Winter is probably my favourite season, and not least because I was born in December! Not only does the season bring festive cheer, it’s also a time of great changes in the natural world. From the murmurations of hundreds of starlings to the spawning of our largest freshwater predatory fish, the pike, the UK is full of so-called wildlife spectacles throughout winter. My personal favourite spectacle is one that I remember from my childhood, something that happens every year and is always an event for my family. This year was no different.
On a freezing cold day early this month, we took sandwiches and extremely thick coats and made our way to Donna Nook, a beach in Lincolnshire. This isn’t just any beach. Every winter, thousands of grey seals come here to give birth. The year has seen the birth of 1876 pups at this site, many of whom have already shipped back out to sea. Imagine a beach filled with this:
The pups are almost fully grown at just 3 weeks old, when they are abandoned by their mums (who are already pregnant with next year’s pups). One week later they head out themselves to see what the ocean holds. They’ll return in a year as rather large adults, with males weighing up to 800lbs and females just 300lbs. Speaking of those males….if you’re lucky (and can tear your eyes away from the fluffy white pups) then you may see them fighting over females, which is truly an exhibition of strength.
Seeing over 1000 bodies littering a beach, as they do at Donna Nook and several other locations across the country, is truly an incredible experience that draws my family back year after year. I urge you all to go out there and view it for yourself!
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