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AHH 24-Hr. News

Veterans Affairs Committee Brings Vet Center Services to Middletown
Friday, 11 July 2014
MIDDLETOWN, NJ - The Mobile Vet Center (MVC) of Lakewood, NJ offers weekly counseling and outreach services in Middletown Township. VFW Post 2179... Read More...
IMAGE 129 Recruits Graduate from 22nd Annual Sheriff Youth Week
Friday, 11 July 2014
NEPTUNE, NJ -  Sheriff Shaun Golden proudly handed certificates to the 129 recruits who graduated from the 22nd annual Sheriff Youth Week.... Read More...
IMAGE FilmOneFest: Not Just Movies
Thursday, 10 July 2014
photo: Freedom Pottery at FilmOneFest 2013 ATLANTIC HIGHLANDS, NJ - The flourishing arts scene in Atlantic Highlands is evident at FilmOneFest... Read More...
IMAGE Shore Paddle Scheduled for Sunday, July 13
Thursday, 10 July 2014
Paddleboard Race and Fun Paddle to Benefit Clean Ocean Action and Surfers’ Environmental Alliance WHAT:  A paddleboard event to benefit Clean... Read More...
IMAGE Free Historical Augmented Reality Tour of the Asbury Park Boardwalk
Thursday, 10 July 2014
ASBURY PARK, NJ - The Asbury Park Boardwalk has been experiencing an upswing recently. The restaurant, entertainment, and tourism industries have all... Read More...

Columns

IMAGE For the Children
by Woody Zimmerman
Thursday, 10 July 2014
When I was raising my own children, I could always be had by a bedtime plea of “Dad, I’m hungry…” A ritual bowl of cereal and some... Read More...
IMAGE Book Review: Love and Treasure
by Lindsey Stefan
Thursday, 10 July 2014
Jack Wiseman is an elderly man who has only one regret in life. He asks his granddaughter Natalie to take a necklace that he has been keeping for... Read More...
IMAGE A See-Through Fish Swims in Local Waters
by Joe Reynolds
Thursday, 10 July 2014
So far this summer, the seining has been pretty good around local waters in Raritan Bay and Sandy Hook Bay. Along with the usual suspects, such as... Read More...
IMAGE When Did I Become Danny Dorn
by Daniel Murphy
Monday, 07 July 2014
For those of you who have grown up in Red Bank and are over 20 you will remember Dorn’s Photo Shop.  Born in 1910 Danny Dorn Sr. became a... Read More...
IMAGE Review - Chef
by David Prown
Saturday, 05 July 2014
The movie "Chef" has been out for several weeks. All I knew was that it starred "Jon Favreau" who I clearly remember from the awesome guys comedy... Read More...

Upcoming Events

Sat Jul 12 @12:00PM - 02:00PM
Belford Independent Fire Co Open House
Tue Jul 15 @ 3:00PM - 04:30PM
Free Summer Mini-Camp
Tue Jul 15 @ 6:30PM - 08:00PM
Restoring Credit After Sandy Seminar
Wed Jul 16 @ 9:30AM - 10:50AM
Story Time
Wed Jul 16 @ 3:00PM - 04:30PM
Free Summer Mini-Camp

joe_reynoldsIt was Christmas Eve along Sandy Hook Bay, a piece of the much larger Lower New York Bay and located downstream from the hustle and bustle of lower Manhattan. The windswept shore was empty of people. Indeed, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse, or for that matter even a gull.

It was chilly, windy day. Gusts up to 25 mph brought a shuddering chill to my exposed face. Nonetheless, the weather was sunny, bright and beautiful. A textbook day to search the edge of a winter beach for marine mammals. 

The tide was ebbing. I was optimistic at spotting a few Harbor Seals. Usually, the first seals of the winter will show up around Christmas Eve in Sandy Hook Bay. They arrive  long distances from either Long Island Sound or Nantucket Sound following schools of fish.

Nothing at first. Scanning the shore, though, I noticed a small sandbar or sandbank. It  was starting to form in the middle of the bay (about 150 yards from where I was standing).

Sure enough, out on this insignificant little sandbar, a number of seals were starting to appear. Here was my first sight of the winter population of Sandy Hook Bay Harbor Seals. They will call this place home for the next three months or so. Some years, as many as 140 seals haul out on sandbars and beaches inside the bay.

sh_seals_1

As the tide continued to fall, more of the sandbar became exposed above the surface of the water and an influx of seals hauled themselves up onto the bare wet sand. By dead low tide, there were at least 30 Harbor Seals spotted.

From what I could see through my binoculars, the seals looked healthy, good sized, and their skin was shiny, like a seal you might see at an aquarium. Except these seals were wild and free - the best way to see any animal!

 sh_seals_2

Many of the older seals were lying in the center resting and digesting their latest meal, while younger, immature  seals located on the edge of the sandbar were more active. They would slip into the water for a minute or two before hauling out to take a break, then slide back into the water.

Sandy Hook Bay seems to be a favorite winter place for many seals to rest, relax, and enjoy. The site seems perfect for their needs. The bay is protected from large ocean waves, there are sandbars and remote beaches to rest during the daytime, and it sits adjacent to a deepwater sea channel that leads to traveling fish.

Throughout the winter in Lower New York Bay, the seals can forage for winter flounder, blackfish, eels and sliver hake. These fish can be found in the coldest months and are plentiful when many other species of fish are not.

All looked good on this Christmas Eve. I was enjoying the pleasure of seeing seals in the bay. Then  out of nowhere  a rude kayaker arrived. He approached to close to the sandbar and scared all the wary seals away. What a jerk. Bah humbug!

sh_seals_3

Kayakers need to be especially careful when paddling in the water with seals because the boats have the same profile as a shark and can stress an entire group of seals. Boaters and kayakers need to observe a safe minimum distance of fifty yards (or 150 feet) away from seals.

Beach walkers, especially a person walking a pet, need to take care NOT to make their presence known — either visually or audibly — when you come across an individual or a group of seals. Seals may flee into the water immediately when they hear or sight a human. This flight disrupts their habits and may endanger their health.

Please maintain a minimum distance of 150 feet from any marine mammal in the water or on the shore to prevent a disturbance. View them from a distance. It is illegal to harass, kill, or possess any marine mammal (dead or alive) in the US. Seals can also give a serious, bacteria-laden bite, despite those big, sad, "come hither" eyes.

If you think a seal is in distress, do not touch or approach it. Contact the police or a park ranger and give the seals exact location and a description of the animal. You may also contact directly the Marine MammalStranding Center in NJ at (609) 266-0538 or the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation in New York City at (631)369.9829

For more information, pictures and year-round sightings of wildlife in or near Sandy Hook Bay, please check out my blog entitled, Nature on the Edge of New York City at http://natureontheedgenyc.blogspot.com/