At this time of year, the residents of West Wales are no stranger to yellowish-white, fluffy seal pups littered along the coast. Tucked into hidden nooks and crannies, it seems every opportunity to find a safe pupping site is taken. Sometimes, rather than more precarious rocky ledges at the waters’ edge, mothers choose to pup on a wide, sandy beach that many humans might prefer to use for their own recreational purposes. One such site that is loved by nursing female seals and humans alike is Cwmtydu in Ceredigion.
Since 2001, the Cwmtydu Bay Wildlife Group have been monitoring the beach at seal pupping time with the additional aim of educating passersby about the Atlantic Grey Seals which choose to have their young there. Yesterday, in a bid to help protect these captivating animals, seven of our residential interns in New Quay (also in Ceredigion) ventured down to the bay in torrential rain to help keep watch over the pups there. Unfortunately, one of the pups on the beach had died previously which was a sad disappointment for all involved. Nonetheless, in two hour shifts throughout the day, the Sea Watch team kept a diligent watch over the beach and chatted to those people who were adventurous enough to head out in the monsoon about the seals and the importance of giving them space.
A 24-hour old pup ingests some of it’s mother’s vital, fatty milk – Ramsey Island, Pembrokeshire, 7th September 2015. Photo by Kathy James.
Yesterday afternoon, the rains had cleared and the Sea Watch office over-looking Dolau Beach in New Quay, received a hurried knock at the door. We did not recognise the face on the otherside who was a concerned member of the public telling us that there was a young seal pup hidden in the rocks on the beach in front of us. Thanking her, we rushed down to the beach to find the youngster well camouflaged against the rocks, panting quite heavily. Although the rains has subsided the sea was still furious and we suspected that the little one had been swept from his protected cove and washed up on the Dolau beach. This time, I took my turn in watching out for the seal pups of Ceredigion and spent a little time ushering people away from the beach in case it’s mother was out there, hidden amongst the waves, and she wanted to return to feed her pup. Our fantastic interns watched over the beach and it’s new inhabitant until dark. There was no sign of the mother.
The Dolau seal pup catching it’s breath. Photo by Katrin Lohrengel/ Sea Watch Foundation
Early this morning, the next intern on the rota, Lisa, headed down to New Quay Pier for her landwatch and to keep an eye out for the seal pup on the beach adjacent. There was no sign of the pup so Lisa hoped it had headed out to sea. As Lisa continued her watch for cetaceans she was approached by a member of the public who told her that there was seal pup on the harbour beach (the other side of the quay to Dolau beach). With excitement, Lisa rushed over to see the substantial seal pup heading over the sand and back to the, now calm, sea.
The pup heading back to sea as the sun came up. Photo by Lisa Leschinski/ Sea Watch Foundation
Taking the plunge! Photo by Lisa Leschinski/ Sea Watch Foundation
Tracks in the sand. Photo by Lisa Leschinski/ Sea Watch Foundation
This wasn’t the last we saw of ‘Olaf’, nick-named by a child visiting the pier. As another of our interns, Anna, took over landwatch duties between 9-11am she radioed back the the office to tell us Olaf was now back on Dolau beach, right in front of our office! The interns stepped forwards and put on an hourly rota throughout the day to stand at the top of the beach and tell people about the seal and why it was a good idea to give it some space. After lunch, Jade, who was on landwatch this time spotted that Olaf had left the beach and that there was an adult seal out to sea simultaneously. This is where we finish the story for today. We’re still keeping an eye out for Olaf whilst we record dolphins and should he/she decide to reside on the beach again, we’ll be there to make sure people show some respect.
Here’s wishing all the grey seal pups of West Wales every success as they go forwards!
We would like to thank Pauline and Bert of the Cwmtydu Bay Wildlife group for their expertise and assistance this past twenty-four hours. If you do see a seal pup alone on a beach when you are out and about then please make sure you do not disturb it and please keep your dog on a lead, It is likely that the mother is watching from the safety of the sea and she may not return whilst you are present. If the seal pup appears to be injured please ring the RSPCA or British Divers Marine Life Rescue.
If you would like to volunteer to help protect the seals of Ceredigion, please check out The Cymtydu Bay Wildlife group.
If you’re interested in helping us document sightings of whales, dolphins, porpoises and seals anywhere around the UK, please click here.
For more fantastic pictures of this beautiful pup click here.
Kathy James, Sightings Officer for Sea Watch Foundation.