Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Dinner time conversation with the seal crew

Dinner time has an vital role in the day to day life of the residents of the May, it is sometimes the only time you will get to see other residents so it is social, it is for information sharing and it is for getting answers to questions, and during the seal season this is no different. On my recent trip it proved to be a lively dinner time and the conversation ranged to many seal topics and beyond.
For instance it seems that many seals have returned to the island for the breeding season in great condition, which for a seal means really fat and heavy. This good as it means that the females then leave in good condition which can set them up well for their moult and the next year. Also the pups get plenty of food which gives them a good start. Indications are that pup mortality maybe down on the previous year which fits in. But why have they come back so fat? Where have they been feeding?
Also why do different seals have different moulting strategies, most moult in early spring but some will moult immediately after weaning their pup.
Then there are all the day to day discussions about which pup belongs to who? which female has pupped and when? and where have certain females gone? This leads onto planning of work programmes about which tagged animals are to be caught and by who? and programming work for the rest of the season. Boat movements are much more difficult during the winter due to the weather and limited landing opportunities on the island so these are all planned around the dinner table. And sometimes things veer towards more unusual subjects like what is the best way to get a skeleton of a seal cleaned up and prepared for use as a student teaching aid.  Luckily this had no effect on my appetite and the huge lasagne was just what was needed after a day outside in the field. So good company pondering unknowns, discussing practical science and loads of good food. Just the same as the seabird season. 

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