Saturday, 16 January 2016

16th of January: Seal season summary and storm news

The Grey Seal pupping season on Blakeney Point is about to reach its end. The last pup of the winter was born on New Year's Day and is now almost weaned. This takes our 2015/16 total to 2,343 pups, of which just two were taken to the RSPCA rescue centre at East Winch. In addition to the 2,343, around 45 dead pups were observed in the colony, putting mortality at less than 3%.

This winter was the first time since the colony formed, around 15 years ago, that the number of pups born did not increase.

Our counts show that 73 less pups were born this year than in 2014/15, a small (and insignificant) decrease of 3%. However, looking at the graph plotting pup counts back to 2000 (shown above) we can see that this year's count is on the curve with last year's result being a possible anomaly. What will happen and what numbers we will see during the the 2016/17 breeding season remains to be seen and we look forward to finding out.

What we do know is that, although the core area of the beach remains the prime pupping area, seals pupped further east and a bit further south this winter. This suggests that there are a number of future spreading options.

This winter, we had the first pup born on Yankee Ridge...

the first pups born on the Long Hills...

and the first pup born in New Glaux Low (in the main dunes)

We would like to thank visitors for their cooperation and respect for the seals. Next week, we will be taking the fences down, giving wider access to the beach and dunes (until the first of April when fencing is put up to protect vulnerable ground-nesting birds).

On Thursday night (14th of January), gale-force north-westerly winds caused an 80cm surge. This caused seawater to come over these shingle ridge at Salthouse, causing flooding on both the Salthouse and Cley Beach Roads.
Gramborough Hill viewed from Salthouse

There was no damage to any buildings, but the profile of Blakeney Point changed. Far Point was hit quite hard, causing erosion to the dunes and shingle over-topping on the tip. Any visitors who frequent the seal ferry trips, will notice a definite change to the end of the Point next time they go out. But this is what Blakeney Point does: changes with the tides and the weather, which is what makes the place so exciting. It is always changing.
 Erosion to the seaward edge of Far Point

End of the Point from above (Ian Ward)

We were pleased to note that our resident group of partridges (17 Grey and 1 Red-legged) were not negatively affected by the storm. They were happily feeding on the shingle the following day.

- Ajay (Coastal Ranger)

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