Wildlife in the UK - Seals at Horsey in Norfolk

Wildlife photographer Greg Coyne shares his experiences with the adorable grey and harbour seals.



As I write this, we have just gone into another four weeks of national lockdown. For me, this means I will not be going out and about with the camera. Fortunately, though, just before lockdown, I headed across to Horsey in Norfolk to photograph the local colonies of grey seal and harbour seal.

Horsey is approximately two hours from Bedford and well worth a visit from the summer right through to November. In early summer, the harbour seal pups are born and around late November the grey seal pups start to arrive - and they are all so cute.

The beauty of Horsey is that it’s easy to park at Horsey Gap and then it’s just a short walk over the sand dunes and along the beach to locate the seals. I would point out though that it’s not a good idea to go when the pupping is taking place as disturbance by visitors could cause the mothers to abandon the pups, so it’s worth checking on the Horsey website beforehand. Please also ensure that you keep a good distance from the seals - I think 50 metres is suggested but sometimes the seals come much closer to you if you remain silent and still.


When I visited, the harbour seal pups were probably four months old. They were still staying very close to mum but also having fun on the beach and in the surf with the other pups, Seals tend to stay in sociable groups, usually females with one dominant male and one or two subordinate males. However, watch out if a younger male gets too close to either the females or the dominant male when fur literally could fly! However, after the mating period there is probably more posturing than fighting.

I find differentiating the grey and the harbour seals quite difficult but I usually decide based on the nose of the seals as the harbour seal has a nose in the shape of a heart. 

The images shown here were all taken within a ten minute walk from the car park and along the beach. At pupping time the area is roped off or sometimes closed completely. You can also walk along the ridge from the car park, rather than going down onto the beach, which gives you a great view down on to the seals rather than being level with them.


Seals are not the most active of subjects for a photographer as they spend a lot of time lying on the beach sleeping. But you can get some great images as they emerge through the surf on to the shore, playing with other seals in the surf and displaying ‘caring’ interaction with the other seals especially between pup and mum. As you walk along the beach, you may also find that a seal in the sea will swim along and watch you as you walk - you may suddenly be aware of a head popping up out of the water and then submerging again. Seals are very inquisitive creatures.

If you would like to see more of my seal images simply log on to my Facebook page which is Greg Coyne Photography, like it (hopefully), and then keep up to date with my travels on a regular basis. You can also visit my website  gregcoynephotography.co.uk


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