Author Ronnie Reed
Don’t let on to anyone but there moments in this job when I can’t believe I am actually being paid for what I do. Special moments that bring home why I do what I do. Such a moment happened just over a week ago whilst I was taking out a group of children from Nutley Primary School. I think we had all had a good day; the weather had improved as the day unfolded and the morning sea mist which had threatened to obscure the river valley had lifted as we walked down onto the beach at Cuckmere Haven. The unexpected, that special moment, unfolded just as we set off on the walk back to the centre. We had come up from the mouth of the river, over the top of the beach near the grey, lichen encrusted ‘Dragon’s Teeth’ and were walking along the top of the saltmarsh that fringes the canal. As we drew level with a muddy inlet, I noticed something in the water. My initial thought was that it was rubbish floating up the river and then it turned and for a split second I thought it was a Labrador dog before I realised I was looking at a seal. As the group watched from the bank, the animal changed direction and headed towards the creek we were standing above. Totally un-phased by thirty children and clicking cameras, the seal lifted up out of the water at the side of the bank looking for somewhere to come out. He finally perched rather precariously on a ridge of mud where the creek opens out into the river. Uncomfortable with his position he slithered into the water and swam towards us. Aren’t digital cameras an amazing invention?! We watched and waited as he glided up and down in front of us and then we had to make the difficult decision to leave and continue making our way back. Half an hour late onto the bus but what an amazing experience for the class!
This seal first appeared in the Cuckmere on the 2nd November. Two of my colleagues have already spotted him and he has been seen in the Ouse as far up as Lewes and reported in the River Adur. Photographs taken at Lewes reveal a tag which identifies the seal as a male pup which was rescued by the R.S.P.C.A at Lowestoft on 13th June, 2010, weighing only 21kg. It was christened ‘Twinkle’ and when it was released in the Wash in Norfolk on the 18th August, it had gained 14kg in weight.
The plot thickens however. I assumed we had seen Twinkle until I was sent a photograph taken back in January in the Cuckmere by one of my school volunteers. This also shows a tagged seal but closer examination of the image suggests the tag is a different one which means we might have more than one seal right here on our doorstep at Cuckmere. Now that has to be special.
Further details on the travels of Twinkle the seal can be found on Sussex Marine Wildlife Jottings blog