are the seals at Rome Point?
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
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
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
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
not bothered by cold and will haul out on the rocks on most
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.
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.
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.
Tides and Time of
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
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.
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
very good in the morning around low tide, and the chances of
the seals having been disturbed by boaters is reduced.
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
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
may see a few seals, but the haul-out rocks are mostly
submerged and most seals have moved to open water to feed.
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