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Maritime Aquarium's Winter Cruises Spot Seals, Birds Out On The Sound

A harbor seal rests on a rock off Greenwich in Long Island Sound. Venture out to seek some of these seals that visit the Sound each winter during The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk’s Seal-Spotting & Birding Cruises, which begin Dec. 10 and 11
A harbor seal rests on a rock off Greenwich in Long Island Sound. Venture out to seek some of these seals that visit the Sound each winter during The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk’s Seal-Spotting & Birding Cruises, which begin Dec. 10 and 11 Photo Credit: Maritime Aquarium

NORWALK, Conn. – It's never too cold to hit Long Island Sound for the chance to see some of the seals and waterfowl that spend their winter just off our shores during Seal-Spotting & Birding Cruises with The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk.

These invigorating 2½-hour outings take place aboard the aquarium’s R/V Spirit of the Sound, the country’s only research vessel with hybrid-electric propulsion.

Outings are planned through March 26, with dates and departure times varying by low tide. (For the full schedule, go to www.maritimeaquarium.org .)

Tickets can be purchased in advance — even as Christmas presents.

The cruises seek out the harbor seals and gray seals that migrate down into the Sound from northern waters, which serve as their summer breeding and pupping areas. The seals often can be seen near the Norwalk islands when they “haul out” to rest on rocks exposed at low tide.

Aquarium educators will point out these federally protected marine mammals and talk about their natural histories. And they’ll also discuss what happens to the Sound’s marine population during the winter: who stays, who migrates out, and who migrates in (besides the seals).

“As exciting as it is to get close to the seals inside The Maritime Aquarium, it’s truly a memorable experience to see seals out in Long Island Sound,” said Aquarium spokesman Dave Sigworth. “Those encounters inspire us to take actions that protect the health of the Sound, after witnessing it as a habitat for our marine-mammal friends and all the other creatures that call it home.”

The Aquarium 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.

Plus, 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 is sponsored by the Aquarium and includes students in collecting data on the physical and biological contents of the Sound.

Binoculars will be provided. R/V Spirit of the Sound has a climate-controlled cabin but, because the best viewing is outside on the deck, participants should bring plenty of warm clothes.

The cruises offer memorable family fun but 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 .

Here is the schedule of cruises:

  • Sat., Jan. 7 – noon
  • Sun., Jan. 8 – 1 p.m.
  • Sat., Jan. 21 – noon
  • Sun., Jan. 22 – 1 p.m.
  • Sat., Feb. 4 – 11 a.m.
  • Sun., Feb. 5 – noon
  • Sat., Feb. 11 – 3 p.m.
  • Sun., Feb. 12 – 3 p.m.
  • Sat., Feb. 18 – 10 a.m.
  • Sun., Feb. 19 – 11 a.m.
  • Sat., Feb. 25 – 3 p.m.
  • Sat., March 4 – 10 a.m.
  • Sun., March 5 – 10 a.m.
  • Sat., March 18 – 10 a.m.
  • Sun., March 19 – 10 a.m.
  • Sat., March 25 – 4 p.m.
  • Sun., March 26 – 4:30 p.m.

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