Blakeney Point seals are stars of BBC Winterwatch show

Seals at Blakeney Point in front of the Lifeboat House. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY Seals at Blakeney Point in front of the Lifeboat House. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Tuesday, January 15, 2013
1:50 PM

An iconic part of Norfolk’s coastal wildlife will feature on the BBC’s Winterwatch programme this week.

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The life of the 1,000th grey seal pup, named Millenium, born on Blakeney Point Nature Reserve last year in December was monitored as well as the rest of the grey seal population at the north Norfolk landmark.

Cameraman and producer Richard Taylor-Jones lived in the blue Lifeboat House, which dates back to 1913, between December 3 and December 15 with two other people and documented the lives of the seals, which live in a rookery.

Five minute videos from the nature reserve will be shown on the BBC2 and BBCHD channels between 8-9pm tonight and tomorrow.

Chris Packham, Martin Hughes-Games and Michaela Strachan will be presenting Winterwatch live from Aigas Field Centre in the Highlands of Scotland.

Iain Wolfe, visitor services manager for the nature reserve, said: “We are quite proud to see the conservation of the area is being recognised. The seals are an iconic part of Blakeney Nature Reserve. It is one of the biggest attractions on the coast.”

The Lifeboat House on the Point is Britain’s oldest field laboratory and is used by University College London students for two weeks every year for research.

In 2002 only 25 grey seal pups were recorded at the reserve, but a decade later 1,222 were born. There are currently about 3,000 seals, including adults, on the Point.

The breeding season lasts between early October and early January and it only takes between three to four weeks for a pups to shed their white fur and leave the area where they were born.

They return every to the place where they were born, which is partly why the rookery has increased.

Mr Wolfe said another reason why the population has got larger is because the Point is a safe area.

He added: “The big conservation message is it’s great to see the seals and it is a lovely spectacle but the best way to see them is on a local boat trip because you can get great views without causing a disturbance.

“They bring a bit of character to Norfolk and everyone looks at them and thinks they are sweet and cuddly but from the Winterwatch footage you can see the large bull seals can be aggressive. You have got to be aware around them because although they look cumbersome on land they can move very quickly.”

The Point, which can be a “fairly hostile environment”, celebrated its centenary year as a nature reserve last year.

It became Norfolk’s first reserve after it was handed over to the National Trust by Edwardian philanthropists.

In 1912, the wildlife area was bought for £695, to save it from the property developers who were circling like ravenous birds of prey.

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