Cruise out onto Long Island Sound this winter with The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk in hopes of seeing some of the seals and birds that spend the colder months just off Connecticut’s shores.
The Maritime Aquarium’s 2018-19 season of “Seal-Spotting & Birding Cruises” begins Dec. 15 and 16, and offers outings on many weekends through April 14, 2019.
These invigorating 2½-hour cruises seek out some of the harbor seals and gray seals that annually 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.
“Seals have been coming into the Sound in robust numbers now for more than two decades,” said Dave Sigworth, the Aquarium’s associate director of communications. “But they sort of slip in and out unnoticed because they’re only here during winter when boaters aren’t out there.”
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.
“There’s only one thing more exciting than getting close to the seals on exhibit in The Maritime Aquarium and that’s seeing some of the seals out in Long Island Sound,” Sigworth said. “These encounters are a powerful, motivating reminder that the Sound is an important, thriving natural resource that is worthy of our protection.”
The 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.
Dates and departure times of the cruises vary by low tide. Initial cruises are on Sat., Dec. 15 at 10 a.m. and Sun., Dec. 16 at 11 a.m. For the full schedule, go to www.maritimeaquarium.org.
“Seal-Spotting and Birding 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, along with hot chocolate and coffee.
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 $29.95, or $24.95 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.