Put a seal on winter

We like to ‘big up’ our county where we can here at Norfolk Winter and it really isn’t hard when we’re surrounded by the natural beauty and wonders that help make Norfolk what it is.

Taking a boat trip out to Blakeney Point gives you the chance to see hundreds of seals like this one. Credit: David Ian Roberts

Taking a boat trip out to Blakeney Point gives you the chance to see hundreds of seals like this one. Credit: David Ian Roberts

Even during our prolonged winter (come on April, we’re counting on you!) there are lots of places to visit and things to see in Norfolk’s great outdoors that really are stunning. So far we’ve talked about the spectacle of the pink-footed geese and we’ve given you some ideas for where you can go for a scenic walk but we haven’t yet mentioned the hundreds of critters with flippers that live off the north Norfolk coast.

The North Norfolk Coast team of the National Trust is responsible for the welfare of a thriving colony of seals at Blakeney and they’ve got the lowdown on how you can get out there to see them and why, if you like cute young seals, now is a great time to do so.

Blakeney Point is a haven for wildlife and we’re very fortunate that the Blakeney National Nature Reserve protects a spot on the Norfolk coast that is home to so much flora and fauna, big and small.

But perhaps the most striking of all of these are the seals that lounge on the point, and the shallow beaches coupled with good food and protected areas free from disturbance make Blakeney Point the perfect habitat for these creatures.

Whatever the weather, or time of year, there are always plenty of seals to see on the tip of the point lazing around on the sand banks or swimming in the water.

Numbers of seal pups have risen from 25 ten years ago to over 1,200 now. Credit: Gerry Balding.

Numbers of seal pups have risen from 25 ten years ago to over 1,200 now. Credit: Gerry Balding.

Having such a large number of these fascinating and endearing creatures right on our doorstep, it would be a shame not to get the chance to see them in their natural habitat. Fortunately, that opportunity is available, and all without having to get your feet wet.

The best way to get the closest views of the seals without causing any disturbance or worry to them is to take a boat trip going from Morston Quay. There are several local families who run the boat trips and they go out to Blakeney Point almost daily throughout the year, usually around high tide (see here for further detail on when that is). We have a car park based at the quay and this is free for National Trust members.

Possibly the best thing about going out at this time of year is that you get to see smaller seal pups, as most seals give birth to their young between October and January so a lot of them are around five months old and healthily splashing and sliding around the point. As an added bonus, the National Trust runs pup tours, in the form of a boat trip and a guided walk, where a ranger will show the pups and explain about their lifestyle and behaviour.

This winter there were 1,222 weaned pups, up from 953 last year. When you compare it with 2001 when there were 25 grey seal pups, this is a fantastic number and shows that the population is growing massively. And of course, it means that the chances of seeing the seals doing what they do best are much more likely.

Blakeney Point is a great place for seals to lounge around (note: not all seals are guaranteed to wave back). Credit: Ian Keith.

Blakeney Point is a great place for seals to lounge around (note: not all seals are guaranteed to wave back). Credit: Ian Keith.

There are access restrictions on the end of Blakeney Point to reduce disturbance to the seals and our ranger team put up fences and signs and also explain to visitors about the seals to allow them the space they need.

We might be heading towards warmer weather (eventually) but it’s still pretty cold out there at the moment, so be sure to take plenty of layers with you and keep warm. It’s probably worth bringing a waterproof along as well in case of rain.

To find out where we are and how to get to us, take a look here. For more information on visits to see the seals, or any other questions about the Blakeney National Nature Reserve, you can call 01263 740241.

We love a good blog and the Norfolk Coast branch of the National Trust have one of their own where you can keep up to date with seal related activity and events, as well as news on all other wildlife on Norfolk’s coasts at www.norfolkcoastnationaltrust.blogspot.com.

It’s the official start of spring later this week (someone just needs to tell the weather!), and we’ll be wrapping up the Norfolk Winter blog to coincide with this changing of the seasons. Don’t miss our next blog post, the final one of winter 2012/13, as we’ll be reflecting on the last few months and asking for your feedback and ideas so we can hopefully bring back an even better Norfolk Winter blog towards the end of this year.

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