An inside view of a grey seal survey

An inside view of a grey seal survey

Grey seal © Melanie Shears

Read on for an inside view of our fortnightly grey seal surveys...

In order to organise a seal survey the tide times must be checked to ensure a low tide for an hour either side of our visit.

For the most recent seal survey we needed to be arriving at South Walney for 8am to start our survey at 8:30am. It would take us roughly an hour from Plumgarths (HQ), and it would take me half an hour to get to Plumgarths.

Needless to say it was an early start for me, and getting up at 5am isn’t normally my idea of fun. On this occasion though, I leapt out of bed with excitement!

I leapt out of bed with excitement!

We bounced along a dirt track for a little while, but soon abandoned the truck so we didn’t disturb the seals on our approach. It was very windy, so we layered up (I had on a top; 2 fleeces; a gillet; a coat; and 2 pairs of trousers!) and also unloaded some mats to lay on when we got to the seals.

In silence we listened for an indication of the seals’ whereabouts (quite a difficult sound to describe, but distinctive) and continued on foot towards the colony.

We then began crawling on our hands and knees so we didn’t alert the seals to our presence.  To get a closer look we then resorted to shuffling along on our tummies. We almost felt like grey seals ourselves.

My early start and long journey had been completely worth it to be able to see these beautiful creatures.

Having a colony of grey seals directly in front of you is awe inspiring, and to top it off we spotted not one but two seal pups! One pup and its mum were about 10 metres to our left, and a lone pup was about 10 metres to our right. What a sight to behold.

Once we had calmed our excitement and settled on our mats, we adjusted our binoculars for the best view and began our grey seal survey. 

The next hour was split into 10 minute intervals where we counted the seals and observed their behaviour.

Once the survey was completed we watched for a while longer before tearing ourselves away from the colony.

- Melanie 

grey seal pup on shingle beach

Grey seal pup © Melanie Shears

If you are slightly obsessed with grey seals like me, you can often see them live on the Trust's seal cam here:

Watch seal cam