Robbenbank ?? Blue Bellows between Terschelling and Ameland
The Robbenbank is a sandbank that always has seals on it. The Robben boats promise a 100% seal guarantee for a reason. The sandbank is located between Terschelling and Ameland and you can see it from both islands. Anyone standing on the western tip of Ameland sees the sandbank and with the naked eye there are black dots on it. With binoculars you can see that they are seals that are basking in the sun. From the Boschplaat of Terschelling, the most easterly point, the Robbenbank can also be seen with the naked eye. The Robbenbank is also called Blue Bellows. The Robbenbank is part of the Wadden Sea World Heritage Site.
Blue Bellows between Terschelling and Ameland
- Sand plate
- Seals on the Robbenbank
- Birds on the Robbenbank
- Black seal
- SOVON and IMARES
- Blue Bellows
- Uninhabited islands and sandbanks in the Wadden Sea
The Robbenbank is a sandbank that is approximately 50 hectares at high tide. It is much larger at low tide, because at low tide the water recedes. Then the plate measures up to 216 hectares. The plate is located just southeast of the eastern tip of Terschelling and slightly southwest of the western tip of Ameland. How the Robbenbank originated is unclear.
Seals on the Robbenbank
The Robbenbank owes its name to the presence of seals, seals. There are mainly harbor seals, although a gray seal sometimes wants to lie there. The seals rest there and give birth to their young. They are there to suckle and it is a great place to shed. These are all seal activities that require rest and they find that at the Robbenbank. Especially in the autumn there are hundreds of animals to be found at the same time, clearly visible from both neighboring islands of the plate. The gray seals sometimes want to come in the winter to give birth to their young. The young are suckled for three to four weeks and then they learn how to fish themselves.
Birds on the Robbenbank
The sandbank is bare, but there are always snacks in the form of worms and shellfish for wading birds and migratory birds. The Robbenbank is also a resting place for birds, just like for seals. Birds forage there and use the plate as a high tide refuge. Thousands of birds can sit on the plate and trot. The birds do not breed there, as far as is known. This is mainly because the record is so bare and because there are no dunes. Not a suitable area for nesting birds, which need some vegetation and shelter. Birds on the Robbenplaat are:
- pied sandpiper,
- red knot sandpiper,
- silver plover,
- bar-tailed godwit,
- three-toed sandpiper.
One of the seals that can be found on the Robbenbank is a black one. This is not a separate species, but a gray seal with melanism. The animal has a lot of pigment in its skin and therefore the hairs are black. Pieterburen Seal Center had a black seal in the sanctuary in 2015 and 2016. After they had been restored, the animals were released back into the Wadden Sea and one of the two has been regularly spotted on the Robbenbank since then. Black seals are rare; it is a mistake of nature. A gray seal should better have the same colors as its peers, because that makes it unnoticeable in the group. A seal with melanism stands out and the animal does not benefit from that.
SOVON and IMARES
SOVON (Foundation for Ornithological Field Research in the Netherlands) and IMARES (Institute for Marine Resources & Ecosystem Studies) conduct bird and seal research on the Robbenplaat. The researchers count the birds and seals every year.
On the Wadden Sea, inspection vessel Ms. Krukel inspection and nature management tasks from on and around the Robbenbank. De Krukel is part of the Waddenunit, which has four ships for inspection work. De Krukel works from halfway Terschelling to the eastern point of Schiermonnikoog. The Robbenbank falls exactly within that field.
At certain times of the year, the water around the Robbenplaat is closed to water traffic. That is when the seals give birth and suckle. Rijkswaterstaat will then place yellow buoys, which means that no one is allowed to get past the buoys. As soon as the youngsters are old enough, Rijkswaterstaat will open the route again.
The Robbenbank is also called the Blauwe Balg, but that is actually the name for the navigation channel south of the Robbenbank. It is an Article 20 area according to the Nature Conservation Act. This means that the area can be closed for visitors. You are not allowed to enter the Robbenplaat between 1 April and 1 September.
Several seal boats offer seal tours and visit the area regularly.
Uninhabited islands and sandbanks in the Wadden Sea
The Robbenbank is one of ten uninhabited islands and sandbanks in the Wadden Sea. All ten in a row, from west to east:
- Raging Bol,
- Pilot Whale,
B.. Blue Bellows