Friday, January 7, 2011

Harbor Seal Sighting in Connecticut and "The Mystic Coast: A Photographic Portrait"

I was remembering recently about a photo of a harbor seal in The Mystic Coast, Stonington to New London: A Photographic Portrait. This is a coffee table book first published in 2000 that is comprised of photographic contributions by amateur photographers, where the publisher and the Mystic Chamber of Commerce selected the images to be included in the book.

Being quite serious with my photography at that time, I submitted a few photos and was lucky to have my image of a sunset off Mason's Island in Mystic printed on page 40. But when I think of this book, I usually recall other contributor photos. This time, I thought about that terrific, rare shot of an Atlantic harbor seal on some rocks at Lord's Point in Stonington. It was taken by Marion Krepcio. Here's her page in the book:

(Seal photo by Marion Krepcio)

The other day in the car, just before 1 p.m., I decided on the spur of the moment that I'd make a quick detour to Groton Long Point. Because the day was sunny with calm winds, I had a feeling it was perfect conditions to see harbor seals sunning themselves on the coastal rocks or shoreline out there. 

Usually times of low tide yield the best results because more rocks are exposed, even in open waters. The shy animals might want to stay farther out than come closer to the developed shoreline. I had no idea what the current tide was, but I took my chances anyway.

At Groton Long point, where I've seen harbor seals only once before (and not because they're infrequent visitors, it's merely that I don't make my way there much in winter), there are only two large rocks way out in the water where they would sun themselves. That's where I intended to look first.

It was unfortunate that the position of the sun caused glare and backlighting, because after I saw with my eyes that there definitely was a moving shape on rock #1 way out in Fishers Island Sound (...and it was huge! It had to be a male) I saw that rock #2 looked lumpier than usual.

I grabbed the binoculars that I keep in the car and saw a small moving head, but as for the number of bodiesand which parts were rock and which were sealI couldn't tell. And there was no way to get closer. I was so thrilled that I at least saw some harbor seals (!!!) and that my hunch they'd be around this day was correct! So I know for sure I saw two heads that day, and that's good enough for me.

It's not unusual to see harbor seals off the Connecticut shore, but it is such a rare treat. The Mystic Aquarium rescues and nurses back to health injured or sick harbor seals that have been reported stranded in our area. Our local paper often features a photo when Aquarium staff release rehabilitated seals back into the wild. They typically do this from a particular beach in Rhode Island, with a cheering audience of Aquarium staff and interested locals. The now-healthy seals find their way to the more open Atlantic waters toward Cape Cod.

So if you want to buy a cool community-created book about this part of New England, go to the link in the first paragraph of this post, or inquire at your local bookstore. This photo shows the book's cover on the left, and my sunset picture (yes, the sky really was fruit punch pink!) on the right:

(Click photo to enlarge)