HorseshoeCrabsOur favorite “living fossil” (and fellow Jersey Shore oldtimer), the horseshoe crab is the center of attention during a free Wednesday evening event…just one of many activities sponsored by the Littoral Society on the Hook in the days and weeks to come. (Photos by Michael Doyle) 

The native flora, fauna, fish and (living) fossils of Sandy Hook are the stars of a low-key (and seasonally spectacular) show on the beaches, bayside, marshes and maritime forests of the peninsula — all part of a slate of public-welcome educational and recreational activities, brought to you by the Hook-based regional chapter of the American Littoral Society.

Making up for time lost in the Sandy-scarred season of 2013 — and enjoying some relatively peaceful opportunities ahead of the summer-season influx — the busy interlude begins this morning with the first in a three-week Coastal Naturalist subscription series (and continues on Wednesday evening with a great free-of-charge walkaround) that allows educators and amateur enthusiasts alike a close-up look at the diverse natural treasures of the Gateway National Recreational Area.

Classes meet 8:30 am on three consecutive Tuesdays (May 13, 17, 20) inside the Littoral Society’s headquarters on the northern, Fort Hancock end of the peninsula (18 Hartshorne Drive). From there, participants will explore the various features of Sandy Hook, learning to recognize the plants and animals of the local habitat — with special emphasis on coastal botany, birding for beginners (binoculars provided), and estuarine fish and invertebrate identification. There’s still time to reserve a place in the three-part program ($99), by calling (732)291-0055 — and there’s still time, also, to “get up close and personal with a living fossil,” right around the corner.

In his excellent Science Teacher blog, Middletown native Michael Doyle writes with plainspeak poetry of the horseshoe crab — its “crazy with life” spawning season; the smell of a beached and dying crustacean, the cash value of its copper-laced blue blood, and the “mad, exuberant spinning” of embryos in tiny translucent eggs.

On Wednesday evening, May 14, the Littoral Society invites budding naturalists of all ages to join in a free Horseshoe Crab Walk that’s designed to acquaint our species with a neighbor who’s survived virtually unchanged for some 400 million years. Meet 6 pm at the ALS building, then proceed to nearby Plum Island to search for spawning crabs in the magic-light twilight hours. Call (732)291-0055 to reserve and get directions — and remember to “wear foot gear that can wet.”