Bottlenose dolphin survey Donegal to Galway 2014

27 July 2014

Celtic Mist arrived in Galway docks on saturday night after a very successful second week of the bottlenose dolphin survey. We sailed from Killybegs early on Sunday  morning to make the long passage across Donegal Bay to anchor off Ballyglass in Broadhaven Bay. we had no sightings but that was to be our only blank day. The following morning as we departed Ballyglass we had a group of Risso’s dolphins including a very young calf. the day was wet an da little windy and just before we dropped anchor at Iniskea South we saw harbour porpoise in the tidal race. After visiting the remains of the whaling station off Iniskea we sailed along the north side of achill where very strong winds blew down the mountains but Celtic Mist an dmore importantly the crew coped very well.

Photo: The survey team from week 1 are busy analysing the images of bottlenose dolphin fins from last weeks survey and look what Rossa found this morning, we have a match! We photographed BNDIRL no. 160 who was first identified in September 2010 off Portrush, Co. Antrim and was re-sighted in December of the same year off Carnlough, Co. Antrim. But even better news, almost four years on we can confirm BNDIRL160 is a female and was photographed in Donegal Bay with her calf, which based on its size was probably born last year, great result!Tuesday night we dropped anchor off Clare Island and just as we finished dinner at around 9pm a group of bottlenose dolphins, our target species, passed the island. We soon slipped our moorings and managed to get photo-id images and two biopsy samples before it got dark. Th efollowing morning we located a larger group of around 40 dolphins off Roonagh Quay including at leastr 3-4 young calves. a goo dphoto-id session and two more biopsy samples was a great start to the day. No more sightings around north Conamara but we visited Inisturk Island and the mouth of Killary before anchoring in Inishboffin harbour. Fionn and Jonathan went ashore and played two more tunes bagging their third island out of a total of five for the survey. They are trying to play on as many islands as possible during the survey.

The strong winds on wednesday were northerly and we sailed effortlessly past Slyne Head and into Galway Bay before tying up at the new pier in Kilronan. we had no bottlenose sightings although we knew they were around but did have plenty of porpoise sightings. Th esea on the following day Friday was like a millpond and we had many sightings of porpoises, a minke whale and common dolphins as well as Dusty at Inis Oirr. On the last day as a strong wind blew us east into Galway Bay we had more common dolphins briefly around the boat

So after touching the mainland on saturday evening for the first time since leaving Killybegs, fiv edays earlier we had a total of 25 sightings o ffive species and a probable basking shark. lots of photo-id mages of bottlenose dolphins and four biopsy samples. Skipper and crew were fantastic and Celtic Mist a pleasure to be on.

Celtic Mist  is lying in Galway Docks for the week and will be doing day trips next weekend. Please do visit her as we have IWDG members onboard to show you around. Please see our facebook page for images. To sail on Celtic Mist you have to be a member of the IWDG so please join IWDG on

18 July 2014

Great day on Celtic Mist in Donegal Bay. despite gusty winds from the southeast good coverage from Teelin to St Johns point and then to Killybegs was achieved. There was a few sightings of harbour porpoise before towards th eend of the day a group of four bottlenose dolphin swere encountered.  After a short period all four were photographed with biopsy samples taken from two, one of which was known to joanne who carried out the sampling.

Full report will be updated soon

17 July 2013

Celtic Mist set sail this morning from Rathmullan, hopes are high with calm seas. Follow the survey on Facebook:

15 July 2014

Due to heavy seas and large swell, Celtic Mist has remained in Lough Swilly usin grathmullan as a safe mooring. The crew sailed in the Swilly practising their skills and looking for dolphins. Bottlenose dolphins are frequently reported in Lough Swilly especially at the mouth. They have had a great welcome in Rathmullan with plenty of visitors to the vessel.

Cruise leader, Dr Joanne O’Brien is training IWDG members in acoustic survey techniques and how to analyse photo-id images. They hope to head around the coast of Donegal over next couple of days.

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13 July 2014

The IWDG research vessel Celtic Mist left Greencastle in Donegal this afternoon on a two week Photo: Listening to the hydrophone. Just the usual background sea serenade - no cetaceans to be heard. survey targeting bottlenose dolphins off the northwest coast. The survey is being conducted by IWDG members with Dr Joanne O’Brien as cruise leader.

Celtic Mist will survey inshore waters around Donegal throughout the week finishing in Killybegs next Saturday. A second survey week again carried out by IWDG members will then survey the coastal waters between Killybegs and Galway.

IWDG are targeting bottlenose dolphins with this survey as the waters off the northwest are very important habitats for this highly mobile coastal population. Recent genetic work has established that there are three discrete populations of bottlenose dolphins in Ireland; the Shannon estuary, an offshore population and a coastal population. IWDG have shown that the coastal population uses all Irish coastal waters from the west east, south and north coasts, including Northern Ireland. It is likely that this highly mobile population is actually quite small with maybe just a few hundred individuals. It is essential to understand this population, its habitat use, movements and population dynamics. This is the focus of the IWDG bottlenose dolphin survey off the northwest

Donegal Bay has long been recognised as a site regularly used by this population and recently dolphins have been frequently reported from Lough Swilly. The waters from Erris Head, co Mayo to Slyne Head, Co Galway have recently been proposed as a Special Area of Conservation for this species, only the second one in Ireland, after the Shannon Estuary.

During this survey Celtic Mist will visit many coastal and island communities providing an opportunity to promote whale and dolphin recording and discuss many conservation issues. You can follow Celtic Mist on and if it is in your locality do please visit the vessel.

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