Grey Seals - Halichoerus grypus
Grey seals have a stronghold in the UK where we host 40% of the world's population, with the Norfolk colonies of Horsey and Blakeney seeing increasing numbers year on year. During the winter months, the grey seals haul themselves out of the water to give birth and mate. It's an amazing spectacle to walk along the stunning Norfolk beaches with thousands of seals littering the sand.
Grey seals spend most of their time in the sea and are adapted better for sea life than on land. On land they look slow and out of place, whereas in the sea they are fast, streamlined and agile. They play a lot in the surf, which allows for some great photography. If you sit and wait at the water's edge on beaches close to the colonies, within 10-15 mins you'll usually have a pair playing in front of you.
Grey seals generally have one pup a year and the cows look after their offspring for the first three weeks of their lives. The mother's milk is around 60% fat meaning the pups put on a huge amount of weight each day, roughly about 2kg. When the three weeks of feeding and caring is up, the cows return to the sea. This leaves the pups alone for the next three weeks, a period in which the pups don't eat and moult their fur in readiness for taking to the sea. The soft white fur they are born with is not waterproof so they can't swim, hence having to moult to get a new wetsuit of a coat.
Our oceans are polluted with rubbish and plastic, which eventually ends up washing up on our shores. We've all seen plastic containers, balloons, fishing line, nets and other non-biodegradable material on our beaches. Yet these are merely the culprits we can see with the naked eye. When added to the endless quantities of virtually invisible microplastics and nurdles now in our seas and we can start to understand the scale of the problem the seals face. Each year I come across seals entangled with rope, often wrapped around their necks. As they grow this can rip into the seal which can cause serious, sometimes fatal, harm.