Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Donna Nook

Once a year between October and Christmas, a huge grey seal population comes ashore to breed on the sand dunes of Donna Nook Nature Reserve on the Lincolnshire coast. And once a year thousands of people (including me and the other half) make a pilgrimage to experience these beautiful wild animals much closer than you ever thought possible.

My apologies that some of these pictures were taken through a fence; it's actually two fences, which is one more than the last time I visited. Unfortunately, a lot of people don't appear to be able to read and/or are plain stupid and continue to poke their fingers through the fence to touch the pups. This results in Mum abandoning said pup due to strange scent so if you are ever near a seal...just DON'T! (I know YOU wouldn't anyway)
And remember....

Perhaps they should more often...

Anyway... Donna Nook is beautiful in a wild, bleak kinda way. As I said, it's a nature reserve managed by the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust who not only oversee the reserve generally, but do a great job of monitoring the seal population. You can see seals at close range just for a small voluntary donation! And talking of close range...

Incredibly, Donna Nook is also a RAF bombing range. Apparently, the seals are not in the least disturbed by the planes. For much of the year the seals are at sea or hauled out on distant sandbanks and Donna Nook provides a relatively disturbance-free site for hauling out, come pupping time.


Enough's some cute pictures. The pups are the white, fluffy ones.

This one's very young...

Seals as far as the eye can see....

Feeding time...can you spot the afterbirth in the middle of the picture?

"That's enough son, now leave me alone..."

I can't even begin to describe to you how bitterly cold it was that day and here they are just lying in the water! I knew they had all that blubber for a reason.

More feeding...

They don't do a lot, seals.

I always want to throw them a beach ball...

The little objects you can just see poking out of the sand on the horizon are all to do with the bombing...targets, I think. We nearly bought a house at Donna Nook, perched right on the top of the sand dunes, looking out to sea. We didn't though as we had a Border Collie at the time (Meg, see sidebar) who was terrified of loud noises, amongst other things, and we knew she'd be a nervous wreck every time a plane came over. I'm glad we didn't buy it anyway as the lanes get badly congested with traffic whilst the seals are visiting.

This was the running total as of 24th November....the day we visited. Well on course to beat last years pupping.

Pups are conceived in the shallows, or on the beach, in November. After one weeks development, the foetus stops growing for about 100 days, after which it continues to develop and is born the following November.
Pups are born with white coats and suckle from their mothers for about two to three weeks. After that, the mother leaves the pup and goes off to the shallows to mate again for next years pup. The deserted pup then sheds it's white coat. After a while, hunger drives it to make it's way to the sea to look for food.
I'm no expert on grey seals but fortunately the LWT are so thanks to them for the seal info...their website is a mine of information about all the great work they do across the county.

These pups are less than three weeks old.

Interestingly, there never seems to be many bulls (males) around...

You can hear the seals and their pups calling to each other and the sound is almost a child wailing in pain...very eerie.

What an enigmatic 'smile'...I wonder what she's thinking?

We'll be going back next year to see these pups having their pups! I'll show you some of our local beaches again when the weather is a bit warmer...they're some of the best in the country.