So the field season is well underway in Kintyre! So far three weeks of surveys have been undertaken to photograph individual harbour seals utilising sites around the peninsula.
It’s off to a brilliant start, with lots of cloudy days which is actually the best weather for field work! Ideally, we would like a little bit of sun every now and then (it is summer after all!). However, cloudy days produce the best photographs as there is minimal glare and haze which can otherwise make photographs blurry. In addition, if a seal has recently hauled out, and the pelage is wet, on a sunny day the light reflecting off the wet coat can make it harder to get a clear photo of the pelage pattern for photo-ID.
So far we’ve had no pups yet, but we have multiple pregnant females at some of the haul out sites, and we’re expecting the arrival of pups very soon! We also have quite a few males around the haul out sites, with a few juveniles up to their usual antics. Juveniles can be seen ‘porpoising’, a form of play in which they jump out of the water like a harbour porpoise (I have yet to capture this on camera!). Juveniles are smaller than full adults, and can have a lighter coloured pelage. They also tend to be more playful in the water too.
My favourite seal is ‘Goggles’, photographed below at Southend on 8th June. He is a beautiful male, and is named for his very distinctive pelage pattern. He posed very nicely on this day to get some wonderful, clear photographs of each side for photo-ID. He was seen again on 16th June, also at Southend, but this time you can see how the pelage can look slightly darker because it is wet. However, we can still identify that it is the same male based on the pattern of his spots.
Not seal-related, but we have had other stunning wildlife make some appearances too. So far this season in Kintyre, there have been three sightings of otters, including one of a mum and pup at Yellow Rock, and two sightings of a pair at Southend. In addition, there have been sightings of mergansers, shelducks, ospreys, lots of oystercatchers and the occasional sighting of the elusive caravan park cats!
As well as the harbour seals, we also have Atlantic grey seals utilising the same haul out sites. The grey seals look quite different to the harbour seals up close. I always describe them as having more of a ‘labrador-like’ face, with a more prominent snout, compared to harbours with more of a ‘cat-like face’. Grey seals also have much larger spot patterns too, as you can see in the photographs.
We’re looking forward to the imminent arrival of pups soon, and hopefully we continue to have many more exciting wildlife sightings this season!
Written by Abi