Record-breaking number of grey seal pups born at Norfolk site

Newborn grey seal pup at Blakeney Point. Picture: National Trust - Ian Ward.

Newborn grey seal pup at Blakeney Point. Picture: National Trust - Ian Ward. - Credit: Archant

A record-breaking number of grey seal pups have been born at the National Trust's Blakeney Point and there's still another month left of the breeding season.

Weaned grey seal pup at Blakeney Point. Picture: National Trust - Ian Ward

Weaned grey seal pup at Blakeney Point. Picture: National Trust - Ian Ward - Credit: Archant

Just 25 pups were born at the grey seal rookery when it was established in 2001.

It passed the 1,000 mark in 2012 and then the 2,000 mark in 2014, and the colony could get close to 3,000 this year with 2,802 at last count.

National Trust rangers monitor the colony by counting and recording seal pups born at Blakeney Point throughout the winter.

Ranger Leighton Newman said: 'The count began on October 25, when the very first seal pup was spotted. Numbers being born were slow to start this year and for the first month it looked like we wouldn't reach last year's total, but suddenly more and more pups were being born, with 150 born a day at the colony's peak a couple of weeks ago. Currently around 50 seal pups are being born each day and we expect this to drop off over the next couple of weeks.'

Blakeney Point grey seal pup and cow. Picture: National Trust - Ian Ward

Blakeney Point grey seal pup and cow. Picture: National Trust - Ian Ward - Credit: Archant


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The rangers carry out regular counts of the seal pups and given the numbers involved, it's not an easy task.

One of the team walks a set route, counting the pups as they go. For the first three weeks a weekly count is done of all pups, then as the pups are weaned the method changes to count the pups that are less than three days old, which are easily distinguished by the yellow colour of their coat, every three days.

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The seals are spread out over a large area of the reserve, which continues to expand as the colony gets bigger, so it can take around five hours to complete each count.

The reserve is the perfect breeding site for grey seals, not least because of the absence of predators and the relative remoteness which keeps disturbance to a minimum. There's also plenty of space to support the large numbers of seals on the sandy beach and the sheltered sand dunes further inland provide additional protection from bad weather.

Grey seal colony at Blakeney Point. Picture: National Trust - Ian Ward

Grey seal colony at Blakeney Point. Picture: National Trust - Ian Ward - Credit: Archant

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