If there were enough seal ice ...

Photos and text  Mart Jüssi, www.promare.ee
Translation: Liis
 Grey seal pup
The peak of the grey seal breeding has passed. Somehow a practice has become established so that the greater part of seal pups see the light of the day from the Estonia’s Independence Day on February 24th  until Women’s day, March 8th . The pinnipeds hardly know anything about public holidays – things are settled arranged by the annual cycle of nature. Evidently the mothers choose the best ice conditions for the birth of the pups. These big creatures are not particularly happily about living on fast ice but prefer drift ice, with secured access to water. Thus the best birth period for the pups is spring-winter when the sea ice is showing the first signs of decay. 
Greys born earlier would perhaps be exposed to too crisp frosts, later again might be in the whirls of the spring-time ice breakup. So the timing helps the pup to stay on the moving drift ice, protected by nature, and to fatten up during a couple of weeks on the mother’s milk. When the ice melts, the seal is ready for an independent life and lets itself fall from the ice edge down to the spawning shoals of Baltic herrings. Clever, isn’t it?
The rhythm that has become established during centuries can also wreak havoc and the birth of the pup may come in a period of melting sea ice on the Estonian coasts. The greys don’t make much of it, just go to an out-of-the-way beach to give birth.  Since out-of-the-way beaches are few, and the seals many, the children’s rooms are often over-crowded and from the crush comes stress. Many illnesses spread and sometimes it happens that less than half of the born pups reach the beginning of an independent life. On ice nature limits itself to just a few percents of ”tax rate”. 
This year however the greys had enough ice – quite clearly this is preferred because on the shores of birthing isles known to us there are only some dozen seals-to-be. Because the weather is cool and there is plenty of space this unusual birthplace should not be particularly depressing for them - only the permanent cries of gulls and the low-level passes of eagles will maybe not allow them to laze about as fits childhood 
The ringed seal pups probably shiver somewhere in shelter of an ice block under the open sky and hope to stay unnoticed by land and air-borne predators. At least days are sunny and when the fur dries, warmth comes too. 
Web camera image Alice, LK forum
For confirmation of Mart’s story, an image of the patrol flight of a white-tailed eagle on Tuesday morning.
See the LK forum reports from the seal beach: LINK




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