Fill your homes with holly this season! Deck the halls! My evergreen leaves and bright red berries, seen against the barren oaks of winter, will remind you of the Life that sustains us during the bitterest time of the year - The Holly King
Those sharp north winds got me a couple of times this week while walking out and about. It’s been mostly blue skies again though so no complaints from me. Most of the rain – of which there have been a few showers – appears to happen after the sun goes down or before it reappears again so while the earth has become extremely muddy, I still have my face in the sun!
The lack of daylight is hampering my ability to go go far in the last of the autumn season but I did managed to get to an estuary, or intertidal mud flats as they are also known.
Donna Nook nature reserve on the East Coast of Lincolnshire is traditionally known as an RAF bombing station, however every year between Oct an Dec grey seals come to these parts of the shores to give birth to their pups. The Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust manage the site to make sure the seals are doing okay, to offer advice (to the human visitors rather than the seals), and to count the pups as they are born. As of yesterday the count stands at - 1414 pups. Which is apparently an increase seen on last year. Great news. My first trip to Donna Nook must be at least six years ago and in that the site now has a dedicated car park and space for coaches. In fact there were two coaches when I was there the other day, which just goes to show how busy this area gets with people wanting to see the seals.
The bird seed hangers are steadily depleting week on week, in the back garden, but this is done mostly by the blue and great tits, and a few sparrows. The bird table is still filled with ring neck doves while the black bird is seen occasionally. Berries are still plentiful so I don’t think the black bird is in any dire straights for food at present. Once the frosts come this will change I think.
Grey seals and lots of them.
It really is a wonderful sight. At you walk up to the bank of the sand you can hear the eeriest noises coming from far away of seals and their pups calling to each other, and bulls seeing if they can get a look in (the answer to which is most definitely no at this point).
Once you get to the viewing trail which runs along the coastline (all 6.25 miles of it), you find yourself almost able to touch the seals they are that close to the fences (don’t touch the seals though!).
Cute fat little white fluffy seals, some suckling with their mum, others just laid flat out asleep with their big bellies. And the scene stretches out in front of you for miles!
Mum (cows) seals have the mottled brown/ grey-ish coats and spend a lot of their time feeding the newborns to get them properly fattened up before leaving them to fend for themselves after just 14 days. The rest of the time is spent catching up on much needed rest (it can’t be easy giving birth to something that can weigh up to 14kgs), or fending off the bulls, who want to mate.
The bulls once mated with up to 12 females, and has defended his territory successfully then heads back to the sea, females and pups heading back too, and the cycle begins again.
It is rather odd that the seals should choose what you would think to be a noisy, dangerous place but it’s worked out all right for them, Donna Nook is the most successful breeding ground in the UK for grey seals. The reserve is very well maintained, and the seals are protected by the very thing that might otherwise harm them – the bombs!