Posted by: Ross Gardner | May 29, 2017

The Big Trip

The Van

Our home for the summer. Ross Gardner 2017.

My first post for many weeks, but this time with a better excuse than simply not getting round to it.  On April 29th the big trip began!  A year’s worth of travelling, first of all touring the UK living in our camper van, and then heading out in the autumn to Borneo, New Zealand and beyond.  We have spent May mostly in Scotland, where coinciding decent Wi-Fi connectivity and electricity connection proved tricky than expected, especially being the smart phone luddite that I am.  A shall attempt to make up for lost time.

A swiftish journey up the east coast was the way forward, which took in the wonderful landscapes of the North York Moors and the Northumberland coast and hill-country.  The first experience of the former was at the very fine coastal scenery of Ravenscar, with its clifftops overlooking the famous Robin Hood Bay.  The plan was to walk up to and around said bay,  but for something of a distraction.  It turns out that there is something of a seal colony at Ravenscar, which we decided to investigate along our route.  Now, I have seen many a seal over the years and while I always enjoy a good seal sighting, this turned out to be something rather different.

Phoca vituline

Common Seal (Phoca vitulina) close-up. Ross Gardner 2017

Having come to the rocky shore at the foot of the cliffs you find yourself quite literally among the colony.  Within a few moments we passed within metres of one Common Seal and clambering among the rocks soon discovered that there were dozens scattered all over.  I frequently found myself apologising as blundered too close to a hidden animals which was quick to express its chagrin at my intrusion.  It felt rather wrong to be within such close quarters with these wild animals.  It just so happened that we bumped into a Marine Mammal Medic and very much an expert on his charges.  I expressed my concerns, but he put my mind at rest.  He explained that it’s about people experiencing things, being educated and passing on their knowledge.

We do though, need to apply some common sense.  He reminded us that the seals will soon let us know if we’re too near to them and that they should not be approached too closely.  This is for their benefit and ours; they are wild, predatory animals that are quite able to defend themselves.  There were both Common and Grey Seals present.  We were told that there is a problem with the tourists getting to close to pups of the latter.  Common Seals are born ready for the sea.  The Greys however, are not.  They must be weaned.  Folk often like to have their picture taken with a cute, white furry seal pup, but when tainted by the scent of humans the mother will desert the young, helpless seal.  Clearly not good!  Both species, just like anything else, deserve our respect.

It was a different and fascinating experience of animals I have often be fortunate enough to see, enhanced further by meeting someone so knowledgeable and enthusiastic to share what they know.

Halichoerus grypus

Grey Seal (Halichoerus grypus) bull – not to be messed with. Ross Gardner 2017.

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