Introduction

Wild Time

Spring

Feel the beat of spring

Be dazzled by bluebells

Harken to a bittern's boom

Seek a swooping sand martin

Pen poetry among daffodils

Sway with dancing grebes

Get sent packing by a grouse

Take a ringside seat

Track down a tiger

Watch a rare sky dance

Chatter with a natterjack

Enjoy the great rush north

Look up in awe

Shine a light on newts

Eavesdrop on a nightingale

Go spotting early orchids

Follow a sat-tagged osprey

Gape at hunting hobbies

Nurse a passion for purple

Scour riverbanks for Ratty

Tip-toe among fritillaries

Summer

Hail the success of avocets

Go batty as night falls

Bewitched by a buttercup

Play the summertime blues

Thrill to damsels and dragonflies

Go after Dartford warbler

Make a splash with gannets

Stake out a badger sett

Hurrah for the king

Rejoice in Manxie's chorus

Delight in a glow worm

Fall for THE fastest bird

Be spellbound by orchids

Journey to a seabird city

Exalt at a skylark's song

Party with the puffins

Lounge with a lizard

Haunt a churring nightjar

Head seawards on safari

Discover the rare spoonbill

Join the toadlet exodus

Spot our largest butterfly

Wear a hat for terns

Hunt woodland beauties

Autumn

Admire our eager beavers

Marvel at migration

Forage for Autumn's bounty

Go nuts over squirrel nutkin

Ramble through purple

Gaze in awe at reds' rut

Wander in the wild wood

Cheer on the salmon run

Try a wild goose chase

Foray for fungi

Winter

Pay homage to the Russians

Go on a winter ghost hunt

Wonder at wintering waders

Fall in love with a seal pup

Hear Britain's tallest bird

Revel in roosting wagtails

Kiss beneath mistletoe

'Ooh' & 'aah' at murmurations

Lie in wait for an otter

Rock 'n' roll with geology

Wrap up for a raptor roost

Fall in love with a pup

Grey seal pup © James Rogerson

The soap opera of a seal colony at its busiest

Dogs and baby seals don’t mix, and our four-legged friends can pass diseases on to seals, so leave the dog at home

40% of the entire world population of Atlantic grey seals make their home around the coasts of Britain, especially on the rocky northern and western shores and islands.  Along the more sheltered east coast there are just four breeding site, with the largest amongst the dunes of Donna Nook in Lincolnshire.  Having spent the lazy summer days out at sea, as winter bites the seals return to the shelter of the dunes to give birth to their young and do their courting.

The bull seals, measuring up to two metres in length and a whopping 300kg in weight, arrive first, spending the end of October and early November staking out territories along the beach.  The females follow, looking for a quiet spot to give birth to their pup.  Quiet, unfortunately, is something that you don’t get much of in a seal colony…

The arrival of the females leads to clashes between the big males who want to claim them for their ‘harem’, and this only intensifies once the pups are born as the mothers come back into season.  The colony reaches peak noisiness in mid-December, with fighting males and upwards of a thousand pups of various sizes.  By the end of January, the parents have left, and the last of the seal pups makes her way to the sea and that’s it, one of the greatest spectacles of them all, over for another year.

How to do it

If you can’t get to the special places listed below… Grey seals live all around our coasts, from the Isles of Scilly to the Shetland Isles.  Pupping season is different in each colony: September is the best time in Cornwall and Pembrokeshire, October in the north of Scotland.  Anytime you’re by the sea, keep an eye out for an inquisitive head bobbing up out of the waves.  They can be told from their smaller cousin, the harbour or common seal, by their profile.  Grey seals have a long sloping forehead with a ‘Roman’ nose’, like an English bull terrier.  Common seals have a shorter, stepped snout and a cuter face, more like a cat.

Special spots

A new live-action camera has been installed at one of Cumbria’s most spectacular nature reserves, South Walney Nature Reserve, on Walney Island near Barrow. This spot is the main haul out site for grey seals in the North West of England. Seals can be spotted in the water around the reserve (usually at high tide). However, there is no access to the protected beaches on the reserve to see the seals. The new webcam installed by Cumbria Wildlife Trust now provides the perfect opportunity to watch these charismatic creatures up close as they haul out to rest.

The best place to see grey seal pups (and the second largest colony in the country) is at Donna Nook NNR , Lincolnshire.  Here up to 3,000 adults return to breed every winter, with more than 1,000 pups produced in a good year.  The wardened viewing area in the dunes gives you the opportunity to get up close (sometimes very close indeed!) to the action.

The Calf of Man on the Isle of Man is a seal breeding and pupping area –53 pups born on the Calf in 2015.  Annual pup surveys have taken place here every October since 2009.  The seals can be seen all year around the Island but the main places to see them are from the Sound looking over to the Calf of Man and Kitterland.  However, they can also be seen around Maughold head and Langness; including Peel harbour.  If you want to see the seals on the Calf of Man you will need to book a boat trip with a local skipper out of Port St Mary but seals can be seen from the coasts around the Isle of Man. 

Highlands,  Isle of Eigg

Isles of Scilly

Orkney,  Hill of White Hamars

Pembrokeshire,  Skomer  - one of the best places to see seal pups during September.

Grey seal pup © Tom Marshall

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