A very rainy day has hit the May. My hide keeps me nice and dry but the seals seem to be reasonably enjoying it! (Not one of the girls felt the need to trudge off to the sea to cool down surprise surprise!)
Lately Crosspark has been a hive of activity, with 5 of the females here having heart monitors and accelerometers attached to their bodies and heads and identifying tags attached to their flippers. (I am secretly very happy about this as it makes identifying individuals so much easier!) So I have my tagged individuals, a few who have been ever present and some new girls. Speaking of the new girls, one of them quite handily decided to give birth on camera a few days ago while I was doing my daytime observations on the seal right outside the hide! I shall keep her modesty protected but the picture attached to this post shows her beautiful new born who within about 20 minutes of being born, was making its presence very much known! (It is the loudest pup I have had the joy of being near so far).
This new mum today made the ridge about a metre in front of my hide her home. I should be used to this by now but, unlike my neighbours of previous days, she likes to flex her lungs and muscles a little too much for my liking, so a hasty entrance to the hide was called for and I let her settle before starting observations. Although it makes for a generally more interesting observation period for me, the differences between female behaviour has been shown to differ on an individual basis, with some mums being naturally more attentive to their pups than others. A point perfectly demonstrated by the seals in my area. My second tagged individual decided yesterday that she fancied a wander. This isn’t a big surprise to me, plenty of the mums wander off for a while to get cool in the sea but this female was particularly determined! She climbed up one of the big rocky hills near to Crosspark, straight over the top of it. Now I know I cannot do it justice but there is nothing funnier than seeing what is essentially a sausage with a head and some reasonably ineffectual limbs (on least on land anyway) trying to haul itself like some intrepid explorer, up to the top of a hill, especially as there’s significantly easier ways to get to the sea either side of said hill. It was almost impressive.
Night observations have unfortunately been very on and off lately as the camera doesn’t like the rain any more than I do. However, unlike me, a hide is not enough to coax it into work. Since deciding to let the camera work solo on an night I have been getting hours of video on individuals and (not to give too many exciting details away) it pretty much seems that grey seals are reasonably inactive on a night (apologies to those whose dreams of seal raves have been dashed). But on a serious note, that means that data is rolling in reasonably well and hopefully I will be able to come to a solid conclusion about grey seal behaviour at night.
For those who are fans of the infamous Betty over the wall, I am afraid to say that she has fallen in with a bad crowd (albeit a crowd of one female). As previously mentioned Betty is all bark and no bite (and so she remains to be) however Betty’s new friend is not so held back. The first day I met her, the female wobbled over hissing at me, lunged at me and bit my camera case. I must admit, I wasn’t expecting it so I may have ran for a little bit (I feel no shame, she was scary!). Betty didn’t even twitch (she has no loyalty). Thankfully she didn’t follow me so I managed to get to my hide quite safely! So now I have the joy of Betty giving it all that and the new girl getting heavy flippered with me… who said behavioural ecology isn’t fun?
In other news I have become acquainted with the resident short-eared owls in the vicinity of my hide and the short walk back to the house. They aren’t scared of me at all, one was sat watching me from 15m away, I stopped to have a look… it out-stared me, I walked on ashamed. But seriously they are very beautiful creatures (hopefully I can get a decent picture on the blog for everyone to see!)
In the human/mouse domain of the island (yes there are many of them), namely the principal lighthouse keepers’ house, work goes on. The dining/living/kitchen room table is always full of computers and people doing ID work, logging tagged individuals and deciphering heart rate traces (amongst other things including me writing these blog posts, which admittedly seems less important but they don’t know what I’m doing!). We are experiencing a positively exotic array of foods and games (including His and Hers, the girls won… just saying) which keeps morale high, helped by the loud music and occasional sing along! So life on the May is good especially as today is Sunday and that means only one thing… PANCAKES FOR BREAKFAST!!!!