England: The first grey seal pups of the winter have been born

The first grey seal pups of the winter have been born on National Trust land on the north Norfolk coast.

Rangers at Blakeney Point have high hopes for another successful pupping season for the colony which has grown dramatically over the past 25 years to become the largest in England.

The latest estimates show around 4,500 pups being born every year, the National Trust has said.

In 2001, just 25 seal pup births were recorded at the beach, but it is anticipated that 180 times that number will be born between now and mid-January.

The National Trust has said the best way to view the grey seal colony is by boat, with tour operators based at Morston Quay in Norfolk.

The trust says it is also possible to view the colony by walking from Cley Beach.

The colony's expansion is believed to be due to the abundance of fish for grey seals to feed on in the North Sea and the absence of natural predators.

The National Trust has said its rangers and volunteers play a key part in supporting the seals by maintaining a regular presence at the beach.

This helps prevent the seals from being disturbed and gives rangers and volunteers the opportunity to share information with visitors.

Rangers help keep the beach clean all year round to offer a hospitable environment for the seals.

In September, volunteers helped by cleaning washed-up plastics and other waste from a two-mile stretch of Blakeney Point.

Rangers will be able to keep an extra close watch on how the grey seals are doing this year by using a remote monitoring camera that will provide a continuous live video feed from the heart of the colony.

Duncan Halpin, a ranger for the National Trust on the north Norfolk coast, said: "The grey seal colony is in the early stages of becoming established for this year and we are looking forward to following the progress of the colony, and its new pups, this winter.

"Over the coming months, Blakeney Point will be carpeted in grey seals, as something in the region of 4,500 cow seals come ashore to have their pups.

"It's a breathtaking sight and is testimony to the potential of our marine life to thrive when the right conditions, and protection from disturbance, are in place."

Grey seals around Great Britain can also be found along exposed rocky northern and western coasts. They also appear in the South West and along the west coast of Ireland.