Can I introduce Richard Taylor-Jones, with the third part of his Blakeney Point grey seal diary.
Every now and then something happens when you are out filming that’s really special. That’s why, as wildlife filmmakers, we are prepared to sit around and wait for hours in the cold, the hot, the wet, the windy etc. etc…. because we know those great moments can happen. During my two weeks living at Blakeney Point National Trust Reserve that special event happened when a large male turned up on the outskirts of the dune system that was home to our featured young pup, named Millennium.
This intruder turned out to create quite a story for us, showing that not all males just charge in with great bluster to steal other males females. Some can be very sneaky about it – which is what gave this character his name – Mr Sneaky. In the end, Mr. Sneaky couldn’t avoid a confrontation, which is as brutal and intense a fight as you will see in the natural world, anywhere on the planet. But perhaps what will stick with me more than the fight are the lengths he went to in trying to avoid such a battle.
It seemed strange to me that Mr Sneaky was so reluctant to fight because he was a really big bull but maybe, when it comes to Grey Seals, it’s not all about size. Perhaps he was old, perhaps he was young and inexperienced, or perhaps he was “scared,” if seals can be so. Whatever the case, he didn’t want to fight; yet he clearly wanted to mate.
I found myself wanting him to succeed; he was certainly putting in the effort. How strange to side with an animal, how odd to be routing for another species, when the outcome would not affect my life in any way.
Indeed the whole experience of watching Mr. Sneaky reminded me why I think so many of us are fascinated with the natural world. Whether it’s right or wrong, beyond simple scientific fascination, we find admiration, empathy and solidarity in the events of individual animal’s lives. They reflect back to us what we think about our world, our family, our friends and our foes. And of all the events I have filmed in the UK, the drama of the Grey Seal breeding season at Blakeney Point connected with me in ways that few other filming trips have.
These animals display an intensity to survive and to win in life that has to be admired and I look forward to many more Winters in their very special company. Thank you to everyone who helped make this seal diary happen, particularly the team at North Norfolk National Trust who are rightly proud of having these amazing animals in their care.