Wayward raptors get new start away from Sea-Tac Airport

Wayward raptors get new start away from Sea-Tac Airport »Play Video
SEATAC, Wash. - One of the biggest dangers for airplanes at Sea-Tac Airport comes in a small package.
That package has four legs – and fur.
The hundreds of acres of fields surrounding the airport have become the perfect habitat for the field vole, a small rodent.
In addition to being cute, the field vole is also an attractive food source for predators. During peak times at the airport, their numbers swell to more than 10,000, providing the perfect meal for all types of animals.
"They are the plankton of the flats," said Bud Anderson, a raptor biologist. "Everything eats them – Great Horned Owls, Red-tailed Hawks, coyotes, you name it." 
Having animals around the runways, however, can prove dangerous for planes in the air and on the ground. While fences can keep large animals like coyotes out, there’s no surefire system to keep birds away. 
"There's no way we can really teach them to avoid planes," said Mikki Verhover, a biologist with the airport. "It’s not in their capabilities to understand how fast a plane is moving. So if they detect a plane, by the time they detect it, it's already where they are."
When a bird strikes, it can do serious damage to an airplane. It can destroy an engine, rip into a wing, or go right through the windshield. In 2013, there were 11,315 reported bird strikes across the country, although only 601 caused any damage. Here is the FAA bird-strike database.
Biologists use a wide array of deterrents to keep raptors away, including pyrotechnics and other scare tactics. While some resident raptors have learned to steer clear of the flight path, for young birds, the lure of the vole can be too much, so workers will try to relocate them.
The process begins with a series of raptor traps set up around the perimeter of the airport. When one is tripped, a satellite transponder sends a text message to a team of biologists. The birds are then examined, put in a pet crate, and shipped 80 miles north to the Skagit Valley. 

The program has a unique agreement with the Bellair Airporter, an airport shuttle service. Each bird gets a seat on a van with other travelers. This process means a bird can be relocated within a matter of hours, minimizing crate time and stress.
Once the birds arrive in the Skagit Valley, they are weighed and measured. They also are given ankle bands or wing tags and their information is entered in a nationwide database
"We want to know where they go. We want to know where they show up. We especially want to know if they come back to the airport or not," said Anderson, who has been working with birds for half a century. “If they come back, then that tells us that maybe we need to move them further."

Raptors typically wander for the first two or three years of their life before finding a mate and settling down. Some of the birds that have been relocated from Sea-Tac have been spotted as far north as Nanaimo, British Columbia, and as far south as Sacramento, biologists said.

In the 13 years of the program, more than 686 birds have been relocated. Only seven have returned to the airport.
Anderson added that the Skagit Valley can be a paradise for raptors. 

"Lots of food, open fields, no jets," added Anderson. "There are so many field mice and other sources of food like rabbits. They do very well here."

On board with a Mount Rainier training mission

On board with a Mount Rainier training mission »Play Video

Mount Rainier, Wash. - We had a rare opportunity to join Bravo Company, 1st of the 214th General Support Aviation Battalion (GSAB), for a search and rescue training mission on Mount Rainier.

The search and rescue mission on Mount Rainier has belonged to 1st of the 214th GSAB for many years.  Bravo Company, stationed on Joint Base Lewis McChord (JBLM), utilizes the CH-47 "Chinook" helicopter, which is uniquely suited for rescue missions at altitude and in snow. 
This relationship between the National Park service (NPS) and JBLM provides much needed technical search and rescue services for the thousands of climbers who attempt the summit each year. It is expected that 12,000 climbers will make an attempt this season alone.
Additionally, the NPS is providing crucial access to an otherwise un-replicable training environment for our pilots and rescue teams stationed at JBLM.

Meet the Pacific Science Center's Glasswinged Butterfly

Meet the Pacific Science Center's Glasswinged Butterfly »Play Video
SEATTLE - Seattle's Pacific Science Center has some new additions to its tropical butterfly house, but they might be hard to spot.

The Glasswinged Butterfly's wings lack the colorful scales that other butterflies have, making them nearly clear. Their transparency helps them stay camouflaged in their native habitats of Central America and Florida.

If you'd like to try and spot these elusive little creatures, they'll be at the Science Center for another week.

Pacific Science Center Tropical Butterfly House.

Bremerton to Seattle by water -- in 80 seconds

Bremerton to Seattle by water -- in 80 seconds »Play Video

SEATTLE, Wash. - On our way back to Seattle from Bremerton today we couldn't help notice how dramatic the fall clouds were. So I set up the camera in the back of my news car, pointing towards the stern of the M/V Kitsap. The video picks up about 15 minutes into the hour-long trip.

Now that you can buy pot in Washington, how much pot can you buy?

Now that you can buy pot in Washington, how much pot can you buy? »Play Video

SEATTLE, Wash. - So now that Washington's pot industry is (mostly) up and running, how much of it can you actually buy?

Washington's law states that you can purchase and poses only one ounce at a time. Cannabis City, Seattle's first legal pot shop, has one product for sale that's a good example of what that looks like. 
Weighing in at just under the limit at more than 24 grams, "Super Girl" is a giant flower bud that comes in its own jar. It's grown at Buddy Boy Farm in the small town of Ford, WA, near Spokane. 
"Super Girl" sells for $850. Cannabis City reports that they've sold 11 of 12 units.


A river reborn: Rafting an untamed Elwha

A river reborn: Rafting an untamed Elwha »Play Video

PORT ANGELES, Wash. - For more than 100 years, two dams controlled the Elwha river on the Olympic Peninsula. The Lower Elwha dam was built in 1910, 17 years later and 8 miles further upstream the Glines Canyon dam was built.   

When they were completed, the dams helped power the region's booming timber industry. In recent years however the relatively small power output and larger hydroelectric projects on the Columbia River made these two dams obsolete.

Before the dams, the Elwha supported massive runs of spawning salmon. By the hundreds of thousands they took advantage of the river's proximity to the Pacific and it's extensive spawning grounds. But since no fish ladder or other accommodation was made as part of the dam design, when the first dam went up in 1910, no more salmon made it up river.

In 1992 the Elwha River Ecosystem and Fisheries Restoration Act was signed, eight years later the government bought the land and the dams fates were sealed. Work began in September of 2011 with the careful demolition of the Lower Elwha dam. Both of the lakes were drained and the river picked a new path through the former lake beds. The final section of the Glines Canyon dam was removed in late August of 2014. The Elwha was wild again.

Decades of sediment, woody debris, are working their way downstream, while salmon are working their way up the 38 miles of newly accessible habitat. No one knows if they will return in the numbers they once did, but so far the signs are encouraging.

KOMO-TV Reporter Jeff Burnside and I were lucky enough to join a small group of reporters and officials on a decent down the Elwha. We started just downstream of the Glines Canyon and spend the next three hours getting an up close look at the reborn river. Our guides from Olympic Raft and Kayak told us that each time there is a big rainstorm, the river changes its path. The river is in its adolescence, not sure where it wants to go or what it wants to be. 100 years of sediment and old dead wood are working their way downstream, and they change the river's path too.

The rapids would have been more rapid if it was spring, but the summer water flow was still strong. We got splashed pretty good a few times. As we made it down into what used to be Lake Aldwell, we saw how nature is coming back. Native plants, some place by parks staff, have taken hold and are rapidly erasing the last 100 years of control.

We even spotted a few salmon on our trip, finding their way upstream, as if they'd never left.

Park officials hope to have some areas of the Glines Canyon open by the end of 2014.

Much more info here.

UPDATE: Salmon have been spotted upstream of the Glines Canyon project.




Watch: The rescue, rehab, and release of a young black bear

Watch: The rescue, rehab, and release of a young black bear »Play Video
Black bear takes her first steps out into the wild

MONROE, Wash. - An underweight black bear that was rehabilitated after living off a Redmond family's bird feeder was released into the wild Thursday afternoon.

The release of an animal back to the wild is an exciting assignment to cover. Nobody knows quite what will happen and most of the time the animal bolts so fast you only get a few seconds of good video.

So to make the most of the short opportunity we had, I set out 3 extra other small cameras, two GoPros and a Canon S100, and hoped they'd capture the scene.

In June, officers used a doughnut to lure the 1-year-old bear when they realized she was underweight, and brought her to PAWS for rehabilitation. Naturalists reintroduced the bear to her native diet of skunk cabbage and berries, and discovered she doesn't like radishes or watermelon. 

We followed a caravan into a remote mountainous area along the Cascades for the bear's release.

With the encouragement of two barking Karelian bear dogs, as well as beanbag and noisemaker guns, the bear bolted. She was in the woods after just three seconds. 

You can watch our broadcast story Elisa Jaffe and I put together, but there was so much good video I wanted to share this longer visual version of the story.

Learn more about PAWS or help out by visiting their website.

Carlton Complex fire cuts through Pateros

Carlton Complex fire cuts through Pateros »Play Video

 The Carlton Complex fire cut right through the heart of Pateros late Thursday night. Residents had just minutes to grab what they could and evacuate as flames came over the hill.

Lindsay Cohen and I drove into Pateros early Friday morning, as did many of those who had to flee the night before. Much of the town was spared, but homes along the hillside, as well as a few downtown blocks had been destroyed.

It's difficult to describe all of what we saw out there, but the pictures help tell the story.

Watch: Smokey time lapse over Leavenworth

Watch: Smokey time lapse over Leavenworth »Play Video

The smoke of the Chiwaukum Creek Fire hung over Leavenworth all day Thursday. For vacationers and residents it's a constant reminder of the massive fire that's just to the west of town.



Million-dollar cars up for auction this weekend in Seattle

Million-dollar cars up for auction this weekend in Seattle »Play Video

SEATTLE -- The Mecum Auto Auction is making its first ever visit to Seattle this weekend, putting more than 600 classic and collectible cars on the block Friday and Saturday.

Three highlights include a 2008 Bugatti Veyron, which is expected to sell for more than $1 million, a 1967 Corvette L88 Coupe, which could sell for $4-5 million, and a 1971 Plymouth Hemi 'Cuda Convertible, which could bring in $3.4-4.5 million.
The auction is being held at the Century Link Field Events Center. Doors open at 8 a.m. and the auction begins at 10 a.m. Tickets are $20 for adults, and kids under 12 are free. 

More information about the event is available here.

WATCH: Behind the scenes of Dan Lewis' last day at KOMO

WATCH: Behind the scenes of Dan Lewis' last day at KOMO »Play Video

 One week ago, Wednesday May 21st, marked the end of a brilliant career of anchoring for Dan Lewis at KOMO TV. A 27 year career that he never once called in sick, had a routine of eating an apple a day in between news shows and was our voice to the viewers of channel four.

 A pure professional who at times had his emotion show through during some rough news moments in the last few years. His grace and sincerity shined when he adlibbed through a live memorial service, breaking news or the death of a colleague such as his former co-anchor Kathi Goertzen in 2012.

 Our cameras followed Dan on his last day and his farewell speech to the KOMO staff before taking the anchor desk for the final time. His leadership, humor and professionalism will be missed but we wish him all the best. Thank you for everything Dan.

Video postcards from two local Memorial Day Services

Video postcards from two local Memorial Day Services »Play Video

Monday morning at a Memorial Day service in Magnolia's Fort Lawton, Staff Sergeant Ian Bamman told an emotional story of the loss of his Platoon leader 1st Lieutenant William Edens in the town of Talifar, Iraq.

Heading out on patrol, Bamman asked his Lieutenant if he should take the patrol, Edens replied "Don't worry Sergeant, I've got this one", so Bamman stayed behind. The patrol was hit by an I.E.D. and 4 soldiers, including 1st Lieutenant Edens, were killed.

The service also included a cub scout flag ceremony, bagpipes, and prayers.


At an afternoon service at Evergreen Washelli cemetery in Seattle, Army Brigadier General John M. Cho spoke to a crowd of hundreds. He spoke about the importance of gathering together to remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country. Video by KOMO Photographer Katie Johnson

Weekend Hike Assignment: Point Defiance Park

Weekend Hike Assignment: Point Defiance Park »Play Video

 It would be easier to list the features that Point Defiance DOESN'T have rather than all the things it does have. There is really a ton of stuff to do at this historical 700 acre park, so whether you have a half hour or the whole day, head to the north side of Tacoma and check out this great spot.

Here is a list of just some of the things you can do here:

The Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, where you can swim with sharks. SHARKS!

Explore Fort Nisqually, a "living history museum", where two of the oldest buildings in the state reside in a replica of an outpost built in 1824 by fur traders.

5-mile drive loops around the entire park and is one of the prettiest drives in the Puget Sound. There are many stops along the way with viewpoints and places to picnic and explore.

There are three main trails through the park, the outside loop (4.3 miles), the inside loop (3.6 miles) and the spine trail (2.6 miles).

Owen Beach on the north side is easily accessible and great for exploring and watching the Vashon Ferry.

Have a great weekend!

The park entrance is located at 5400 N Pearl Street.

Previous Weekend Hike Assignments:

Seward Park
Marymere Falls
The Arboretum
Tolt-MacDonald Park
Deception Pass
Snoqualmie Falls


Weekend Hike Assignment: Seward Park

Weekend Hike Assignment: Seward Park »Play Video

Your hike assignment this weekend is Seward Park, Seattle's gem on Lake Washington. 

Seward park is a 300 acre peninsula jutting out into Lake Washington. The park's most used feature is a 2.4 mile trail along the lake. Part of the perimeter trail used to be open to cars, so it's wide enough for bikes and walkers and dogs to share comfortably.

My favorite hike at Seward Park is the series of trails that weave through the interior. Seward Park has the largest stand of old growth trees in the city, and it's hard to remember that you're even in a city when you're in a forrest like this.

Seward Park also has a large meadow, swimming beaches, a pretty nice playground for the kids. There is lots of parking available, but it is a city park so don't leave valuables in your car.

Have a great weekend! Get out and enjoy it!

Seward Park is located at 5895 Lake Washington Blvd. S
Here is more info on the park from the city.
Here is more on the history of the park from the great folks at History Link.

Previous Weekend Hike Assignments:
Marymere Falls
The Arboretum
Tolt MacDonald Park
Deception Pass
Snoqualmie Falls