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Sealed with a kiss

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 09:18 UK time, Monday, 23 August 2010

Diver and regular contributor to our Flickr group - Nick Robertson-Brown has been out diving and taking photographs again off the North Wales coast.

Nick had a recent encounter with some common seals, including one curious individual who swam so close; he licked the camera housing!

Seals are curious, fun loving creatures and sometimes they just can't help themselves...

Checking out Nick's flippers:

We get both grey and common or harbour seals off the Welsh coast and during a brief, long range encounter from the shore - it can be a bit tricky to tell them apart.

The general rule of thumb is that common seals are cuter looking and more dog like with rounder faces and v-shaped nostrils. 

Swimming in for a closer look:

Grey seals on the other hand have flatter foreheads and wider nostrils and generally look a bit tougher!

I've had both types surface alongside me whilst I've been out surfing and the big bull, grey seals definitely appear more menacing - especially the dark black ones with large heads.

This seal definitely isn't camera shy and plants a big kiss on Nick's camera housing:

The other big difference between the two seal species is the pupping season. Common seals are a bit smarter in that they give birth to their young during the summer months when there's plenty of food available and generally calmer, warmer seas.

Phil Ray took this shot of a grey seal off Strumble Head recently which illustrates well, the difference in nostril and face shape:

Grey seals however are a tough bunch and give birth to their young in autumn from September through to December so their pups are literally thrown in at the deep end during the start of our winter storms.

You're more likely to sea common seals closer to man too, in areas such as harbours - hence their other name - harbour seal. Greys on the other hand prefer the relative safety and sanctuary of our rugged cliffs and coves but you'll also find common seals sharing the rock space here too.

We must be doing something right in this country though, as roughly half of the world's population of both grey and common seals are found right here in the British Isles - so that's something we can be proud of.

Find out more about seals on the BBC Wildlife Finder


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