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Grey Seal, Blue Cabin

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Uploaded on Mar 8, 2008

This grey seal pup showed up at the cabin (www.thebluecabin.com) late one night in early December 2007, and took up residence under the jetty.
At first we worried about him, and I called the seal rescue team at Exploris Aquarium in Portaferry, to ask if there was anything we should be doing. They said we should on no account feed him, as in the wild it's normal for seal pups to be left to fend for themselves after weaning: their mothers' milk is so rich in fat that they put on a great deal of condition in the first three weeks of life (this chap would appear to be less a month old), and once on their own they will start feeding as they begin to lose condition (and get hungry!)
It broke Lynn's heart not to throw him a few fish but she resisted the temptation. We called him George (actually we called him Gracie the Grey Seal until they told us she was a he). He became very tame and used to follow me when I rowed the boat out to the mooring; when we stood on the jetty he would swim over, sometimes even haul himself out beside us. Lynn and he would chat, 'Arf arf-ing' to each other, she sitting on the jetty or the sea wall and George on the shingle below, looking up at her.
During the day he tended to hang around the jetty, and every night at the edge of dark he would make his way up to the sea wall and sleep on the stones, perhaps ten or twelve feet from the cabin. Nothing fazed him: we rely on a generator for power on the island, and it makes quite a racket, but when we fired it up in the evenings he would just glance up and go right back to sleep. Eventually he ignored it completely. When I started the outboard on the dinghy I had to be very careful, as several times I found him putting his nose uncomfortably close to the propeller to investigate.
He stayed for two and a half weeks: one afternoon we came back from a trip to the mainland, and he was gone. We were bereft, but it was the natural course of things, and he has cheered us up by doing a number of swim-bys since that afternoon: seals pass by the cabin quite often (there is a resident population of around 140 grey, and 50 common seals in Strangford Lough), and they occasionally take an interest in us - but George comes close in when Lynn calls, then dives and reappears closer still, and he tends to linger. He hasn't come ashore yet, but I'm quite sure come summer we'll find him sunning himself on the boards of the jetty one day.
Michael Faulkner 7/3/08
www.thebluecabin.com

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