We’ve two species of seals here in Shetland, Grey and Common (or Harbour) Seals. Common Seals have their pups in the height of the summer – pups that are, within hours of birth, swimming in the open sea with their mothers. Grey Seals meanwhile pup later in the year, from autumn to early winter – theirs are the ‘classic’ seal pups, the fat white fluffy kind.
Their mums give birth up above the tideline on rocky beaches, and for weeks after birth the pups stay put, waiting for their waterproof adult coats to grow out before they can join their mothers in the sea. Until then, they’re fairly helpless on the land while they wait for their mums to come ashore to feed them.
Grey Seals rarely pup on Whalsay – they tend to prefer the remoter isles and skerries that surround us, and even there their successful weaning of their youngsters is far from a certainty. All manner of misadventures can befall a Grey Seal in Shetland, not least a young one. I shall be keeping a close eye on this one…
…a fine young seal JLI made me aware of just down the coast from home this morning. He looked plump and in good health. I spent a while this afternoon watching him in the low winter sunlight as he slept, stretched and concentrated on the serious business of growing up.