One of the UK’s great wildlife spectacles are the clouds of knot whirling over the shore at Snettisham in the winter.
The Grey Seals that give birth each winter on the beaches at near by, Blakeney (England’s largest colony), are another Norfolk wildlife event. Recently, a change in the habits of the Grey Seals has caused an increasing number to move south.
Populations from the traditional breeding grounds in the North and Lincolnshire have started to breed at Horsey, Norfolk.
Nearly half of the world’s total population of Atlantic grey seals make their home around the coasts of the UK. However,in recent years they have appeared in increasing numbers along the east coast at four breeding sites, Horsey being the newest. This year well over 1500 grey seals appeared to pup, including the first wild grey seal twins to be recorded.
We visited the beach this year in late April when the breeding season had finished, but at a time to coincide with the seals’ annual moult. Grey seals haul out on their beach rookeries twice a year. Firstly, during the pupping and mating season, from November to January.
Secondly, in spring when they gather together in large, noisy groups to moult. On our first visit about 500+ had hauled themselves out on the beach. Juveniles usually moult first, followed by females, and finally by adult males.
Once the moult is complete they all head out to sea until next winter.
It’s possible to access the beach and the rookeries viewing point at Horsey from a number of places. The easiest being the car park at Horsey Gap. Another option is to walk the 2.5 km from the car park at the Horsey Windpump.
This track reaches the beach at another gap in the dune’s and near a second viewing platform. At this time of year they seemed very relaxed and not concerned about people walking along the beach. In among the grey seal you could also see a few of the smaller common seal.