Thursday, 17 November 2016

Yesterday we went out to carry out a grey seal pup count on our beaches up at Lumsdaine. The vast majority of them are on Lumsdaine Shore, pictured, and in order to count them, we take a series of photos and then count them back in the office. Smaller beaches we count out on site. I have not quite finished the count for Lumsdaine Shore yet...but I've got to over 450 pups in about 2/3 of the beach! Numbers have been steadily increasing over the last decade which is good news - the number of top predators is a great indication of the health of the wider environment. Lots of top predators means that there must be plenty for them to feed on.

We are right in the middle of the pupping season which means that there are pups at the two ends of the size spectrum on the shore. In the second photo, the one just below and to the left of the centre of the photo is about 3 weeks old. You can tell the age because it is beginning to moult its white coat. You can also see that its very rotund, their mother's milk has a huge fat content so a pup triples its weight in the 3 weeks that it feeds on its mother's milk. After this 3 week period, the mother deserts the pup and goes off to mate. The pup gets no more parental care, and has to learn to fend for itself, hence it need the large reserves of body fat to survive through this learning period. That's why you get so many pups aparently abandoned on beaches at this time of year.

The pup below the portly individual is at the other end of the spectrum - only a few days old, with plenty of growing yet to do.

If you fancy a walk, why not head out to the cliffs above Lumsdaine Shore with a pair of binoculars...its an amazing sight to behold, and noisy too! But please don't attempt to go down to the beach - its pretty inaccessible, and you will disturb the seals. If you want a closer look, here's a link to some footage taken down there by Trust staff last season.


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