I noticed that she had sent it 2 hours previously and I had only just noticed it! I quickly grabbed my camera and got in my car and drove to the area nearby on the Somerset Levels where she had seen it. I'd only ever seen Seals once before, and that was on the rocks around Skomer Island recently, where you would expect to see them!
You don't expect to see one on the Somerset Levels, far from the sea!
I parked up and scanned the river banks. Nothing.
I decided to drive down the road alongside the river, and keep stopping every few hundred metres to jump out and check the banks. This proved the correct decision, because at only my 3rd stop , I came face to face with the Seal!
At first I noticed what looked like Otter tracks coming from the water up the muddy bank, but as I scanned right from where the tracks were, the Seal came into view!
It had seen me before I had seen it, and was watching me intently. I was gobsmacked!
It was one of those 'pinch yourself' moments.....was I really looking at a Seal on the banks of the River Parrett??!!
I quickly jumped back down to grab my camera out of the car, I needed to photograph the evidence or no-one would believe me, before it slipped back into the river and disappeared! As it was, I didn't need to be so rapid, the Seal wasn't going anywhere!
I watched it for a good 20 minutes, basking in the sun, looking around from time to time and changing position to get comfy on the mud!
I decided to return home and bring my partner Nick and my daughters out to the river to see it! We'd gone to Pembrokeshire for a few days the previous month and I'd hoped to find them their first ever Seals on the coast there, but we had no luck then! This was too good an opportunity to pass up!
Luckily when we returned, the Seal was still in the same place! My girls were as amazed as I had been! My 9 year old and 13 year old had both brought their bridge cameras along to take their own photos! We watched the Seal for another hour or so, up until about 6pm, when we returned home for tea. I also used my Nikon D7200 and Sigma 150-600mm lens to record a short video of it, something I don't usually think to do, being a nature photographer and not a videographer!
That evening I uploaded one of the photos on my Facebook Nature Page and my Twitter Nature account, (HERE) plus I uploaded the video to my YouTube (HERE).
Using Google Maps, I worked out that the Seal was 17 miles upriver from the Bristol Channel!!
I didn't think much more about it until the next day, when I was contacted my a woman from the BBC. She asked permission to use my pics and video for a BBC News online report!
I agreed, and later in the day, the report appeared on the BBC website. (HERE)
The following day, things went crazy! I was receiving messages and phone calls all day long about the Seal! A picture agency wanted me to licence my Seal photos to them, and a Video agency wanted me to licence the Seal video to them. I was also contacted by both the BBC local TV news team and the ITV West Country TV news team, wanting to run the story and use my pics and video!
I also had both BBC Radio Somerset and BBC Radio Bristol wanting to interview me for their drivetime shows that afternoon! Now, I'm not the greatest talker in the world and I hate my voice, so this idea filled me with dread! However, I was interviewed by BBC Radio Somerset a couple of months ago about the rare Albino House Sparrow that I had photographed in my village, and that hadn't gone too badly, so I agreed to do both of them!
This was way out of my comfort zone, but I enjoyed talking to the presenters, Laura Rawlings and Charlie Taylor, and I only stumbled on my words a couple of times!!
^Above^ - My Radio Interview with Laura Rawlings on BBC Radio Bristol.
^Above^ - My other radio interview, with Charlie Taylor on BBC Radio Somerset.
The following day, my story was on the local press website and even in the Sun national newspaper!
What a mad few days it was, even crazier than after I photographed the Albino House Saprrow!!
The Seal also turned out to be the more unusual for Somerset Harbour Seal, instead of the more regular Grey Seal seen around the Somerset coasts from time to time!
A very sad update about the Marsh Harrier though....unfortunately our efforts to save her were in vain. She died a couple of days later, despite initially starting to feed at Secret World Wildlife Rescue, she was just too weak to survive.
Both myself and my friend Geoff who had found her shed a tear or 2 when we heard the sad news. We tried our best for the beautiful bird....
Below are pics of the celebrity Seal, plus a few other pics taken since last week, including baby Avocets at Steart Marshes in Somerset;
^Above^ - The famous Somerset Levels Harbour Seal, wallowing in the mud!
^Above^ - Baby Avocets at Steart Marshes in Somerset. with a parent in the top pic!
^Above^ - An older juvenile Avocet at Steart.
^Above^ - Adult Avocet at Steart.
^Above^ - My video of the baby Avocets, watch as they look for food just as adult Avocets do!
^Above^ - Adult and juvenile Oystercatchers at Steart.
^Above^ - Black Headed Gull behind the baby Avocets.
^Above^ - Buzzard at Steart.
^Above^ - A scruffy Magpie at Steart.
^Above^ - Goldfinch on a thorny branch at Steart.
^Above^ - Wet Linnet after having a bath in a puddle at Steart.
^Above^ - Pheasant on the run near Burrowbridge in Somerset.
^Above^ - Finishing with cattle at Steart.
Until my next blog post, thank you for reading! :)