weeks, are now showing up on local beaches. Our Hotline received 2 calls late Thursday evening about pups hauling out at different West Seattle beaches. Thanks to Kelly and Amy for taking the time to call when they came upon these vulnerable, young seals. Unfortunately, back on August 29th, we also received a report from a Seattle Parks’ security officer at Alki Beach of a small pup that was frightened back into the water by a group of people. The majority of these pups are on their own and struggling to survive, with only 50% making it through their first year.

Please remember that all marine mammals are protected by federal law. If you see one on a beach, please keep back, keep other people and pets away and call your local NOAA-affiliated stranding network. In West Seattle, that would be Seal Sitters MMSN at 206-905-7325. If you are not in West Seattle, our Hotline operators can refer you to the appropriate group.

Just a reminder that dogs are not allowed on Seattle Parks’ beaches, off or on a leash.

Low-low tides: Why the next few days are excellent for exploring West Seattle’s shore

(WSB photo from earlier this month)

The next two days are your last two chances of the summer to explore the shore during low-low tides. At 10:35 am Thursday and 11:22 am Friday, low tides will be out to -2.1 feet – the last daytime tides that low this year. Not quite as low as the minus-3-foot low tides earlier this summer but low enough for exploring! (If you can’t get out on the beach until the weekend, Saturday’s low-low tide is decent for beachwalking too – -1.5 feet at 12:09 pm.) New around here? A favorite low-tide-exploring spot is Constelltion Park/Richey Viewpoint along Beach Drive south of Alki Point. But tread lightly and take great care with any creatures you see!