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Saturday, 29 November 2014

Norfolk Trip 2 - Grey Seal Pups On The Norfolk Coast - Blakeney Point and Horsey Gap

As promised, here is the second part of my Norfolk trip which even the bad weather could not dampen the experience of seeing the beautiful Grey Seal pups. I had the luxury of visiting both Horsey Gap and Blakeney Point and these are just a few of the photos that were taken. They are far from perfect due to the weather but the seal pups are cute :) Hope you enjoy looking at them.

They are very cute. This next one looks just like a puppy. Look at that little face!

I think this mother is trying to hide behind it's pup :)

A suckling pup. More can be seen in a video I will add to this blog.

I can't believe I lived in Norfolk for 6 years and never once went to Blakeney Point! I only went along the coast as far as Sheringham Park, which by the way, is also a beautiful place to visit. If you can only go once a year, make that trip at the end of May or the beginning of June when the Rhododendrons are out. The views are beautiful with carpets of colour from the view towers along the walks.

At Blakeney, the last mile of the beach is closed to the public during birthing and mating season. The best way to see the seals, is by boat.

  There are a few boat trips that go out to the point but do check dates as during the Winter they don't run as often as they do in the Summer months and they have to go by the tide. I joined 'Beans Boat Trips' and it only cost me £10 which I thought was really good. I can't fault these people at all. They were really good and explained all about the area and the nature reserve and were happy to answer any questions you had, of which I had plenty :)

The old lifeboat station which is now National Trust's visitors centre. I am looking forward to coming back in the Summer months to explore this area better.

This whole nature reserve is owned and looked after by the National Trust and has been since 1912. The area is very good for wildlife and is a 4 mile stretch of Sand-dunes and shingles which I am hoping to come back and walk when it is all open again. The reserve also includes salt marshes and mudflats which all appeal to the large amounts of wildlife that visit this area every year. 

This year at Blakeney they are set to break records if the new pup numbers keep going up as they have been. Last weekend when I was there, the numbers doubled overnight! I think this is brilliant! I would have loved to see them from the main land but the last mile is closed off for good reasons. A female can abandon her pup if people get too close plus the Seals don't just give birth at this time. Breeding and birthing times for the Grey Seals start at the beginning of November and carries on until the end of January.

Some people see cuteness and think it's all right to go up to them but it is not. They are wild animals and they need their space and to be left alone. I have seen a few crazy photos of people taking their children up to seals and pups to take a photo and joggers jumping over them. I guess they haven't seen one of the male bulls go for another. If they had, they would stay well back! This next photo shows one of the bulls. Just to give you an idea of the size of these animals. A male bull weighs around 240kg. That's 37 stone and a female weighs around 24 stone but her weight will rise dramatically while she is pregnant.

This bull was rolling about all over the beach.

Here you can see the difference between the male (bull) and the female (cow) in their faces. The female has a softer face and the male looks more rugged.  

Both at Blakeney Point and Horsey Gap there are ways of seeing the seals without intruding too much. Enjoy them from a distance and take a longer lens if you want those close up cute photos. 

This next little pup at  Blakeney Point fell asleep and woke up with the tide coming in. Grey Seal pups are not waterproof when they are first born. They are born with a creamy fur coat which they will lose at about the same time they are weaned from their mothers, which is around 3-4 weeks of age. At this time, they will weigh 3 times the weight they did when they were first born. 

This one had just come into the world while I was at Horsey Gap.

Here is the mother looking very tired!

The bond between mother and pup is very easy to see. 

I love the little pups face in this next photo. It's a little like 'Mum, my hair is fine for the camera, stop it!' :)
This was taken from the Sand-dunes at Horsey Gap

I sat in the sand-dunes at Horsey watching how they interacted with each other. It was so lovely to see and it was something I thought I could not capture in a photos so I switched my camera into the record mode and recorded it. Apologies for  cutting the sound out yet again. The wind was so strong on the coast that morning but it was the only chance I had to record them as I was leaving for Warwickshire an hour later. It was my last early morning walk before leaving which was from the lovely Horsey Mill to Horsey Gap to see the seals.

The milk the pups receive from their mothers is full of fat and will help them to survive when they start to fend for themselves. Once the pup is around 3 to 4 weeks of age, the female will become fertile again and will mate with a male. 

The male seals (bulls) will come ashore and try to hold an area of the beach to themselves. They are very territorial and will fight any other male who enters their space. There was a fight as I was leaving but time was running short and I will have to return in a couple of weeks when I take my mother back home again.

 The fighting can also be stressful for mother and pup as they try to keep away from the them. Most mammals breed at different times of the year to birthing but not the Grey Seals. A female will become fertile as soon as she has weaned the young pup off her and will be fertilised very soon after but she will not become pregnant for a few months. The fertilised egg lays dormant through the Winter months, not attaching itself to the wall of the womb until Spring so you can either think of a Grey Seal as being pregnant for 11 months or 8 months, depending on how you calculate it. Nature is quite amazing!

There are two types of Seals along the Norfolk coast. You have the Common Seal and the Grey Seal. Grey seals tend to be larger. Common seals can often be seen with their heads and tails up rather than resting on the ground and are more aggressive then the Grey Seals. Once on shore for a length of time, the seals skin will dry out and change and then you might see that Common Seal's have more spots, which are smaller than that of the Grey Seals. There is also a difference in the face. The nostrils are very different. They Grey Seal has a nick name 'The hook-nosed sea-pig' and are shaped similar to a 'W'. The common seals have a smaller head and a nose more like a 'V' . 

I am not quite sure why they are called Grey Seals as they come in a selection of shades and colours.

I will leave you with a few more of my photos from last weekend but not before thanking for there excellent tour of Blakeney Point.

The National Trust at Blakeney Point for their amazing work protecting this part of the coast and all the wildlife that visit.

Also 'Friends of Horsey Seals' who are a group of volunteers who do an amazing job in all weather trying to protect an area of the coast and all the seals that come ashore there.

Thank you all for all your information and kindness which helped me write this blog. I will be back very soon. In drier weather I hope :)

Thank you for reading my blog, hope you enjoyed it.

Copyright Jana Eastwood.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Norfolk Trip Part 1 - A Rainy Autumn Day In Felbrigg Hall Woods

Last weekend I made another trip to Norfolk to collect my mother as she was flying from my local airport to see my brother and his wife who live in Abu Dhabi. When travelling to my mother's house, I always try to stay overnight so that I can get out for a walk with my camera while I am there. The weekend really didn't start well. My journey from Warwickshire all the way to the Norfolk Broads was in thick fog. Not an easy drive.

The Autumn views especially through Thetford Forest must have been amazing...if only I could have seen it.

The next morning (Sunday), it poured with rain, so much so that I had to cancel the planned boat trip to Blakeney Point. I really did not want to risk my camera in that sort of weather. My Hubby managed to get another 'work from home day' so I could try again the next morning. The weather didn't look great again but I was prepared this time! I had gone into the local village and bought a cheap raincoat. I cut the arm off one side and 'hey presto' A home-made camera rain cover :) Someone said I must have watched too much 'Blue Peter' :):) It worked perfectly, only cost me £10 and I have a spare :)

Leaving my Mum to pack for her long trip, I left a little early as half way to Blakeney is Felbrigg Hall which is somewhere I often visit when I am in the area. We don't often go into Felbrigg House itself  as the estate is vast and the children love to run through the woods.

 We used to live on the Norfolk Broads for 6 years when the children were very young. In those days, Felbrigg Hall, Sheringham Park, Horsey Mill and Blickling Hall were my local National Trust properties. Felbrigg and Sheringham being our favourites and both I miss very much. Felbrigg has a lot of history which I will cover in a future blog when I re-visit the house. My last entry to the house was when we could not take photos and unfortunately, I will miss Felbrigg decorated for Christmas for a second year running as my return visit to take my Mother home, is in 3 weeks and mid-week. Like so many other National Trust properties, the houses are often closed for Winter or open just at weekends through the colder months. Some will only open for a week or two to show off the house dressed up for the season. It is always worth checking a property prior to a visit to see if the house is open or not, especially if that is your main reason for your visit.

A damp grey day but a few rainbows that day. This one isn't the best from that day but I was driving when I saw the others.

I had heard the Autumn colours were at their peak at Felbrigg, rain or shine, I was going to visit. It was still early morning when I arrived but the grounds are open from dawn to dusk all year around. With my new camera rain cover, off I went. After only 10 minutes the heavens opened and I was soaked but it was a funny morning as the Sun and rain kept taking turns. I decided to stick to the woods, hoping the trees would keep me a little drier than the lake walk and I did not have time to do both. It was a good choice. The Autumn colours were beautiful even in the wet weather and as you walked through the woods, there were a few surprises.

I am sure these cattle were put here just to make me feel at home. We have had this exact type of cattle grazing on Camp Ground at Charlecote Park this year. I had seen the Bull first and it just stood and stared at me. As I walked through the wood, more and more cows appeared. I must say, they blended very well with the Autumn colours.

When the Sun came out and shone on the trees, it really did look beautiful. Unfortunately the Sun didn't come out as much as I would have liked it to but the rain did not spoil my walk.

I don't think you can get much better than a lovely walk through the woods on an Autumn day.It always makes me feel more alive and I walk around with a smile on my face :)

I did get another surprise on my walk which I really did not expect. I bumped into a World War 2 German Soldier. He looked  more than a little uncomfortable when he saw me, he took his helmet off and explained that they were doing a WW2 re-enactment. I walked off in the other direction and left them to it as I could hear the rest of them coming up the other side of the Victory Walk.

The Autumn colours were everywhere. They were not joking when they told me they were at their peak! I wish I had had more time to spend there but I had a boat to catch and I really did not want to miss it. I cut my walk a little short but this in turn made me walk through an area I had not before and the views were lovely.

A little Sun through the evergreens and loads of fungi along this part of the walk.

Part of the Victory Walk. For those who don't know, The Victory Walk is two avenues of trees that meet together to make a V, planted as a memorial for the end of the 2nd WW.  Where the avenues meet, there is a bench you can sit on to take in the view. I call it the thinking bench.

 I love the way the Sun shines through trees at this time of the year.

 This tree stump is very important on our walks when accompanied by my sister's family and mine together. We have always played a little game to encourage the children to walk further around the park. Every tree stump the children see, they must stand on it and pretend to be a statue and everyone else has to guess what they are. All the children get a go and then they run to find the next one. It is amazing how much further they used to walk when we played this game. They are all getting a little older now so only my sister''s two youngest children still play.

   Do you know if you look carefully you might see fairies in these woods too?

My sisters youngest children are great, they love their photo taken and beg me to take more.... unlike that of her older children or mine (It's the teenage thing!).This next photo was taken at Felbrigg in early Spring on a previous visit. Wish I had a couple of local models like them! I have some lovely photos of them around Blickling Hall. Every time I visit, I try to have at least one day out with them. This time the weather wasn't on our side and on the Monday, they were back at school.

With time running out I could not stay longer. I was soaked but my camera was perfectly dry, my home-made cover had worked really well :)

  There were loads of fungi on my walk but none as big as these. As the grass was long it made them look small on my photos so I placed some fallen leaves near the base, just to give an idea of their size but it doesn't work as well as I thought it might.

They looked like children's stools and stood around 33-35cm high.

This whole area of North Norfolk looks amazing at the moment with it's Autumn colours. The drive from Felbrigg to  Blakeney Point was stunning. I didn't go into Sheringham Park but I did pass it and it is a 'must visit' too. I know everyone is getting reading for Christmas but don't by-pass the rest of  Autumn in a hurry to get to Winter, you will miss so much. Beautiful changing colours, loads of fungi and wildlife in this area right now. Enjoy it while you can. 

Hope you have enjoyed this blog. If you are in the area, you must go and have a look, it is all so pretty at the moment but won't last long.

 Part 2 will be cover both my boat trip to see the seals at Blakeney Point and Horsey.

                                                    Copyright Jana Eastwood