Protected by the army
Atlantic seals have been breeding on the Lincolnshire coast since the early 1970’s and seem to have become accustomed to aircraft bombing near them on a regular basis. Donna Nook is the only national nature reserve in the UK where the land is owned by The Ministry of Defence. Opened as range and relief landing ground in 1927, part of the area is still used today as a bombing target range.
For much of the year the seals are at sea or out on distant sandbanks. In October they return to the coastline to breed, before going back to sea once the pups have developed enough. The males ordinarily enter the rookeries once the females give birth. Once pups are weaned, the females become available for mating giving rise to much competition among the bulls. The young pups are suckled for three weeks; during this time they will triple their weight and gradually lose their pale coat. A double wooden fence has been erected in 2007 to try to stop people touching the newborn pups and putting them at risk of being abandoned by their mothers.
The images were took in November 2010, for the first time Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust volunteers started issuing warnings about photographers disturbing seals on the beach. Pups death were higher on the beach than in the restricted area, probably because of photographers getting too close to pups. Yet the decision to access the beach was left to my own judgement and all the pictures were taken at safe distance avoiding any interaction or disturbance to the seals. Close up shots were taken in the dedicated visor area. A year later, the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust posted official guidelines which strongly advocate against accessing the shore.
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