Rome Point Seals
tall rock flopslant rock seals
When are the seals at Rome Point?
    The harbor seals of Rome Point begin their migration south from Maine and Maritime Canada in September.  20 to 60 seals have usually arrived by Thanksgiving.  Between 50 to 80 seals are often hauled out on good days from mid-December to New Years Day. Early January brings the arrival of younger members of the seal herd, sometimes over 100 seals may be observed from January through mid-April.  The number of seals at Rome Point usually begins to decline in April.  By the second week of May, most of the seals have returned to their northern habitats.  Seals are occasionally spotted in Narragansett Bay during the summer, so there may be a few year-round resident seals.

    The number of seals at Rome Point varies greatly over the course of each day, as well as from day-to-day.  The weather and the tide stage are the major factors which affect the number of seals present at any given time.  Unfortunately, any human activity which disturbs the seals can dictate seal behavior, especially on nice days when the weather is suitable for boating activity.  Power boats and kayaks will sometimes chase the seals away; when this happens, the seals may not return for many hours.  Some tips on how to pick a good seal watching day and time of day are listed below; if you follow these guidelines your chances of observing a large number of seals at Rome Point will be greatly enhanced.
 
 
Weather and Wind
  • Any day with calm winds presents a good seal watching opportunity, especially if the day has been preceded by several days of inclement weather or strong winds.  The seals are not bothered by cold and will haul out on the rocks on most calm days.
  • Strong north wind (> 15 mph) is not good for seal sightings; most days when I have seen no seals it has either been raining or snowing heavily, or the wind is blowing hard from the north, north-northwest, or northeast.
  • Strong winds from an easterly or southerly direction can adversely affect seal watching.  An east wind can make your seal watch uncomfortable with a chilly breeze blowing in your face, while a south wind generally makes for rough bay conditions on the outgoing tide.
  • Strong winds from the southwest or west will not usually have an adverse effect on the number of seals present; this is because the haul-out rocks are somewhat sheltered by the Rome Point shoreline.  Northwest wind often means fewer seals will be hauled out, depending on the wind velocity.
  • Fog can sometimes be a factor, however, the wind is almost always calm on foggy days.  Some of my best seal observations have taken place as a curtain of fog burns off, gradually revealing large numbers of seals on the rocks.  The chances of the seals being disturbed by watercraft is diminished on foggy days, making a foggy spring morning a good opportunity for patient seal observers.
Weather Links:  NWS Marine Weather          WJAR Channel 10 Weather

Tides and Time of Day
  • There are a number of factor that affect the daily tide cycle, including wind speed, wind direction, and the current phase of the moon.  Seals will usually begin to haul out from 2 to 4 hours before low tide at Wickford; on any specific day the seal's arrival time is correlated to the weather and tide conditions on that day.  The seals tend to haul out earlier in the ebb tide when the extent of the tide change is greatest (tide especially low) and the wind is calm. If they are not disturbed, seals will sometimes remain in the area resting on the rocks for up to 3 hours after low tide. 
  • The greatest number of seals are usually present on the rocks from one hour preceding low tide until one hour after low tide. However, on nice days human disturbance can spoil an otherwise well-timed seal walk at low tide.  Plan to arrive at the Rome Point haul-out site about 2 hours before low tide, especially on relatively warm, calm weekends when the seals are most likely to be spooked by boaters or kayakers. 
  • Low tides in the afternoon on temperate, calm weekends are challenging for seal observation due to the possibility that the seals may been chased form the rocks by watercraft. A morning seal walk is a useful tactic to increase the probability of seeing large numbers of seals.  Seal watching can be very good in the morning around low tide, and the chances of the seals having been disturbed by boaters is reduced.
  • The seals are most active and interesting when they are approaching the haul-out rocks for their rest break. They can often be observed leaping and splashing; the sight of the seals awkwardly hauling out on the rocks and settling in to rest is both amusing and awe-inspiring.  Whenever I can, I time my seal walks to coincide with the haul-out arrival time, on the average about 3 hours before low tide.
  • The later into the seal's rest period that you arrive at the viewing site, the greater the chance that the seals have already been scared away by boats or kayaks.  Fortunately, during weekdays and cold winter weekends the seals are usually left alone to bask in peace for the entire resting cycle.  Weekends on warm, calm spring days are a challenge for seal observation; if you want to see seals on nice days, your best bet is to arrive early in the rest period.
  • At Rome Point, the six-hour period from 2 hours after low tide to 2 hours after high tide is not as good for seal observation. You may see a few seals, but the haul-out rocks are mostly submerged and most seals have moved to open water to feed.
Tide Table for Wickford:       Saltwater Tides
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