05 Jan 13

LI’s Winter Wildlife Outings ...

by Nancy E. Hassel, LIPetPlace.com

What to do on a beautiful sunny, yet cold winter weekend day on LI? Forget the malls, the movies or just staying home and veggin’ out, head out to the wilderness the Long Island has to offer! I know what your thinking, some of you, what wilderness? Well there is a ton of wildlife to see on Long Island, weather you want to take a hike in the woods or head out to the beach you won’t be disappointed. One of the best, and one of my favorite things to do is to head to the beach to see the wildlife in the sea – you got it, the adorable harbor seals! If you are living under a rock and didn’t yet know there are a lot of places to to view these beautiful graceful creatures in LI waters. Even you reading this in Queens & Nassau County, there are places to see them there too.

You can see seals on a guided walk given by a few different organizations, or you can head out and see if you can see them on your own. Recently (today if your reading this at post date) I took my cousin and we headed to Cupsogue Beach in Westhampton Beach to see if we could spot any harbor seals, and boy were we in luck! (Cupsogue by the way – was one of the beaches that was completely breached by hurricane Sandy – but they have already dredged and filled in the breach – we were literally standing on it today in amazement that was covered in water not too long ago).

Ok back to the adorable, and somewhat dog-like seals. We were in luck today because the seals were not out on the sand bar sunning themselves, (and would just look like blobs for lack of a better term out in the bay), but instead they were in the water and seemed to us to be fishing for lunch – it was lunch time after all when we were there. They looked like they were having a great time, and popping out of the water and looking at us, looking at them. It was quite comical – almost as if they were looking at us like, “what are you looking at?” or “Are you looking at me?” It is really magical to see these creatures of the sea and land right before us.

I have seen a seal while kayaking in the Peconic Bay a few summers ago with my niece we couldn’t believe our eyes, it got pretty close to us and was so freaking cute! I have kayaked in that bay for 6 consecutive summers, and that was the only time we saw a seal there, not to say they are not there – they can swim pretty fast – but it was unusual for that body of water.

If you are looking for an educational seal walk/hike or want your kids or yourselves to learn about the seals – I would recommend the CRESLI or Montauk Point State Park walks. You will have a guided tour and learn a lot.  I have done both in the past. Today was just a great, and oddly warmer at the beach then the mainland, full of seals frolicking in the water, some other onlookers and just a great way to see one of LI’s best wildlife super stars. And if you’re hungry after your walk along Cupsogue head into Westhampton Beach Village and there are cute cafe’s to get your lunch (that you don’t have to swim for), and lovely shops too.

So what kind of seals are there in our waters? Mainly, Harbor Seals are the species that frequent our waters.  According to the NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation or the DEC if you will, harbor seals are the most abundant; their average dive time is 3 minutes – which seemed to be very accurate today – but can dive for up top 30 minutes; they have large eyes, acute hearing – which made sense because every time we turned around today looking at Hurricane Sandy’s erosion – the seals seemed to pop up and be looking at us, hysterical! They also have long whiskers which are sensitive and help them hunt prey. While they have no tears, they have a mucus that washes over their eyes while under water to help protect their eyes from the salt water and when they are land it gives them a teary eyed appearance. (Who knew?)

Bundle up when you go, dress in layers, bring a good camera if you have it and a zoom lens to get the best photo’s and/or a pair of binoculars.  Be patient and watch for them and they will more than likely delight you with their playful show. See below for additional pictures. Enjoy!

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