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Harbour Seals of the Blackwater

Harbour Seals of the Blackwater

Can you hold your breathe as long as our Harbour Seals can?

The arrival of the snow and the easterly winds have definitely had an impact on the behaviour of our seals over the last four weeks. It has also made it tricky for us to monitor them! However, that being said, they have been around and in their usual numbers from 7-11 individuals.

This month we are taking at a look at the feeding and diving patterns of the Seals. When we began monitoring the seals we would see them leave as high tide approached their haul out site, so they could go off and hunt for their food.Harbour Seals bottling

On closer monitoring, what we have now seen is that a number of the seals are choosing to stay and feed close to their haul out site and not venture out to the mouth of the River Blackwater. This is very interesting and is a good indicator that we have a good stock of food available to our little Seal colony.

When out feeding, you will often see our harbour seals displaying ‘bottling’ behaviour when they initially pop up, their noses will point up to the sky and they will rotate around, sniffing and smelling the air. You may also see them regaining their breath, preparing for their next dive.

Dive times do vary between individuals but from our data collected the seals will spend an average of 1 and a half minutes under water foraging before returning to the surface. The longest dive time extended to nearly 3 and a half minutes for our seals.

They also appear to forage in a small area, diving down and returning to the surface in similar spots – this is not to say that over the course of the foraging session they stay completely in one spot. The seals that are choosing to stay within a 200m proximity of each other, with scanning behaviour also taking place by certain members of the colony. These scans tend to be longer than the diving times by an average of 43 seconds.

Harbour Seals SwimmingWhat is great to see, is at the moment these harbour seals are relatively undisturbed, they are able to forage, relax and play without too much interaction from noise and humans. It will be interesting to see how the return of the warmer weather and increase in tourists will change their behaviour, if at all. So, when you are out on the water, keep an eye out for the seals, as they are not too far away. Next month, we will take a look at the play behaviour that we have been seeing in our seals when they return from feeding, just before they all haul out together and they are very active!

We hope by everyone working together we can all protect and enjoy these beautiful animals. If you would like to be involved or gain more information please email:, or visit our website by clicking HERE.

If you see a marine mammal that appears to be in distress, hurt or injured please contact your local marine mammal medic, Jacqui Monk on 07952 416555.

Keep a look out for our next article about The Seals of The Blackwater.

– Jacqui Monk –


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