This is one of the pics I made to remember yesterday (2 November 2014) - the great day, memories of which one wants to keep for long, as these impressions are the source of optimism, inner strength and just the overall belief in the good and the best things in the world.
Common Seals Phoca vitulina - at the sandy bank called Kuipersplaat. They face now the first waves - after some quite prolonged stay-treatment-rehabilitation in the SRRC, known best as Zeehondencreche Pieterburen (link to SRRC website, English and other languages switchable in the menu in the top-right corner). But anyway - step by step the great impressions of the day.
As some of the real friends and family know - I have decided that some excessive energy and some time I want to devote now to volunteering at SRRC. Thus it is already for a 2nd weekend that my mornings start at 6-00 - first with coffee and shower at home, and then with clean-up, help-with-feeding-the-sick (those who cannot eat themselves are fed by the experienced seal nurses, whom we only help), and feeding those who can eat fish (Herring) by themselves... Thus the chilly but still most beautiful moments of sunrise - we see together with these lovely mammals. For all volunteers in turn - thre is a chance to be invited to join the release of the seals, that regained their health in the rehab - to be returned back to the sea, to wild nature. This offer and the reason for my "Hurrah!!!" was yesterday (or on Friday? anyway the release is/was on Sunday 2nd November). And yes, I know there were a lot of stories also in Livejournal - thus I try to add up what was not yet covered.
All the patients in the SRRC are weekly weighed, and also for every patient there is a rehab-history; it is done by vets, and also the vets with their boss (just learnt he is responsible for all except funds and administration) - take decisions on which particular seal(s) is ready for the release, and where this release has to happen. From the section-with-two-pools below only two seals - Boef and Bity - can go back to the sea. These two already have their "foster parents"- two young Dutch families, parents and kids. We stay now together at a distance, watching how the SRRC nurse smartly located and just isolated exactly these two. Weighing and final placement in the transportation box(es) has to happen as close to departure time as possible.
You, darling, have to wait still... to eat and to gain weight in the SRRC pools.
One of my favourite sections in SRRC - Binnen+Buitenbad. They are not separated now, and here the nurse have even a more difficult task - to find only one female, called Noor, from in total eight very similar looking seals. It is only Noor who had OK for being released today.
Vicky and Giulia, both super-experienced seal nurses, - decide on the way they have to fulfill this task in the best possible manner...
After some short conversation - all of the seals are easily moved to the Binnenbad - and the wanted number on the tail flipper mark is searched for.
Special wicker boxes are used to weigh the seals and to move them also from one section of the creche to another. This time Noor is already in, it was really fast.
Regret it we stood far from the scales, so I did not see the fugires, and forgot to ask. Will add the weight of Noor - hope to remember it till Tuesday.
And then she is moved from the wickered box to the special transportation box made of planks. While the other boxes is brought for clean-up and almost sterilisation (with Virkon or how it is spelled correctly).
Here her name is already in, and the foster parents are standing nearby, observing and taking foto's. Usually it is on the 2nd or 3rd day after the patient comes to the creche that the foster parents see the photo of the sick seal and agree to adopt - actualy I understood there is a sort of cue of foster parents! I do not remember exact details, but sure they are all here at the adoption page of the website.
With little hand-up only follow Noor to the transportation (actually emergency) car - and there, instructed by Bea-the-nurse, - help her to put Noor in the car. Three more seals/boxes to come.
Two nurses - Diana-and-somebody-I-cannot-recognise - are already weighing Lisa the female - taken for release from yet another pool. And I just learned meanwhile that first the names are given by the rescue people, and then only the adopting family (person) can change the name of the seal.
And there comes just daily routine clean-up in the section where female Noor lived few minutes ago. Feeding comes last here in these sections.
"When can I hope to be released?" - Sure I do not think that they think like this. It is just most likely that they remember - that a body (a woman) in white brings fresh fish after cleaning.
These very seals in Buitenbad, observing the clean-up process, remind me for some days of the famous Chinese Terrakota Army - all in one similar posture, with little details that differ, and you notice these only when you are really keena and patient to observe...
Now it is time for Boef and Bity - also to go to the transportation emergency car.
All animals loaded, wickered boxes ready to be cleaned, and the group of five cars (with emergency with seals leading) leave precisely at 9-45 from SRRC.
The harbour of Lauwersoog 25 km to the west - and the two first boxes with seals we have already moved with Andre, the master of all releases, - and now the remaining two are moved by Theo-the-captain and his two passengers, who volunteered to help, but who also happened to be for years the donors of SRRC. Good coincidence!
Two handsome crew members (actually the only crew apart of the captain on this large tourist boat) move the boxes with seals to the front and fix them fast for sailing further. All is ready for departure!!
Leaving the Lauwersoog harbour.
With the seals in front - they are placed just under the captains cabin, - it is about 30 minutes on the motor to the release place we need. It is now high tide - just the very beginning of outgoing currents. Still also surprising for the 2nd november - plus 16 in the air (likely similar in the coastal waters).
A map is on the table for all interested - well, we follow Zoutkamperlaag little strait to the northern parts of the two green "islands". All green on this map is intertidal - mud or sand. Sand - happily - in our case.
As far as I realised these are the foster parents of Noor. Captain Theo gives the chance to the boy to move the boat to the place "his"seal will be released.
Meanwhile Andre, the top person in SRRC for all releases, - tells all the passengers on what SRRC does, about the whole process of the seals'rehab... Upps, the microphone is already somewhere else - thus now Andre is already answering questions.
Some unknown people started their morning like this, just at the sand... This is one of the reasons I am still dreaming to have grundel - to wake up at the sea together with birds and among them...
Arrived at the place, - and the first transport to the coast is for the seals. One box after another - first with the roaps and the special crane, then to the floatable pontone, and then by hands to the sand bank...
Andre and something-just-in-pants... well, the sea was really reaching my waistline. And the white trousers and rubber boots have to wait on board, being useless... Remembered some old comment of Dima-the-warden at the White Sea that "it is as if you have plastic feet" - well, the water here was much warmer still.
Finally all the boxes with seals are safe on the sand, and the last thing Andre does - is drawing a very distinctive line on the sand, that the observers cannot cross. Only the adopting families are allowed to be at the boxes.
Still moving to the coast - well, we tried to pursuade this lady to be brought on hands/shoulders - now way, only self. Well, good she accepted a hand of one of likely relatives.
Last orders to foster parents - what should be done on a certain command word... Besides also explanation to all - that sometimes the seals take their decisions slowly, so that they should not be pushen in any way...
Foster families ready....
And the first seals go! (ups, I toom the wrong position far away in the sea, though OK'd - but the back side of Andre in now in from of Noor and Lisa boxes).
Two females were a bit slower)
Finally they are all at the coastline - but it is as if they are surprised with the waves.
I am standing really very far in the sea (even double-asked for "if it is OK"), - and somehow the seals start swimming toward me. Only half-meter away from my knee - I remember that these lovely animals can also bite - and rather quickly move out of the sea. Do they remember I fed them? Is it so that I am the solely standing person and thus just safe to look at / explore?
And the seals come again to the shore.
Finally they make a second attempt, and first explore the Silverwind boat they came with, and then swim around, people taking pictures from the sandbank and also from the deck.
And the likely they felt some current, that helpe them move along the sandbank coast...
And again they pass me, this time at larger distance.
Their fellow Phoca seals are resting onshore few hundred meters away...
And these four have only to swim around the only bigger streatch of sand.
It is for the last time I turn my head in search of the seals'heads - already far away and getting less and less visible in the waves.
And I will remember them just like these on the photoА запомню их - вот такими...
Absolutely great day.
Good reason to remind you all of the link to the Zeehondencreche Pieterburen.