OPINION Susan Richardson

NWR Issue 107

Thirty Ways of Looking at the Sea

I’m lying, full-stretch, on the edge of a Pembrokeshire cliff, binoculars fixed on the pebbled curve of beach umpteen teetering metres below. It’s an unseasonably warm October day – I, and my fellow beach-watchers, are in T-shirts and sunscreen, our fleeces long-since shrugged off and stuffed deep into rucksacks. Our recording sheets make but a brief, fluttering attempt to escape from the clipboards to which we’ve attached them, in the desultory breeze.

It’s grey seal pupping season and I’ve joined a training course to learn how to count and age any pups that we’re lucky enough to see. After a few false starts, mistaking boulders for seals and double-counting, we’ve concluded that there’s a very healthy number of pups sprawled on the beach below, including some new-borns, or Class Ones, their skin, lying in loose folds, still stained yellow with birth fluids; a cluster of well-fed, blubbery Class Threes; plus several older, more mobile Class Fours, who are in the process of moulting their natal fur and gaining their juvenile pelage...

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