Hauling Out

There is something indelibly printed on the British psyche that we must, at unpredictable intervals, approach the sea. Our coastline is as jagged as if a child had drawn it – a fair-sized island we might be, but it is still staggering that we’ve have over 10,000 miles of coastline. Icecream, sandcastles, Victorian piers, laughing swimmers taking Christmas dips; all of that is true of course, along with far too many coastal towns struggling with poverty, but none of is the whole story. The coast has its wild too, and it is big!

Grey seals2 Horsey 25 Oct 21

Grey seals. If people head seaward, seals lumber landward, most especially at this time of year when the pupping season is almost upon us.

Grey seals3 Horsey 25 Oct 21

For these magnificent beasts, Britain is defined by its haul-out potential: it is merely a beach just above the sea. In fact we have a good part of the entire global population, and the biggest colonies number in the thousands. Bulls argue half-heartedly in the surf.

Grey seals1 Horsey 25 Oct 21

They can weigh over 800 pounds, or approximately equal to 16,000 dormice. They are inelegant on land – they are built for water, with sensitive whiskers that help them catch sand eels, cod and other marine prey.

Grey seals4 Horsey 25 Oct 21

It is often said that the UK has two species of seal, and it is true that only the grey and the smaller common seal are generally here, but we are occasionally graced by extra guests from the Arctic. Ringed seals and bearded seals aren’t unknown. And, of course, a certain famous walrus. Attracting the crowds. Marine mammals tend to do that.

But it’s not always in their interest, either with walruses in Cornwall or seals in Norfolk. I took all these photos with a 600mm lens in a designated viewing area on the dunes. But every year, there a few people who try to approach them for selfies or allow their dogs to get out of control. The Friends of Horsey Seals have wardens on site to manage the situation for the best benefit of both people and seals.

Oblivious to human fascination, they continue to beautify the sea.

Grey seals5 Horsey 25 Oct 21

15 thoughts on “Hauling Out

    1. That’s interesting! I cannot access the article but can imagine that’s attracted a lot of attention. Dozens of shark species have been recorded in UK waters, but no confirmed records of great whites as far as I know.

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  1. I never knew so much about seals
    But now I do
    I do believe that these amazing creatures
    Will thank you too
    You bring nature out of the sea
    So we all can see

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lovely post extolling the grey seal, Adele. I am very happy living inland amongst valleys and hills but do wish I could visit the coast more and enjoy the pinnipeds that we have here…both gray (U.S. spelling πŸ™‚ ) and harbor seals. And I am particularly fond of this “Grey Seal“.

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    1. Haha, if wildlife only knew how many songs it appears in! πŸ™‚

      It’s always a strange feeling for me when I’m in North America or continental Europe and realise that I could drive for days (or weeks) and still stay out of sight of the coast. You’re never very far from the sea in England, although Norfolk – despite being the top end of a peninsula – has our most continental climate on its inland side.

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  3. I don’t know Horsey, but it looks worth a visit. It’s good to see the site is wardened: there was some shocking film on television last night (on Countryfile, I think) of seals being abused in Cornwall. It was probably due to ignorance rather than malicious intent, but that’s no comfort to the poor, terrified seals. If you’ve not been, Donna Nook, near Louth in Lincolnshire, is another wonderful grey seal pupping beach; it’s under the care of Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust.

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    1. I enjoyed Horsey, and it’s well set out to allow people good views without disturbing the seals. I didn’t catch the Countryfile footage but that’s sad to hear. It seems that there will always be a certain percentage who try to misbehave. Maybe it’s the excitement of the moment or genuine lack of empathy, who knows. I studied tourist interactions with large mammals in Canada for my undergraduate dissertation and found that most people were aware of the rules, but in practice just didn’t keep to them. And of course if people upset a bison or bull elk, it may very well defend itself with force.

      I’d definitely like to get to Donna Nook at some point.

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      1. Sounds like a fascinating subject for a dissertation. My own experience of watching other tourists interact with large mammals in North America suggests to me that when a spectacular selfie is within reach common sense flies out the window, potentially threatening the health (and sometimes the lives!) both parties to the encounter. Sad, isn’t it.

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