Record-breaking year seals 30 years of breeding success at Blakeney Point

a fluffy white grey seal pup with a greying face sat on golden sand with some green marram grass in the fore ground
Published : 18 Jan 2019 Last update : 21 Jan 2019

The final count is in and rangers at Blakeney National Nature Reserve confirm that this year’s grey seal pups have surpassed 3,000 for the first time. With 3,012 pups born this winter, it’s the highest number since records began on the reserve.

The first grey seal pup was observed on Blakeney Point in 1988, with it establishing itself as a rookery in 2001 when 25 pups were born. Since then the colony has gone from strength to strength, passing the 1,000 mark for pups in 2012, then 2,000 in 2014 and 3,000 in December 2018. It’s believed that the remoteness of the reserve and limited disturbance is creating the perfect habitat for what has become the largest grey seal colony in England.

Over the last 30 years approximately 20,000 grey seal pups have been born on this remote spit in north Norfolk and with just a 1.5% mortality rate this winter, Blakeney Point continues to be a healthy, productive and successful rookery. 

Blakeney Point Rangers counting seal pups on Blakeney Point, Norfolk
two rangers in dark clothing are standing in the middle of the picture in a low sand dune with lots of adult grey seals and white snowy pups
Blakeney Point Rangers counting seal pups on Blakeney Point, Norfolk

National Trust rangers monitor the colony by counting and recording seal pups throughout the winter. National Trust Ranger, Leighton Newman, said:

“The count, which began on 25 October 2018, started slowly with fewer numbers born in the early days compared to previous years; but by the last week of November, births were in full swing with an average of 150 pups being born every day.

“We’d like to say a really big thank you to all of our amazing and dedicated volunteers who have spent their time helping us to monitor the colony and speak to visitors this winter, in often cold and windy conditions. 

“We are also fortunate to have a really supportive local community and visitors to the reserve. They have helped keep disturbance of the seals to a minimum, sticking to waymarked routes, staying clear of fenced off areas and ensuring that the seals have the space they need. This all helps ensure the colony can thrive.”

A young grey seal pup
A young grey seal pup on Blakeney Point
A young grey seal pup

Elsewhere along the east coast, seal colonies have also fared well again this year. The National Trust’s Farne Islands off the Northumberland Coast reported record numbers with the arrival of 2,602 pups. And nearby Horsey saw births pass the 2,000 mark for the first time with a record 2,068 pups born.