Sussex seal pictures sought after investigator learns of new arrival

Investigations into seals in Sussex have revealed there are now two regular visitors to the River Adur.

Tuesday, 29th September 2020, 11:09 am

Stephen Savage, Sussex regional co-ordinator for sea mammals and regional co-ordinator for the Sea Watch Foundation, has been tracking a seal in the river near Shoreham since May.

There have been regular sightings and now, thanks to evidence provided by Natalie Calver, it has been confirmed a second seal has been visiting the river in September.

Stephen said: “I have been tracking the movements of one particular seal since it was first spotted in May, as it travels up and down river to and from the sea.

Natalie Calver has provided good-quality photographs of the tagged seal on the banks of the River Adur

“We now know there are in fact two harbour seals in the River Adur. The second seal is distinguishable by a yellow tag on its hind flipper.”

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Unlike dolphins, seals are quite at home in rivers, where they can haul out on the riverbank to rest, and are often solitary.

Natalie has provided some good-quality photographs of the tagged seal but Stephen has not yet been able to get a clear enough picture of the details on the tag.

Stephen Savage has been carrying out a long-term study of Sussex sea mammals since 1991

He said: “Seals are often given a tag when they are released after a rescue, or sometimes tagged by scientists. I am keen to hear from anyone who may have a photograph of the yellow tag, which will have a unique identification number and help us discover where the seal originated.

“People often associate seals with the sea but it is not unusual for one to venture into a river. There are two species of seal in UK waters, the harbour seal and the larger grey seal.

“If you spot a seal while you are walking along the riverbank, it’s important not to disturb it, especially if it is hauled out, as this is when they rest, digest their food and replenish the energy used when swimming and feeding.”

Stephen has been carrying out a long-term study of Sussex sea mammals since 1991.

Natalie Calver has provided good-quality photographs of the tagged seal on the banks of the River Adur

He said: “If disturbed, seals become more vigilant and studies have shown that even a small amount of increased vigilance, such as fast head raising, can cause seals stress.

“And it’s important to remember that although they look friendly, seals are wild animals and can give a nasty bite.

“However, when swimming, seals show curiosity to both human and dogs standing on the bank and we have recorded some fascinating observations of this.”

Stephen is also keen to hear from anyone who has spotted a seal in the river or sea, to aid his work on Sussex seals. He would like to receive information including where the seal was spotted, the day and time, and whether the seal was swimming or hauled out. Stephen would also like to receive any photographs to confirm the species of seal.

He explained: “The more information you can provide, the better, close-up photographs of the head, face and body are very useful as some seals can be identified as individuals by unique markings.

“The yellow tag of this new arrival is visible only when it is hauled out but I have been able to identify spot pattern markings that makes it possible to distinguish the two seals apart.”

Send sightings and photographs to the project email address, [email protected]

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