Its seal time again – Harwich / Walton-on-the-Naze

Autumn has been a season of seal watching so far and last weekend was no different. It was also another new location for us, taking a boat from the port of Harwich in Essex with Sealwatching.co.uk.

The boat left from the quay at Harwich Dock and motored out through the port, past the huge shipping container port and along the much more pleasant beach at Dovercourt for about 45 minutes until reaching Hamford Water Nature Reserve. It was there that we found the seals. First just one or two in the water, then a couple more basking on the banks, until we spotted another group of about 50 hauled up ahead. As we approached, they spooked and started launching themselves into the water, making quite a splash as they went.

It was interesting to see a few of them skipping along, jumping in and out of the water like dolphins playing. The boat hung around for a while as we watched the seals (and i’m sure a hen harrier way off in the distance), before we headed back, this time with the tide, to be back at the dock within 30 minutes.

It was a very pleasant way to spend two hours and the crew took good care of us, providing binoculars if needed and a running commentary of the sites along the way and a history of the local landmarks.

Before heading home, we stopped off at Essex Wildlife Trust’s Hanningford Resevoir for a quick trundle along their Wind In the Willows inspired nature walk, coffee, cake and dropping in and our of a couple of their hides for a quick peak.

Seals from Burnham-on-Crouch…sorry it’s late part 2

Those very few of you who may follow this blog will have seen that we go to Burnham-on-Crouch quite often to see the seals and back in mid-September my wife and i went again, this time with baby Benjamin!

This time, it was just a day trip, but we did go again with Discovery Charters and met up again with our friend Noodles the dog.

It was another great day of seal watching, but also some pleasant sightings of water birds. I swear every time we go that the number of birds is increasing massively. The great work that the RSPB has done as Wallasea Island has not only created a great habitat for the returning birds, but has also helped to de-silt the river Crouch.

I won’t take too much time with words here, but just let the photos do the talking!

Back to Burnham – Will there be seal pups?

So, only 2 months after our last trip, we’re back in Burnham-on-Crouch to see the common seals. The difference this time is that there might, just might be a chance to see some pups, even though they’re often not born until July.

We stayed the night before at our usual haunt, the White Harte Hotel, for a comfortable nights stay and some poached eggs for breakfast. The day started with some bright weather, but just before 11.00 when the boat (Discovery Charters 2 hour boat trip) was to pick us up to begin the trip, the clouds darkened and we felt a few spots of rain on our faces. There was also a strong, constant breeze coming in off the sea, but this helped to drive the clouds away and it thankfully stayed dry. We were accompanied on the trip by Noodles, the boat’s resident dog, complete with his own little life-jacket. Noodles takes a keen interest in the seals and seems to love the tours.

As usual, the trip started off with an update on the work to develop the RSBP reserve at Wallasea Island. This area is becoming an increasingly important area for seabirds and waders which was evidenced by the large numbers of black-headed gulls we saw, along with some common terns, Canada geese, brent geese, oyster catchers and little egrets. We even saw 5 avocets on route to and from the seal area.

We soon saw our first solitary seal on the bank of Wallasea Island before heading further along the river and spotting a group of 12-15 on the Foulness side. As we neared the group, what looked to be bits of driftwood next to the seals, sure enough, turned out to be seal pups. There were 4 or 5 in this group, with the bigger ones only 48 hours old and the smaller ones, according to our skipper Steve, only having been born the night before. The pups were incredibly cute, and both mothers and babies didn’t really seem too bothered by us being there.

We stayed slowly cruised a couple of times past this group, before heading a little further up, back on the Wallasea side, to see another group of 12-15 seals which, again, had a few tiny pups with them. We another cruise past them, so both sides of the boat could get a good view, before heading back to to the harbour past the other seals.

It was another lovely trip with Discovery Charters and great to see pups for the first time on our trips to Burnham. I’m sure we’ll be back again in the future.

Burnham-on-Crouch – Common seals and seabirds

So, last weekend it was the West coast of England last and today was on the East coast in Burnham-on-Crouch in Essex. As the name implies, Burnham sits on the River Crouch, just before it flows out in to the English Channel.

Burnham view 01
View of the River Crouch from Burnham

 

If you’re in London and fancy seeing some wildlife, its just an hour and a half’s drive away or 1 to 2 hours on the train (depending on the service).

We took a boat operated by Discovery Charters from Burnham Town Quay on a two-hour trip along the river looking for common seals, but also keeping an eye out for seabirds and waders (more on that later).

Once we were past the moorings for all the number of yacht clubs that operate along the river, we made our way onto the River Roach that joins the Crouch with Foulness island on one side and Wallasea island on the other.

Soon we came across our first seals. I would say they were basking in the sun, but it was fairly overcast, albeit with no wind, no rain and mirror-calm waters.  As we motored along we saw seals on either side of the river  in groups of 8 to 12 and saw over 50 in total.  The boat slowed past each group, then turned round and went past again so that the passengers on each side of the boat got a good view. The seals were quite curious and although some of the seals may have slipped down the muddy banks into the water as we approached, like boats being launched down a slipway, they often swam towards us to have a closer look at us.

 

Wallasea Island is a RSPB project consisting of saltmarsh, mudflats and lagoons that has been created by re-engineering the existing seawall and utilising more than 3 million tons of excavated soil from the huge Crossrail rail tunnels that have been bored under London. This newly created habitat is home to a huge array of birds (differing depending o the season) and today we say a huge amount of arctic terns, some cormorants, oystercatchers, spotted redshanks (I think) and a single avocet (although I believe it is common to see many more).

 

We were dropped back at the quay and had some traditional chips and a pickled onion from the chippy before we jumped in the car for the drive home.

This was our third time making the trip to Burnham and we’ve always seen seals and in the summer months we’ve seen seal pups. We’ve also previously seen marsh harriers and curlews, so although sightings are never guaranteed, in our experience this is a very good spot for seeing something!