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Page last updated at 15:25 GMT, Tuesday, 15 June 2010 16:25 UK
Springwatch 2010: Seals on Blakeney Point in Norfolk

Springwatch explore Blakeney's vast habitats in a high-seas adventure

Chris Packham and Kate Humble visit Blakeney Point to spot the area's iconic seals, which were feared to be disappearing from the natural landmark.

The Wash is home to around half of the world's grey seals, which benefitted from British protection in 1914.

There were reports from local businesses in April 2010 that they were absent from the shingle spit.

However, their fluctuating numbers are likely down to their "fickle requirements", according to Chris.

"They are there. What we have got to remember about seals is that they can be a highly mobile group of mammals capable of travelling great distances," said Chris Packham.

"They're quite fickle in their requirements and the sea changes those," he added.

The seals provide a major tourist attraction on the north Norfolk coast and local boating companies who run trips to see the mammals on Blakeney Point were afraid that numbers at the start of the year were dwindling.

"Over the years we've always guaranteed seals, but it has got to a point where we are getting very short of seals in the area," said Graham Bean from Beans Boat Trips in April 2010.

"We assumed that there wasn't much fish in the area so they've all headed north to find a lot more food," he added.


People in the local area were also concerned that a disease, which killed more than 17,000 common seals in the North Sea in 1988, was starting to affect the mammals again.

However, Chris believes that there is no long term evidence yet that suggests the seals are disappearing from Blakeney. Spotting them can simply depend on the time of day and tide conditions.

"Some thoughts were that during the course of the winter a storm had changed the shape of one of the bars meaning that it felt light to lie on," said Chris.

"As a consequence they couldn't launch themselves into the water as quickly as they might have liked, so they shifted from one spot to another.

"Seals will move along the north Norfolk coast and over to Lincolnshire too, so they still see seals on the vast majority of all of their trips, but the numbers fluctuate.

"This is not something to worry about in the short term. The Wash is a tremendously productive place for them.

"I don't think the conditions have changed so greatly at Blakeney that they will disappear, it's just the fact that the numbers will go up and down and at the moment there's not as many there as there was."

During Springwatch's visit to Blakeney Point they also spotted the sandwich tern - a migrant that nests on the spit during the summer before heading to Africa in the winter.



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