The holiday season can get quite hectic. There’s all the gatherings with friends, families and business associates, decorating, cooking, wrapping gifts and, of course, lots of trips to the stores for shopping.Consider taking a break from your holiday schedule and get outdoors. This is a great time of the year to take a walk on the beach, or a hike along one of our many nature trails. Temperatures at this time of the year are usually low enough to keep our cold-blooded insects and ticks out of harm’s way. And you might find that an outdoor break can keep you in the holiday spirit.
Our bays, harbors and ocean waters are teeming with birds right now. Thousands of scoters and eiders, and hundreds of loons and mergansers, swim and dive within range of shore. A pair of binoculars will bring dozens of other waterbirds into view, including grebes, brant, buffleheads, goldeneyes and longtails. And as mentioned in earlier columns, this is looking to be a big year for snowy owls.
Seals are also abundant now, and a number of organizations host hikes specifically to view them. One of the best sites to view seals is the Montauk Point State Park seal haulout area located on the north side approximately one mile west of the point. Another is at Cupsogue County Park where the seals bask on exposed shoals in Moriches Bay at low tide.
Seal programs are scheduled near low tide times to best view the marine mammals when they are out of the water basking. Strong winds and waves often prevent the seals from basking. Bring binoculars and dress warm. Here is a list of upcoming hikes to view seals:
Saturday, December 28, at 9 a.m. and Sunday, December 29, at 9:30 a.m., Cupsogue County Park: Led by biologist Artie Kopelman of CRESLI (Coastal Research and Education Society of Long Island). Kopelman is the most knowledgeable person leading seal walks on the east end. Registration required. To register, visit http://www.cresli.org/cresli/seals/sealwalk.html
Saturday, December 28, at 10 a.m., Montauk: A 2.5 mile r/t hike along the beautiful Seal Haulout Trail. Led by Eva Moore (631-238-5134) of the East Hampton Trails Preservation Society. Meet at Camp Hero Road. No reservation required.
Saturday, December 28, at 11 a.m. and Sunday, December 29, at 11 a.m., Montauk: Two miles r/t. Led by a NYS Parks naturalist (631-668-5000). $4/person fee. Meet at the Montauk Point concession area. No reservation required.
Sunday, December 29, at 10:30 a.m., Montauk: Led by Lindsey Rohrbach of the South Fork Natural History Museum. Reservations required. Call 631-537-9735.
Saturday, December 21, at 10 a.m., Bridgehampton: A short hike up Whiskey Hill for a great view over the outwash plain to the Atlantic. Led by Jean Dodds (631-599-2391) of Friends of the Long Pond Greenbelt. Meet on Mill Path off Lopers Path. No reservations.
Saturday, December 21, at 10 a.m., Montauk: Shadmoor Park’s ocean bluffs and beach. Led by Carol Andrews (631-725-3367) of East Hampton Trails Preservation Society. Meet at Shadmoor State Park parking lot off Rte. 27. No reservations.
Sunday, December 22, at 10 a.m., Bridgehampton: A three-mile hike in the Long Pond Greenbelt led by Bob Wolfram (631-848-2255) of Southampton Trails Preservation Society. Meet at the end of Round Pond Lane off Sagg Road. No reservations.
Saturday, December 28, at 11:30 a.m., East Hampton: Winter family beach walk led by Crystal Possehl of South Fork Natural History Society. Reservations required. Call 631-537-9735.
Saturday, December 28, at 10 a.m., Hampton Bays: Hike to Penny Pond in Red Creek Park led by Jim Crawford (631-369-2341) of Southampton Trails Preservation Society. Meet at the parking lot on Old Riverhead Road. No reservations.
Sunday, December 29, at 10 a.m., Bridgehampton: Vineyard Fields to Poxabogue Pond hike led by Dai Dayton (631-745-0689) of Friends of the Long Pond Greenbelt. Meet at the South Fork Natural History Museum. No reservations.