Tuesday, 19 November 2013

The Empire of the seals

After several abortive attempt I finally made it over to the island mid week after being away for a month. It was a rough trip over, the south-westerlies have been blowing all week so it was a matter of keeping your head down and taking the spray. But even if I hadn't been looking up i would have know we were getting close to the island because of the smell. 4000+ seals are going to smell and this was a wiff of a mix wet dog and fox poo coming downwind from about 100 yards.  Getting on to the island was a bit more difficult than normal, the waves were to rough to get close to the west landing and Kirkhaven had been annexed to the empire of the seals and is not accessible to humans. So it meant a quick jump to some rocks below the Lowlight as it is usually clear of seals. However as we clambered over the rocks to get up to the Lowlight we came face to face with a large female and her newly born pup, in a gully where seals haven't been seen before.

Once on the island you have to throw out your map of the island that you use in seabird season. The no-go areas during the summer can suddenly become no problem whereas summer access-for-all parts of the island become impossible to get to now. Seals appear in all sorts of places, one this year has pupped all the way up at Burnett's leap - maybe she liked a view. All of Kirkhaven is impossible to get to with a couple of hundred females pupping all over the beaches, jetties, tracks and flat areas. This is why we have to close the island to the visitors from the end of September.

The noises of pups and adults wafts over the island in the breeze giving it an eerie atmosphere. The smell wafts as well, not eerie but just pungent. So another face of the island is revealed, so very different from the seabird island but just as spectacular.

This weaner, that is a pup that has been fed by its mother for 21 days and then left to fend for its self was so fat that it was rolling around on the ground and only the face told you which way up it was meant to be.
Who says seals can't climb? This female was determined to make it up to its pup!

The Lowlight was looking fabulous. Not to be out done the island was dotted with blackbirds, redwings and fieldfares all having dropped in on their way south.

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