DEDICATED animal rescuers are nursing a group of baby seals back to health after they were washed up on shores by the winter storms.

Seven grey seal pups and one common seal pup have been taken in by Hessilhead wildlife centre in Beith, Ayrshire, since the bad weather arrived.

Five of the mammals have been brought north from Northumberland after a wildlife centre there was flooded by stormy seas in recent weeks, while the other three have been retrieved from Turnberry and Barassie beaches in South Ayrshire and Port Logan in Dumfries and Galloway.

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Some of the seals still bear their distinctive white coats, indicating that they were newborns when they were washed away.

The centre has been working to nurse them back to health before they can be released into the wild again. Sea birds, a peregrine falcon and deer are also among the recent casualties brought in for treatment.

Centre manager Gay Christie said: "The seals have been washed away by the high seas and were recovered after people alerted us when they were washed up. Some were injured when they arrived after being dashed on rocks and required treatment, but are now on the mend.

"They are very young seals and would have become lost just days after birth, so they still have a lot of weight to gain before they are ready to be released."

Five of the group are able to feed themselves, while the others are being fed by hand. Together they require around 50kg of fish a day, costing up to £70.

Heavy showers, some of them combined with hail and thunder, are expected to continue to affect parts of southern and south-eastern England today. There are no severe weather warnings in place for Scotland, with the south coast expected to bear the brunt of the rainfall. The rain is falling on already saturated ground after a succession of storms putting added pressure on already swollen rivers, while coastal areas also battle high tides and strong winds.

In Dorset, huge waves prompted the Environment Agency to sound its flood siren on Monday, warning of extreme danger to people and property. Residents were told to move to an upstairs room facing away from the sea. Many areas have also faced disruption from road closures and cancelled or delayed train services.

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said the UK Government was working with local councils and others, to ensure people could quickly get the help they need. But environmentalists challenged the Government's claim that it was spending more than ever on flood defences.