November is a fascinating time to visit the seals on Blakeney Point. Our trip yesterday was well timed – the fog lifted as we left the quay on the incoming tide and revealed a beautiful day; a very light breeze and gentle winter sunshine, the only mark in the sky, the occasional contrails from high flying jets.
Mike had seen some young Gannets the day before and they were there again, around 20 birds fishing in the harbour. They are largest seabirds that we get in the UK, the fully mature adults having a wingspan of around 2m. As with the terns that we see in the summer, they are also adapted for diving for fish with an air sac; unlike the terns theirs is in their face and chest. The Gannets we saw yesterday were first year birds, being completely black. it will take them another 4 years before they achieve the white plumage of the adult.
Almost all of the Common Seals have moved off the beaches, while the Grey seals are beached all the way from the Lifeboat House, round the point , along the whole of Lower Harbour and around onto the North beach. I have never seen so many Greys as there are at the moment with around 100 pups lying with their mothers in their white birth fur. We saw several new borns who weigh in around 14kg; they will suckle for around 3 weeks and slowly loose their white coat. Afterwards they then are able to swim. Their mother’s milk is about 60% fat so they quickly gain weight – around 1.5kg a day and this is mainly laid as blubber which protects them from the cold of the water when they go in.
There are also a lot of huge male Greys around the colony as breeding season starts as the pups are born. We watched a fight between a couple of males; no blood from that confrontation, but we did see neck wounds on other males.
With the weather as mild as it is, and the light winds, now is a fantastic time for both seal and nature watching from the boat. On our return from the seals we were again treated to a diving and fishing display from the Gannets and also saw Pink foot, Greylag and Brent Geese, a little Grebe, Shelducks, Mallards and right on the point itself a small group of Turnstones feeding at the water’s edge.
Again there were a number of large Grey males inside the harbour floating around the edge of the beach. A couple of weeks ago we had a 1st year Common seal (he’d be about 6 months old) come right up the channel while we were waiting to board the boats. With typical curiosity he popped up his head around all the seal boats, before returning back down the channel to the harbour.
We’ve seen some amazing sights on our seal trips in Blakeney Point, but the sight of all those Greys with their young takes some beating.