The Little Orme is a fascinating site to visit at any time of year as it holds a variety of habitats in a relatively small area and there is always something to see, but January is the perfect time to see some of its special winter visitors, charismatic Grey Seals. There are never many, but the pebbly beach of Angel Bay regularly attracts a number of new mothers and pups that come to rest on the shore of the little cove of Angel Bay. They are pretty much undisturbed there as the beach is only accessible by a steep narrow track down the cliff and they don’t seem to mind interested people watching them from above,even those armed with cameras.
Today I was pleased to discover there were indeed grey seals here; five adults in a group, seemingly dozing, while three tiny young ones were practicing their swimming techniques in the waves.
The adults appeared not to be too concerned for the safety of the youngsters; grey seal pups have to grow up fast and must be able to start fending for themselves at about a month old, once they’ve shed the pretty white fur coats they are born with. The little ones seemed quite happy in the water, although getting back in, fighting against the incoming waves seemed to present more of a challenge.
The adult’s apparent slumber came to an abrupt end when something caused them to snap out of it and travel surprisingly quickly down to the sea edge.
One of the five was considerably slower and to my eyes was fatter too. Is it possible she was still pregnant?
As they were heading towards a young one I wondered if they had perhaps been summoned, but then as it watched from the surf of the sea edge they simultaneously stopped and flopped down again, unimpressed.
From November onwards female grey seals return to their favourite beaches to give birth and mate again. The milk of the grey seal is very rich enabling the pups to put on weight quickly. They have to grow fast as their mothers stay with them for only three weeks before returning to the sea. The mother does not feed herself whilst feeding her pup, so hunger soon drives her back to the sea. Young seal pups are covered in white fur when they’re born. Within a month or so they shed the pup fur, grow dense waterproof adult fur, and leave for the sea to learn to fish for themselves. The pup soon follows and must teach itself to hunt for food.
I have posted about grey seals several times before, my favourite being a post about the rescue of a very young pup from beneath the sea-break boulders at Rhos Point by some of the caring keepers from the Welsh Mountain Zoo. The photograph below is from that post.