December brings annual visitors from the north into Long Island Sound, and you can chance to see them during “Seal-Spotting & Birding Cruises” offered this winter by The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk.
The Aquarium’s 2017-18 season of “Seal-Spotting & Birding Cruises” begins Dec. 9 and 10, and will run on many weekends through March 31, 2018.
These invigorating 2½-hour outings seek out some of the harbor seals and gray seals that migrate down into Long Island Sound from northern waters – such as off Cape Cod and the Gulf of Maine – which serve as their summer breeding and pupping areas. During the Aquarium cruises, seals often can be seen near the Norwalk islands resting on rocks and shoals exposed at low tide. Aquarium educators will point out these federally protected marine mammals and talk about their natural histories.
These cruises also give birders unique “on-the-water” access to see and photograph visiting winter waterfowl, such as buffleheads, mergansers, Brant geese and long-tailed ducks.
“Although we’ve been displaying seals for nearly 30 years now – and explaining to guests that seals are out there in the Sound during the winter – it’s still a revelation for participants to actually see them during our cruises,” said Dave Sigworth, the Aquarium’s associate director of communications. “It is these exciting first-hand experiences that really emphasize that Long Island Sound is an important habitat to protect.”
Dates and departure times of the cruises vary by low tide. Initial cruises on Sat., Dec. 9 and Sun., Dec. 10 both depart at 10 a.m. Most cruises occur on weekends, although outings also are planned during the Christmas-break week Dec. 27-29. For the full schedule, go to www.maritimeaquarium.org.
The cruises take place aboard The Maritime Aquarium’s R/V Spirit of the Sound™, the country’s first research vessel with quiet hybrid-electric propulsion. R/V Spirit of the Sound has a climate-controlled cabin but, because the best viewing is outside on the deck, participants should dress for the weather. Binoculars will be provided.
Also during each cruise, participants can help Aquarium educators with plankton samplings. Data collected during the cruises is added to the Long Island Sound Biodiversity Project, which is an ongoing census of the Sound’s animal species. This online database, sponsored by the Aquarium, makes data on the physical and biological contents of Long Island Sound available to students, educators and researchers.
The Maritime Aquarium’s cruises offer memorable family fun but please note that all passengers must be at least 42 inches tall.
Tickets for a “Seal-Spotting & Birding Cruise” are $24.95, or $19.95 for Aquarium members.
Capacity is limited so advance reservations are strongly recommended. Walk-up tickets will be sold, space permitting.
Reserve your spot by calling (203) 852-0700, ext. 2206, or by going online to www.maritimeaquarium.org.