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Thursday, 8 April 2010

Harbour seals....

.... or as they tend to be more popularly know around here "common seals" - except they aren't as common as their name suggests. This last week researchers from the Scottish Ocean's Institute have been in Orkney as they are beginning a study to survey the detailed diet of Scotland's Harbour/Common seals. The harbour/common seal has been in continued decline around the UK shores, despite various conservation efforts. Apparently the severest decline has been in Orkney and Shetland so it's hoped the study will give some clues to the reasons for the decline.

I haven't seen many of the common seals, generally the seals we see on Graemsay are grey seals. In the picture at the top of this post are grey seals on Sandside beach. Sadly they don't haul out on the beach so much nowadays, preferring the skerries and shoreline. On the island we've noticed declining numbers of the grey seals, however friends over on the Bay of Ireland have commented on an *increase* in the number of seals they see hauled out there. So maybe our "Graemsay" seals have just moved location. Certainly their new location is quieter and less likely to be disturbed than Sandside beach. OK so Graemsay is hardly a buzzing metropolis, but the "main" road does run parallel with the beach and folk walk with kids, dogs and er - cats which disturbs the seals afternoon nap, so perhaps they've chosen a quieter resort to sunbath!

I love seeing the seals - all has been quiet this winter but yesterday I saw one sunbathing on the rocks just below the house. When I first visited Orkney "househunting" I was keen to see seals and searched the sea for just a glimpse of a bobbing head. I imagined every creel buoy or distant "blob" was a seal! Eventually I came out to Graemsay and before even looking round the house, the seals on the sandy beach were pointed out to me. I knew then I wanted the house, despite the holes in the roof, the pigeons in the bedrooms (through holes in the roof), boarded up windows (broken by the pigeons...). So - need to see my selkie friends on a regular basis! (Selkie is Orcadian dialect for seal. Lots of folklore surrounding the "selkie-folk").


  1. Thank you for leaving a message on my blog :-) I didn't expect anyone to find it. I'm very new to blogging but I'm going to try and update my pages every few days.

    Long before we moved here, we followed your blog, along with Malc's 'Edge of Nowhere' (for about 18 months). It was a wonderful way to keep in touch with this magical place. We still 'pop into' your blogs almost daily.

    On the subject of the Common Seals. We have seen far more Grey Seals around the coast, but managed to see some Common Seals during December at the Sands of Evie. We've also spotted some basking on an outcrop of rock at the Loch of Stenness.

  2. It's surprising what one does find on the web! Even when you think you are "hidden". Glad you have seen some common seals around. I shall have to look more closely when I'm out on the Mainland!