On the Water

Harbor Seals in Migration

Heading "south" to Narragansett Bay for the winter


It’s February, and around here that means it’s video game, DVD rental and bowling season. While living in an area such as southern New England has its many benefits, it also has its downfalls, like the fact that the area practically shuts down shop for the duration of the winter months. Local stores set shorter winter hours or even close completely. The beaches still play their beautiful scenic role, but are mostly viewed from the heated seats of vehicles.

To escape the bitter chill, many people head south to Florida, the Caribbean, or another tropical location; but for others, Narragansett Bay actually happens to be a warmer winter retreat. Migrating down from Maine and the coastal provinces of Canada, hundreds of harbor seals come to our area, following their prey to the warmer, protected waters of Rhode Island each year.

Just like humans on the beach stretching out on their lounge chairs and soaking up some rays, harbor seals can be seen lounging around at 15 different “haul-out” sites, or simply, rocks the seals find rather relaxing, throughout Rhode Island. According to Save the Bay, as many as 169 seals have been seen hanging out together at one single time at Rome Point in North Kingstown (the spot with the largest seal population in the state).

While the saying goes that it’s a “dog’s life,” you might actually be better off with a seal’s life. That is, once you get past all the survival aspects like looking out for predators and constantly having to find your own food. Overall, it looks pretty fun. During my afternoon observation, the seals spent most of their time on land with everything but a server to bring them a cocktail. They then splashed around in the water playing games with their friends and enjoying what was (in their eyes) a beautiful winter day.

Anyone looking to catch a glimpse of these cute rug-rats of the sea in their normal habitats should venture out to Usher Cove in Bristol, to Sakonnet Point in Little Compton or to the rocks of Brenton Point in Newport.

In addition, Save the Bay also offers educational seal watching tours for individuals or groups by boat, operating out of Newport Harbor. The tours are offered from November through April and come with expert guides and a pair of binoculars for each passenger to ensure optimal viewing. For a schedule and more information on seal watching visit www.savebay.org.

You may have to put away your Xbox 360 Kinect or save the Harry Potter marathon for another time, but experiencing real wild life in your own “backyard” (of Narragansett Bay) will put any HD television picture to shame.