Thursday, December 21, 2006

Donna Nook Seal Rookery

Anyone who watched what I thought was a great little TV series - 'Nature's Calendar' - will have seen the grey seal breeding site at Donna Nook on the North east Lincs coast. It looked too good to be true, but being in the area (well nearly) kay and I decided to have a look. It wasn't the best of days weather-wise, but the site was amazing. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.

One of the first pups we saw was this one - obviously fairly new to the world, but, slightly worryingly, by itself.

Older pups had assumed what could only be described as football shapes, and were more than happy to watch passing visitors. (I should point out that the Adidas bag is not what Kay has to use as a handbag, but is what I carry my camera kit in!). They are only suckled for 2-3 weeks, then abandoned to get on with it - eventually hunger will drive them down to the sea. Their growth rate is phenomenal - a newborn doubles it's weight in the first week, and loses the white coat a couple of weeks later

The adult males were more sparse on the ground, but quite intimidating, reaching 230kg in weight, 2 metres in length.

Perhaps not the clearest picture but this is seal pornography with next years pup being conceived. Try not to stare! Often takes place in shallow water, but also does occur on the beach.

Sadly, but inevitably, not all the pups made it, and we saw this one being eyed up by a Lincolnshire pied vulture.

It got us a bit worried again about the little newborn, but fortunately by the time we got back to it a mother had appeared and it had resumed it's quest to become a football.

When we were at Donna Nook the 1,000th pup of the year had been born, giving an idea of the numbers involved at this fabulous site owned by the MOD (they stop bombing practice in the breeding season), and run by The Lincolnshire Trust. If you get the chance to go in Novemeber or December take it - you will not be disappointed.

PS It is not all rosy for Britain's 110,000 grey seals. BBC Wildlife magazine (December) reports that about 5,000 are thought to be culled by fishermen each year. Legal restrictions still allow seals in the vicinity of fishing gear to be shot. There is no requirement for evidence of damage, and vicinity is not defined. Five grey seals, 4 pregnant females were recently shot dead at Point of Vastray in Orkney.

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