For a birthday treat to myself I decided to go and see some more December babies at the grey seal colony at Ravenscar on the East Yorkshire coast.
Grey seals are the largest breeding seals in the UK and around half of the worlds population are found around our coasts and have been doing well in recent years with numbers doubling since the 60’s. They come ashore to give birth at sites around the UK late in the year and at Ravenscar there is a “rookery” of around 300 seals. I’ve been to Donna Nook where they number in thousands at this time of year but seeing them amongst the rocks close to the sea is a different experience. The descent down the cliff is quite hard work but well worth it when you almost have to step over and round seals dozing amongst the rocks.
I made my way down to the sea being very careful as I scrambled over the rocks to ensure I wasn’t disturbing the seals as they were often difficult to spot. I’d obviously missed the main birthing time as most of the pups had been fed up by the females and had piled on the pounds. The females feed the pups on their fat rich milk for a couple of weeks and then they’re on their own!
A lot of the pups were almost ready to head out to sea as their layer of birth fur was clearly shedding probably being rubbed off as they lay on the rocks or being scratched off by the pups strong claws. The white birth fur is called lunugo and moults between 9 and 18 days.
I was beginning to think I wasn’t going to see any really young pups till I came across this one who wasn’t very old at all as the umbilical cord was still clearly visible. The pup was sleeping so I sat and watched for a while as it dozed, snored and dreamt.
When born these pups weigh about 15 kilograms and gain another 2 every day while feeding. It’s like having Christmas lunch every day!
As I was about to leave (it was freezing) another young pup emerged from a crack between some rocks and made its way to its mum for a feed.
What a great way to spend a birthday, well worth the freezing cold and the climb back up the cliff!!