A Sunny Week For The Celtic Mist in Donegal

Killybegs to Killybegs 

Crew members : Skipper Paul, First mate Robbie, Marine biologist Olivia, Marine biologist Hannah, Pat, Daithí, and Heather

For Leg 5 of survey season the Celtic Mist stayed in Donegal Bay for its second week. This weeks biologist Olivia tells us more about a very sunny week onboard!

Day 1

Our week-long journey together started on Saturday evening when we all met at Killybegs Harbour, Co. Donegal. We settled into the Celtic Mist and picked our cabins for the week. After a trip to the local supermarket, Paul the skipper gave us a health and safety talk about the do’s and dont’s of life on board a boat, and our marine biologist Olivia gave a presentation on our aims for the week, the scientific procedures for data collection, and the common species we may be lucky enough to encounter. Spirits were high as everyone was excited for the week to come. Hannah, Pat, and Heather whipped up some spaghetti bolognese for dinner, and we spent the rest of the evening chatting and getting to know each other.

Day 2

For our first survey day we headed out bright and early with hopes of spotting some marine mammals. The morning and afternoon gave us no sightings but allowed the crew time to get adjusted and used to the procedures of marine mammal watching. Just as hopes of a sighting were starting to dwindle in the evening, a large pod of 30 bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) decided to give us a show by bow riding and breaching for nearly 30 minutes! The pod was composed of all ages with two neonates being easily identifiable by their foetal folds. The crew were delighted with this sighting, with Heather even stating that the cold she was shivering from previously was magically gone with all the excitement! Still ecstatic from the previous sighting and satisfied with our work for the day, we headed back to Killybegs. The excitement quickly picked up again with our first sighting of a minke whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) and common dolphins (Delphinus delphis) . We celebrated a successful first day with Hannah’s homemade chicken curry for dinner.

Day 3

With the weather on our side, Monday was another great survey day. We ventured out into Donegal Bay once again and saw common dolphins and a minke whale on our transects. The minke whale was spotted by the crew as there was an aggregation of birds feeding around it. This indicator made it much easier to spot and we all watched with wide eyes as the minke lunge fed around the birds. We also saw a grey seal (Halichoerus grypus) who seems to follow the fishing boats into Killybegs Harbour and is a regular visitor.

After a long day, we decided it was time to give Hannah a break from cooking, so Olivia took over. For dinner we had creamy chorizo pasta and dessert was a Football Special ice cream float which, according to our Donegal native Olivia, is authentic local cuisine.

Day 4

We count ourselves lucky on day four as the weather was holding up. Common dolphins and a minke whale were our sightings for the day. We felt spoilt with all of the amazing sightings we were having. After a long day we stayed in Teelin on Tuesday night. This offered us a change of scenery and the opportunity to go further out of Donegal Bay the next day. As Teelin Pier was too shallow for the Celtic Mist to dock in, we anchored in the middle of the harbour. Once we launched the RIB, the crew headed to The Rusty Mackerel for dinner, as per Paul and Olivia’s recommendations. After a short walk, we reached the restaurant and enjoyed our meal, some of which consisted of hearty Guinness stew, fish and chips, and of course, mackerel. Many laughs and stories were shared at the table. On our way back to the boat we were fortunate enough to come across two local Scottish Wolfhounds who got many pets from the crew.

Day 5

On Wednesday we woke up in Teelin. As everyone emerged from their cabins, they all had the same thing to say; “wow”. There is nothing quite like waking up to the gentle rocking of a boat, the sound of birds, and the sun shining. We enjoyed breakfast on the deck and took in the views around us. While reluctant to leave beautiful Teelin, the crew were ready for another day of surveying and looking forward to seeing more of Ireland’s wonderful marine life. Wednesday proved to be another successful day as we sailed past Sliabh Liag and around Rathin O’Birne. With clear skies, the whole crew were eager to go on watch for marine mammals. We encountered many groups of common dolphins, a harbour seal (Phoca vitulina), and various different species of seabird such as puffins (Fratercula arctica), gannets (Morus bassana), and guillemots (Uria aalge). We were even lucky enough to spot a minke whale on our way back into Killybegs.


 Day 6

For our final survey day we felt very grateful and lucky as this marked our fifth day in a row of surveying. The weather did not look promising at the beginning of the week, so everyone was thrilled that we got good weather in the end. Common dolphins, a grey seal, and a minke whale were amongst the day’s sightings. We spent Thursday evening gathered around the table on Celtic Mist. Paul and Pat led the choir with some shanty songs from the songbook onboard. Everyone sang aloud while enjoying each other’s company. Some were more reluctant to sing than others, but everyone got involved nonetheless. Hannah even recited a poem for us.



Day 7

Our final day on the Celtic Mist the weather took a turn for the worse. After a great week of surveying, the crew were tired and ready for some time on land. Daithí, however, was ready to go see a German heavy metal band in concert! After cleaning the boat and packing up our things, we had to say our goodbyes to the wonderful crew we had gotten to know over the past week. Everyone expressed their gratitude to one another as they left. Our journey this week would not have been the same without the tight knit bond our crew developed, which is all thanks to the Celtic Mist. We left the Celtic Mist with fond memories, great experiences, and new friends whom we wouldn’t have met without our shared interest in Ireland’s marine life.

Olivia Hamilton

Celtic Mist Biologist


𝑇𝑖𝑠 𝑦𝑒𝑎rs s𝑢𝑟𝑣𝑒𝑦𝑠 𝑎𝑟𝑒 𝑏𝑒𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑟𝑢𝑛 𝑖𝑛 𝑐𝑜𝑙𝑙𝑎𝑏𝑜𝑟𝑎𝑡𝑖𝑜𝑛 𝑤𝑖𝑡ℎ Fair Seas. 𝐷𝑢𝑟𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑡𝑒 𝑠𝑒𝑎𝑠𝑜𝑛, 𝐶𝑒𝑙𝑡𝑖𝑐 𝑀𝑖𝑠𝑡 𝑤𝑖𝑙𝑙 𝑏𝑒 𝑠𝑢𝑟𝑣𝑒𝑦𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑡𝑒 𝑤𝑎𝑡𝑒𝑟𝑠 𝑜𝑓 𝑡𝑒 Northwest, from Fenit to Killybegs, 𝑐𝑜𝑙𝑙𝑒𝑐𝑡𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑣𝑖𝑡𝑎𝑙 𝑖𝑛𝑓𝑜𝑟𝑚𝑎𝑡𝑖𝑜𝑛 𝑜𝑛 𝑡𝑒 𝑚𝑎𝑟𝑖𝑛𝑒 𝑙𝑖𝑓𝑒 𝑖𝑛 𝑜𝑢𝑟 𝑤𝑎𝑡𝑒𝑟𝑠.