MV Balmoral

Sightings Archives: August 2017

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report 'MV Balmoral' Five Bridges Cruise from Clevedon 31st August 2017

Posted 03 September 2017

Terry Bridgwood; MARINElife WLO
Weather: Clear & sunny. Wind: SW  2-4

Summary of sightings
Unidentified Gull Spp.
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Little Gull

Terrestrial Birds:
Grey Heron
Peregrine Falcon

I was feeling a bit more confident for my second trip and the Oystercatcher was visible and audible on the shore.

It was a clear and sunny day as we left Clevedon pier. We headed NE along the coast towards the river Avon. Passing along Redcliffe bay, the old National Nautical school, Battery Point lighthouse and the new Lifeboat station at Portishead, I spotted half a dozen gulls which I was unable to positively identify.

As we turned onto the river Avon I saw a mix of gulls and ducks on the mudflats. I briefly saw a single bird with a long, curved needle like beak, characteristic of the Curlew.  Along the banks there were numerous Mallard Duck, Lesser Black-backed Gull and juvenile and adult Little Gull. Numerous Redshank were also spotted.

Little Gull Peter Howlett 03

Little Gull (Peter Howlett)

We cruised up the river Avon taking in the beautiful scenery, passing under the M5 bridge and past Sea Mills, under the iconic Clifton Suspension Bridge to Brunel lock where we picked up more passengers. A Grey Heron and a Buzzard were seen. One of the passengers advised me that they had seen 2 Peregrine Falcon on the Port side whilst I was on the Starboard side.

Peregrine 01_Adrian Shephard

Peregrine (Adrian Shephard)

We cruised back down the river Avon and rejoined the Bristol Channel. Heading upstream we passed under the M4 2nd Severn crossing. Traffic was racing overhead as we cruised along peacefully. We waited in the channel whilst the Pilots assessed the conditions to see if we could enter the mouth of the river Wye.

Conditions were okay so we made our entrance. There was 6' clearance between to top of the mast and the underside of the bridge but it didn't look like that much. Having turned around in the river mouth we continued under the  M48 1st river crossing. Turning around again we headed back under the bridges and back to Clevedon.

It was interesting to see Clevedon pier from "the other end" at low tide.

I thoroughly enjoyed my trips on the Balmoral and look forward to many more.

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

Terry Bridgwood; MARINElife Wildlife Officer (WLO)

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report 'MV Balmoral' Clevedon to Nash Point 30th August 2017

Posted 02 September 2017

Terry Bridgwood; MARINElife WLO
Weather: Overcast, raining. Cleared to blue skies & sunshine. Wind: NE 3-5

Summary of sightings
Marine mammals:
Harbour Porpoise 2

Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Little Gull
Common Gull
Unidentified Gull Sp.

Other species
Barrel Jellyfish

This being my first solo trip, I was very nervous about how I would manage. The drive to Clevedon was rain all the way and grey skies. When I reached the pier I heard an Oystercatcher on the shore.  I embarked along with the rest of the passengers and introduced myself to the Purser and donned my Wildlife Officer tabbard.

Ropes off was at 09:30 hours and we headed across the Bristol channel to Penarth. There was a lot of marine debris floating but I was really excited to see a possible seal pop its head up amongst a raft of seaweed. On closer inspection it turned out to be nothing more than a log bobbing upright in the water.

En-route to Penarth I saw a variety of gulls - Herring, juvenile Lesser Black backed, Common and some others that I couldn't positively identify. A pigeon flew overhead and joined his fellows as we pulled alongside Penarth pier.

LBB Gull Graham Ekins 03

Juvenile Lesser Black-backed Gull (Graham Ekins)

Some passengers disembarked and others joined us for our trip along the Welsh coast to Porthcawl.

The weather had changed from raining and overcast on the English coast to clear blue skies and glorious sunshine on "the other side". As we rounded the coast, passing Barry and Nash Point, I started to see the occassional Barrel Jelly Fish. A juvenile Lesser Black-backed Gull made an appearance.

Nigel, one of the Balmoral volunteers gave a running commentary, pointing out interesting features on shore,the power station at Cardiff, the airport, a castle and the lighthouse.

We entered Porthcawl harbour, the ship sounded its horn to notify swimmers of our approach. Anglers on the harbourside quickly reeled in their lines. Unfortunately I missed the 2 Harbour Porpoise on the Port side, which a passenger kindly told me about a bit later.

Harbour Porpoise Adrian Shephard 09

Harbour Porpoise (Adrian Shephard)

We did a short trip for the embarkees from Porthcawl, returning to the harbour about an hour later.

More lesser black backed gulls were seen on the way  back to Penarth. I enjoyed listening and speaking to passengers who were very knowledgeable about the area.

We returned to Clevedon and disembarked. I thanked the Captain and crew for having me on board and making me welcome.

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

Terry Bridgwood MARINElife Wildlife Officer (WLO)

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report 'MV Balmoral' Sharpness to Ilfracombe 8th August 2017

Posted 09 August 2017

Nicola Simpson; MARINElife WLO
Weather: Cloudy with sunny periods.

Marine mammals:
Harbour Porpoise 2

Great Black-backed Gull
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull

I arrive at Sharpness Docks at around 8.45am in drizzle and grey skies. Whilst waiting at the docks I could see the MV Balmoral up the estuary loading passengers at Lydney. It then set off to pick us up and made a tricky maneuver along the fast-flowing estuary to pick us up.

Balmoral Nicola Simpson 01
Herring Gull perched on the flagstaff of the Balmoral (Nicola Simpson)

Shortly after setting off a Cormorant was spotted, along with many Black- headed Gull. As we continued down the estuary into the Bristol Channel we were pleasantly surprised by the change in weather (not what we had seen forecast). The grey clouds lifted and we were greeted with sunny intervals. We pulled in to Clevedon to collect more passengers and drop some off, upon arrival we were greeted with sea shanties from the pier which was very pleasant.

We continued into the Bristol Channel passing through Flatholm and Steepholm, many more seabirds were spotted along our way, including Herring Gull and Gannet. A passenger also reported a sighting of 2 Harbour Porpoise to me, spotted as we passed near the islands.

Harbour Porpoise Graham Ekins 02
Harbour Porpoise (Graham Ekins)

We arrived in Ilfracombe at around 2.30pm and were met with the local town crier and beautiful sunshine. I departed the boat and went for a walk around the harbour. I sat in the sunshine on a bench eating my lunch, with several hungry Herring Gull watching me, and spotted a Great Black-backed Gull sat on the rocks opposite.

I then re-joined the ship for our return trip with the sun still beaming. We set off at around 4.30pm and had a lovely journey back along the Bristol Channel with many more seabirds spotted, including a report of a Puffin from one of the crew.

Puffin Steve McAusland 01
Puffin (Steve McAusland)

As we returned through Flatholm and Steepholm we watched a big storm build behind the ship over Illfracombe. We carried on back to Clevedon, where we arrived at around 8pm and departed for coaches to return to Sharpness. Many passengers commented on what a lovely day they had with unexpected beautiful weather, and that they would definitely take this trip again.

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

Nicola Simpson; MARINElife Wildlife Officer (WLO)