A Blakeney seal diary - part 2

Wednesday 16 January 2013, 15:17

Paul Deane Paul Deane Web Producer

Can I introduce Richard Taylor-Jones, with the second part of his diary Blakeney Point grey seal colony.


There seems to be a moment in every Grey Seal rookery when breeding behaviour hits a peak, and on our visit to Blakeney Point, we certainly hit it.

Pups were being born left right and centre, even though the beach was already littered with hundreds of them. The females who had given birth early were coming into season, which meant loads of bull seals were turning up hoping to mate. With so many males around threats and posturing were commonplace, and fights were guaranteed everyday.  It was a loud, hustling, bustling and smelly place to be!

Without doubt things got the most raucous at high tide. All the seals were pushed up into the smallest area of the beach possible and this brought males into contact with each other on a regular basis. I hoped to catch a serious fight on camera but often they happened a good couple of hundred yards down the beach and to be honest most were pretty quick. As you’ll see in the film, fights are clearly a damaging experience, blood is always spilt, so the quicker its over the better, and most bulls seemed to be able to work out who was top dog pretty sharpish. A prolonged fight is in no one interest. That’s not to say long fights don’t happen, when two very evenly matched animals clash it’s an almighty and epic encounter, which you’ll see in film 3.

There is a downside for the pups in all of this, as well as for the bulls that lose. With males throwing their weight about pups can get squashed in the cross-fire, attacked out of frustration or even accidentally separated from their mothers. We saw several lost pups during our filming and they might well have been the ‘collateral damage’ of one of these battles.  At these moments your instinct is to intervene, especially because these cute looking characters are crying out and desperate for help.  I personally found one pup’s predicament incredibly upsetting.  And yet as a wildlife filmmaker you know that you can’t get involved.

The policy of The National Trust is that any seals that are on their own out in the rookery are to be left to their natural devices. Only pups that are washed away and end up out of the reserve are to be rescued and taken to the local RSPCA centre. It’s a difficult line to draw, when to help and when not to. But it does seem right that part of the deal when being allowed into the seals world, is that you relay the wonder of these animals lives, not interfere with them.


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    Comment number 1.

    The public is always encouraged to help animals and wildlife through the variety of animal agencies asking for support. We are asked to sponsor or seek help for injured, distressed and dying animals, so how can your researchers justify leaving a distressed and dying seal pup or birds of prey that you film to suffer and die, when you have the means to provide those creatures with skilled help for their survival. I know that many animals suffer and die and we are aware of the situation, but surely as you are actually there filming the poor creature you should take action to save that particular animal. It seems very hypocritical to me to plead 'not interfering with nature' when that is actually what the animal agencies are doing and are asking us to do too. I felt very angry and distressed watching your programme last night.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    Oh dear, still can't do it can you

    Producers; Presenters (apart from Euan that is).

    Here is your challenge for this evenings programme.
    Try saying the following
    1. Van GOGH with the emphasis on the german ich sound, ( see your own website for guidance http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/magazinemonitor/2010/01/how_to_say_van_gogh.shtml
    2. Bach as in the composer with emphasis on 'ch' sound again
    3. or like the j in Rioja, the Spanish wine.

    Now try saying LOCH properly please !

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    Grey seal populations have now increased to over 200,000 in UK waters and have been increasing at 4 per cent every year. This has a profound impact on other species that are rare and of high value to the UK economy such as Atlantic salmon as well as possibly exerting a downward effect on the numbers of the scarcer Harbour seal. People seem to react to your footage of cuddly seal pups emotionally without considering the wider negative environmental impacts of excessive seal populations.


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