THERE must be something in the water off South Walney Nature Reserve - the first ever seal pup born at the reserve is no longer the newbie as a second pup has been discovered.

It was thought that the first recorded grey seal birth on Walney Island could have been a fluke, but a second white coated pup has been spotted on the beach.

Cumbria Wildlife Trust staff are amazed to have two Walney-born pups among the grey seal colony.

Seals have used the protected South Walney beaches to haul out and rest for decades. The colony found here are usually older bulls no longer able to control a harem on breeding beaches and sexually immature younger males and females.

But now the reserve could be becoming a breeding colony. Pup one was born almost three weeks ago, then pup two was discovered on Sunday when it was believed to be a day old.

The trust believes that the pups' mothers will be inexperienced, first-time mums. Excitingly these females may choose to pup at South Walney again next year, and if the pups are female they may choose to do the same.

The North-West Evening Mail worked alongside marine conservation officer Emily Baxter to capture some spectacular images of pup two.

Dr Baxter, who works for Cumbria Wildlife Trust and also the North West Wildlife Trust said: "We came down here to do another survey on Sunday and we saw the first pup starting to moult, then among the main colony we saw a brand new pup which looked like it had been born the day before.

"It was a big surprise to have a second pup. We thought the first could have been a fluke, a one-off, but perhaps something more is going on now, it's very exciting.

"Walney has traditionally been a resting area where seals haul out and a non-breeding colony. This is really exciting for us, it's an indication that the seals enjoy it here. The population is doing well in the UK in general, and perhaps the colony here has got to a certain size where it is able to start to become a breeding colony. There are a lot of unanswered questions, but that makes it very interesting."

The marine conservation officer is really pleased with how the pups are doing, she said: "The new pup is really healthy and has filling out since Sunday. It's really encouraging that pup number one is also fat and healthy, he's like a barrel now.

"Pup one is losing the white coat on his face, and he has been having a good scratch. We will keep monitoring them on our surveys through the winter, if they stick around we will be able to tell if they are boys or girls."

Due to the young age of the seals, they are incredibly vulnerable to disturbance, which would cause the mothers to abandon them and for them to starve before they have been weaned.

For this reason, there is strictly no access to the area of the nature reserve where the seal pups are, so it is not possible to view the pups at South Walney Nature Reserve.

However the rest of the seals can be seen playing in the water at high tide, along with thousands of wintering wildfowl and wader birds, from hides elsewhere on the nature reserve.

  • Your child could help to name the new seal pup. Click here  to read the details of our competition

Seal factfile

  • During the 1980s seals were seen only singly around Walney and gradually their numbers have increased with up to 100 now on and around the island at certain times of the year.
  • Unlike harbour seal pups, grey seal pups are born with thick white fur and are not able to swim very well at first.
  • The mother will stay with the pup for only a short time, feeding it with fat-rich milk, until it is weaned and then she will leave both the pup and the area. During this time, the pup will gradually moult its thick white fur revealing its adult coat with its own individual markings.
  • After weaning, pups may remain on the island for up to another few weeks or so before it is ready to head out to sea to forage for itself.
  • Grey seals have an annual, synchronous breeding cycle and females give birth in the autumn to a single pup at the same time each year. They usually return to their own place of birth to breed year on year in the same location. Towards the end of the weaning period the seals will mate again.
  • Seal surveys have been carried out for five years, every two weeks between September and March, by trainees from Cumbria Wildlife Trust’s Marine and Coastal Heritage Programme, funded by Heritage Lottery Fund