Adult female grey seal on Blakeney Point © National Trust / Jemma Finch
Blakeney retains crown for hosting the largest grey seal colony in England
Blakeney Point on the north Norfolk coast is once again home to England's largest colony of grey seals, National Trust rangers have confirmed.
The breeding season at the Norfolk nature reserve ended this month, with rangers from the conservation charity saying that 2,366 grey seal pups have been born on the colony since November.
This represents a one per cent increase on last year, when 2,343 pups were born. Early indications show that the seal colony fared well following last Friday's tidal surge.
National Trust rangers and volunteers have conducted counts of the seal pups on the reserve since 2001, when just 25 pups were born.
Ajay Tegala, National Trust ranger on the north Norfolk coast, said: “We've seen a dramatic increase in the number of grey seal pups being born at Blakeney Point in recent years. But in the last two years it would appear that the numbers have become more static.
“Thankfully the pupping season had finished before last Friday's tidal surge, which meant that a large number of pups had already dispersed.
“We're pleased that all the effort the National Trust team has put into caring for the Point is helping to create a healthy environment for these beautiful animals and that they continue to return and pup here.”
With lots of space and no natural predators, Blakeney Point offers the perfect breeding site for grey seals. Rangers are starting to see them spread from the beach further into the reserve – adding to the challenge of counting the pups.
Grey seal pup taking it easy on Blakeney Point © National Trust / Jemma Finch
Grey seal pups are born on land with white coats, and are fed on their mother's rich milk for up to three weeks. In this time, they triple in size and shed their white fur.
Ajay added: “With their beautiful white fur and cute faces the pups are definitely one of main highlights of the year that the whole team looks forward to.
“It's a real privilege and joy of the job to be able to get up close and personal with the colony – and one that I never tire of.”
Seal colonies have fared well around the UK this year. The National Trust's Farne Islands in Northumberland reported record numbers with the arrival of 2,295 pups – possibly because there were fewer storms during the pupping season. 1,959 pups were born at Donna Nook, which is cared for by the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust.
Ranger Ajay added: “As the final seal pups are weaned, we'd continue to encourage anyone wishing to see them to enjoy one of the boat trips that regularly operate from Morston Quay. That way visitors still get the opportunity to see the seals close-up without disturbing the colony.”