Blakeney seals its place in the record books

Blakeney Point, which is managed by the National Trust, on the North Norfolk coast has shot to number one as the largest breeding site for grey seals in England.

A seal pup born at Blakeney Point this winter. Credit National Trust/Ian Ward

 

The number of grey seals born on this beautiful stretch of Norfolk coastline has increased one hundredfold in just 14 years, when the first 25 pups were born on the spit.

National Trust rangers monitor the colony by tracking and recording seal pups born at Blakeney Point throughout the winter. The count, which began in November, revealed that a total of 2426 seals were born this season, almost double the number born there just two years ago.

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The seal colony at Blakeney Point. Credit National Trust/Ian Ward.

 

Ajay Tegala, National Trust Coastal Ranger at Blakeney, said: “This season has been absolutely incredible at Blakeney. It’s breathtaking to see such large numbers. Having first been here five years ago you can see how much it has increased in such a short space of time. It really is mind-blowing to see the change.

“Blakeney is a perfect site for grey seals, not least because of the absence of predators and the relative remoteness which keeps disturbance to a minimum.

“On top of that, it’s a safe place with a sheltered, sandy beach providing plenty of space to support the large numbers, which keeps mortality rates low.

“In December 2013 we saw seal rookeries across England devastated by a tidal surge which hit the English coastline. However, at Blakeney the height of sand dunes kept the colony protected, meaning that they were barely affected.”

As well as grey seals, the rare habitat of sand dunes on the shingle ridge at Blakeney Point attracts unusual plants, insects and birds, making it a popular destination for walkers. However, disturbance caused by walkers during the breeding season increases the chances of fighting amongst the adult grey seals, which can lead to pups being crushed.

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A seal pup captured at Blakeney Point on the North Norfolk Coast. Credit National Trust/Ian Ward.

To help prevent disturbance to the seals and to keep visitors safe, National Trust rangers and volunteers have fenced off the westerly-most mile of Blakeney Point’s beach and dunes. Signposted viewing areas have been introduced, keeping access open while limiting the dangers to seals and walkers [1].

A more intimate view of the colony will be available on the new series of Winterwatch which begins on Monday 19 January [2]. Thermal imaging techniques were used for the first time to film the reserve at night, when the seal pups are born.

Across the National Trust, there are a number of other sites which give visitors the chance to see this winter wildlife spectacle. Coastal spots include Giant’s Causeway, Baggy Point and the Farne Islands. The Farnes have also celebrated a successful breeding season, with the rangers recording a total of 1651 seal pups born this winter, the islands’ highest total since 1971.

The record-breaking year for Blakeney Point comes as the National Trust kicks off a year of celebrations to mark the 50th anniversary of its Neptune campaign. Launched in 1965, the campaign set out to raise £2 million to protect coastline around England, Wales and Northern Ireland from the threat of development. Fifty years later, the appeal has raised more than £65 million and the Trust now protects and cares for 742 miles of coastline.

Supporters wishing to donate to help the National Trust look after the coastline around the East of England and the wildlife which calls it home, including the grey seals, can text NTCOAST to 70060 [3] to give £3.

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Credit National Trust/Ian Ward

 

 

[1] The seal pups are expected to be on Blakeney Point until the end of January
[2] Winterwatch is broadcasting on BBC 2 from 19 – 22 January 2015
[3] The Text to Give service was set up to support the National Trust’s work to look after and protect the 742 miles of coastline it cares for. By texting NTCOAST to 70060 you will be charged £3, plus one message at your standard network rate. The National Trust will receive 100% of your donation. Supporters wishing not to be contacted in the future can text NOCOMMS NT to 70060. If you wish to discuss this mobile payment call 0203 282 7863 

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