For me September will always be the month of the Atlantic Grey Seal. My first close encounter was on a wild and windy morning walking across a rugged island of Orkney, and my companion was a weather-worn local farmer. He had given me permission to access a small rocky cove on his land. Planned just a month before, this was a memorable day for another reason, my first BBC wildlife filming.

Watching from the cliff top we could see a boulder beach far below, where a monstrous mound of wave-thrown kelp formed a wide tide line. Five fluffy white seal pups were dozing on top of the seaweed bed. Their occasional moaning calls rising to fill the rocky refuge. I waited for a large adult female to finish feeding her young, watching as she hauled her bulk back into the water. Scrambling down a narrow cliff path I was left alone with a warning of slippery rocks. My guide sensibly headed back to his warm farmhouse. Apart from the sound of the sea, all was quiet on the beach. The small boulders I had seen from above, were in reality nearly the height of me, so sheltered my approach.

With a heavy camera and large tripod, I had been told to behave like a seal, belly on the ground so as not to alarm the pups. To my surprise the youngsters seemed more curious as I approached. Keeping downwind I gave them plenty of room. I was also warned if you behave like a seal, expect to be treated like one. Within 24 hours of birth these apparently defenceless youngsters have a full set of sharp adult teeth. The pups do not tolerate each other getting too close when on land.

Three years later in the Isles of Scilly my arrival on a remote, rocky islet was easier by boat. Thankfully the weather was calm and I got closer than planned when a seal pup approached me followed by its mother. Crawling and wriggling across the rocks I had already rolled in seaweed and soaked myself in scattered green pools, so I probably smelled like one of their kind. They ignored me and came even closer. Spending time with wild seals was a privilege and thrill I can still vividly remember decades later.

Today in the south west of England, it seems almost every estuary and harbour now have their own resident seal. So, if you want to see the most exciting big game and to have your own close encounter, take an organised boat trip with an expert skipper. Even better, at this time of the year, your local County Wildlife Trust often provide wildlife watching boat tours that include flocks of migrant wildfowl and wading birds. On safari, summer’s end style.

Photo: Atlantic Grey Seal and pup ©Andrew Cooper