Last year we went to see grey seals pupping on the beach at Donna Nook in Lincolnshire. It was so wonderful we went again on Saturday. The tedium of the four hour drive to get there melts away as soon as you see the face of a seal pup.
On Saturday, most of the seals had left the beach but there were a few cows lingering and enough pups around to make the trip well worthwhile, some very close to the protective barrier fence. Iâ€™d go all that way just to see one, but then I am sucker for a marine mammal.
The cows start pupping in late October on the beach and among the dunes and continue until late December. Three weeks after the pups are born, the cows abandon them and return to the sea to feed. In that short time, so rich is motherâ€™s milk, the pups will have fattened up enough begin their lives in the North Sea. The pups are born with creamy white fur, perhaps an evolutionary adaptation to a time when they were born on ice floes:
They moult this white fur before taking to the sea:
Once they have moulted, they end up as fat babies in their lovely mottled grey fur:
In 2006, 1000 were born here and in 2007, 1100. This year, as of Saturday, 1317 pups had been born on this beach; the best year ever since records began in the early 90s. This is good news as the grey seal is an endangered species and the UK is home to half of the worldâ€™s population of them. Not all 1317 will live. 10% die on the beach in their first week. Another 40% donâ€™t make it through their first year. But in a normal year scientists reckon 50% will live, and judging by the statistics, a healthy adult breeding population is now established.
You can get very close to the pups and admire their soft noses and most magnificent whiskers.