Wednesday, December 18, 2013


Fall of 2013 has been one of the driest if not the driest in Seattle memory.  The 3 major storms that have hit Washington State have found Seattle sitting in the rain shadow of the Olympic Mountains on all three's a real drought...hopefully short term as we will need mountain snows to supply water next summer.   Not really a worry yet as much of our snow in the mountains often comes late in the winter and even early spring.
Fall also brought the beginning of a large die off of sea stars, mainly Sunflower Stars, but other species are also affected.  British Columbia has been hard hit, and Elliott Bay at Seattle in Puget Sound has seen significant die off of Sunflower Stars.  The stars just disintegrate.  I have done a December survey on Seattle's Constellation Marine Reserve in West Seattle and found little evidence of the die off.  Of 398 counted Purple Stars only one was seen in bad condition.  Only a few dozen Sunflower Stars were observed, all small but seemingly healthy.  I have noticed on a number of occasions gulls feeding on individual Sunflower Star rays.  Not an unusual food for gulls but these observations were during high tides when Sunflower Stars would not be on the beach.  The rays must have washed up on the beach after detaching from the sea star during disintegration.
The dry evenings have led to a number of sunset views that are uncommon during Seattle's usually cloudy skies.
Harbor Seal pups continue to show up on local West Seattle beaches and are monitored by Seal Sitters volunteers.  While the Harbor Seal pups are easily disturbed and forced back in the water (which lessens their chances for survival), Sea Lions are much harder to disturb as evidenced by the image of the boat next to the buoy loaded with California Sea Lions.....not one moved off the buoy.  Nevertheless the boat is in violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act and should remain 100 yards from the buoy.  These sea lions are often in close contact with tugs that move barges on and off the buoys and are not easily disturbed.

Seattle Rain Shadow

Gull with Sunflower Star ray

Horned Grebe

Disintegrating Purple Sea Star

Double-crested Cormorants

Fall Sunset

Smith Tower Sunset

Kingfisher on wire

California Sea Lions and illegal approach by boat

Harbor Seal pups at Alki Beach

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