2011 has been the wettest year on record, and for Co. Donegal, that's saying something.
The year started in deep frost, which had quite a severe impact on the winter moths: for many of them the local population had a season that lasted just a few days. There have certainly been very few seen locally this year, although whether that's due to last year's frost or this year's rain is difficult to estimate.
April was unseasonally warm and dry, which brought out many insects including the Small Tortoiseshell, Orange Tip, Green-veined White and Speckled Wood butterflies, so the spring was strong and early and I had great hopes for a good year. On May 1st we had a very strange storm which raged for a few days. The cooling effect was so powerful that the emerging leaves on trees were destroyed on the westerly side of most of them. That defoliation was evident all the way through to autumn, when most trees lost their leaves unseasonably early. In between April and October I counted no more than a handful of days where it didn't rain for at least part of the day, and it was touch and go whether my annual fungal foray to Ards forest would be cancelled due to the constant downpour. When I eventually did make it to Ards, the season proved to have been very short (not enough heat?) and most fungi had already gone over.
We had a spell of decent weather in November, but by then the insect population had already hibernated for the winter, so my sightings of anything but plants were few and far between in 2011.
Despite the doom and gloom, I managed to add around 30 new species to my list, two of which are new records for Ireland, and I managed to find associations between two leaf mining moths and Salmonberry, one of which is a first for Ireland (and for the British Isles as a whole) and another is new to Europe (and perhaps new to science). That kind of discovery is what keeps me searching and photographing: as species move around - either through introductions or due to changing weather patterns - new associations will have an opportunity to arise and it's amateurs who will find them.
In 2012 I hope to study mosses in more detail, to continue to search for new and interesting species of all kinds, to search for and report interesting stories about the wildlife around us and to work on the illustrated book which I have been writing for far too long.