Sunday, 26 March 2017

Grey Seals at Donna Nook

24th March 2017

This month's lecture meeting brought us a talk by Rob Lidstone-Scott, Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust's Outer Humber warden about his work with the grey seals, Halichoerus grypus, of Donna Nook National Nature Reserve.

Rob explained how his job was more of a people warden than a seal warden, the seals being a law unto the themselves while the people who come to look at them, around 70000 each pupping season, need to be cared for. Managing the visitors, car parking, ensuring minimum disturbance of the seals and safety of the public, is a formidable task.

We learnt something of the seal's biology and life-cycle and how the North Sea populations have shifted and grown in recent years, with large increases at the southern rookeries of  Donna Nook, Blakeney and Horsey, while the Farne Isle population has stayed more constant. The Scottish populations of the Hebrides and Northern Isles are still much larger.

Satellite tracking of Donna Nook seals show that the Lincolnshire seals range along the coastal waters of Lincolnshire and Yorkshire and the shallow waters of the Norfolk Banks and Dogger Bank, feeding mostly on bottom dwelling fish such as dragonet, short-spined sea-scorpion and sand-eel, cod and flat-fish.

Rob recounted the events surrounding the tidal surge of 5/6th December 2013 when the waters over-topped the chestnut paling fence, washing seal pups and adults into the dunes. Rob and his fellow-wardens had to cut the fencing and do their best to ensure the safety of the pups, the great majority of which survived and were reunited with their mothers.

It is noteworthy that the pup mortality rate, at under 10%, on these southern sandy beach rookeries is much lower than on the rocky sites such as the Farne Islands, where mortality may be 40%. With a female living about 30 years and producing a pup most years there is scope for a steady but large increase in population. Orcas are very rare in the North Sea so the seals are the top predator. Limiting factors on numbers may be disease, pollution (this may be a significant cause of mortality in the Baltic population) and entanglement with fishing gear. Seal culling is a vexed issue, no longer affecting the Lincolnshire and Norfolk populations, but significant in northern, Scandinavian and Canadian populations.

Further reading:

The Wildlife Trusts

LWT Donna Nook

Joint Nature Conservation Committee

Seal Conservation Society

National Trust Blakeney

Friends of Horsey Seals

Berwickshire and Northumberland coast

Scottish Natural Heritage

Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust

Monday, 20 March 2017


Friday 24 March 2017 at 7.30 pm at the Nichol Hill Methodist Church
Rob Lidstone-Scott, Outer Humber LWT Warden, will tell us about his experiences of,
‘Seal Management’ in the UK’.
Entry is £2.50 for adults. Children are most welcome and are not charged.

Friday 28 April 2017 ‘A Members’ Evening with photographs and the Annual General Meeting’, with a raffle and refreshments. It was a fun evening in 2016 let’s follow the pattern!
·         Send Ray Woodcock your 5-minute set of your digital photographs by 1 April on
·         To date we have not charged admission for entry to this annual meeting so please support the raffle to cover the meeting’s costs and to raise funds for the LWT.
·          It will be much appreciated if some you will be kind enough to provide a raffle prize or two.
·         There is a rota for volunteers to help with the preparation and serving of refreshments. Please sign up to help at April’s meeting.

September: there are no details for this event at Gibraltar Point on your green membership programme. However, the Spring newsletter that accompanies the recent copy of the LWT Lapwings magazine informs you that we shall be assembling at the main car park at Gibraltar Point at 0800hrs on Saturday 24 September to see the birds that are pushed in by the high spring tide. You will need to pay for parking.

Do let me know.
The spring flowers are in a riotous display of colour. We have two energetic frogs in our tiny pond that have been producing spawn since late February whilst a Small tortoiseshell butterfly was enjoying the sunshine on the hedge on Wednesday morning. We glimpsed the first lambs of the year at Woodhall Spa Airfield on 22 February.
When Jane and I visited Middlemarsh and Gibraltar Point. on 10 March we logged 47 different bird species They included a group of 5 jaunty Snipe and 3 elegant Pin-tailed ducks.

Ray Woodcock Chairman LAG 17 March 2017

Report on the Watch meeting Legbourne Woods March 12th 2017
Luckily the rain had cleared by the afternoon, though the ground was still wet and very muddy in the woods.
The meeting  began with the children weaving wool through twigs to make a loom. They then went into the woods to scavenge dead leaves and plants to weave into a pattern.
After this we walked through the wood to find signs of spring. We found primroses, celandines, catkins, bees, frogs and frog spawn. A bird's nest lined with moss was also found. We heard several birds singing including a chiffchaff.
Later we stuffed stems and leaves etc into the tubes that we had brought with us. The tubes were used, along with more branches, to mend and improve the insect hotel that was built last year.
We walked back to the car park along the old railway line.
There was a good turnout despite the wet and the mud. Overall there was a very friendly and happy atmosphere. AH