South Walney’s nature reserve has seen a record number of seals visiting this year – and the warden believes this number may increase in the new year.

The reserve counted 495 seals at the haul-out recently, which is the highest count since Cumbria Wildlife Trust ran a drone survey in March 2019 which counted 483 grey seals.

The Mail: LIVE: Grey seal on South Walney Nature Reserve. Photo by Cumbria Wildlife TrustLIVE: Grey seal on South Walney Nature Reserve. Photo by Cumbria Wildlife Trust

Sarah Dalrymple, warden at South Walney Nature Reserve, said: “It is brilliant news isn’t it.

Although, we expect to see a higher number in January usually, so there could be another record then.

“The numbers coming each year have been steadily going up and up; in 2000 we had about 20 to 30 seals here.

“Over the past 10 years it has been phenomenal the amount of progress there has been.

“The seals will travel all over the Irish Sea and the younger seals may follow the other animals here.

“It is possible we could see more and more coming over here; there tend to be more breeding colonies on the east coast of England and then on the west coast they come and go.

“I don’t know if we would become a breeding colony location; the number of pups here hasn’t grown that much over the last few years.

“I’m not sure why they are suddenly coming here really, it could be that the wind farm provides more food by acting as an artificial reef.

“It is very hard to say why – maybe it is just a great place to be?”

Ms Dalrymple hopes in the future that they can secure some funding to be able to tag the seals so that they can figure out if the same ones are coming back each year, and to see where they go for the rest of the year, as this remains something of a mystery.

It is not just the seals that have been increasing their numbers at the reserve though. There are more people flocking to the area following the increase of ‘staycationers’ due to the coronavirus pandemic playing havoc with holidays.

Commenting on this, the warden said: “I hope this news can put a positive image on Barrow.

“We have been really busy with people this year due to more people having ‘staycations’.

“People are wanting to come to the Lakes but stay in Barrow because it is cheaper, then they explore the area here as they want to avoid the large amount of people in the popular areas.”

The nature reserve has so much to offer in terms of wildlife, it is well known for having seals, which you can view on the seal cam on their website, but the variations of birds which come to the reserve is truly something to behold due to the sheer abundance of them.