MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report 'MV Balmoral' Ilfracombe to Porlock Bay 4th September 2016

Maggie Gamble; MARINElife Balmoral Wildlife Officer
Conditions good with sun and some cloud Wind: SW 3

Marine mammals:
Harbour Porpoise 6

Great Black-backed Gull
Herring Gull
Manx shearwater

It is quite a few years since I've sailed on the Balmoral and I'd seen her a couple of years earlier when she was long berthed in Bristol Docks. So, it was lovely to watch her coming into Ilfracombe for the cruise along the Dorset and Somerset coast. Once all the passengers from Porthcawl had disembarked for their afternoon in Ilfracombe we were quickly off in pursuit of coastal scenery and wildlife.

Heading towards Porlock with the weather behind us it was a warm and enjoyable cruise with plenty of dramatic cliffs and picturesque bays to admire. Bird life was fairly sparse but a few Gannet (which seemed to be all adults), juvenile gulls, Fulmar and occasional Manx Shearwater were seen.  Manx Shearwater nest around the British coast, then leave their nest sites in July before heading down to the South-American coast for the winter.

Fulmar Mike Bailey 01

Fulmar (Mike Bailey)

Once in Porlock Bay the Balmoral turned around and headed back to Ilfracombe. After this change of direction (because we were now heading into the weather) it seemed breezier and cooler so people migrated from the bow to the stern where it was more sheltered.

On this return leg just off Watermouth Castle we finally saw some Gannet feeding activity. Through the binoculars underneath the feeding Gannet, I could see the unmistakable profile of a surfacing Harbour Porpoise and then a brief glimpse of another closer to us. Some Gannet moved closer to the Balmoral in pursuit of fish and other passengers spotted porpoise that I missed, giving a total of six animals seen in this area.

Harbour Porpoise Peter Howlett 07

Harbour Porpoise (Pete Howlett)

All this feeding activity reminded me that I was also hungry so I headed down to the dining saloon for some tasty hot soup.

My thanks to the crew of the Balmoral for all their help and support.

Maggie Gamble; MARINElife Wildlife Officer (WLO)