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.