Those who have already read Snowflakes Over The Starfish Café will have discovered that the café is positioned on a cliff top and there’s a 200-strong seal colony on the beach and rocks below. The seals feature in this first book in the series although not heavily, and they’ll feature more in the second book out in April – Summer Nights at The Starfish Café.
I’d already undertaken a lot of research into common and grey seals – the types found in the Yorkshire Coast waters – but I decided that a visit to our local Sealife Sanctuary (Scarborough) where they have resident seals and a seal hospital may well be in order. Then, when I spotted they did a seal experience, I couldn’t resist.
Sealife Centres are run by Merlin Entertainments and they have 12 sites around the UK and many more overseas. You can click here to find out more. The focus is on education and conservation.
We arrived this morning 75 minutes before the general admission time of 10am and it was quite lovely having the centre to ourselves for so long. Our guides for the duration were Minnie and Tiegan and they were friendly and knowledgeable as they took us round.
First stop was Harris the sea otter. Awww. His partner in crime passed away at the grand old age of 16 a few weeks back. They are preparing for another female to keep him company, but he seemed more than content swimming about and playing with his pebble. (Apologies that the photo isn’t great – he kept moving!)
The seal hospital had one admission: a seal pup called Buzzard (apparently all recent admissions have been named after birds). Buzzard, a girl pup, was found abandoned in South Bay with cuts and a swollen muzzle. She has healed nicely and should be moved into the next stage of rehabilitation next which is a small pool.
Because she was abandoned, she’ll be released into a colony of seals, very likely at Ravenscar up the coast which was where I got the inspiration for my Starfish Point colony.
Isn’t Buzzard gorgeous? Look at those big eyes! There is some water in the ‘sick bay’ but she apparently isn’t so keen on swimming yet so they haven’t filled it. She’ll get used to that in the next stage of her programme.
We moved round to the main pool where there are four resident seals called Mando, Pendle, Boo and Ed. None of these seals could be released back into the wild because there are reasons why they wouldn’t survive there such as they were reared in captivity at other facilities or have had injuries or bad experiences which mean they wouldn’t be able to fend for themselves. They are, however, treated as though they are wild animals. They aren’t taught tricks and the staff don’t touch/handle them unless for medical reasons. They have a lovely pool and it gives them all the swimming space they need. In the wild, seals are known for lounging on rocks and beaches and not actually swimming very far.
We had a bucket of fish and all had a chance to feed them. Steven the Seagull is a regular visitor who tries (and sometimes succeeds) to get the fish first! You can see him swooping in at the top of the pic on the right!
Hubby captured a gorgeous pic of the munchkin and one of the seals through the underwater glass. He tried to capture something similar for me but he stood further back and caught my whole body in it. I actually look like a killer whale beached on the ledge so I’m not going to share that one!
There’s a section called Penguin Island were Humboldt penguins live. They’re endangered in their natural habitat (South America) so this is a breeding programme to ensure the survival of the species.
There weren’t many out of their beds when we went round but the newest chick was swimming while its dad watched from the doorway of its bedroom. Awww.
The only other one out and about was the only single penguin, Fred, who was on the noticeboard as ‘bad penguin of the month’. Apparently he’s got his eye on some of the other females and has been picking fights with their partners! Bad Fred!
Fred’s on the left grooming himself (it’s molting season so he’s looking a bit shabby just now) and the chick is the one on the right who managed to haul itself out of the pool right into where Fred had just evacuated his bowels. Yes, that is fresh penguin crap all over its chest!
I say ‘it’ rather than he or she for the chick because apparently you cannot tell what sex a penguin is from looking at it. When it’s older, a feather has to be sent off to an expert who will analyse it and confirm the sex. I did not know that!
There are several aquarium tanks with sharks, rays, fish, corals, seahorses, sea dragons, jelly fish and so on (not all in the same tank together, mind). They have an amazing jelly fish breeding programme and there was a new rainforest section which I’ve not visited before so that was lovely.
We were able to stroke some starfish and sea anemone and hold empty shark egg pouches and I managed to grab a quick starfish pic before we left in homage to The Starfish Café.
We were then dropped off for some breakfast and were free to wander round again at our leisure. We all loved our seal experience and would like to thank Minnie and Tiegan for the really great tour/helpful information. I bombarded them with research questions about seals although confess I didn’t tell them why I was asking. I meant to but I just didn’t see an opportunity to slip it in.
Hope you’ve enjoyed the pics. Apologies that WordPress seem to have stopped displaying the gallery ones (where there are 2 or more together) properly. I noticed this last week and thought it might sort itself out overnight but it appears not. Don’t have the technical expertise or time to resolve it just now but fingers crossed it will right itself.