Donna Nook is an RAF bombing practice range, and a terrific site to see nature in the raw, so to speak. Situated on the North Lincolnshire coast, close to the village of North Somercotes these salt marshes and accompanying sand dunes are home to a wealth of bird life and are home to one of the most important Grey Seal Rookeries in the UK with an estimated 33% of the UK Seal population using this important breeding site.
These figures are possibly contentious, but Donna Nook is certainly the only place in the UK where one may approach to with a few feet of a breeding colony of rare mammals. The seals haul out at Donna Nook in late October in order to give birth, moult and breed. Last year the site, as reported by Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust, produced some 1,300 pups. This year, as of November 15th, there are a reported 396 bulls & 778 cows present with 513 pups born.
In order to protect the seals, and the visitors, there is a double fence in place “guarded” by a small group of Seal Wardens. These guys are wonderful, very friendly towards the visitors, and knowledgeable about their charges………..
So we went to Donna Nook, this was our second visit to the site this Autumn, and it was wonderful. Donna Nook is such a special place for wildlife that it is worth the pain and effort required to get there and back. A drive of about 160 miles each way, we were pretty amazed to find the car park full when we got there at 10am :-) having left home very early. So, on arrival we naturally went to see the seals first, this is, after all, the reason d etre for the visit…. well lets say, to a point. Anyone who goes to Donna Nook and just looks at the seals and then leaves is missing so much.
The seals are birthing pretty much at a constant rate, and we were lucky enough to see a new born pup making its first contacts with its mother. These little animals are such bundles of fur when they are tiny, although at a 14kg birth weight tiny is a relative term :-) they are just so cute, and highly photogenic…… Many of the pups die in their first year, very sad, but that, unfortunately is nature and the natural world…….
As the site is situated on England’s East Coast so it becomes a fly over point for many species of migratory birds. Each time we have visited we have made conscious effort to walk as far as we can into the other side of the beach from the seal observation point. Unfortunately, due to health issues we can’t get that far into the site, but still far enough to see all manner of species.
Starlings abound, swirling in flocks of several hundreds, a large flock of several hundred Brent Geese have been resident on the beach on each of our visits (first time we have seen these gregarious birds). The geese take off for a circuit of the beach quite often giving great views of them and their flight. Egrets and Shelduck are all over the place, with a lot of Redshanks showing on our most recent trip. We also saw a couple of Curlew , a Kestrel, Dunnock and lots of Black Backed Gulls, including a few feeding on an unfortunately deceased Seal cow. We were also very lucky to see a flock of Bewick Swans flying in.
The only problem with the site for birds is the distances involved for the photographer. This probably explains the number of idiots one sees hopping over the ropes and the signs which say “please don’t walk on the beach” – is it worth disturbing the animal life in order to get a shot? for us the answer is a resounding NO…..
After taking some 2256 shots and a bunch of videos we went home happy, and content Donna Nook is a great place to visit.…….
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