You don’t have to have a big garden to have big garden thrills. Here are two of my highlights from the past week in my 8m x 8m garden in Heslington, on the outskirts of York. Both were ‘blink and you’ll miss them’ thrills – hence the less than 110% perfect pix!
The nearest thing to a hummingbird that I’m going to see in my garden – a Hummingbird hawkmoth, 7 June 2015
Baby robins being fed on my recliner, 8 June 2015
Keep a beady eye out for big garden thrills where you are. It’s a great time of year for them!
So, as we head towards the end of January 2015, it’s high time I looked back over the wildlife wonders of 2014 here in my little garden in Heslington, on the outskirts of York. As ever, there were plenty of wildlife surprises over the course of the year. Here, in chronological order, are some of the highlights.
Moving away from the buzzing of bees, do you happen to know what this sound is:
The astute amongst you may have guessed that what you were listening to was courting hedgehogs. On several nights in July we had a pair of hedgehogs wandering – warily – round and round and round each other in circles, making a noise that explains where they get the name ‘hogs’ from! This courting goes on for quite some time.
Courting hedgehogs, 11 July 2014
We’ve been lucky enough to have hedgehog couples come to our garden for their amorous ‘getting to know you’ routine before, and it was great to see them back here in 2014.
Newly hatched Berberis sawfly larvae, 24 June 2014
On the moth front, the highlight was undoubtedly the appearance of a Hummingbird Hawkmoth on our honeysuckle in late September. With the added bonus that I managed to get my camera out and the settings sorted in time to take this photo.
Hummingbird Hawkmoth on our honeysuckle, 24 September 2014
It’s not brilliant, but it’s my best Hummingbird Hawkmoth photo yet – and a distinct improvement on the ‘blur at a fleur’ pix of said moth that I’ve managed on the two previous occasions I’ve seen this beauty in our garden. (Yes, a grand total of 3 sightings in 18 years!)
You can find out more about the Hummingbird Hawkmoth in my Buzzing! book.
Our Memorable Amphibian Incident of 2014 happened late in the year when I found a frog in the dining room. (Tricky things to catch, leaping frogs. But I did eventually manage to escort it off the premises.)
And finally … staying indoors, I noticed a speck of dirt on our living room carpet in early November. I was making a mental note to sweep it up at some point, when it jumped. Now, I’m no physicist, but I’m pretty certain specks of dirt don’t jump.
So, out came the camera, and when I zoomed in on the photo, I saw that far from being a speck of dirt, it was in fact an insect. The same insect I had mistaken for a speck of soil outside on our patio the week before.
Yorkshire Orthoptera Recorder Dr Dave Chesmore confirmed it as a Slender groundhopper (Tetrix subulata):
“It is a species that has been really under recorded,” he said.
I’m not surprised – it’s tiny!
Slender groundhopper – just 1cm long.
This is the first indoor record Dave has of a Slender groundhopper. Moral of the tale: don’t be too assiduous in your hoovering. It may be you are in the presence of an important biological specimen that needs recording! (And then releasing into the outdoors before you continue with your housework.)
So, that’s a brief rundown of the best of 2014. What wildlife wonders will 2015 bring to Heslington? Who knows. However, the year has started well, with a visit from a Lesser Redpoll – a bird I’ve only ever seen once or twice here before. An excellent start to my BTO Garden Birdwatch year.
Lesser Redpoll on our sunflower seeds, 16 January 2015
I wish you a 2015 filled with wildlife wonders, wherever you may be. And don’t forget to let the relevant recording organisations know what you’ve seen. There’s a list of who to tell about what at my website.
Last December I was at St Nick’s (aka York Environment Centre) lamenting the demise of the much-loved York Rotters, as you can see below:
Today I was back at St Nicks (now minus apostrophe) for a much more upbeat occasion: a triple celebration!
We were celebrating the relaunch of the 16-year-old charity that is St Nicks (now aka ‘The Green Heart of York’) , celebrating 20 years of turning this former landfill into a wonderful green haven, and celebrating 10 years of its being designated a Local Nature Reserve.
The great and the good turned out for this occasion, and they were introduced by St Nicks Chair Yashpal Anand:
St Nicks Chair Yashpal Anand introducing the speakers at St Nicks, 10 May 2014
Speeches were given by the MP for York Central, Hugh Bayley:
Hugh Bayley MP speaking at St Nicks, 10 May 2014
by the Lord Mayor of York, Cllr Julie Gunnell:
Lord Mayor of York, Cllr Julie Gunnell, speaking at St Nicks, 10 May 2014
by the Chief Officer of St Nicks, Tom Waring:
St Nicks’ Chief Officer Tom Waring gives his speech, 10 May 2014
Oh, and by yours truly – in my role as a newly appointed Patron, no less:
Giving my first speech as a Patron of St Nicks, 10 May 2014
Bethany unfurls The World’s Longest Apple Poem, written by visitors to St Nicks’ Apple Day 2011
I read out a portion of this poem at the end of my speech, as it – inadvertently – encapsulates the history of St Nicks, from a forgotten seed in a desolate landscape, to a richly biodiverse community hub.
(from left) The Lord Mayor of York, me, Hugh Bayley MP, and Tom Waring of St Nicks admiring (what could be) the world’s longest apple poem, 10 May 2014
After the speeches came green activities for all ages, including smoothie-making by pedal power:
Making smoothies with pedal power – as invented by Alfred Chow. St Nicks, 10.5.14
and a tour of the Nature Reserve, led by my former English teacher Mrs Green. (Now there’s a terrifying thing – giving a speech with your former English teacher present!)
Mrs Green leads a tour of St Nicks, 10 May 2014
If you haven’t been to St Nicks yet, then I thoroughly recommend it. It will recharge you, body and soul. Today the chiffchaffs were singing, the newts were swimming in the pond, and there was delicious home-made cake to eat. What more could you ask for?
I was thrilled to discover this week that South Africa is Buzzing! Take a look:
Aaliyah and Zawadi with my Buzzing! book in South Africa!
These two gorgeous girls, Aaliyah and Zawadi, were photographed with my Buzzing! book in a garden in the Gauteng province of South Africa. Gosh, that’s a long way from my garden in North Yorkshire, England, where I wrote the poems and took the photos for the book. I hope the girls are enjoying Buzzing! in the spring sunshine down there!
A big Thank You to Madeleine for sending me this lovely photo – which has put such a huge smile on my face!
Well, I don’t know about you, but I’ve not seen any 2-spot ladybirds where I live (in York) this year, or any Painted lady butterflies. And I was beginning to think I wouldn’t be seeing any Berberis sawfly larvae this year either. However, on 14 July I finally noticed a little tell-tale nibbling on my Berberis bush. And on closer examination, turning over a leaf or two, I found your friend and mine, a very young Berberis sawfly larva.
Berberis sawfly larva, York, July 2013. Photo by Anneliese Emmans Dean
Now, I say your friend and mine, but it may well be that you don’t consider him your friend at all. Not if he’s munching vast swathes of your Berberis bush. We’re lucky here as we only have small quantities of the larvae, so they don’t cause very much damage. Which means I can enjoy their company and admire their beauty!
True, they’re not fabulously beautiful early on, but a week later they’d grown considerably and were a lot more colourful, as you can just about glimpse below (but which you can see much better here).
Berberis sawfly larva, York, 21 July 2013
This is the 8th year in a row that I’ve spotted Berberis sawfly larvae in my garden. If you want my whole Berberis sawfly larvae saga (including the sending of a sample to the Natural History Museum in London for their collection), then make yourself a cup of cocoa, sit back, click here and scroll through the archive of posts!
If you want to skip straight to my video of them laying their eggs,click here.
I first performed a version of my Buzzing! show for the River Foss Society three years ago. I was thrilled when they invited me back to provide the entertainment for their 40th Birthday Party celebrations last Tuesday. Thrilled, and not a little daunted. This was a very special occasion, after all ….
‘we were treated to a first class entertainment by “the soon to be very famous” Anneliese who gave a delightful, and very poetic, presentation on those tiny bugs “Buzzing by the River”, the River, of course, being the Foss. We were close to forming a new society at one stage which would have been devoted to loving the bluebottle. You had to be there to experience Anneliese turning a perfect evening into a special event, appropriate for a 40th anniversary. Roll on the 50th, all of us would like her back then, if not before.’
Phew! It seems to have gone OK. Not only that, but one of the members present at the event, Jan Claxton, wrote this wonderful poem as a Thank You:
You know how to please
With your expertise.
Your poetic flow
Of the facts you know
A riveting show.
Insects your calling
Buzzing and crawling.
Of creatures so wee
Was wondrous to see.
Thank you for coming
You were just stunning.
How fabulous is that?! What a wonderful Thank You present!
Not only does The River Foss Society do sterling work, it is also made up of the nicest bunch of people you could wish to meet here in York. If you’re the slightest bit interested in the river Foss and/or in walking and/or in matters ecological, I thoroughly recommend you think about joining them. Check out their website to find out more.
Meanwhile, I’m looking forward to their 50th Birthday Party! I think a Flying High!show all about birds might be just the ticket for that …
Thank you to all at the River Foss Society for making me so welcome last week, and for letting me be part of your celebrations. (Delicious cake, by the way!)