Record number of seal pups born at Blakeney Point
- Credit: Archant
A winter baby boom means that Blakeney Point has held on to its title as home to England's largest colony of grey seals.
A record 2,366 seal pups, all sporting white fur coats and soulful dark eyes, have been recorded at the National Trust nature reserve since the season began in November last year.
And the added good news is that many of the new arrivals had left before the recent tidal surge struck.
The latest total is a far cry from 2001 when just 25 pups were born.
That year marked the start of a marked increase in births.
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Although the number of grey seal pups has increased this winter, the rate of growth is less dramatic, indicating that the colony has become fairly static.
National Trust ranger Ajay Tegala has been counting the seal pups, with the help of a team of volunteers.
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'With their beautiful white fur and cute faces they are definitely one of main highlights of the year that the whole team excitedly looks forward to,' he said.
'Thankfully the pupping season had finished before last Friday's tidal surge, which meant a large number of pups had already dispersed.
'In the last two years it would appear that the numbers have become more static. We're pleased that all the effort the National Trust team put into caring for the Point is helping to create a healthy environment for these beautiful animals and that they continue to return and pup here.'
This year's pup death rate was less than two percent. Three orphan pups are in the care of the RSPCA at East Winch.
Grey seal pups are born on land and are fed on their mother's rich milk for up to three weeks. In this time they triple in size and shed their white fur. The exhausted and starving mother then heads out to sea to feed, leaving the pup to fend for itself.
Further south along the Norfolk coastline, at Horsey, 574 seal pups have been recorded this season.
The National Trust is encouraging visitors to enjoy the Blakeney Point seals from one of the leisure boats which operate from Morston Quay, to avoid disturbing the colony.
Mr Tegala added: 'We'd also like to thank the Environment Agency for their support, which aided our preparations for last week's tidal surge. Our thoughts go out to our friends and neighbour at the Norfolk Wildlife Trust following the flooding at Cley Marshes Nature Reserve, which it appears took the brunt of the surge.'