Nature Diary: Spare some time for sealwatching

January is one of the best months to observe grey seals on land

A seal enjoying the high tide in the River Liffey at Wolf Tone Quay in Dublin. Photograph: David Sleator

A seal enjoying the high tide in the River Liffey at Wolf Tone Quay in Dublin. Photograph: David Sleator

 

Spotting seals swimming near the coast or in harbour waters is always a pleasure as long as you’re not in the sea alongside them.  Working out whether what you see is a grey seal or a common or harbour seal is however more difficult as their coats are often very similar.

Grey seals are however much larger than common seals and they give out a low moan while common seals are practically silent. Common seals prefer estuaries and sand banks while grey seals prefer rocky shoreline. Grey seals are also more likely to remain upright and motionless in the sea to have a good look around them. 

 The two species are rarely found together but paradoxically grey seals are more common and many of the small islands off the Irish coastline are special areas of conservation for breeding grey seals.

January is one of the best months to see grey seals on land as this is when the female grey seals moult their winter coat. It’s best to observe them from a distance and never try to feed them. 

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