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Harbor seals spotted during Jones Beach walk

Joy Fastuca, of East Meadow, and her daughters

Joy Fastuca, of East Meadow, and her daughters Meaghan, 27, and Cara, 30, look for seals Sunday, Feb. 23, 2014, as they walk along the beach at Jones Beach State Park in Wantagh. Credit: Tara Conry

Siblings Jillian, 11, and Joseph Parrino, 7, of Albertson, started their school winter break on a ski slope in Massachusetts and ended it Sunday at Jones Beach State Park, wearing rubber boots and wading into the water to peer out over East Bay for a look at seals bobbing on the surface.

"We found four seals,” said Jillian, whose family was among more than 30 people to participate in a seal walk program hosted by the Theodore Roosevelt Nature Center at Jones Beach.

Participants met at the center for a quick tutorial about the four types of seals known to visit Long Island during the winter months -- harbor, harp, gray and hooded -- and then made the short drive to the seal watching spot inside Field 10.

It was a second visit for Joy Fastuca and her daughters, Meagan, 27, and Cara, 30, of East Meadow. The women, armed with binoculars, had visited the spot last winter, but hadn't seen a single seal.

That was not the case on Sunday, though. Before the group had even left the parking lot, their guide spotted a harbor seal several feet from the nearby fishing pier.

“I love nature and animals, and I thought it would be really cool to see them in the wild instead of in an aquarium,” said Meagan Fastuca, who is working on a master’s degree in biology.

As they walked the beach, they saw at least three more bobbing in the bay as boats and paddleboarders passed by.

It was a familiar sight for Dennis Rodriguez, 43, of Westbury, who said he often sees the seals while boating in the area. Some have come as close  to his boat as 20 feet, he said.

Rodriguez and his wife, Cindy, 42, took the walk Sunday with their son, Ethan, 3.

“We just wanted to introduce him to nature out in the open,” Cindy Rodriguez said. “I don’t want him to see things in captivity.”

The seal walks are offered from Jan. 1 to late March, when the seals tend to migrate back to the Arctic, according to a naturalist with the center.

For local photographers like Richard Walsh, 66, of Baldwin Harbor, the program gives them an opportunity to capture pictures in their own backyard.

Although just a hobby, Walsh said his passion for photography has brought him to 93 different countries. He’s photographed seals in Montauk, Antarctica and now, in Wantagh, just a few miles from his home.

“I love wildlife,” he said. “It fascinates me.”

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