Seal pups seen from Fast Castle

Grey Seal feeding her pup on the shore.
Grey Seal feeding her pup on the shore.

The final summer field meeting of the Duns Group of the Scottish Wildlife Trust was a walk down to Fast Castle on November 1.

We were lucky it was a bright clear afternoon as we had completely forgotten about the change to winter time that weekend and if it had been a dull day we could have ended up in the dark!

There is a large Grey Seal breeding colony on the Berwickshire coast and October and November is the time when the Grey Seals have their pups.

It is not a good idea to go near the breeding females with pups as they are easily spooked but it is possible to view a few pups from Fast Castle without causing any disturbance.

When the pups are born they have a thick, white, dense coat, although this keeps them warm it also makes them very conspicuous, so they are easy to see lying on the stony beaches just above the high tide line.

The mothers feed the pups with a very rich milk for three weeks, they put on weight at an extraordinary rate and after only the three weeks the mothers abandon the pups, they then must live on their fat until they learn themselves how to swim and catch fish.

As well as seeing the pups we had great views of a good number of large adults swimming in the sea below us where they were keeping a close eye on us.

The seals must have encountered a shoal of fish close to the castle and the shoal of fish were breaking the surface in their attempt to escape. This was soon spotted by the Gannets, Herring Gulls and Great Black-backed Gulls which came in quickly to try and obtain a meal.

As well as the adult Gannets there was a number of young birds which are very dark, almost black in colour, they were diving deep into the sea to try and catch some unfortunate fish they had spotted.

About 10 Eider ducks were swimming close to the base of the cliffs, most were the conspicuous white drakes and when they were swimming under water, from above it was possible to see and follow their progress through the clear water. Eiders mostly feed on shellfish on the rocks under the water.

About 30 Shags were resting on the rocks or in the sea, they were looking very handsome with their dark almost black, bottle green plumage.

A small party of eight Pink-footed Geese flew past heading south and a wee charm of Goldfinches were feeding on thistle heads.

Very few plants were in flower at this late date but there was a nice selection of fungi growing amongst the grass.