Young harbour seals set free after rehabilitation

This 17 September 2015 Dutch video is about two young harbour seals, Remko and Jip.

Three months ago, they were found as orphans on the beach of Texel island.

After being cared for at Ecomare museum, the seals became strong enough to be set free to swim in the sea; as the video shows.

See also here.

Seals and birds of Dutch desert island

This 7 September 2015 video is about the Razende Bol, a desert island near the bigger Texel island in the Netherlands.

The film shows grey seals and their pups.

And little terns nesting there.

Seal eats cod, video

This 12 September 2015 video is about a harbour seal eating a cod in the Marsdiep strait between Texel island the continental Netherlands.

Wendy van der Zee from Den Helder made this video.

Cod had become rare in the North Sea because of overfishing.

See also here.

Antarctic fur seal pups, new study

This video says about itself:

12 December 2009

The Antarctic island of South Georgia is home to an estimated 4 million Antarctic fur seals, approximately 95% of the world population. These eared seals usually hunt the rich waters for krill during the night, but they also eat fish, squid and sometimes penguins! The pups come together in large groups in shallow water – come and meet a gang of fast-moving pups as they play around me during a dive.

From Wildlife Extra:

A mother’s long distance call help their seal pups find them

Identifying their mother’s voice is crucial for helping Antarctic fur seal pups find their mothers in densely populated breeding colonies, when they return from foraging for food, new research has found.

Antarctic fur seals breed in dense colonies on shore, and during the 4-month lactation period, mothers alternate foraging trips at sea with suckling period ashore. Each time the mothers return to the colony, they and their pups initially use vocalizations to find each other among several hundred other seals, and then use their sense of smell to confirm.

The team from University of Paris-Sud carried out playback experiments on about 30 wild pups using synthetic signals and playbacks at different distances at the Kerguelen Archipelago in the southern Indian Ocean.

The authors found that the pups use both the sound’s amplitude and frequency modulations to identify their mother’s voice. Playbacks at different distances showed that frequency modulations propagated reliably up to 64 meters, whereas amplitude modulations were highly degraded for distances over 8 meters. The authors suggest these results indicate a two-step identification process: at long range, pups identified first the frequency modulation pattern of their mother’s calls, and then other components of the vocal signature were identified at closer range. The individual vocal recognition system developed by Antarctic fur seals is likely adapted to face the importance of finding kin in a crowd.

You can read the full study HERE.

Seal found in urban fresh water

This under water video is about common seals being fed at the shelter in Pieterburen, the Netherlands. The seals stay there until they are healthy enough to be freed again into the sea.

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

Seal in Oudegracht in Utrecht

The Oudegracht is a medieval, fresh water, canal in Utrecht city in the central Netherlands. Not close to the sea.

Today, 22:08

In the center of Utrecht a [common] seal has been found. The animal swam in the Oudegracht. It’s still a mystery how the seal ended up there.

It was removed from the water and is now in a dog cage in the police station, waiting until it will be brought to a shelter in Stellendam. There people will examine the seal’s health. …

A father and his daughter alerted the police who went to take a look. The seal had then passed to the bank to rest. There it was caught.

Update 28 August 2015: things go well for the seal.

English Farne Islands, ninety years of conservation

This video from England says about itself:

21 December 2014

Get up close to the fascinating seals of the Farne Islands and see the newborn pups of 2014. One of the UK’s biggest colonies of common seals lives on this tiny rock in the North Sea, where a team of dedicated National Trust rangers look after them for nine months of the year. You can find out more here.

From weekly The Observer in Britain:

The Farne Islands, a sanctuary for seabirds and seals, celebrate 90 years as a British jewel of conservation

Puffins always draw the summer crowds to the islands off Northumberland, which are the favourite UK wildlife site of Sir David Attenborough

Kevin McKenna

Saturday 15 August 2015 12.20 BST

A couple of miles out to sea, off the Northumberland coast, some uncut jewels in the firmament of England’s natural heritage shimmer. The Farne Islands, ancient and sanctified by the hands of St Cuthbert, can only be reached on one of a fleet of boats that ferry hundreds of visitors each day in high summer. Drive through country roads until pasture gives way to sand and you are in Seahouses, the little coastal village where time, when it reached 1969, liked what it saw and decided to tarry.

Each summer the area rises anew out of coastal mists and returns you to childhood holidays of fish suppers and rococo confectionery. Gusts of petrol and herring lead you to a harbour braided by pastel-coloured dwellings. There, glorious Beryl Cook ladies, pink underneath straw hats and horn-rimmed sunglasses, chastise their children and say “sorry, love” as they barrel past you.

On one of Billy Shiels’s fabled vessels you head out to the islands with 60-odd others, drawn there by the sanctuary they provide for 23 species of seabirds and a sprawling colony of seals, which seem puzzled at these creatures who jostle and stretch to point their digital instruments in their direction. Ninety years ago this month, the National Trust finally bought the islands for £800 from the industrialist William Armstrong after a two-year public subscription, a transaction which must surely rank as one of the shrewdest transactions any national organisation has ever conducted. Because of it, millions have shared in a gold standard of conservation, education and access of which the heritage body is justly proud and which is being celebrated this summer.

Sir David Attenborough describes the islands as his favourite wildlife site in the UK. The puffins, all 39,962 breeding pairs, are the tourists’ darlings, but among the other seabird species are fulmars, Arctic terns, guillemots, razorbills, eiders and shags. A few handfuls of barn swallows, rock pipits and pied wagtails are also to be found bobbing and weaving about the place. In all, these islands are home to around 150,000 birds. In 1951, the islands became one of the first designated sites of special scientific interest and were declared a national nature reserve in 1993. Each day, the nine National Trust rangers in permanent residence perform a conservation high-wire act in which they balance their absolute commitment to conservation with a desire to educate the public about their work. As such they are always vigilant about visitor numbers to ensure minimal disruption to the breeding birds. Protecting their habitat is the rangers’ highest priority. It was only in 1971 that the National Trust was able to manage visitor numbers. Previously, the islands hosted an unedifying free-for-all each summer with unlimited numbers of people landing at will and roaming where they pleased.

In high season on these islands the birds must still protect their young from up to 400 pairs of human feet which the boats bring into their homes each day. The National Trust must balance the sacredness of the nesting sites with the bounty that tens of thousands of paying customers bring. These funds are necessary for funding the personnel and their science work. Nathan Wilkie, one of the rangers on Inner Farne, said: “People are generally very sensitive now to the vulnerability of nesting seabirds. They know they are guests in the homes of these birds and are very receptive to our simple guidelines while they are here.”

Today, we are witnessing the tailend of the puffins’ mass migration to their winter playgrounds. In a five-day period straddling the end of July and start of August, almost 80,000 of them embark on a startling natural airlift that sees them plot a course towards the north coast of Scotland and on to Iceland, where they will live in the sea for nine months before returning here to breed.

Puffins form part of that anointed group of land and sea creatures over which the British public likes to bill and coo. Along with hedgehogs, deer and badgers, they belong to a family which, if it had a Latin name, would be called Cutem cuddlius. God has blessed them with facial features that make them look like lovable juvenile scallywags, ducking and diving and getting up to mischief. As such they are destined always to be favoured by a good old-fashioned British outcry whenever it seems they have been victims of cruel and unusual treatment at the hands of human beings. …

Yet if life on the high seas were to be likened to life on the streets of some of Glasgow’s edgier arrondissements, then the puffins are wee hard-men who are well capable of looking after themselves. As well as spending most of the year living on some of the world’s iciest seas, they can dive below the waves to Jules Verne depths. And in places such as the Farne Islands the multiplicity of their numbers, at a time when other seabird species are in decline around the globe, have remained robust. Despite a global rise in sea temperatures which has depleted stocks of sand-eels, the puffins’ favourite food, the puffins and their seabird chums are still popping in and out of the water with their wee gobs stuffed full of their oily prey.

“Historically, the waters around here have always been rich in sand-eels,” said Wilkie. He was relaxed at recent reports suggesting the Farne puffins had been adversely affected by an extremely wet summer resulting in flooded burrows and a fall in the number of puffin chicks. This year, out of 100 burrows monitored by National Trust rangers, only around 50 were discovered to have produced pufflings; there were 92 last year.

“Certainly, the bad weather has not been good for the puffins,” said Wilkie. “But what needs to be factored in is that we have 34,000 breeding pairs here and we only monitor 100. And although the figure of 50 pufflings seems bad, last year’s figure of 92 was probably abnormally high.” Instead, he pointed out, the rangers are more concerned with trying to find non-invasive ways of discouraging hungry grey seals from encroaching on to the puffins’ breeding-grounds.

In the era of low-budget, stack-them-high air travel, the Farne Islands are inviting us to participate in our own David Attenborough films closer to home.

Gull, turtle, seal conservation works

This video from Spain shows Audouin’s gulls, with chicks.

From BirdLife:

Gulls, turtles and seals, three marine triumphs

By Bruna Campos, Mon, 06/07/2015 – 14:30

Marine wildlife in Europe has long been suffering because of human activities. Although we have a lot of work to do still, here are three marine stories that show the Nature Directives work when they are put to good use.

1) A special gull – and you thought they were all the same!

We all remember the gulls in ‘Finding Nemo’, portrayed as lazy, dumb, and incapable of saying anything besides one word: ‘mine’. Gulls are a group of seabirds that have a pretty bad reputation (a.k.a. ‘the flying rats’). Like rats, gulls are often perceived as dirty and diseased scavengers of food. They stir negative emotions like gangs of thieves would – stealing your sandwiches before you’ve even had a chance to take a bite!

As a side note, a gull’s klepto-parasitism isn’t just against humans, although we tend to think very highly of our species, we find a gull’s behaviour very offensive – that they would dare steal or eat our food without permission. However, I would like to introduce you to another side of the gull. Watch one long enough and you’ll notice an incredible display of acrobatics, patience, and simply straight out cheekiness (in a cute way). Like most other parents, gulls are protective and very aggressive against anything approaching their nest – hence the famous sky dive attacks you may have already experienced. Like many seabirds, they mate for life – although divorces do happen with some social problems for a couple of years.

There are 20 species of gull in Europe, and although they share a similar build, they are all quite different, some having more pronounced looks than others. One in particular, Audouin’s Gull, which can only be found in the Mediterranean, is unlike many of its cousins because it rarely scavenges. Rather, it’s a specialist coastal and pelagic fish eater (not to say that they wouldn’t pass off diving for an easy fish that has been thrown away by a fisher at sea). It was one of the world’s rarest gulls in 1975, with only 1,000 pairs. Protection under the Birds Directive led to the creation and implementation of a European action plan which has helped secure its survival, especially in Spain.

Several projects were implemented that contributed to successful re-colonisation of breeding islands and the control of invasive black rats which were predating colonies. Today, with the most recent assessment of the European birds (the European Red List of Birds), we can say that the Audouin’s Gull has the lowest level of extinction risk with around 21,000 pairs. But we must be cautious. Although there has been improvement, particularly in Spain, much more still needs to be done across the Mediterranean to ensure that this gull continues to survive, such as implementing safe fishing gears to stop fishers from accidentally catching gulls in their fishing lines and nets.

2) Sea turtle’s little helpers are saving the day

Sea turtle volunteers run the beaches of Zakynthos in Greece (for Brits, the island is also called ‘Zante’). Before tourists can sprawl all over the sand, sea turtle ‘human little helpers’ make sure they know exactly what is going on with the turtles. How are they doing this, you might wonder? Well, they get up very early and work all morning before daybreak to find out the number of nests laid and their location. They also spend countless nights tagging as many turtles as they can that stride up on the beach to nest. They then run around the beaches alerting tourists about these wonderful creatures, and to not sit in places on the beach where they might break some eggs.

How is all of this relevant to the ‘Nature Directives’? Well,  Loggerhead Sea Turtle, the creature these little helpers are working hard for, are protected by the Habitats Directive. These turtles are widespread and highly migratory, and are endangered globally. So it is only with strict nature legislation and management plans that we can stop their decline. Little helpers please continue doing what you are doing now – you’re making a difference, and we hope in the future to see loggerhead numbers increase.

3) The seal that tried to be common

Take a boat trip along the Frisian coast: can you spot that seal? Probably yes! Lucky you, because if it wasn’t for the Habitats Directive, that seal could be long gone by now. Despite being called ‘Common Seal’, during the last 100 years intense hunting and disease caused its decline in Europe. To help them recover, shooting was banned. However, seals were then hit hard in the 1980s by a disease called phocine distemper, which causes uncontrollable periodic population crashes. Although disease and pollution still threaten the species, hunting restrictions, habitat protection and improved management, especially working with fishers, have helped increase numbers to now over 81,000 in Europe. Thanks again for helping Nature Directives.

These marine comebacks remind us that it is in our power to prevent the loss of a species forever. Nevertheless, we are very far from ensuring the safety of our seabirds and other marine creatures and we must do more. The Birds and Habitats Directives are here to help us with this, but their implementation is fundamental to secure the continued survival of all our marine animals.