Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Nov 17th Horsey Gap

Grey Seal and Pup
All along the Norfolk coastline, grey seals are giving birth. The biggest seal colony is at Blakeney Point with well over 2,000 seals last year. But to get there you need walk miles. However, there is a smaller colony at Horsey Gap which is much more accessible with two viewpoints along the beach giving you great views of the few hundred seals that come here every winter. According to the latest report, there were 41 pups recorded on Thursday last week, but of course more have been born since then.

A Grey Seal pup having a snooze
I went down to Horsey this morning with Mum to see the colony from the two viewpoints. From what we can see, there were more seals in the sea than there were on the land. Most of the pups were spaced along the stretch of beach between these viewpoints and were just visible. There were a few that were a lot closer to us though, giving us a chance to go "awww!" The majority of them appear to be only a few days old, some were even younger with the umbilical cords still on them. One may have been born last night as its fur was red from the after birth. At this stage of their lives, they have white fur and cannot swim. They spend most of their time suckling 2 litres of milk a day from their mothers and lounging around helplessly on the beach. I did spot some pups that were born a few weeks ago and are now looking plump and fluffy with grey fur developing. So cute!

A slightly older pup (so cute!)
Horsey Gap's seal colony so far
The pupping season is still in its early stages at the moment here in Norfolk. It is an unusual event which starts in August in Cornwall and gradually by October, seals across Western England, Wales and Scotland start to give birth. By the time it turns November, the pups across most of the UK are starting to leave for the sea. Along the East Coast, however, the pupping season has just begun. The females have started to gather onto the beach with hundreds more out at sea, bobbing their heads from out of the waves.

View of the colony from Viewpoint 2
How many pups can you spot?
Two bulls fighting
Waiting for them are the bulls. They are huge with hooked snouts. They are here to claim territory on the beach and to mate with as many females that is within it. Not long after a pup is born, the bull will mate with the pup's mother. He also has rivals who will challenge him for them and fights start to break out amongst the colony, both on land and in the sea. These fights can get really bloody. I noticed one male with a nasty bite wound on its neck. It looks nasty, but its a mere flesh wound to this huge male, not enough to trouble him.

A Common (or Harbour) Seal is dwarfed by a wounded Grey Seal bull
As well as grey seals, there were a few common or harbour seals joining them on the beach. They are much smaller with a teddy bear-like snout. They don't give birth until the summer, so the ones here are just relaxing on the beach, keeping the grey seals company. Here are some more seal photos for you to enjoy.
Common Seal
The sound of a large flock of pink-footed geese caught my attention as they came to land onto the field behind us. They out number the seals on the beach directly in front of the second viewpoint, flying around cautiously after the sound of distant gunfire had brought them up into the air at once.

Pink-footed Geese
From the seals at the second viewpoint, we made our way back down the path towards the car park. Along the way, I saw something big flying over the path in the distance. At first I thought it was a marsh harrier. But then I noticed that the wings were rounded and the head was rarther owl-like. Then it started flying over the wild landscape amongst the gloom and did a little hover before plunging down into the tall grass. It came up again, floating to my left, diving down again and again as it continued left. I soon figured out what it was. This was a short-eared owl! This winter visitor to our shores was busy hunting for rodents. It was just too distant and wasn't in my camera's sights for long. I only managed one rubbish shot of it and wasn't worth showing, so I decided to draw it for you instead. A great bonus to our visit!

No comments:

Post a Comment