THE Thames paid host to a whale, now the River Dee has had its own unexpected marine visitors - two grey seals.
Onlookers were amazed to see the seals emerge near The Groves in Chester last month, probably chasing salmon which were returning down the Dee after spawning.
After spending two weeks wowing Cestrians with its playful antics, one seal, which was below the weir at the Old Dee Bridge, returned downstream of its own accord.
Its companion, a four-month-old male seal who settled further upstream near the Royal Chester Rowing Club, is being treated at an RSPCA hospital after suffering breathing difficulties and a neck wound.
Adele Edwards, of Chester's Friends of the Meadows group, said the seals may have come up the river at high tide from a colony of 300 seals off Hilbre Island near West Kirby.
She added: 'One lucky person actually saw it tossing a salmon in the air and eating it. It must have been a lovely sight. The seals seem to have been very enterprising, using the high tide to get to the salmon before the rest of the colony in Hilbre.
'Unfortunately the seal above the weir came out on to the bank late in the evening on February 13 and was looking a bit distressed and showed reluctance to go back in the water so the RSPCA were called.'
RSPCA Wildlife Supervisor Robert Scrivens said the seal was transferred to the Stapeley Grange Wildlife Centre in Nantwich where it is receiving anti-biotics. He said: 'It weighed 27kg when we took it in and was dehydrated and suffering from a respiratory infection.
'It also had a wound to its neck so we think it may have got entangled in something in the river.
'It has now finished a course of antibiotics and is eating around 15 herring a day. We are hoping to release it back into the sea in a few weeks when it is fully rehabilitated.'
Mr Scrivens said that the seal would not have been affected by the fresh water in that part of the Dee and probably had the respiratory problem before reaching Chester.
An Environment Agency spokesperson said they were aware of 'a number of seals' being spotted in the Dee recently.
He said last year a seal pup was sighted above the weir in Chester, but despite attempts to capture it the pup escaped and was not spotted again.
Malcolm Ingham, of Wirral Council's ranger service said the most common reason for groups of seals to go so far from their natural habitat is to chase food. He said: 'It's likely they were following a food source. If it's a single animal then it's often because they are sick and disorientated.
But I suspect these were looking for food.
'It's likely they have got to the mouth of the river and just kept on going.' nStapeley Grange Wildlife Centre takes in injured wildlife from across the North West and Midlands and is entirely funded by donations to the RSPCA.
To donate visit www.rspca.org.uk rebecca. email@example.com