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image depicting Rare grey seals on Farne Islands counted using drones

Rare grey seals on Farne Islands counted using drones

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The Farne Islands are a group of small islands near the coast of Northumberland, England. It is home to one of Britain’s largest colonies of grey seals as well as other birds, like puffins.

There are about 6,000 grey seals on the islands and many baby seals (pups) are born every year in September–November. So, every year, during this time, there is a count of the seal population by wildlife rangers.

The rangers actually count them one by one, using a harmless colour to mark the seals already counted.

However, this year, due to COVID-19, fewer rangers could stay on the islands. So, this year, the count was carried out by drones!

How did they use the drones?

Rangers used drones to take many videos and photos of all the islands from the air. Then, the seals will be counted by experts at home using the videos.

The Atlantic grey seal is one of the rarest seal species in the world. There are around 300,000 grey seals globally, 40% of which live in British and Irish waters.

Thankfully, more and more new grey seal pups are being born every year on the Farne Islands. This year, experts think that there could be about 3,000 new pups, which is a new record.

Watch a video of how the counting is usually done. Video credit: National Trust/Youtube


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