West Seattle, Washington
They did it in December, and Seattle Aquarium volunteer beach naturalists are returning for another nighttime low-tide beach walk at Constellation Park south of Alki Point. They’ll be at the beach next Saturday (January 29th), 7-9 pm. The tide won’t be out quite as far it was during the December beach walk, but far enough for (careful) exploration: -2.4 feet at 8:39 pm. No need to pre-register – just show up.
Thanks to Mike Munson for the photo of a delivery today at Lowman Beach Park. His photo and an area resident’s report of bright lights overnight last night are reminders that night work on the shore-restoration project continues, as previewed in a Seattle Parks announcement two weeks ago. We asked Parks today what’s happening now; spokesperson Karen O’Connor replied, “The night work started last week. The Contractor was working on shoring and preparation around the area for the new precast seawall. This week, a few more night shifts will occur to set precast wall and cap in place.” They’re working during late-night low-low tides. If anyone in the area has questions about the night work, she said, they can email email@example.com.
P.S. A brief update on the project is also planned during Wednesday night’s quarterly Morgan Community Association meeting, 7 pm online – viewing/participation info is in our calendar listing.
That’s a harbor seal photographed during a visit to Alki (yes, with a long lens) by David Hutchinson with Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network. We asked him about other seal reports we’d heard this week, and he said a busier-than-usual season continues:
Every year is different, but traditionally the winter months see a tapering off in the number of Seal Sitters’ responses. Yesterday was an exception, with 4 calls to our Hotline about young harbor seal pups hauled out on West Seattle beaches.
The first was at Lincoln Park and after a period of time, it was decided to call in support from our partner, SR3 (Sealife Response, Rehabilitation and Research). Veterinary staff arrived, did a health assessment, and after consulting with Seal Sitters it was decided that the pup was in need of additional medical diagnostics and treatment. The pup was transported to their marine mammal hospital in Des Moines. SR3 responds at the request of marine mammal stranding network members, not from the general public, so if you come across a seal the first step is to call the Seal Sitters’ Hotline.
The other 3 calls concerned pups at different locations along Alki Ave, one of which was scared into the water by people and a dog coming too close while the reporting party was still talking with the Hotline. Harbor seals and other marine mammals are protected by federal law, and just a reminder that dogs are not allowed on Seattle Parks’ beaches. It is normal for these animals to rest on the beach, with young vulnerable pups not realizing the dangers of coming ashore in a dense urban area. The photo is of one of these Alki pups, where a protective perimeter was set up and staffed by volunteers who provided information to passersby.
If you come across a marine mammal, alive or dead on a West Seattle Beach, please keep back, ask others to do the same, and call the Seal Sitters’ Hotline at 206-905-7325.
If this helps you remember that number – it’s also 206-905-SEAL.
Weather conditions gave this morning’s “king tide” a turbocharge – almost two feet higher than the predicted high tide. Thanks to everyone who sent images of the result – first, above and below, video from Nils von Veh at Alki Statue of Liberty Plaza.
Holli Margell was at Alki too and sent these views:
Further east at Alki, Michelle Riggen-Ransom‘s photo shows the sea swamping the sand:
And Elizabeth Butler sent photos from the Fauntleroy shore:
Tomorrow’s high tide, expected to hit 12.5 feet just after 9:30 am, is likely to be closer to what’s predicted, since the weather has calmed.
Thanks for the photos! Another “king tide” high tide this morning just after 8 am … just under 13 feet officially, with tomorrow’s high tide only a bit lower, just before 9 am. The National Weather Service has a Coastal Flood Advisory in effect for 8 am-noon tomorrow – but is only expecting “minor” flooding, like the Alki-seawall slopover that the photos show:
All this at the start of a day that also has set a rainfall record – an inch and a half through about 6 pm.
Three and a half months after work to remove the crumbling Lowman Beach Park seawall began, Seattle Parks says night work is ahead so the project can stay on schedule. Here’s the announcement:
Seattle Parks and Recreation and McClung Construction have reached a milestone with the Lowman Beach Park seawall and beach restoration project. Two main components of this project are complete: demolition of the existing failed concrete seawall, as well as drilling and installation of the steel piles that provide structural support for the new seawall.
The next critical phase of work involves installation of the new precast concrete seawall. This work will occur between January 11 – 24, 2022 and must be performed at night to take advantage of the low tides. The installation of the precast concrete seawall must occur before February 15 when the in-water work window that protects fish and shellfish habitats closes. The time limitation for work is a requirement of Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the workable low tides in January and February occur outside normal working hours.
Two night work windows at low tides will occur for:
-Preparing for the permanent installation of new seawall segments which will require up to four nights of work, however, could possibly be completed in one or two nights.
-Installing the precast wall panels, which is expected to take another three to four work nights.
Our Temporary Noise Variance Permit is currently approved for work between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. starting Tuesday, January 11, 2022, and must be completed by Monday, January 24 at 7 a.m. Although the permit allows for 14 nights of work, we expect to work a maximum of eight nighttime shifts.
McClung Construction will do what is feasible to minimize noise levels as much as possible.
Thank you to the neighbors for their patience and cooperation during the Lowman Beach Park seawall and beach restoration project.
Project background is here.
If you’re up before sunrise this Tuesday and Wednesday and on the water or shore, you’ll see the year’s highest predicted high tides – 13.1 feet at 6:57 am Tuesday and 7:38 am Wednesday. After that, high tide won’t reach 13 feet again until Christmas and the day after. One caveat – we could see something higher at some point during the year, because weather conditions can push them above predicted levels (as explained here). You’ll notice on the chart that the new moon is bringing an extreme low tide too – -3.8 feet at 10:29 pm tonight.
Imagining yourself in the tropics is one way to make it through the annual New Year’s Day Polar Bear Swim at Alki Beach. Another is to consider that – today, anyway – the water was a lot warmer than the air: 47 degrees and 25 degrees, respectively. Despite the subfreezing air, hundreds were ready to go when organizer Mark Ufkes counted them down at 10 am:
While running into the water and immediately running out is the prevalent participation level, some lingered:
This was the first en-masse “swim” since 2020, when the air and water both were warmer – both 50 degrees, we noted that day.
ADDED SATURDAY NIGHT: Thanks to Robert Spears for these photos:
For everybody who’s asked about the plan for New Year’s Day 2022 Alki Beach Polar Bear Swim – this is just in from organizer Mark Ufkes:
We go in the water at 10:00 am sharp, so don’t be late. According to Washington State regulations; three simple requirements:
Adults must be vaccinated and boostered for Covid 19.
Everyone must wear a mask.
You and your group must be Covid-free, be in good health, and distance yourselves 6 feet from others while on the beach.
For over 15 years, the Alki Beach Polar Bear Swim has been about “washing away the complexities of the previous year and bathing in the unlimited possibilities that the New Year provides”. All while pushing us all out of our comfort zone. Prior to Covid, we had over 700+ swimmers. In 2022, we need this event more than ever.
So, go over the three simple requirements listed above. Bring a large, warm towel, a coat to put on after you get out of the water, good water shoes, and your hopes and dreams for a spectacular 2022. Holding hands and wearing bright colors as you go into the water also seems to help.
I wear Goodwill pink every year, to celebrate the day in the not-too-distant future when over 50% of our Members of Congress will be women and/or People of Color. Imagine the message that would send to the world and how much more empathy we will have in our national governance.
When you arrive, you’ll see the gathering madness across from Duke’s. Stay in your group of family and friends, spread out down quarter-mile Alki Beach, and allow six feet between your group and your Polar Bear neighbors to your left and right.
Just before 10:00 am, you will hear the megaphone countdown begin; 10, 9, 8 . . . At “one “ in the countdown, we all run, screaming like the children we are, into 47-degree Puget Sound. The water will be warmer than the air this year, so it will be much more pleasant that one might expect. The mild insanity is really quite fun, and we are in and out of the water so fast that we barely get goosebumps. And like everything in life, your attitude, and belief in yourself, will keep you warm and successful.
We’ve received multiple reports about this, and more are likely to see it since today’s sunshine is likely to bring out more beach walkers: A dead white-tailed deer is on the beach at Constellation Park, and it’s been reported to authorities. Deer sightings, dead or alive, are not common around here. Last deer report we had was in 2019, on Pigeon Point; in 2016, we chronicled weeks of sightings of a deer that WSB readers dubbed “Westley.”
10:15 AM: Last week we mentioned a dead, decomposing sea lion that had been seen floating in West Seattle waters and then turned up on the beach at Lincoln Park. It’s still there, and we’re still getting calls about it. Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network says it’s so large that Seattle Parks will need heavy equipment to remove it. We’ve been trying to find out about Parks’ plan and finally heard back late last night: A crew was planning to go out today to assess the situation and figure out what to do. They promised to let us know what the crew decides, so we hope to have an update later.
12:41 PM: Parks says the crew determined it’s too big to remove with the equipment they have in the area so “they are asking our Heavy Equipment crews to help. However, the renderer will not be able to get out until Thursday because of other commitments and tides.” (“The renderer” is for carcass disposition, as was also done with a dead seal at Alki last week.)
That’s the Steller sea lion who showed up on West Seattle’s shore Wednesday, during a day when a dead California sea lion also drew a lot of attention. David Hutchinson of Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network sent this update (with photos) on their Wednesday responses:
Even though Harbor-seal pupping season is winding down, Seal Sitters had a very busy day yesterday. It started in the morning with a Harbor seal on the beach along the Alki promenade. Juvenile and adult Harbor seals are typically very skittish and choose quiet unoccupied beaches to hang out. After a brief rest, this seal returned to Puget Sound. Next came a report of a sea lion on the rocks along the shore of Elliott Bay near Duwamish Head. Sadly the day ended with a response to a California sea lion carcass that was washing ashore at Lincoln Park.
The sea lion on the rocks was of particular interest, as it turned out to be a live Steller sea lion, which we don’t see very often locally. It’s also very unusual to see any sea lion actually on the shore of West Seattle. I’m sure you’ve noticed all the California sea lions that prefer the tie-up buoys in Elliott Bay. Adult Steller sea lions are huge animals as you can see from the photo below [taken some years back] showing one surrounded by a number of California sea lions.
Yesterday’s Steller has some health issues and Seal Sitters will continue to monitor his condition if he keeps frequenting our local beaches. It’s important to remember that sea lions can be aggressive if ill or injured and can move fast on land. Do not approach if you come across one. To learn more about Steller sea lions check out the following link to NOAA’s fact sheet: fisheries.noaa.gov/species/steller-sea-lion
We want to thank all of you who reported these animals to the Seal Sitters’ Hotline yesterday including reports of the sea lion carcass at Lincoln Park. Seal Sitters depends on the public to let us know the location of any marine mammal you might come across on West Seattle beaches (alive or dead). We can then quickly get a volunteer on site to assess the situation. As a member of NOAA’s West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network, Seal Sitters is authorized to request specialized assistance if necessary from our partners, SR3 (SeaLife Response Rehabilitation and Research, WDFW (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife), and World Vets. Our hotline (206-905-7325) is staffed by volunteer operators from 8 AM – 8 PM, 7 days a week. If calling outside those hours, please leave a detailed message.
Thanks for the photos! Last night turned out to be an excellent night to join Seattle Aquarium beach naturalists exploring the shore south of Alki Point during low-low tide.
That’s an orange snail fish, according to Brandy DeWeese, who took that photo and the ones below:
The beach naturalists will be at Constellation Park again on January 29th, 7-9 pm. If you want to explore on your own (carefully!), the low-low tides are even lower, and later, the next few nights – here’s the chart.
Just got word of this – the Seattle Aquarium‘s beach-naturalist program will return to West Seattle tomorrow (Friday, December 3rd) for a nighttime beach walk. This time of year, the low-low tides are at night, and it’ll be a minus-three-foot tide tomorrow night. The beach walk is at Constellation Park (look for the canopy at 63rd/Beach Drive) south of Alki Point, 8-10 pm, free, no registration required. Family-friendly, the aquarium tells us. More info here.
Thanks to David Hutchinson for the photo of the Argosy Cruises Christmas Ship during its visit to Alki Beach on a rainy, breezy Saturday night, its third West Seattle stop in two days, and final one this season. It’ll be sailing to other locales through December 23rd.
The report and photos were sent by Lynn Shimamoto of Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network:
Seal Sitters is happy to announce that three seal pups rescued from West Seattle beaches have been successfully returned to the wild.
Back in August, Zach Ward happened to see Seal Sitters responding to “Cascade” at Alki across from Starbucks, and he took this photo of the emaciated newborn. Cascade still had an umbilical stump and was estimated to be 2-3 days old. Knowing the pup would die without immediate help, Seal Sitters captured Cascade for treatment at SR3’s marine wildlife hospital in Des Moines.
Seal Sitters took two more pups to rehab because of unsafe conditions. “Piccolo,” another very young pup prematurely separated from her mother, was picked up at Lincoln Park. “Sprinter” kept hauling out at busy spots from Alki to Seacrest where she was harassed by a dog. On Tuesday, all three were deemed healthy enough to go back in the wild. SR3 released the trio at a secluded beach on Vashon Island, along with a fourth pup nicknamed “Maury.”
Seal Sitters is thrilled that these pups were nursed back to health and given another chance at life.
If you see a marine mammal on a local beach, or one offshore that appears to be in distress, please call Seal Sitters MMSN at 206-905-SEAL (206-905-7325).
Thanks to Mike Munson for another photo of the work at Lowman Beach Park, removing the seawall and tennis court to restore a more-natural shoreline, as was done with the south side of the park long ago. The project’s been in the works for more than four years; work is expected to last until next spring.
P.S. A brief update will be part of the Morgan Community Association‘s quarterly meeting, online at 7 pm Wednesday.
Thanks to Mike Munson for the photo from Lowman Beach Park, where crews are in their third week of what’s expected to be an eight-month project, removing the failing seawall and the adjacent tennis court, and restoring a more natural shoreline, as was done on the south end of the beach years ago, We asked project manager Janice Liang about this work, and she explained that it’s related to another component of the project, daylighting the end of Pelly Creek: “The Contractor is currently installing new storm drain structures (as seen in the photo) to connect to the existing 18″ Pelly Creek storm drain on the uphill side. The pipe will be daylighted at a pipe outfall midway of the site, with exposed stream beds connecting down to the beach.” For a view of what the finished project is supposed to look like, you can find design documents here.
While the days are getting shorter, at Alki, they’ve also just gotten longer. Tonight is the first night that Alki Beach Park‘s closing time is back to 11:30 pm, after two months of closing at 10 pm. The early closing time was ordered in early July – first as a holiday-weekend experiment, then as a two-month trial run – days after the shooting that killed 22-year-old Tilorae Shepherd. We confirmed with Seattle Parks this afternoon that there had been no last-minute decision to extend the early closing time. One note: Though the beach is open later now, the fire pits are supposed to be closed for the season as of tonight.
If you want to play tennis at the Lowman Beach Park court one last time before it’s removed as part of the shore-restoration project, you have six days. Seattle Parks says its contractor McClung Construction will be starting work next Monday (September 13th) and that means, according to project manager Janice Liang, “The park will be partially closed during construction including the beach, tennis court, and the gravel walkways. The play area and the part of the lawn area close to the street will remain open.” The $1.2 million shore-restoration project will remove the failing seawall on the north side of the park, creating more beach space, and daylighting the stretch of Pelly Creek that currently leads to an outfall pipe in the seawall. The work is expected to last at least eight months. Earlier this summer, Parks ruled out building a replacement tennis court elsewhere in the park, but said it would consider allowing something smaller, like a pickleball court – provided community fundraising covered the cost; nothing is planned so far.
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:
10:44 AM: Those yellow umbrellas are part of a one-day art installation at Alki Beach that Charlotte Starck hopes will send a message to the other side of the world. Here’s her explanation:
A pop-up environmental art installation, I call, The Umbrella Postcard: Seattle to Troops made of yellow umbrellas set in the sand in the shape of a yellow ribbon. The intent is to make it viewable from the sky for the world to see. Underneath: the words “Come home safe.”
The exhibit is also lined with 13 American flags in memory of the 13 service members who died Thursday in the Kabul airport attacks. Each flag has the name, hometown, and age of the servicemember – most in their early 20s.
For pedestrians, we will tie yellow ribbons and put signs on the lamp posts lining the exhibit on Alki at the volleyball courts. The exhibit will be taken down at twilight Monday.
Starck created this with daughter Sarah Hall and Brandon Rodriguez.
She says the airport bombing troubled her so much that, “I wanted to do something broad that would send a clear and direct message from Seattle to Kabul, and I believe ‘A picture paints a thousand words’.” The yellow ribbon is the original awareness ribbon, dating back to the Iran hostage crisis in the late ’70s.
12:18 PM: Added that photo from our return to Alki to check on the finished installation.
3:42 PM: Here’s the aerial view, by Howard Shack:
Thanks to Steyn Benade of Always Local Photos for that pic and word that a harbor-seal pup was rescued at Alki Beach today. We asked David Hutchinson of Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network what happened; he sent this photo and response:
A very young harbor seal pup was responded to by Seal Sitters today at Alki Beach. Volunteers established a perimeter and watched over the pup during the early afternoon. Given its poor body condition – it was very thin – it was felt that an intervention was required. SR3 in Des Moines was contacted and they arrived, captured the pup, and provided transport to their facility. On initial examination, it was determined that this was a nursing-age pup with no attending mother. Hopefully rehab will be successful.
We don’t know why the pup was abandoned, but if humans/pets get too close, that can scare the mom away from returning to her pup. (Both of the photos were taken with long lenses.) If you see a marine mammal on a West Seattle beach – or in distress offshore – call Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network at 206-905-SEAL.