Sunday 31 December 2017

31st of December: Tailing off

Seal pup births are tailing off. As we reach the end of the year, the birth rate has fallen to less than one a day.

There have been a total of 2,697 Grey Seal pups born between 18th October and 31st December 2017. There may be a very small number of pups born in January 2018, but this unlikely to be many more than just a couple.

Pup, cow and bull in Great Sandy low (Ajay Tegala)

The National Trust would like to wish all readers of the blog a very happy new year.

UPDATE: 5th of January pup count takes total up by 2 to 2,699

Thursday 28 December 2017

28th of December: Seal update

Today’s pup count recorded 19 pups born in the week since the last count. This is an average birth rate of 2.7 per day (down from 5 per day) and takes the total Grey Seal pups born this season to 2,695.

- Ajay Tegala, Ranger

Thursday 21 December 2017

21st of December: Five a day

We have just completed the last pup count before Christmas; recording 15 births since the previous count 3 days ago.

This is a birth rate of 5 a day (down from 7.5 in three days) and takes the total births to 2,676 so far this season.

 Almost moulted pups (Carl Brooker)

Monday 18 December 2017

18th of December: Seven a day

We have just completed a pup count, taking us to 2,661 pups (30 born in the last 4 days – a birth rate of 7.5/day).

The below graph shows how birth rate is slowing down. But we are still expecting a few more births over the next two weeks.

- Ajay Tegala, Ranger

Thursday 14 December 2017

14th of December: Pup count continues to rise

Today's Blakeney Point Grey Seal pup count recorded 33 new births since Monday's count: a birth rate of 11 per day (down from 20 per day three days ago). This brings the running total to 2,631 pups so far this season.

Photograph by Carl Brooker

Photograph by Ian Ward

Monday 11 December 2017

11th of December: Just under 2,600

Today's Grey Seal count on Blakeney Point recorded 339 Bulls and 1,374 Cows. A total of 40 pups have been born since Saturday's count, which takes the running total to 2,598. This is exactly 100 above Wednesday's count.

Photograph by Ian Ward

Saturday 9 December 2017

9th of December: Twenty a day

Today's Grey Seal pup count revealed an average of 20 births a day since Wednesday's count (a 41% decrease in birth rate). These 60 new-born pups take the running total to 2,558 births so far this season.

There is now a pup and cow on the beach opposite the Hood; although bulls and weaned pups have made it this far down in previous seasons, this is the furthest east along Blakeney Point a pup has been born.

Bull, cow and pup (Sue Richardson)

Young pup (Ian Ward)

Although the season is not yet over, the below graph shows how this season compares to previous years using the figure so far...
(click to enlarge)

- Ajay Tegala, Ranger

Wednesday 6 December 2017

6th of December: Record pup year on the Point

2017 has been another record-breaking year for Grey Seal pupping on Blakeney Point.

Today's Grey Seal pup count on Blakeney Point recorded 103 pups born in the last three days. This takes the running total pup births to 2,498 so far this season. This is 36 more than the previous record season (2014/15) and there are still more pups to come over the next couple of weeks.

Cow and pup (Ian Ward)

Weaned seal pup sheltering in the dunes (Carl Brooker)

The Grey Seal colony grew every year from 2001/02 to 2014/15. Now, following two years of relative stability in pup numbers, they are experiencing another record-breaking year. Follow the blog to see just how many more pups are born over the remaining four weeks of the season.

- Ajay (Ranger)

Sunday 3 December 2017

3rd of December: Number crunching

Today's Grey Seal count on Blakeney Point takes the total pups born, so far this season, to 2,395 (116 births in the last three days). This is just eight less than last year's total already.

This figure is 58 less than the record season total: 2,453 three years ago in winter 2014/15:

Year Total pups born
1999-00 5
2000-01 ?
2001-02 25
2002-03 50
2003-04 80
2004-05 100
2005-06 175
2006-07 213
2007-08 297
2008-09 433
2009-10 603
2010-11 789
2011-12 973
2012-13 1248
2013-14 1614
2014-15 2453
2015-16 2372
2016-17 2403

It looks like the 2017/18 season could be set to be a record-breaker, although birth rate continues to slow: dropping to an average of 38 per day over the last three days, from 52 per day during the three days before (a 27% decrease).

The number of cows on the Point has also decreased - from 1,849, 12 days ago, to 1,601 (a 13% decrease) - as cows that pupped early in the season have weaned their pups and left the colony. The number of bulls, in contrast, has increased from 706 to 844 in the same period.

Today's pup count was as follows:

                     Bulls   Cows   Pups*

     Zone 1      248      394      804
     Zone 2      139      508      640
     Zone 3      301      408      541
     Zone 4        80      267      360
     Zone 5          1          1          1
     Zone 6          2          3        10
     Zone 7        68        15        14
     Zone 8          5          5        15

     Total         844    1601    2395

*Total births this season - not total pups present today, as pups born early in the season have left the colony: heading into the North Sea to fish for themselves.

During today's count, we also recorded the number of weaned pups, which totalled 769. Interestingly, this is very similar to the pup count four weeks ago. This figure is 800 less than the pup count three weeks ago. As pups are weaned at about three weeks, this suggests that about 750+ pups have already left Blakeney Point; leaving approximately 1,650 pups currently on site alongside the 2,445 adults counted today: that's a total of around 4,100 seals on the beach (very close to the total seals present 12 days ago, which suggests that combined adult arrival and birth rate has been almost identical to cow and pup departure rate).

Moulting pup (Ajay Tegala)

Moulted pup (Ajay Tegala)

Pup, cow and bull (H. Mitchell)

A bit of drama to finish with:
Seal fight on the beach (H. Mitchell)

- Ajay, Ranger

Thursday 30 November 2017

30th of November: Fifty a day

The rate of Grey Seal pup births on Blakeney Point is slowing down, but has still been just over fifty a day with 161 births since the last count three days ago.

Photograph by Carl Brooker

This take us to a total of 2,279 pups born so far this autumn and there is still another month left of the pupping season.

Monday 27 November 2017

27th of November: Over 2,000 pup births

Today's pup count on Blakeney Point takes the running total to 2,118 pup births so far this season.

Photography by Ian Ward

Tuesday 21 November 2017

21st of November: Pup numbers double in one week

Seven days after our last Grey Seal count, pup numbers have more than doubled: with 816 born in the last week, there have now been 1,546 pup births. Today's count also recorded 706 bulls and 1,849 cows. That's a total of over 4,000 seals currently on Blakeney Point...

                     Bulls   Cows   Pups

     Zone 1      272      575      653
     Zone 2      149      559      361
     Zone 3      205      484      339
     Zone 4        57      226      192
     Zone 7        22          5          0
     Zone 8          1          0          0
     Total         706    1849    1546

The data shows that seals are spreading further east, having crept into zones 7 and 8 since last week's count. See map below.
Zone 1: Beach west of Gap [no access 25th Oct - 25th Jan]
Zone 2: Far/Middle/Near Point and Stanley's Cockle Bight [no access 25th Oct - 25th Jan]
Zone 3: Beach between Gap and Long Hills [no access 25th Oct - 25th Jan]
Zone 4: Yellow dunes, Great Sandy Low and Beach Way [no access 25th Oct - 25th Jan]
Zone 5: Grey dunes and Landing Ridge
Zone 6: Long Hills and Yankee Ridge
Zone 7: Beach east of Long Hills
Zone 8: Ridge east of Long Hills including the Hood

Bull following a fight (Carl Brooker)

Pup about to suckle from its mother (Carl Brooker)

Snoozing pup (Carl Brooker)

The very early pups, born in October, have now moulted and will soon be starting to disperse. Pups are fed on their mothers rich milk for up to three weeks before being left entirely to their own devices. Most weaned pups tend to laze around on the Point for a couple of weeks, before their instincts lead them to the sea to begin fishing for themselves.

- Ajay, Ranger

Tuesday 14 November 2017

14th of November: 700 pups and a Heinkel

Today's seal count recorded 722 Grey Seal pups, particularly high for mid-November. Over the last week, the beach has got a lot busier, with 1093 adult Grey Seals (plus 7 Common Seals) alongside the pups.

  Bulls   Cows   Pups
Zone 1
151 296 376
Zone 2
89 200 176
Zone 3
147 167 147
Zone 4
16 28 23
403 691 722

Dreaming of fish! (Ajay Tegala) 

Newborn pup (Ajay Tegala) 

Snoozing pup (Ajay Tegala) 

Young pup (Ajay Tegala)

Over the last couple of days, a number of pups have been born in the flat area near our mobile hide, allowing walkers decent views...

The best way to see the pups, however, is definitely on a boat trip that go to the end of the Point where there are now several obliging pups. 

As a consequence of tidal erosion to the foreshore, what look like the remains of an old military aircraft have been unearthed from under the shingle...
We strongly suspect that it is part of the Heinkel-111 German bomber that crash-landed near the Point in 1940.

Erosion to the beach near the Long Hills...

- Ajay (Ranger)