Sunday, 27 November 2011

Farewell to the Autumn Term

On Thursday we made the almost annual pilgrimage into deepest Lincolnshire for our appointment with the spectacle of the Grey Seal Breeding season. We arrived at 10.20 & took the final 3 spaces in the car park. We stayed until after noon, but by that time the crowds had built and 2 coach-loads depositing even more people had arrived. The secret is obviously to avoid the weekend if you possibly can & arrive as early as possible if you want to try & take pictures without having your elbow jostled.

Some of the participants had never heard of the seal colony & they were suitably blown away by the sight waiting for them on the beach. Others tried to obtain better pictures than they had previously taken. It was also instructive attempting to decipher the behaviour among the seals being exhibited on the beach. There seemed to be heavily pregnant cows attempting to find a space on the beach to give birth only to be warned off by cows who've already given birth. There were also fights between 2 cows which had already given birth, but one had strayed too close to the territory of another. There were pups which had been finally abandoned by their mothers leaning on the fence to try 7 keep out of trouble. There was rope-neck who was rescued from fishermen's nets many years ago, and who had returned to the same stretch of beach almost every year since to look after her pup. There were bulls fighting with cows & a few bulls fighting amongst themselves, but these tended to be a bit further away from the fenced off area.

I checked out the area last Saturday & could only see a single pup casualty, but one heavily populated area on Thursday had at least 5 casualties, and Great Black-Backed gulls had gathered round one & were making short work of the remaining carcass. Apparently, there is a 10% casualty rate amongst pups born in the area every year - one of the saddest of the many statistics from the rookery.

We went on to a local large reservoir, which had held a Snow Bunting, & both White-fronted and Bean Geese the previous day, but when we visited there was a windsurfing competition, and all the unusual species had taken flight. All that remained were Goldeneye, Wigeon, Great Crested Grebes a Little Grebe. There was also what looked like a large flotilla of necks, which turned out to be Cormorants.

The Grey Seal Special was the final event in the Autumn itinerary, so we won't be meeting up again until well into the New Year. In the meantime there are a couple of winter species I would like to try & photograph, so I will add any interesting encounters on the blog if & when they are obtained.

Young Pup still showing umbilical cord
Mother & pup
Another pup
Presumably a cow warning another pup away
A cow apparently deliberately suffocating a pup
Presumably a heavily pregnant cow trespassing into another cow's territory
Another territorial dispute
2 cows confronting each other (with sand thrown up)
Attempting to rip the loose skin from the neck - a bull moving in on a cow?
Bull [left] & a Cow?
Bull & Cow fight - origin of the myth of the mermaid?
Great Black-Backed Gull Cleaning up a Casualty
Windsurfer - one of the many who cleared the reservoir of interesting birds!
Farewell (c) 2012 Aileen Urquhart


Aileen said...

Glad I had the last picture, if not the last word! Thanks for a great term. I've seen so many birds and I can now identify a few. Great lot of fellow birders too.

Chris Cox said...

Nice, good quality photos.

Blackbird said...

Great post and fantastic photos. I was there last week and wondered if the seagulls were lesser or great black-backed, they are impressive beasts!

Michael Flowers said...

Thanks for the comments.

Blackbird, If you try & see the colour of the adults' legs, then GBB have dull pink legs & LBB have yellow legs. Hope that helps!