Blakeney keeps seal colony title

Grey seal pup at Blakeney Point
Published : 17 Jan 2017 Last update : 24 Jan 2017

After weeks of counting, rangers have confirmed the final number of grey seal pups born on Blakeney Point this winter and the National Trust nature reserve is once again home to England’s largest colony of grey seals.

With a final count of 2,366 pups born since November 2016, the final result is a far cry from 2001, when just 25 pups were born. 

Since then, numbers have increased each year until last winter when 2,343 pups were recorded. This winter, although the number of grey seal pups has increased, the growth is less dramatic, indicating that the colony has become fairly static. 

Video

Counting the seal pups at Blakeney

National Trust Ranger, Ajay Tegala, counts the seals with the help of a team of volunteers. And it's no easy task counting over 2,000 seal pups! Find out how the team at Blakeney Point do it.

The perfect breeding site

With lots of space and no natural predators, Blakeney Point has proven to be the perfect breeding site for grey seals and although the core area of the beach remains the prime pupping area, we're starting to see them spread further into the reserve, which adds to the challenge of counting. 

We’re pleased that all the effort the team put into caring for the Point is helping to create a healthy environment for these beautiful animals and that they continue to return and pup here.

Blakeney remains the largest seal colony in England
Close up of a female adult grey seal

What do we know about the new arrivals?

Grey seal pups are born on land, with white coats and are fed on their mother’s rich milk for up to three weeks. In this time, they triple in size and shed their white fur.

The mother then leaves the pup to fend for itself and usually by this stage she is exhausted and starving, so heads to sea to feed.

With three orphaned seals currently in the care of RSPCA East Winch and a mortality rate of less than 2% this winter, Blakeney Point continues to be a healthy, successful and productive rookery. 

Grey seal pups stay on land until they shed their white fur
Grey seal pup at Blakeney Point
" We would like to thank visitors for their co-operation and respect for the seals. We’d continue to encourage anyone wishing to see them to enjoy one of the boat trips that regularly operate from Morston Quay. "
- Ajay Tegala

How are seals faring elsewhere?

Elsewhere, seal colonies have fared well around the UK this year. 

The National Trust’s Farne Islands in Northumberland reported record numbers with the arrival of 2,295 pups, possibly due to the reduction in storm events during the pupping season. 

Donna Nook, which is cared for by the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust saw a 3.5% increase, with the arrival of 1,959 pups and 574 seal pups have been recorded further along the North Norfolk coastline at Horsey.

Grey seal pups tend to stay with their mother's for up to three weeks
Grey seal pup on the beach at Blakeney Point

What impact did January's tidal surge have on the colony at Blakeney Point?

Thankfully, the pupping season had finished before the tidal surge battered the east coast on Friday 13 January, which meant a large number of pups had already dispersed. Early indications show that the colony fared well.  

" We’d like to thank the Environment Agency for their support, which aided our preparations for the tidal surge. Our thoughts go out to our friends and neighbour at the Norfolk Wildlife Trust following the flooding at Cley Marshes Nature Reserve, which it appears took the brunt of the surge."
- Ajay Tegala