Dart at Dawn

I was keen to see whether the (not so common) harbour seals were still present in the Dart estuary, and because I wanted to catch a ride on the tide I had to set off just after dawn. It was finger-numbing chilly and visibility for seal-spotting wasn’t great (and it was blinking early) :

Early on the Dart

I heard the snort of a seal behind me but could see nothing but murk. As the sun rose the mist slowly thinned and the birdsong started to kick in. Loudest was the explosive short sequence of a Cetti’s warbler, which have only spread across the UK in the last twenty years or so.

After a couple of hours the sun eventually broke through and I slid across the glassy surface as I approached Dittisham and the most scenic part of the estuary. The narrower estuary makes the water a bit more active as the tide squeezes through, so this is a popular place for seals. Incidentally, the appalling creaking noise during this video is my drysuit as I pan the camera….apologies. I know it doesn’t really enhance the tranquility.

A seal popped up and I was very pleased to see it had the dished face of a Harbour (alias Common) seal. I just managed to get a snap before it disappeared for good. Harbour seals don’t seem to be as inquisitive as the usual Grey seals around here.

Harbour Seal
Harbour seal

I felt I had to ‘do’ the touristy side of Dartmouth as I waited for the tide to turn. From the kayak seat, of course.

Dartmouth higher ferry
Dartmouth ferry
dartmouth naval college
Dartmouth Naval College
Dartmouth sailing barge

The ten mile paddle back was peaceful and uneventful. For the last couple of miles I just about kept pace with a bull Grey seal who was clearly on a mission to get to the head of the estuary for high tide. Perhaps it had a penchant for Grey Mullet. I was paddling at fast cruising speed (4mph) and the seal came up for a breath every three minutes (or so) a hundred yards in front of me. It certainly covered the ground (water).

This is a good comparison pic of the Grey seal compared to the Harbour Seal. The Grey is much bigger ( so looks chunkier) and has that Roman nose which is more or less a straight line from its forehead to its nostrils. And the clincher is that those nostrils are almost vertical compared to the harbour seals whose air intakes are at 45 degrees.

Bull grey seal
Bull grey seal

One more pic of today….. a swan with a couple of admirers.


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