Donna Nook Grey Seal Colony


Two years ago during an October half-term visit to my parents, we went to Donna Nook on the Lincolnshire coast to see the Grey Seal colony there. It was early in the season and there were relatively few seals there and only one new-born pup. This year we were visiting on the first weekend in November and though the beach was not yet at it’s busiest, there were many more seals and lots of pups.

On this side of the Atlantic the pups are born in the autumn. The gestation period must be close to a year, because the bulls are here not to assist with rearing the young, but in order to mate with the cows.

The bulls are huge (up to 3.3m and 310 kg apparently) and often have scarring around their necks.


Presumably from injuries picked up at this time of year during sparring with rival bulls.

In this photo of the same bull…


…you can see the distinctive nose which gives rise to the Latin name Halichoerus grypus, meaning “hooked-nosed sea pig”. Not exactly pulchritudinous and I now suspect that the rather more handsome seals I photographed off the Welsh coast this summer were probably common seals rather than grey seals. (It seems that the common seal’s dog like snout is the distinguishing feature)

Lying around seemed to be the order of the day, but even so, there always seemed to be something happening somewhere on the beach. We saw bulls chasing across the beach to fight. The seals can move surprisingly quickly when they want to. You can see here that this cow…

PB060895 lifting herself up to shuffle forward.

This pup has something on it’s mind…




Goo onnnn.”

The cow moved away. But only to reposition herself so that…


The pups seemed to delight in having a bit of a roll around…

PB060921 PB060912

This cow and her pup….


…climbed up into the dunes towards us.


We could see afterbirth in several places on the beach which seemed to have drawn in numerous black-backed gulls. I suspect if we’d stayed long enough we may well have seen a pup being born and I would have happily stayed for several hours, but there was a very bitter wind blowing off the sea and the kids had enjoyed seeing the seals but now wanted to be away to Cleethorpes for some fish and chips.

Donna Nook Grey Seal Colony

10 thoughts on “Donna Nook Grey Seal Colony

  1. Fantastic pictures – I have soft spot for seals. How close can you get to the seals (not sure how many of the photos are on a zoom). Be a great place for a day out with the kids if I’m ever over at Jane’s mums at that time of year

    1. beatingthebounds says:

      They were all taken with a zoom and it does help to have binoculars, but some of the females and pups were very close to where we were – especially when they came up on to the dunes. My Mum tells me that when the beach gets really crowded some of the seals are right by the fence so that you really could touch them.

  2. Walks says:

    Lovely photos, especially the last one. What a treat! They almost look close enough to touch… Although they’d probably take your arm off!!

    1. beatingthebounds says:

      They didn’t seem very bothered by our presence (and there were quite a lot of people there), but they are very large and I’m not sure I would want to risk annoying them!

  3. Great photos of the seals. I’ve been out to photograph the common seals a few times near me, but they don’t do anything. Only have several images of great lumps lying on sand banks.
    The last couple of images are fantastic. The cow in the second last photo looks to have a great big smile on her face.

  4. beatingthebounds says:

    Lying around was extremely popular, but the bulls would suddenly rush (and they are quick) across the sand for some fairly aggresive looking confrontations and the pups were rolling or feeding as well as snoozing.

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