As i drove down the lane I hadn’t decided where my paddle destination was to be today, but despite (very) early morning fuddleheadedness, my onboard sea-state assessment centres indicated east. Good call…..the moderate west wind was lighter in south-east Devon, and the east facing bit of coast would be sheltered from the swell coming from the west which was still a bit lively after the storms. As a bonus Dartmoor might block out the drizzle too.
So I went to Teignmouth.
The sea looked so benign I made a bee-line for Hope’s Nose six miles away, but the sea was fairly lifeless with just a handful of roving Gannets and the odd Guillemot. After coffee at a little beach at the ‘nose’ I paddled back close to the shore.
As I rounded the headland into Ansteys Bay I saw a diver surface in front of me….a Red-Throated. A beautiful bird and usually quite shy.
A great sighting but I’m not convinced the bird was fit…it did a lot of wing stretching and its neck looked a fat…I hope it hasn’t swallowed a fish hook.
As i watched the diver a lone porpoise surfaced in the background:
I was unusually peckish so headed for a really stunning little sheltered beach (accessible only by kayak) beneath a great slab of red sandstone cliff.
As I worked my way through a couple of disastrous ham sandwiches (dried out bread, sleepy coleslaw, slimy ham) a couple of seals swam into the bay and started to horse around….completely oblivious of, or just ignoring, me.
I watched them for ages and hoped they would move on so I didn’t disturb them when I continued my paddle back to Teignmouth. However they showed no sign of leaving this perfect little cove, so I quietly slipped my kayak onto the water and tried to sneak past without them noticing. Fat chance!….
They continued on at each other for a while and then turned their attention to me. (nice wren singing in the background in this video clip, by the way)
Then it was full on investigation of idiot sitting in kayak…..
All the time I watched the seals I was looking for signs of anxiety or fear caused by my appearance on the scene. Was I disturbing them? Apparently not…after scrutinising my hull, and me, very closely, with several upside down passes along the entire length of the hull bumping and shoving all the way, they just went back to their sparring.
You don’t have to have a degree in animal behaviour to see that my presence only a few feet away doesn’t seem to be influencing their behaviour at all.
It does appear that the seals in this area are remarkably tolerant of kayakers. This is not the case of some of the seals further west, and definitely not along the north coast of Cornwall at the large breeding colonies.
There are many more boats/kayakers/people in these sheltered and calm south-east Devon beaches so the seals are more habituated to people.
Although seals are bold and inquisitive when they are swimming they can feel very vulnerable when hauled out on a rock or on a beach.This is particularly so at their remote and innaccessable beaches where they have their pups. Too close an approach in a boat, kayak or paddleboard can easily cause a stampede into the water. Not good if you are a newborn pup and you are in the way of several hundred kilos of lumbering blubber.
The couple of miles back to Polly Steps where I had left my car were livened up by a pair of Peregrine Falcons which sped out over the sea on a hunt, but returned empty clawed.
Another surprisingly good wildlife day….better than the weather: