On Monday 4 December I went to Donna Nook but this time it wasn’t for the hot summer sand. It was for a cold breeze and seals.
Many years ago, back when I was about 10, we used to go to Donna Nook in the summer. Perhaps 5 car loads of us, aunties, uncles, cousins etc. We had to take our own picnic because there wasn’t even a trailer selling tea. Just miles of flat clean sand and no body else in sight.
This trip was very different.
After spending most of the year out at sea, or on distant sand banks, the seals come up to the sand dunes during November and December to give birth to their pups. And as you can see you can get up close to them.
Many of the pups are close to the path and a lot have mums nearby. Many are asleep. The mums of many of them would be out at sea foraging for food before coming back to feed their young.
This young one is looking as though it could do with fattening up a bit.
It was calling out – presumably telling mum that it was hungry.
Mum was fast asleep. The little one struggled a bit but managed to get up the tiny slope, and then it too fell asleep.
This youngster seems to be enjoying a tickle under the chin. I guess this behaviour tends to keep the pups close and safe.
They are cute.
The milk that the mums produce must be good stuff because the pups can pile on the weight and soon look well padded.
This bull seal has run the gauntlet of other bull seals and shows a few injuries from the encounters. Quite soon after giving birth the females will mate again but can delay the implantation of the egg for several weeks.
The sand dunes and mud flats are also great places for other wildlife like this Redshank.
Also lots of Lapwing and Golden Plover. Plus Brent Geese, Shelduck, Gold Finch, Starling, Magpie and Crow. It wasn’t very pleasant but several dead pups were around and being pecked at by some of the larger birds.
One of the reasons for the fence along the path is to keep people and seals separate but another good reason is that it is a military firing range – not one of the best places to go wandering. It’s a good idea to pay attention to the signs and stick to the paths.
I assume these are targets on the range suggesting that they are usually firing or dropping blanks; at least when going for these targets.
If you are thinking of going to Donna Nook for the seals make sure you check the weather, the reserve website and if possible go during the week. The roads leading to the car park are single track and during wet weather the edges are very muddy so it is best to go when no one is likely to be leaving and leave when no one is arriving. The free car park was very close to being full on the Monday that I went.
As usual you can click on any of the images and view them on flickr – where you can find larger versions and a few other photos taken on the outing.