Donna Nook on the north-eastern coast of Lincolnshire
is a seal watchers' paradise.
one of the largest and most accessible breeding colonies of Grey Seals in the
watchers' paradise - Donna Nook|
Grey seals are
Britain's biggest land mammal - the males are two metres in length and weigh in
at a massive 300 kilograms, roughly the weight of two Sumo wrestlers.
encounter with a seal at Donna Nook is almost guaranteed because this is effectively
a seal maternity hospital.
When autumn turns into winter hundreds of Grey
Seals start hauling themselves onto the sand banks on the Lincolnshire coast to
give birth to their pups.
are 3,000 Grey Seals at Donna Nook, and about 900 pups are born here.
seals are attracted to Donna Nook because of food, space, and safety.
female seals give birth to one pup and they're suckled for three weeks - the milk
is so rich that they will triple their weight during that time.
But as the
pups gain weight, the cows are losing it at a rapid rate, 10lb a day - in a bid
to feed their young.
These seals are amongst the last to pup in Britain.
seal colonies in Wales breed in September whilst those in Scotland breed in October.
and December are the best times to see the Donna Nook seals.
up and personal
For the best viewing experience time your visit
during the week when it is quieter than weekends - you could virtually have the
place to yourself.
Listen for the many different sounds of the Grey Seals
ranging from the almost bloodcurdling calls of the adults to the new born pups
calling for their mums.
You can get remarkably close to the seals and they
are remarkably tolerant of visitors, but don't forget to respect their territory
Be aware of telltale warning signs - a hiss is often the first
warning, and the pups calling for their mum is another.
Finally the wave
of the flipper from a female seal usually means back off.
If you get too
close, the seals do bite, and the males will charge, and can be surprisingly fast.
care needed - seal pups!
matter how cute the baby seals look, you must resist the temptation to touch these
If a mother detects an alien scent on her youngster, there's
a chance that the baby will be rejected.
In these early days the pups are
so dependent on their mother's milk that rejection means certain death.
the seal pups have been weaned, the females are available to mate - resulting
in one of nature's great spectacles - the bull fight - seal style.
males herd the females into harems and try to hold their territory against competitors.
fights between males can be vicious and bloody.
Nook's coastline is also a good place to look for plant life.
has a good variety of coastal habitats from dunes and mud flats to inter-tidal
areas and saltings.
One of the most common plants is Sea Buckthorn and
you'll find dense clumps of it along the reserve.
It's easy to spot - this
dense, thorny shrub has blue grey leaves and distinctive orange berries which
are loved by birds such as Redwings and Fieldfares.
Also look out for marram
and sand couch in the dune areas - they play an important role in stabilising
these shifting sands.
The dunes also prove attractive to wildflowers, including
Flowering plants such as the yellow-wort, and bee and pyramidal
orchids can also be seen on the reserve.
Areas of saltmarsh and lagoons
are characterised by sedges and rushes, and attract a wide variety of wading birds.
One of the easiest birds to spot in winter is the Snow Bunting, which
can be seen on the beach with the seals.
c/o Donna Nook Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust.