The beach was empty today: no shells, no bits of driftwood, no bluebottles, no people. It was a vast expanse of bare sand and the tide was fully out.
I was striding along and the dogs were roaming free when I heard a cross between a snarl and a sneeze from a large L-shaped log that’s been on the beach for a long time. Turning, I saw the dogs leap back in surprise.
There must be a big dog behind there , I thought, and looked more closely, walking towards the dogs.
Then I spotted it: a seal relaxing in the crook of the log.
It was quite a big seal: about the size of a 7 year old child. It’s the biggest one I’ve seen on our beach, dead or alive. Mostly the seals I’ve seen have been about the size of a cat or small dog, usually dead, and I’ve seen less than half a dozen in the last 2 years.
I managed to call the dogs to me and put them on the lead, then I carefully and slowly circled the log at a distance taking photos.
I tried to see if the seal was perhaps caught up in some way, but couldn’t see any obvious signs of injury or distress. I guess it was just sunbathing, enjoying some peace and quiet.
The dogs and I continued our walk.
A little research told me what I’d seen was most likely a New Zealand Fur Seal:
Fur seals and sea lions are distinguished from other seals by their external ear flaps and hind flippers which rotate forward, allowing them to move quickly on land.
… This pointy-nosed seal has long pale whiskers and a body covered with two layers of fur. Their coat is dark grey-brown on the back, and lighter below; when wet kekeno look almost black. In some animals the longer upper hairs have white tips which give the animal a silvery appearance.
Adult females: maximum length 1.5 m, weight 30-50 kg.
Adult males: maximum length 2.5 m, weight 90-150 kg.
… On average, they live 14 to 17 years.