Saturday, 9 February 2013

Keeping the cold out

A cold walk along the Princes Pier this afternoon was rewarded with some distant views of four Common Seals.

I normally just get to see the head of a seal bobbing up and down in the water, but today four of them had hauled up onto the old Hover Port apron.

These three were fairly lose to each other and quite near the water, and I'd completely missed the fourth, small, one snoozing quietly further up the ramp. As can be seen the marine mammals are well adapted for out cold water, with a layer of blubber that would be handy for a cross channel swimmer.

The one closest to the water was slowly edging close and soon joined the one bobbing head that was still swimming out there. 

The palest and largest seal was possibly a bull, but the two sexes are similar They occur in two phases, both light and dark represented here. From this front view the characteristic V shaped nostrils are very obvious, almost converging at the bottom. They are normally given the name Harbour Seal (Phoca vitulina), as they are not the commonest seal over their range, but frequently are inshore and as these demonstrate have a liking for harbours. There are five sub-species, there are from the nominate East Atlantic race of P.v. vitulina.

There were quite a few auks around in the inner harbour. Most were Razorbills, and they were mainly gathered at the far end and fairly distant from the pier. I found just two Guillemots with them, although in the choppy water I may have missed some.

On the outer wall of the harbour there were groups of Cormorants standing around, but it was four or five of Shags that were feeding in the harbour with the auks. This smaller relation of the Cormorant breeds on the rocky coasts of  the west and north of the British Isles but a few winter round the coast of Kent. The thinner yellow bill and lack of a white thigh patch distinguish the adults from Cormorants when a direct size comparison can't be made.

No comments: