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