Back in mid-November, while visiting my home in Lincolnshire to celebrate my 21st birthday, I just had to take a couple of hours to pop into a local nature reserve to catch one of winters greatest wildlife spectacles. Every year Donna Nook National Nature Reserve hosts thousands of grey seals; from cute fluffy pups all the way to huge bulls, blood stained and wounded from fighting it out for matings and the grand title of Beach Master. With the viewing footpath giving you extremely close views of the action(<1m sometimes), it’s also one of the easiest wildlife spectacles you could ever hope to see! This does have the side effect of attracting thousands of people, which can make this usually peaceful and lovely place seem a bit more like a zoo then a nature reserve; it’s a pretty bizarre place really, but definitely worth visiting!
Back when I was there most of the pups were still very young, still holding their white fluffy fur. They spend a couple of weeks being suckled by their mother before being left to their own devices on the beach as there now starving mothers return to the sea, never to be reunited again. The pups then spend a while longer sat around the dunes shedding their downy coats and growing their adult fur, and eventually take to the North sea themselves when they can bare the hunger no longer.
Although the pups are effectively abandoned after a few weeks, their mothers prepare them well for their time alone. In the first few days the mother and pup often touch noses and smell each other to help build their bond, vital to ensure the pups safety. The mothers are extremely protective over their pups, protecting them from other curious mothers and the great lumbering males. The milk the pups are suckled on is extremely rich, being %50 fat; perfect for building up their energy reserves to grow a new coat and stay nice and chubby to keep warm on the blustery east coast!
Before leaving the beach the female will mate again, most likely with the dominant male defending the patch of beach she was on. The males at this time of year, much like the red deer stags I photographed a few weeks before, spend most of their time either fighting among themselves to gain access to females, lazing around, or if they get lucky, actually mating!
This also happened to end up being my very last shoot with the Nikon D3200, as a few days later using my competition winnings, I bought my brand new D7100! The D3200 has served me very well, but I’m very excited to get going properly with the D7100, the jump in quality is already obvious and there are tonnes of useful features on it that were absent on the D3200. Keep your eyes peeled for a blog coming soon on my very first trip out with the D7100 and my new Nikkor 10-24mm lens, as I visit the Peaks for one last time before Christmas!