Thursday, November 22, 2007

Seals of the Shy Variety

Last August, at the end of, what is laughingly called "summer", I went for a walk along a rocky shoreline in Co. Clare. This stretch of coast is quite inaccessible so it is very rare to find any other humans sampling its delights. Because the land rises from the water for about 800 metres it is not visible from the road, therefore no passing tourists. Which is always a good thing.

This particular morning, was one of those rare, special days when the air was very still, not a puff of wind and the skies were grey but not ominously so. Only the sounds of nature, about its business. speckled the all pervading quietness. Solitude and silence were what I was seeking. The busy, early morning house I had just left was full of lovable, chatty, laughing souls. All very dear to me but .....

Walking through the fields, stepping over rocks and pebbles, clambering up and over the gigantic boulders, that some far seeing pen pusher in the County Council had deemed essential to keep out the teeming masses and protect the fragile sea-shore, my head and my heart were lulled into a timeless, distant world, where man and nature did actually move in synch with each other. Revelling in my solitude, I was nearly on top of them before I noticed them. Or more importantly, they noticed me.

Grey seals. Huge, lumbering, whale-like creatures, basking in the warmth and calm safety of the heavy, immovable rocks. Skittery baby seals, with large, liquid eyes and squiggly bodies, chasing each other, clumsily, over the rocks, into the water and back out again, acting the maggot, like all small creatures do. On sight of me, a loud "Oink, oink!" split the silence and, alerted all to my alien presence.

I was caught. An interloper in their midst. Faster than lightning, and a little disgruntled, they heaved their gigantic bodies into the water and made a swift getaway. But being the curious creatures that they are, a few of them stopped to have another look at the intruder. I stood very still, hoping that my stillness might lure them back out of the water but they had my number. I didn't look like a seal so I probably wasn't a seal and therefore needed to be treated with a certain degree of suspicion, peppered with a little disdain.

We played the watching game for a while longer but they, eventually, got bored. Much more interesting things to be seen at the other side of the inlet. Off they went, leaving me feeling abandoned. "Come back, come back", I wanted to say "I only want to admire you, handsome seals".

But they weren't to know that.

Seals are cautious and suspicious by nature. With good reason. Fishermen, along these coasts, consider these beautiful animals to be pests. Greedily gobbling vast quantities of lucrative fish, they, according to the "experts" are depriving honest, hard-working men of the means of making a living. So they are eliminated. On a regular basis. Illegally.

When approached, the authorities know nothing. Can do nothing. Without proof.

And proof is very hard to find.


Molly said...

Oh to be in Bally vee,
and walking on the Rine....

It is the Rine, isn't it?
Next time you'll have to be stealthier, and wear a seal suit.

I never knew they were considered pests---in their own habitat??

Lovely photo.

Stomper Girl said...

Oh I love real wildlife encounters, they are very special moments.

mjd said...

Even though I teach at a school with a thousand-plus 12-14 year-olds, I do not mind the noise much, but I love solitude. Maybe because my days can be quite noisy; I appreciate the quiet more than other people. You are fortuante to find solitude and a seal too.

Ian Lidster said...

Fishermen on our coast detest them because of the havoc they wreak on salmon. I kind of like them but, I'm not a fisherman. Loved the photo.

CS said...

Oh, how sad to kill those gorgeous seals. And how magical to see them in the wild.

meggie said...

Lovely photo Rise. I see another human on the other side...

We used to take our children to visit a seal colony at Kaikoura. They largely ignored us, they knew they were protected there. They did rather ...smell..