The Firth of Forth is home to grey seals (Atlantic seals) and harbour seals (common seals). They’re a common sight around Queensferry and can often be spotted lazing on buoys or lounging on the rocky outcrops of the islands that dot the landscape.
Grey seals, the larger of the species, give birth in November. Their population levels are robust and you’re likely to see them congregating in the sea, around the islands and basking on the rocks.
Harbour seals are less common and more solitary. They pup in the summer and, as the pups can swim almost immediately, are often found near deep water. The population is in decline and sadly, they are sometimes found on public beaches where they are at risk of disruption from walkers.
Seal spotting on the Firth of Forth
If you want to go seal spotting on the Firth of Forth, there are a couple of options.
The mudflats at Port Edgar – an area of special scientific interest - are a good place to spot seals. Don your wellies, take some binoculars and you’ll likely see a plethora of wildlife.
In November, you can take a boat trip from Hawes Pier to see the newly born grey seal pups around Inchkeith Island. Around 500 pups are born each year, and this is a great opportunity to observe them from a respectful distance aboard the Maid of the Forth. To find out more, please visit the Maid of the Forth website.
If all else fails, the seal sculpture by Kenneth Raeburn depicts a mother seal and pup lying side by side on a rock. Located by Hawes Pier, it celebrates the colony of seals on Inchcolm.
Conserving the Seals
It is not uncommon the find harbour seals on public beaches in and around South Queensferry. If you see a seal on a beach, please keep your distance. Don’t attempt the approach the seal, don’t feed it and don’t attempt to take a selfie. If you have a dog, put it on a lead and walk away from the seal slowly and quietly. Very young seal pups have a white coat, so if you see one with a white coat on its own on a public beach it might be in trouble. You should not approach it and you should contact the SSPCA's animal helpline on 03000 999 999. Human interaction is one of the biggest threats to harbour seals and should be avoided at all costs. Thank you.