Armed and dangerous, a warden with coloured spray dye
At last a really calm day on the islands and a chance to visit some of the seal colonies to see what has happened since we were last on them. Although we couldn't make all the colonies, the weather pattern appears to be settled for the time being...but not for long. Reports are starting to flood in that we are in for it yet again, as a north-easterly gale is due at the weekend. Oh boy, I thought we had seen the last of those and at this rate, I might be eating Christmas turkey out on Brownsman! (actually don't tempt me, that would be brilliant!). However it was the short leap over to nearby Staple Island a stones throw away from Brownsman.
Like Viking raiders, we landed on the shores of Staple, armed and ready. The island is one of two islands open to the public during the summer as the thriving seabird metropolis supports one of the largest Puffin colonies on the Farnes and it’s a spectacular sight for day trippers. However its late November and only one thing thrives; Grey Seals.
When I first started on the islands back in 2001, the island didn’t support any pupping mothers, but now it’s a major player on the Farnes. The count went smoothly and although we found a few dead, it was evident that mortality was well below the average, more nearer 15%. The sheltered aspect of the island certainly helps and probably one of the reasons why the seals have colonised the low sloping island in recent year. After a few hours marking, counting, tagging and mapping the colony, we return to Brownsman. Staple now has 338 seal pups, an impressive number by any colony standard.
The Farnes have seen a shift in the colonies in recent years as mothers have moved from the two islands of the Wamses (North and South) to the sheltered retreats of Brownsman and Staple Island. I must confess, I can't blame them, as the North Wamses registered a mortality rate of 72% not long back, compared to 22% on Staple. Now you may see why they are shifting! However we leave sheltered Staple Island behind as we move further out into the colonies and what will we discover out on those islands, only time will tell…