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Monday, 1 December 2014

Robert Walser: Yes, I confess that for some years past

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My encounter with a huge #GreySeal, Germany's largest predator, at #Heligoland beach last weekend. #KarlTheKiller?: image via Stephan Lutter @Ocean_Whisperer, 15 September 2014 Börnsen, Herzogtum Lauenberg


Yes, I confess that for some years past
I lacked the zest needed just to live,
except that on my ramblings in the backstreets
I never let myself collapse, but rather
from fields of feeling that were colorless
I swung myself up into the rosy ones, of course
that sounds a bit romantic. Truth to tell,
I became bloated with my zest, knowingly,
and trotted along to find in it myself
when really it was not there, and only
self-enchantment made me young. I never ceased
instructing life to be a help to me,
and all the time it was my projection,
as in a mirror, of any amount of things,
and if there's valor in behaving so
I simply do not know, for all that I tried
not to go down too soon into dejection.


Robert Walser (1878-1956): Yes, I confess that for some years past (Autumn 1928) from Thirty Poems, selected and translated by Christopher Middleton, 2012




A grey seal pup lies in the grass at the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust’s Donna Nook nature reserve in Grimsby, England, where over 800 pups have been born this year so far. Grey seals have been identified as the mystery killers of harbour porposes: photo by Dan Kitwood via the Guardian, 28 November 2014

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Good to see #greyseal 'Bagshot' back on Ramsey today. An ex-rescue from the @Seal_Sanctuary, Cornwall. Nearly 5 now: image via Steph @stephbarnicoat, 22 September 2014

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Pups still being born into November. This cow chose the right time - after the storm! #greyseal: image via RSPB Ramsey Island @RSPBRamsey, 4 November 2013


600 and counting....the number of #greyseal pups born on Ramsey so far this autumn #pembrokeshire: image via RSPB Ramsey Island @RSPBRamsey, 7 November 2013
 

Today's #greyseal haul out had risen to 212 on Porth Lleuog. No sign of the Glaucous gull though: image via RSPB Ramsey Island @RSPBRamsey, 5 March 2014 


"@Gladtidings6: A lot of #GreySeal around #farne islands today, the perfect tide conditions to see them, around 4000 here": image via CathyCrowther #@CatbytheC, 30 July 2014
 

Pretending to be shy #GreySeal pup on the #FarneIslands
: image via Laura Shearer @LimpetLaura, 24 November 2014


wj_strietman@hotmail.com 02 HP at sea off Texel jan 2009_th Killer grey seals, Britain's largest carnivorous mammal, has been blamed for a spate of mysterious mutilations of harbour porpoises in the North Sea. Here is one of them seen at sea off Texel in January 2009.

Seals have been identified as the killers behind the mystery of dead porpoises found with distinct mutilations on Dutch beaches over the past decade. The cause of large numbers of harbour porpoises washing up on the Netherlands coast was previously unknown and contested, but an eight year-long study concludes that grey seals have “learned a new trick” and are preying on them. The author of the paper, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, said that there was no reason to think they would not attack humans as well: photo by WJ Strietman / Royal Society via The Guardian, 26 November 2014


#harbourporpoise #Penzance #Cornwall today @RWDW_WCA@CornwallNature @MARINElife_UK @wildlife_uk
: image via Marine Discovery @Marine_Discover, 30 October 2014

In September 2011, two harbour porpoises (Phocoena phocoena) presenting extensive traumatic lesions washed ashore in Belgium. Similar lesions, with large parts of skin and blubber missing, had not been recorded before on harbour porpoises in Belgium but were recently observed in a number of cases in neighbouring countries. We compared the lesions with the mouth and teeth structure of possible predators. The circumstances of the strandings, the observations during the necropsies, and the results of seal skull investigations pointed towards seals, presumably grey seals (Halichoerus grypus), as the prime suspects for having caused the death of both harbour porpoises. Although purely aggressive behaviour cannot be completely excluded, predation is considered most likely as part of the skin and blubber tissue of the harbour porpoises was missing. The grey seal is an opportunistic predator, feeding on a variety of fish and cephalopods, and occasionally even on crustaceans and seabirds, but predation on harbour porpoises, or any other marine mammal, had to our knowledge never been described. This finding might shed a new light on the cause of death of some of the other mutilated harbour porpoises recently stranded on southern North Sea beaches, and it presents a case of a change in the feeding strategy of a top predator.

The Grey Seal (Halichoerus grypus) as a Predator of Harbour Porpoises (Phocoena phocoena)? Abstract of a paper in Aquatic Mammals, 16 November 2012



Harbour Porpoise seen in Falmouth Bay #falmouth #cetacean #harbourporpoise #ak_cruises: image via Billy Heaney @BillyHeaney, 21 June 2014

Grey seals identified as killers behind mystery harbour porpoise deaths: Study reveals seals along the coast of the Netherlands are switching from eating fish to eating mammal: Adam Vaughan, The Guardian, Wednesday 26 November 2014

Seals have been identified as the killers behind the mystery of dead porpoises found with distinct mutilations on Dutch beaches over the past decade.

The cause of large numbers of harbour porpoises washing up on the Netherlands coast was previously unknown and contested, but an eight year-long study concludes that grey seals have “learned a new trick” and are preying on them.

The author of the paper, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, said that there was no reason to think they would not attack humans as well.

Using DNA analysis of the the bite wounds, a Dutch team examined 721 of 1,081 porpoises that were stranded between 2003 and 20013 along the Dutch coastline and found that nearly one in five had been killed by seals. That makes the seals the major cause of harbour porpoise deaths in the Netherlands, alongside being killed as fishing by catch.

“This is a new behaviour. They’re normally fish eaters, they can eat a large fish, around half a metre. It’s a switch from fish-eating to mammal-eating. I don’t think it’s indicative of lower fish stocks, they just learned a new trick,” Mardisk F Leopold, who led the research, told the Guardian.



Grey seal: photo by Mark Smith/BWPA via the Guardian, 28 March 2012

“They are very social and when they go hunting, they do it alone, so it was surprising they can transfer this behaviour to others. It’s not just one seal. This is everywhere along the Dutch coast.”

He said there was no reason to think the behaviour, which took off in a big way from 2006 onwards, would not be replicated by other seals in northern Europe. “We know there is exchange between ‘Dutch’ seals and ‘English’ or ‘Scottish’ seals, so there’s ample opportunity for dispersal of this behaviour.”

The porpoises are targeted by the seals for their blubber, with healthy and fat juvenile the favoured prey. The scientists speculate as to whether porpoises will adapt to the threat of being eaten by seals by becoming leaner and faster swimmers, though this would put them at risk of dying from emaciation, another major cause of their death.

The paper concludes that many of the porpoises were found on beaches used by swimmers and surfers and there was no evidence to suggest why “humans may not be at risk from grey seal attacks.”

Leopold said there had been reports of seal-human incidents in northern Europe, but no deaths. “Attacks is maybe a big word – people have been bitten while swimming. I don’t think there have been attacks that have not been provoked.”



Harbour porpoise, the UK's smallest cetacean! #cetacean #harbourporpoise #akwildlifecruises: image via Billy Heaney @BillyHeaney, 17 September 2013


@Suesseals @thefarneislands @ MayaPlass Interesting paper-? predation of #porpoise by #greyseal: image via Ben Burville @Sealdiver, 28 February 2013 Northumberland

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On the way back, found Trevor, #Selsey's visiting #greyseal who seems to be frightened of the sea but not people. Hmm: image via Donna Tomlinson @ DonnaMTomlinson, 11 June 2013


Grimsby, UK. A Grey Seal pup in the grass at the Donna Nook nature reserve. Bull seals are the first to arrive, from late October, to wait for females. Cows arrive later and are herded into harems by the bulls, where they give birth to a single pup covered in white fur. The seals will return to the North Sea in January before returning to the same area to give birth next year: photo by Dan Kitwood via The Guardian, 26 November 2014

4 comments:

Sandra said...

Walser ...his courage and humbleness are inspiring..I think he did not deserve the exposure he had after his body was found dead

TC said...

The strange humility -- and frightening vulnerability -- and the mystery -- are there in everything he wrote.

Amy Gerstler said...

Just saw this beautiful Walser poem now, a few days late. Thank you for posting this. His singular melancholic sweetness of spirit, his modest elation and sadness and sensitivity are like no other writer's. I've read more of the prose than the poems, so you send me straight to his poetry, eagerly.

TC said...

Amy, Always a thrill to hear from you, while dodging the jaws of the predatory seals... seen from the harbour porpoise POV, the world must suddenly seem very like Walser's. Strangely terrifying. All the same, as his wonderfully unknowable life shows, every endangered creature has no choice but to battle on, while also battling backward; and so, without further ado, in your honour:

Robert Walser: The Battle of Sempach