We were so thrilled to receive the 'Watch ON' message from Pauline, the organiser of the Cwmtydu Seal Watch, last week.
Every Autumn, a group of local volunteers, ourselves included, take part in 4-hour long shifts watching over any mothers with pups who have chosen our beautiful local beach as their temporary home.
Our job is to protect these magnificent wild animals from curious people (and their dogs), who may not realise how sensitive the mothers are to interference at this crucial time. The mothers give birth in secluded caves or gullys in or around the cove, and may spend 3 weeks feeding their pups on land before leaving them to fend for themselves once the pup is weaned.
The mother seals often spend time in between feeds bobbing around in the bay, keeping a watchful eye on their pups, who are usually snoozing somewhere safe. This is when visitors often assume that the pups have been abandoned, and may try and approach them to see if they are ok.
It is an amazing sight to sit and watch the mother haul herself up the beach to her pup, and then feed him/her for 10-15 minutes, before re-entering the water. They are wary of onlookers, but continue to bring their pups to Cwmtydu year after year, as photographs taken by Watch members have shown. Each seal has unique markings, allowing them to be identified from previous seasons' photos. We are indeed privileged that they continue to allow us to share this brief but vitally important part of their lives.
Sometimes the resident bull seal cruises around watching what is going on - he is more concerned with arranging that next years' crop of pups comes into existence before the females disappear once their current pups are self sufficient!
As members of the Watch, we offer advice to visitors, and have information sheets and also small souvenirs such as postcards and badges available. In addition, we monitor the comings and goings of the seals, recording all the information for collation and analysis at the end of the season. Read about previous years' seal watches on the Cwmtydu Bay Wildlife Seal Blog.
Pembrokeshire & Ceredigion County Councils provide information boards at many local beaches about what to do when seeing a seal pup on the beach, which you may see if you visit us in the Autumn. However, I feel lucky to be able to play a small part in protecting our native wildlife, and also enjoy meeting the many holiday makers and locals who come to visit once the word is out that there are pups on the beach!
So, grab your binoculars and book a short stay this Autumn!
Thank you to Pauline Bett for permission to use her fabulous photos.