Monday 5th November. I decided to pay a visit to the Atlantic Grey Seal colony at Donna Nook on the Lincolnshire coast. The seals haul out as it is called in late October into November/December to give birth to the pups. In other words they leave the water and come onto the beach and sand dunes. This makes photographing them easy as they are very close to you. There are low fences in place that you are asked to stay behind by the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust who warden the site during the seal breeding season. This is for your own safety and the safety of the seals. If you are planning a visit please adhere to the guidelines given at the site. The female seals, called cows will abandon a pup if it is subject to disturbance by human beings. Also, although they may look cute they are wild animals and will bite. It is perfectly feasible to get great photographs of the seals by staying behind the fence line, even with a camera phone because the seals come right up to the fence line. For more information click this link http://lincstrust.org.uk/reserves/nr/reserve.php?mapref=15
The seals have been hauling out at Donna Nook since the early nineteen seventies and numbers have gradually increased over the years. The mortality rate at Donna Nook is lower than in other areas, possibly due to the protection given by the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust.
I arrived at Donna Nook about 09:20 in bright sunny conditions. It was cold though, an over night frost had seen me having to scrape ice off the car windows before I set off. It always seems to be cold at Donna Nook anyway. I took both the 400mm and the 500mm lens with me. The seals are close enough for the 400mm lens, in fact too close sometimes but you can often get some nice action shots just beyond the dunes on the beach area, and this is where the 500mm comes in handy.
According to the Lincolnshire Wildlife trust there were 202 bulls, 278 cows and 108 pups present at Donna Nook so there was no shortage of photographic subjects.
Atlantic Grey seal pup
Even for a Monday morning there were many people both observing and photographing the seals. Donna Nook receives about 40,000 visitors per year during the seal breeding season and weekends can get very crowded, so a visit during the week is the best bet for photography at least. I took many photographs of the seals. The skies clouded over, though to be fair to our weather forecasters they did predict this would happen. A shower of rain caught me out a little and I had to quickly get the large polythene bag out to cover the gear up. It soon passed though and the skies brightened again.
Bull seals fighting for the right to mate with females
The male seals, or bulls as they are called can get quite aggressive with each other over the right to mate with the females. The bulls play no part in the rearing of the pups. The sole reason they are there is to mate with the cows. The cow feeds the single pup for around three weeks before she mates with a bull, she then abandons the pup and returns to the sea. Hunger eventually forces the pup to the sea in search of food.
A female, or cow as they are called warning another cow to stay away from her pup
Lunch time soon arrived and satisfied that I had got the shots I wanted I made the short walk back to the car to eat my lunch. The weather looked pretty promising, so rather than go straight home I decided to go to Worlaby Carrs to see if I could get any photographs of the Short-eared owls. I arrived at Worlaby about 14:00 and was soon parked up talking to a few friends while we waited for the owls to show. At 15:00 the first of the owls began hunting although they were too far away to get photographs. Eventually they came a little closer but still not as close as we would have liked. Many in flight photographs were taken, most would go in the recycle bin on the computer, being either out of focus or too distant. I did mange a few that were passable.
By 16:00, due to the fading light it was becoming increasingly more difficult to get the camera to lock onto the owls in flight. It would have helped if they had been a touch closer. None of them decided to sit on the fence posts in the area I was in at least. I had increased the ISO on the camera from 400 when I started to take the photographs up to 2000 and a lot of noise was becoming evident in the shots that I was getting, so I called it a day. Don't forget you can view all the photographs from today's outings on the main web site http://lincsbirder.zenfolio.com/recent.html
An enjoyable if somewhat cold day out, Worlaby didn't seem any warmer than Donna Nook, Lol.