Sheephaven divers wrapped up 2017 where they belong, in the water, with a dive on Saturday morning and a New Years’ Eve snorkel in Portnablagh.
The dive involved a single boatload of divers to a sheltered cove between the First and Second Narrows in Mulroy Bay.
Air temperature was no greater than 2 degrees Celsius and as it turned out in-water temperature was not much better at 5 degrees, which formed a significant part of the decision making as to the choice of dive site, as wind chill due to travelling distance needed to be considered.
Maximum surface to surface time was limited to no greater than 30 minutes, while in-water visibility was reasonable at about 4 metres horizontally.
While it would have been fair to consider that marine life would be quiet, the Saturday morning dive site produced a sighting of some big Conger Eels and Lobsters, which made the day well worthwhile in its own right.
The promised storm Dylan blew through during the night and Sunday morning dawned bright and breezy but PortnaBlagh was well protected from the remnants of the westerly winds, with little swell as a result.
While divers are ordinarily focused on what they see during their dives the advice of other seafarers is always welcomed and in particular the observations of commercial fishermen are most valued.
On Sunday the Sheephaven snorkelers met local fisherman John Perry who kindly shared his observations over the recent years, staring with the discovery of a Turtle washed up on the beach in Portnablagh some years ago.
More recently John reported the sighting of a rare bird visitor to this part of the Donegal shores the Glossy Ibis and this year he observed an Ospery at a number of locations along the Horn Head cliffs.
The Ospery is slightly bigger than a Buzzard, but with a longer wingspan and has a marvellous white breast plumage to clearly differentiate it from its more common raptor cousin.
It is fish eating and wide-spread across all parts of the world except the Antarctic and if the plentiful supply of fish in Sheephaven Bay was in any doubt John was able to confirm that the Gannets seen striking the water on Sunday morning was due to the presence of a herring in the bay.
On St Stephens Day John had observed the herring being herded into a corner inside the harbour and up against PortnaBlagh Pier by a gang of Seals, who worked in unison to harvest their catch. The herring were so numerous that they were observed jumping out of the water to evade their attackers, undoubtedly a sight to behold and a fair indicator of the pristine environment that the waters around Donegal should be expected to sustain.