Seal breeding season begins on Farnes

The first seal pup to be born on the Farne Islands this year.
The first seal pup to be born on the Farne Islands this year.

With the flutter of little flippers in full flow on the Farne Islands, rangers are hoping for another successful breeding season for the Atlantic seal.

The islands’ first pup of the year was born on September 27, heralding the start of the season, with the majority of pups usually born in October and November.

And as this year’s seal breeding season gets underway, the National Trust is once again offering visitors a unique opportunity to get up close to these fascinating mammals.

Home to England’s largest population of Atlantic grey seals, numbers on the Farnes are increasing every year. More than 1,600 seal pups were born on the islands last year, an increase on the previous year, taking the total population to 4,800.

Although the pups can swim at an early age, they don’t normally leave the breeding colony until they have been weaned and moulted their white coats.

And visitors aboard designated seal tours are now able to see first-hand the challenges faced by a young pup in its first few weeks of life.

Head ranger David Steel said: “There isn’t anywhere else in England where visitors can get as close as this to Atlantic grey seals, particularly during the pupping season.”

Visitors aboard the seal tours leave Seahouses Harbour, joined by a National Trust ranger, and sail to Staple Island. Once ashore they are greeted by a team of National Trust rangers who share their experiences of working with seals. This is a really special time at the Farnes and one which not many people get to see, so these tours really do offer a unique experience for the visitor,” David added.

“We are hoping that this will be another exciting year for the seal colony and our dedicated staff are looking forward to being able to share their experiences of working alongside these amazing creatures.”

The tours, all weather permitting, will continue until October 31. Booking is advisable and can be done by contacting either Glad Tidings boat company on 01665 720316 or 01665 720308 evenings, or Serenity boat company on 01665 721667 or 01665 720760 evenings.

For more information go to www.nationaltrust.org.uk/farne-islands