MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report 'MV Balmoral' Greenock to Campbeltown 21st September 2017

Jenny Ball; Wildlife Officer for MARINElife
Weather:  Sunny with excellent visibility and calm sea. Wind: NE  2-3

Marine Mammals:
Harbour Porpoise 12
Grey Seal 3
Common Dolphin 1
Unidentified Dolphin Spp. 2

Other Mammals:
Red Deer

Seabirds:
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Herring Gull
Black-headed Gull
Manx Shearwater
Gannet
Guillemot
Eider
Oystercatcher
Cormorant
Shag

This was the MV Balmoral's first cruise on the Clyde this season, and the conditions could not have been more perfect. A light NE breeze, brilliant sunshine and a flat sea - much more than we could have hoped for!  The visibility was exceptional (we could see Ailsa Craig, the famous gannetry, from well over 40 miles), and the passengers were keen to look out for the abundant wildlife.

Balmoral Lochranza Jenny Ball

Balmoral at Lochranza (Jenny Ball)

There are plenty of resident porpoises in the Clyde, and I saw 5 or 6 between Greenock and Largs - other passengers reported sightings too, and it seemed that if you looked hard enough, you would see one!

One of the Balmoral volunteers had told me about a Common Dolphin which likes to follow boats in the Largs area, and sure enough, it leapt around in our wake as we approached the town.

Common Dolphin Peter Howlett 30

Common Dolphin (Peter Howlett)

Sailing between the Great and Little Cumbraes, there was quite a feeding frenzy, with Gannet, gulls and Guillemot circling, wheeling and diving - a spectacular sight.  Bird life generally seemed plentiful, with frequent small rafts of resting birds, Gannet feeding, many Guillemot in winter plumage as well as several flocks of Manx Shearwater.

Our approach to Campbeltown was marked by three Harbour Porpoise diving away, and a Grey Seal giving us a wary look.  In the harbour itself were two huge Grey Seal, blowing and snorting and rolling gently in the water - I think they were being well fed by the local fishermen!

Guillemot Peter Howlett 11

Guillemots (Peter Howlett)

The return trip back up the Clyde was quieter, but beautiful in the evening light. We saw two groups of Red Deer on the ridges above Lochranza on Arran, and others amongst the yellowing bracken on the hillsides. I heard from a passenger that she had seen at least two dolphin breaching, along the north side of Arran.

The Largs dolphin came out again, and this time we were all ready for it, so lots of passengers had great views of it frolicking in the waves alongside the boat, and then carrying on leaping behind us as we sailed on.

Lochranza & Arran Jenny Ball

Lochranza & Arran (Jenny Ball)

Light was fading as we left Largs, and I spent the remaining time chatting to people in the lounge - an interesting mix of Waverley/Balmoral enthusiasts, transport buffs, visitors and some locals just enjoying their magnificent home waters.

A big thank you to all the passengers and crew for their enthusiasm.

Jenny Ball; MARINElife Wildlife Officer (WLO)