Block Island Seal Count:
On Tuesday, March 15, 25 volunteers surveyed nearly 100 percent of the island’s perimeter in an effort to get a count of seals in the area at this
“peak” season for wintering seals. This effort was in coordination with Save The Bay’s annual bay-wide seal count, which surveys all possible
seal haul-out sites along the shores of Narragansett Bay. Seals were counted simultaneously throughout the state of Rhode Island within an hour of low tide on March 15: on Block Island we counted a total of 106 seals, Narragansett Bay had 464. (The island number is conservative, always erring on the lower end of the count and adjusting for possible overlaps.)
The need to cover so much area (Block Island’s perimeter shoreline is approximately 18 miles, plus at least another 3 miles within the Great Salt
Pond) in a relatively short amount of time – as close to low tide as possible – means that it takes many volunteers. A huge thanks to the many volunteers, without whom this island-wide count could not be done accurately!
Most of the island’s seals are concentrated and found in only a few locations: Sandy Point (36), Old Harbor Point (24) and Cormorant Cove (37). But of course, seals are found – although less reliably – on all of the island’s shorelines. On March 15 this included Clay Head (4), Grace’s
Cove/Charlestown Beach (4) and West Beach (1).
Having seals observed in only six locations means that a lot of area is covered without the fun of noting the target species – this can be disappointing for the observer. It is important to note that the observation of “no seals” at a given location during the survey is critical to getting an accurate count and is an essential contribution to the whole assessment. Fortunately for all of us who participated, March 15 was an absolutely lovely day to be going about the island, and there was so much more to be seen and found than just seals.
The bird watchers among us were delighted to see high numbers of common goldeneye and common loons with their checkered black and white breeding plumage in our waters. One young observer found lots of old, whole, bottles along the shores of the New Harbor. Other cool critters discovered along the way included: glass eels, sea urchins, uniquely shaped driftwood, sanderling foot prints, a snowy owl, and so much more.
Almost more important than the tally of seals was that everyone reported having a wonderful day being out-and-about around the island. As is often the case, the primary activity served only as a prompt/motivation to put one’s self in a position to have a greatly enhanced experience just by being outside. We got the job done, and we had a great time doing it.
A huge thank you to you all! Anna Mleczko, Bethany and Zora Petrik, Bob Greenlee, Carol Leslie, Cathy Joyce, Corrie Heinz, Debbie Martin, George Davis, Gillian Beebe with William and Ginger Newman, John Formica, Jules Craynock, Mackensie duPont Crowley (representing Save The Bay), Mena Hautau, Mimi Leveille, Nancy Greenaway, Nigel Grindley, Pam Austen, Roberta Closter, Roberta and Jim McCormick, Kim Bubko, and Susan Matheke.