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17 September 2014
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Coast - Blakeney Point

Seal spectacle

Seals at Blakeney c/o Beans Boat Trips

One of the largest expanses of undeveloped coastal habitat in Europe, Blakeney Point is a great location for wildlife lovers. It is most famous for the large numbers of Seals which congregate out on the tip of the Point.

Blakeney Point - start your big Seal watching adventure here.
Photo - Beans Boat Trips

There's also the National Nature Reserve which is an internationally important site for research on vegetation.

It's one of only a few places in Britain were shingle bank, sand dunes and saltmarsh occur together, and between these three different sets of conditions many different species of coastal plants are found.

But it's not the plants which attract the most visitors to Blakeney Point - it's the prospect of a Seal-spotting boat trip.

All aboard

Seal pup c/o Beans Boat TripsSeals are one of Britain's most lovable residents and here at Blakeney Point is no exception.

This three and a half mile long spit of sand and shingle is a favourite resting spot for Seal pups at this time of year - and although you can walk along the spit, the best way to see them is by boat.

In fact, the seals are so familiar with the sight of passing boats that they're not startled at all, which is great for getting a good view of these fascinating creatures.

But don't be fooled - they may look peaceful and docile but they can actually be quite aggressive, so it's best to stay on board!

Britain has two types of seal living on its coastlines - the grey and common seals - and here at the Wash one of the world's largest colonies of seals can be found.

Interestingly it's the Grey Seal which is more common, while both types of seal can be grey in colour.

The best way to tell them apart is by looking at their noses - grey seals have W-shaped nostrils while common seals are more of a V-shape.

Grey Seals are also slightly bigger than common seals, with a higher muzzle and less rounded head.

Amazing swimmers

Seal c/o Beans Boat TripsBoth seals have the ability to seal their nostrils shut while they sleep out at sea where they float upright - but only for 90 seconds at a time.

They're also quite remarkable in that they can swim at speeds of up to 25mph, despite being clumsy and slow on land, and they can stay underwater for 10 minutes at a time without taking a breath.

Grey seals also give out a ghostly moaning call to each other while out at sea, which was once mistaken by sailors to be the magical call of a mermaid.

Common seals, also known as harbour seals due to their habits, give birth here on the remote sandbanks in summer when the tides are low.

Numbers of seal pups are at their highest during June or July, when visitors can delight at their cute white coats.

By the time the pups are weaned, a mere four weeks after birth, the common seal is ready to breed again and returns to its favourite haul out site, Blakeney Point.

Mating season begins in September, so if you visit towards the end of the season you might be lucky enough to witness a Seal's mating dance, which usually involves splashing and rolling around in the water and playful nipping at each other's necks.

When the tides are higher visitors can jump on one of the frequent boat trips around the Point to watch the Seals at rest and play, and some of the trips stop further down the beach at the nature reserve.

Back on dry land

Puss Moth CaterpillarWith the seals taking up most of the visitor's attention, it's sometimes overlooked that Blakeney Point Nature Reserve is also a great hotspot for horticulture.

It became Norfolk's first nature reserve when it was taken over by the National Trust in 1912 and has become one of the most important sites in Britain for coastal vegetation.

Because shingle bank, sand dunes and saltmarsh all occur together here, the variety of coastal plants and flowers which grow here is staggering.

The single banks with their moist, salty soil are colonised by biting Stonecrop, Sea Campion, Yellow-horned Poppy, Sea Beet and Birds-foot Trefoil, while the muddier saltmarsh is peppered with Sea Lavender and shrubby Seabite, both of which thrive in the silty conditions.

Once you venture into the drier sand dunes you'll see a rich flora of Sea Bindweed and grey-hair grass, as well as Marram grass, which helps stabilise the dune formation.

It's too hostile for trees to grow naturally here, although some have been planted and given a helping hand so that they can attract migrant birds like Little, Common and Arctic Terns.

Summer is a great time to watch the breeding Sandwich and Common Terns - you won't have any problems missing this noisy bunch!

The trees also provide a habitat for Puss Moth Caterpillars, which change colour when they're ready to pupate and spin a cocoon.

Photo credits

Blakeney c/o Beans Boat TripsSeal photos copyright and courtesy of Blakeney Seal Trips with Beans Boats



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