The first seal pup of the year has been born on the Farne Islands, off the north Northumberland coast.
This arrival marks the start of this year’s annual seal count by the Islands’ resident rangers.
Every year, more than 1,500 pups are born on the islands, which are one of the largest Atlantic grey seal colonies in England with a population estimated at 5,000. Rangers from the National Trust spend three months each autumn monitoring the success rate of the breeding seals.
A typical day for the rangers includes landing on the seal colonies to monitor the birth of pups. Once born, they’re sprayed with a harmless dye to indicate the week they are born, which lets the rangers keep a close count. This job is not as easy as it sounds, as protective mother seals can get aggressive when the rangers get too close.
The breeding season for seals on the Farnes sometimes starts as early as mid-September with the majority of pups being born in October and November. Although the pups can swim at an early age, they don’t normally leave the breeding colony until they have been weaned and moulted their white coats.
To book a boat trip to the see the seal colonies this autumn, you can contact one of four boat companies: Glad Tidings, www.farne-islands.com, 01665 720 316; Golden Gate, www.farneislandsboattrips.co.uk, 01665 721 210; Serenity, www.farneislandstours.co.uk, 01665 721 667; St Cuthbert Boat Tours, www.farneislands.co.uk, 01665 720 388.