Welcome to grey seal field work 2012!
First day back on the job and I was greeted with one of the most bizarre weather days I have ever had doing field research. What started out cloudy and windy, turned into rainy, then brilliantly sunny, then the sunny skies gave way to torrential hail storms multiple times, and a howling wind set the hide walls shaking. Good thing Sean and Hagen tied sturdy knots yesterday or my hide might have blown away!! Weather aside (I did sign up for field work in autumn) it was a brilliant first day back. There were only 5-6 males settled into my study area: the majority of the early-arrivers seem to be around the corner from where I’m located. While this doesn’t seem like very many right now, in a week or two that number will quadruple and I’ll have my hands full keeping track of them all.
The most exciting part of the day was when I saw that some of the males present were familiar faces from last season: B43 [seen last year at this site for a week or two], Sickle [this wanderer was known at both of my study sites within the colony] and Truffula [he was spotted today at almost exactly the same spot where I last saw him a year ago!]. We know from other colonies that male grey seals are relatively site-faithful: that is most males will return to not only the same colony year after year, but in many cases the exact same location! Since no one has looked into the males at this colony I had no idea before today if I would see any of the males I identified last year or not. Being able to track individuals within a season is important for behavioural studies but it is even more critical for conducting studies across years to look at long-term changes and events. I’m very happy to see that at least a few males have returned in general, and in the case of Truffula that his return seems to be back to his old spot. Hopefully the next few days will herald the return of more known males!