Saturday, February 27, 2016

Intervention of Harbor Seal at Duwamish Head 2-26-16

A male harbor seal  (2015 season pup) was reported at Duwamish Head in West Seattle.  The pup was at the waterline and did not respond to being tossed around by waves created by passing vessels.  It was alive and breathing but appeared unresponsive to any external physical force.  Seal Sitters staff requested permission from NOAA to intervene and remove the pup for transport and evaluation at PAWS.  Both NOAA and PAWS agreed.  The pup was removed from the beach and transported to PAWS in Lynnwood WA.  The pup arrived alive but died at PAWS within an hour of arrival.
Harbor Seal mortality within the first year of birth is about 50% from natural causes.
While nothing could be done for this pup a WSDFW bioligst will necropsy the animal to determine, if possible, the cause of death.  So some good could come from this death in the form of additional information on seal health in our area.


Male Harbor Seal pup

Male Harbor Seal pup

Male Harbor Seal pup

Male Harbor Seal pup

Male Harbor Seal pup


Thursday, February 25, 2016

HARBOR SEALS IN THE WATER AND ON THE BEACH

The Harbor Seal gang at Seacrest in West Seattle is still turning up each day.  Today there were 9 in the group doing the same thing they have been doing for weeks.  See earlier post.
Yesterday a single harbor seal hauled out for a rest at Lincoln Park in West Seattle.  Seals on the beach have been unusual for the 2015 pupping season.  Numbers of weaned seals hauling out on Puget Sound beaches is down from the last few years.  The reason for this sparse showing is not understood.  Seal Sitters first responders who spend many hours observing our local waters had noticed that not many harbor seals seemed to be in the Seattle area.
This all changed about 2 months ago.  Fisherman using Seacrest dock reported seeing a number of seals each day near the dock.  Scuba divers also reported seal activity in the area.
I have been checking every day for the past 2 weeks and observed between 6 and 9 harbor seals feeding as a group off Seacrest.  Today there were 9 feeding as a group and a 10th seal feeding on its own.
The harbor seal at Lincoln Park hauled out twice on the 24th.  The first time it went back in the water before it could be monitored but reappeared a way north at Coleman Pool area at mid Lincoln Park beach.  This seal has been named "Dusty" and was monitored from about noon till 3:15 when it went back in the water.  Dusty appeared thin and possibly had a smaller than normal left front flipper.  When moving on the beach Dusty used only the right front flipper for support, dragging the left flipper at its side.  Dusty has not been seen again on the beach.
While observing Dusty we also observed at least one Harbor Porpoise off Lincoln Park....there may have been more but only one surfaced at a time.
So we have somewhat of a mystery.....why so few seals being seen on the beaches, and just where do the seals of the Seacrest gang haul out to rest.  Images of Dusty below:

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Dusty

Dusty

Dusty

Dusty

Dusty

 
 
H. Seal Gang at Seacrest


Tuesday, February 16, 2016

SEAL GANG IS GROWING 2-16-16

Today there were two new members of the Gang of 7 harbor seals (Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy, Sneezy, Doc, Bashful, Dopey) off Seacrest.  This is only fitting....


 
 
 
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RIVER OTTERS MAKE APPEARANCE IN ELLIOTT BAY 2-15-16

If you have been following posts on this blog you are aware that last year at this time a male river otter (Otto) was observed at Duwamish Head in West Seattle going through his daily activities for a period of weeks.  He was last seen almost a year ago.  Since that very interesting episode I have not seen another otter in Elliott Bay...or anywhere else for that matter.  Yesterday I observed 3 river otters in the Seacrest Park area of Elliott Bay.  Since river otters form associations of various sexes and relationships I have no idea if this was a family or some other association or related or unrelated individuals...also not able to sex the otters.  One or more of the otters were seen feeding on some unidentified prey.  It is always a treat to seem them close up....so here are a few images:










Wednesday, February 10, 2016

SEA STAR WASTING DISEASE SUMMARY OF MY OBSERVATIONS

SUMMARY OF SURVEY DATA COLLECTED BY ME IN WEST SEATTLE CONCERNING SSWD.


SEA STAR WASTING DISEASE SURVEY

LEO SHAW 2011-2016

CONSTELLATION MARINE RESERVE – ENTIRE PARK

2011 August  -2’ tide:   609 Pisaster ochraceus    prior to SSWD

2012 Dec  -2’ tide         498   Pisaster ochraceus   prior to SSWD

2013 Dec 5  -2’ tide:   398 Pisaster ochraceus   1 with SSWD  8 Mottled Stars and 12 small Sunflower Stars all healthy.

2014 March 23       0’ tide:   104 Pisaster ochraceus   3 with SSWD

2014 April 3   0’ tide:        107 Pisaster ochraceus    2 with SSWD

2014 June    -2’ tide:         218  Pisaster ochraceus    Est 30-40% with SSWD

2014 Nov 7     -2’ tide:        28 Pisaster ochraceus    16 with SSWD

2015 April          -1.7’ tide:   46 Pisaster ochraceus    5 with SSWD

2015 June 3       -2’ tide:        78 Pisaster ochraceus     19 with SSWD

SOUTH ALKI SOUTH SIDE OF BREAKWATER SOUTH OF CONSTELLATION MARINE RESERVE      ENTIRE BREAKWATER EXPOSED

2014  Nov 7                        6 Pisaster ochraceus      1 with SSWD

2015 May 5                        38 Pisaster ochraceus     0 with SSWD

2015 May 17                      93 Pisaster ochraceus      1 with SSWD

2015 June 2                        95 Pisaster ochraceus      0 with SSWD

2015 August 28                  32 Pisaster ochraceus      11 with SSWD

2015 October 27                21 Pisaster ochraceus        0 with SSWD

2015 Nov. 24                       12 Pisaster ochraceus       0 with SSWD

2016 Jan. 10                     13 Pisaster ochraceus  2 with SSWD

2016 Feb. 8                         12  Pisaster ochraceus  0 with SSWD

2016 April 9                       27 Pisaster ochraceus  2 with SSWD

2016 May   6            26 Pisaster ochraceus 0 with SSWD

2016 May   22         34 Pisaster ochraceus  0 with SSWD





UNDER CONDOS SOUTH OF CONSTELLATION MARINE RESERVE ON PILINGS

2014 Nov 7                           22 Pisaster ochraceus     10 with SSWD

2016 Feb 8                            12 Pisaster ochraceus     1 with SSWD  1 Sunflower Star healthy.      Tide was -1.5’ so not all of pilings were exposed or viewable.


NOTE:  Sea stars observed at Constellation, and the Breakwater were often only partially visible due to location on rocks and partial coverage by other sea stars.

A healthy star was one that no sign of SSWD could be seen on the exposed part of the sea star.

15 large (appearently healthy) Purple stars were seen attached to the Seacrest West Seattle Water Taxi floating dock on 2-15-16.  These stars are always submerged and avoid direct sunlight and drying faced by stars exposed on a low tide on the beach.  This makes these stars vertually subtidal rather than intertidal individuals.  This is a refuge from heat, direct sunlight and high temperatures that intertial stars face especially during summer low tides midday.  The large size indicates that these individuals on the float likely are survivers that escaped SSWD due to habitat conditions.








Tuesday, February 9, 2016

HARBOR SEALS STILL FEEDING OF SEACREST IN WEST SEATTLE 2-9-16

After not seeing the group of Harbor Seals  (8) feeding off Seacrest in West Seattle for a few days they showed up this morning  2-9-16 in the same area with the same behavior.  Only could be sure of 7 in the group but fog made observation difficult.  See previous posts for more information on group.  They may have been feeding every day that I missed them...I just wasn't there at the right time.



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SEA STAR WASTING SURVEY - ALKI BREAKWATER - CONDO AND PIPELINE 2-8-16

February 8th 2016
Calm, clear night with temperature 46 degrees f.
Breakwater south of Constellation Marine Reserve:  12 Pisaster ochraceus  all appearing healthy
Condo pilings:  12 Pisaster ochraceus  1 with SSWD  Also one Sunflower Star that appeared healthy.
Pipeline Constellation Marine Reserve south end:   8 Evasterias t.  all appeared healthy.  3 Pisaster o.
1 with SSWD and 1 Sunflower Star that appeared healthy.

.
It appears that most of the stars are healthy but numbers are low in comparison with years prior to SSWD.  Evasterias t. numbers on pipeline are up compared to other years when they were a very small minority of the stars seen at Alki.

Also seen:  2 Raccoons on breakwater

Note:   Due to tide level not all of the condo pilings could be reached so the condo count is not a complete count of stars in that location.
Pisaster o. on condo pilings

Pisaster o. on condo pilings

Sunflower and Purple stars on condo piling

Evasterias t. on Constellation pipeling

Evasterias t. on Constellation pipeline

Evasterias t. on Constellation pipeline

Evasterias t. on Constellation pipeline

Evasterias t. on Constellation pipeline

Pisaster o. on Constellation pipeline

Sunflower star on Constellation pipeline

Pisaster o. with SSWD on Constellation pipeline

Pisaster o. on condo pilings

Saturday, February 6, 2016

ORCAS VISIT ELLIOTT BAY 2-5-2016

A small group of Orcas visited Elliott Bay of Puget Sound and downtown Seattle in the afternoon of 2/5/2016.  These were likely Transient whales but positive ID has not been made.  It Appeared that there were 4 or 5 whales in the group with 2 adult males.  The Orcas entered Elliott Bay on the north side (Magnolia) and proceeded along the Seattle waterfront to the mouth of the Duwamish River and then exited the bay via the same route.  Images here are from West Seattle (a couple of miles from the whales path) so are not high quality.  Transient Orcas feed on marine mammals including seals, sea lions, porpoises, dolphins, sea otters, and other whales.  In Puget Sound they feed on Harbor Seals, Harbor Porpoise, California and Steller Sea Lions and have the possibility of attacking Gray and Humpback whales but this has not been documented in Puget Sound. 
During the past several weeks a group of about 8 Harbor Seals have been observed feeding as a group of Seacrest marina in Elliott Bay.  These seals are likely feeding on an abundant population of Shiner Perch (as reported by local divers and an award winning underwater photographer)  See previous post for details.
On the morning of 2/6/2016 I looked for this seal group in it's usual location off Seacrest in the morning when they have been observed day after day.  I saw no seal group but only 2 seals feeding as individuals.  After looking for 1/2 hour I concluded that they were not in the area. 
There is no information on any feeding the Orcas may have done while in Elliott Bay and it is likely that feeding would have been observed by someone.  So any connection to the Orcas and Harbor Seal group is pure speculation....and not very good.





Friday, February 5, 2016

HARBOR SEAL GROUP AT SEACREST IN WEST SEATTLE

Over the past couple of months fishermen at Seacrest pier have been seeing a group of about 8 Harbor Seals surfacing and diving in the area near the pier.  I timed the dives of these seals and they are underwater for about 2.5 minutes then on the surface for about 45 seconds before diving as a group again.  Laura James (are professional, award winning, underwater photographer and educator) stated that divers in the area have observed seals eating Shiner Perch that are abundant in the area.
The pattern of the group is as follows:  The seals surface after a dive and some come up together while others may come up yards away.  All the seals them come together and swim as a group in the same direction within 30 seconds of surfacing.  A seal at the front of the group (leader?) then dives followed closely by the other seals.  In about 2.5 minutes the seals surface again are repeat the process.  This takes place in the morning and perhaps at other times of the day.  In two consecutive days I observed the group moving south and disappearing in the area of Luna Girls sculpture...near Salty's.  I checked Jack Block Park to the south but saw no sign of seals.
For the group of seals to feed on Shiner Perch there must be a large biomass of these small fish in the area.  Other possible foods are squid and other fish and perhaps shrimp.
This is the first time I have observed this behavior in Harbor Seals in Puget Sound but it is likely relatively common.  It is possible that the seals are cooperatively hunting as some other marine mammals are know to do.



video
video