A student's journey through the world of bioacoustics


Harbour seal birth!

The whales have been away for a few days, but that doesn’t mean that we get to sleep in. Lily and I get up at 5:45 am every day to start watching for whales, just in case they surprise us (and sometimes they do).

But morning watches without whales aren’t always boring. There are often lots of other sea creatures to watch while we wait for the whales to come by. We frequently see harbour porpoises, harbour seals and river otters. There’s even a seagull that has taken to trying to land on seals’ heads when they come to the surface – a source of endless entertainment for the both of us.

But the other day, we saw something truly spectacular. The fattest seal I have ever seen awkwardly haul herself out onto the rocks for all to see. When she was on her stomach, her back fins hardly touched the ground. Of course jokes were made and laughs were had. But soon after hauling out, she rolled onto her side, and it became immediately obvious why she was so large. This seal was very pregnant, and her stomach was twitching as contractions came over her in waves. This seal was about to give birth right in front of us.

One very pregnant seal

One very pregnant seal

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With two DSLRs at hand and nothing more important to do, we decided to document the process and share it with you. Below is a series of photos from the event, followed by Lily’s video footage.

Warning: Some of the following photos and footage are graphic. But, given that this is a birth, you probably already knew that.

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Starting to push

Here comes the baby!

Here comes the baby…

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And a seal is born!

Mother and baby meet for the first time

Mother and baby meet for the first time

Shortly after the birth, the baby decided to explore, and got stuck in a crack in the rocks!

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Newborn seal stuck in a crevice

Eventually the tide washed the baby out and the two swam around the point and out of sight.

Mum and babe in the water

Mum and babe in the water

Lily’s video footage:

We were worried that the newborn wouldn’t make it because it was struggling so much to stay upright in the water and swim.┬áBut later that day, mum came back with her baby on her back. All was well, and a new life had begun!

Baby seal riding mum's back

Newborn seal riding mum’s back

Photos by Kristen Kanes, video by Lily Campbell