IT’S the haunting sound that hits you first – an other-worldly mix of wailing and foghorns, carried in the coastal winds. From the cliffside, row upon row of what appear to be giant white silkworms bedding down amongst the boulders, come into view.

Yet on closer look, these torpedoes of white fluff – and the much larger, darker bodies that lay beside them – reveal far more tender inclinations.

They are the newborn pups of Grey Seals, nestled snoozing and smiling next to their mothers on one of Scotland’s busiest breeding beaches.

Along the shoreline, hulking bull seals – slab-dark and imposing – lie waiting for any female who may leave the nursery to mate again.

It’s a mesmerising spectacle of maternal love and masculine swagger.

As far as the eye can see, mothers pat and encourage their newborns to nurse – while occasional fights break out as males emerge from the waves to manhandle rivals back into the sea.

This 80-strong creche – at St Abb’s National Nature Reserve, near Eyemouth – highlights one of Scotland’s wildlife success stories.

Grey seal births in the south of Scotland have been increasingly steadily for the past decade; a suspected beneficiary of climate-change, more plentiful mackerel and favourable EU fishery regulations.

“In the last full year’s count, in 2016, there were 1,500 pups in this stretch from St Abbs’ Head to Dowlaw Dean”, said Liza Cole, Senior Ranger at the St Abb’s Reserve. “Ten years ago, there were none.

“Numbers of Grey Seals are increasing on this part of the Berwickshire and East Lothian coast – but also on the West Coast of Scotland. They are spreading eastwards and westwards.

“It’s amazing as Grey Seals are, globally, one of the rarest seals in the world.”

The British Isles is home to around 120,000 Grey Seals, approximately 40 per cent of the world’s total population.

“The increase in Grey Seals, top predators in Scotland, can be seen as a success story,” added Liza. “ We do tend to focus on the negatives, when it comes to wildlife. People don’t see the positives. With climate change, there are winners too.”

Yet despite the swell in numbers, winter birthing still represents a punishing entry into the world.

“The mortality rate of these pups is high – around 50 per cent will not survive,” Liza added. “It’s a harsh time of year to be born. There are storms and rough seas.

“Because the female loses up to half her body-weight feeding her pup, at 21 days old, she leaves. The pups are left to live on their own blubber.”

Down on the beach, a newborn is gently cuffed by his saucer-eyed mother, mistaking her attempts to help him latch on and feed as an invitation to play.

Next to her in the creche, another mum has just given birth.

Her body is still heaving, while the newborn – with eyes as large as the cutest of Disney cartoon animals – lies looking up at her, his umbilical cord still attached.

Mothers and pups of Grey Seals are known to have a strong bond. Within hours, she can recognise her young from his scent and call.

Adult seals make a range of noises – from honks, roars and hissing to deep guttural grunts. Pups make crying sounds similar to human babies.

Down on the rocks, the youngest pups splay their flippers out like legs, giving them the resemblance more of tiny Polar Bears than of seals.

Some sport a surprisingly bright yellow fur coat, as if they have somehow gone off and bought the wrong-colour sleeping bag.

These are the day-old pups, tinted by their mother’s amniotic fluid.

Soon, pristine white fur emerges, helping to insulate them until they are weaned 16 days later.

Pups must put on around 100 lbs in just a few weeks if they have even a hope of survival.

The calm of the beach is suddenly broken by the commotion of a chase.

A battle-scarred bull – with looks that epitomise the Grey Seal’s Latin name of ‘Hooked-Nose Sea-Pig’ – hulks his vast body from the waves to ward off a rival.

Grey Seals’ movements on land are restricted to a lumbering shuffle.

The two bulls – both at the upper end of the 600 lbs (around 270 kg) average weight – smash heavily on the rocks in their sheer effort to propel themselves forward; part Sumo wrestler, part concertina.

With the interloper gone, the dominant male heads back to sentry duty.

“It’s an amazing wildlife sight to see,” said Liza.

“People should enjoy the seals – but from a distance. Take binoculars, be respectful.

“Once pups are weaned, they wander across the coast by themselves.

“We would ask people, don’t intervene with a pup. If a pup is not showing signs of injury and starvation, keep away.”