Western Isles Seals
The Hebrides or Western Isles as they are now known is a great place to watch the seals.
Common seals and grey seals can be seen around the coastline of both The Isle of Lewis and The Isle of Harris. The seals are really quite entertaining and its interesting to watch their behaviour.
Stornoway Harbour has a couple of resident seals which can be quite entertaining at times, especially when local fishermen decide to feed them
Seals - Pinnipeds
Seals belong to a group of animals called pinnipeds. This means ‘winged-feet’ and refers to their flippers, which are specially adapted for life in the sea. There are some thirty odd species seen around the world, however in the Uk we just see the two species the Common or Harbour Seals (Phoca vitulina). and the Grey Seals. (Halichoerus grypus). Scotland is an important breeding area for the Grey Seals. Seals are insulated from the cold by a thick layer of blubber
Common Seals and Grey Seals
While seals can be seen basking at any time of year, seals usually return to the land, firstly to moult.
Common seals return August - September time, whilst the grey seals return to the land February - April.
Common seal pups have to be able to swim hours after they are born, as many are born on intertidal mud flats. Because of this their coats are sleek and dark.
Grey seals pups are born above the high tide line - either on rocks or on the beaches. The baby grey seal pups don't have to take to the water until three weeks after they are born. They have soft, almost downy white coats to keep them warm in the chill autumn storms.
They shed their furry coat after about three weeks
Grey Seal Has the "Roman" Nose
Grey seals are larger than common seals. Grey seals have a very distinctive face, and the scientific name – Halichoerus grypus – actually means ‘sea-pig with a hooked nose’. The "roman" nose is even more pronounced in males. The name ‘grey’ seal is a little misleading, as the grey seals vary from almost black bulls to creamy white cows and lovely silky white fur of new-born pups. Usually both sexes have a lighter colouring on their stomachs than on their back. Grey seals can live up to nearly fifty years.
Common seals seen here in The Western Isles have attractive coats, mottled with spots and rings, and can be anything between dark brown to pale grey-white. The pups have already shed their white furry coats before birth and are able to swim well from birth. Common seals have a wide, pronounced snout, large eyes and no external ears. Common seals don't have the sloping forehead of the grey seal. People often say the common or harbour seal is more cat-like in appearance.
Common seals breed from June - August, whilst grey seals breed from September to December. A seals breeding places are called a rookeries. Seals mate shortly after having given birth. Common seals usually mate in the water, grey seals often mate inland when on islands, where they gather the females together. Pups of both the grey seals and the common seals are fed for up to four weeks, during which time they can more than double their weight. Their mothers then abandon them