Wildlife Wonders of 2014

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.

In May, Tree bumblebees took to nesting in our bird nest box, for the first time ever. As if it wasn’t amazing enough to see bumblebees trooping in and out of our bird box, instead of the usual Blue tits, we then witnessed an extraordinary sight: Tree bumblebee airconditioning. Which I wrote about here:

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

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.

I’m pleased to report that come June, for the ninth year running we had my world-first insect discovery, Berberis sawfly larvae, in our Berberis.

Newly hatched Berberis sawfly larvae, 24 June 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

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.

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

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.

Anneliese Emmans DeantheBigBuzz – Bringing poetry to life






Moth Day magic

Well, our first ever Moth Day at St Nick’s went well. A packed venue and it even stopped raining long enough for us to be outdoors and go on a moth walk round the nature reserve!

Yorkshire Moth Man Dr Dave Chesmore’s morning session consisted of an introductory presentation about how to identify moths, followed by the opening up of the moth trap  set up the previous night at St Nick’s.

Dr Dave Chesmore opens the moth trap at the St Nick's Moth Day

Dr Dave Chesmore opens the moth trap at the St Nick’s Moth Day

Then we set about trying to identify these moths, using the skills Dave had taught us …

Identifying moths at St Nick's Moth Day

Identifying moths at St Nick’s Moth Day

After a moth walk round the nature reserve, the day ended with a Buzzing! Moth Show from me – with more moth photos and poems than ever before.  One lady who came along said it was ‘her special treat to herself’!

You can listen to the last poem in the show by clicking below:

Thank you to Ivana for all her organisational work setting the day up, to Dave Chesmore, and to everyone who came along.

Happy Moth Hunting!

To put on a Moth Day where you are, email me

Anneliese Emmans Dean – www.theBigBuzz.biz

Come to the first ever Moth Day at St Nick’s on 27 August!

Do you know what these caterpillars are? Do you know what they are eating? Do you know what they will turn into? Well, you will at the end of the first ever Moth Day at St Nicholas Fields in York, on Saturday 27 August!

Everything you always wanted to know about moths – and then some … That’s what’s in store at our marvellous Moth Day!

Book Your Place! £2.50 adults, £1.50 children

Caterpillars at St Nick's, York. Photo by Anneliese Emmans Dean

Caterpillars at St Nicholas Fields Environment Centre, York. Photo by Anneliese Emmans Dean

The day will be run by Yorkshire Moth Man Dr Dave Chesmore, and topped off with a Buzzing! Moth Show from me. My show will have more moth photos and moth poems than ever before!

You’ll find out from Dave Chesmore all about the different types of moth in Britain, how they are classified, where to find them, how to ID them, and much much more.

If you’ve been to one of our Buzzing! Moth Nights, you’ll have an inkling of the amazing variety of moths there are in York – like the Pale tussock below, that we saw at our Buzzing! Moth Night in May. The Buzzing! Moth Day at St Nick’s is your chance to find out lots more about these amazing creatures.

Pale tussock moth, York, May 2011. Photo by Anneliese Emmans Dean

Pale tussock moth, photographed on a Buzzing! Moth Night with Dr Dave Chesmore in York Cemetery in May 2011. Photo by Anneliese Emmans Dean

There will be night-flying moths on display, caught by Dave the previous night, and we’ll go on a hunt for day-flying moths round the fabulous nature reserve at St Nick’s.

Come for the whole mind-expanding day (for adults and children aged 12 up), or just come along at 2.30pm for my Buzzing! Moth Show (for adults and children aged 6 up).

Find out more here!

Book your place on 01904 411821 or email St Nick’s

Read All About It in The Press



Friday 13th in the cemetery …

Young and … not quite so young gathered in York Cemetery last night for our Buzzing! Moth Night, which consisted of a Buzzing! Moth Show by me,

“This is a moth
This is noth …”

followed by moth trapping in the cemetery grounds by Yorkshire Moth Man Dr Dave Chesmore.

Dr Dave Chesmore with moth enthusiasts, looking at one of the moths he'd just caught

Dr Dave Chesmore with moth enthusiasts, looking at one of the moths he'd just caught

The moths were a little backward in coming forward, but we did see Flame Shoulders a-plenty along with, amongst other things, an Ingrailed Clay, Green Carpet, Pale Prominent …

Moth night at York Cemetery, 13 May 2011

Moth night at York Cemetery, 13 May 2011

… a Heart and Dart and this utterly amazing (IMHO) Pale Tussock:

Pale Tussock at York Cemetery, 13 May 2011

Pale Tussock at York Cemetery, 13 May 2011

If you missed this Buzzing! Moth Night, fear not – Dave and I will be putting on a whole Moth Day at St Nicholas Fields/York Environment Centre on Saturday 27 August, in which you really will find out everything you always wanted to know about moths, but were afraid to ask!

Can’t wait that long? Then let us put on a Buzzing! Moth Night where you are!  Contact me for more details!

Many thanks on this occasion to Clive Dawson of York Cemetery, Dave Chesmore and to Jean (for bringing me my bell!) And to everyone who came along and joined in the event.

Anneliese Emmans Dean – www.theBigBuzz.biz


Edinburgh Fringe 2010

I’m back now from performing my award-winning eco-show Buzzing! at the Edinburgh Fringe 2010. What an experience – with 6 consecutive shows and a live interview (and poetry performance) on BBC radio!

Outside our venue at the Edinburgh Fringe

Outside our venue at the Edinburgh Fringe

I was performing, with my musician John Rayson, at venue no. 28, the Patrick Geddes Room at the gorgeous Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.

With John Rayson at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, for our Fringe run

With John Rayson at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, for our Fringe run

How did our run go? Well, I’ll let our audiences tell you:

‘As soon as the show finished, I turned to mummy and said “I wish it could have gone on all day!”‘ Alex, age 11

‘My daughter (age 6) loves minibeast hunts and she loved this show. Great sounds, great visuals – what’s not to like?’ Deborah Curd, edfringe.com

‘I thought she was amazing, mad, creative and John’s music was mind-blasting!’ Nina, age 10

‘Fascinating – gripping from start to finish.’ Bill (retired)

‘Really interesting and exciting. The poems and songs were amazing and the pictures were absolutely stunning. The whole show was wonderful.’ Gemma, age 11

‘Learnt so much in such a short space of time about my garden friends and enemies.’ Pamela (retired)

‘The best show we’ve seen at the Fringe!’ Klara (9) and Julian (12)

And we had this review from  Primary Times:

‘For all eco enthusiasts, minibeast fans and nature lovers, this is an absolute must.  But even if you are not one of the above, this is a terrific show with poetry, songs, music and incredible projected photography. Anneliese Emmans Dean is not only passionate about her subject, she is also a gifted performer and can’t fail to enthuse her audience. My children, ages 10, 8 and 5 years, were gripped throughout the show.  They particularly enjoyed the ‘guess the photo’ as images changed to the accompaniment of the viola player.  They were fascinated by the poetry, and how different styles of delivery created the identity of each insect. One girl in the audience amazed us all with her incredible knowledge of entomology, but there was chance for everyone to be involved.  Whilst the show itself was very educational, the style was great fun, and stimulated many questions for after the show.  All the children (and most adults!) were awash with questions for Anneliese, and whilst she brilliantly answered them all, she also encouraged us to seek out more for ourselves.  She has definitely re-ignited our interest, and given us some more great ideas to fill the remainder of the summer holidays.’

So, all in all, job well done!

Many thanks to the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh for hosting us – especially to Amy for her impeccable and extremely friendly organisation, and to Sheena and all her staff, and Giles and Anna. To Yvonne and her family (especially Lewis) for all their marketing work on our behalf. To Nina for her warm welcome. And to my husband Mike for being front of house staff, flyer-giver-outer, chauffeur, roadie and general factotum.

And a huge thank you to all our audiences – a very international bunch, from Scotland, England, Singapore, Venezuela, Ireland, Spain, USA … and no doubt other countries I didn’t find out about. Thank you for coming along, and for being so enthusiastic about our show. I wish you all happy bug hunting, wherever you are!

Fancy putting on a Buzzing! show where you are? Then contact me, Anneliese, on info@theBigBuzz.biz

Find out more at my website, www.theBigBuzz.biz


National Insect Week 2010

National Insect Week comes but once every two years … and this is one of those years! Here in York I was involved in two NIW events.

‘The Wet, Weird and Wonderful World of Garden Insects’ was a co-production between Dr Dave Chesmore (Fellow of the Royal Entomological Society, bio-acoustics expert and local Moth Man), Duncan Sivell of BugLife and me.

National Insect Week 2010 at the University of York

National Insect Week 2010 at the University of York

Duncan told us all about the amazing insects that live in garden ponds. From Dave we learned all about the extraordinary sounds that insects make. And I treated our audience to a NIW Buzzing! show.

Moth Man Dave had done some moth trapping the night before in his garden, and we all enjoyed marvelling at the moths he had brought along. And some of the other insects too …

One of the larvae Dave brought along ...

A stag beetle larva that Dave brought along ...

Vicky Kindemba of BugLife had collected some pondlife for us, displayed in an aquarium, and it included – if you looked very carefully – a damselfly nymph!

This event took place at the University of York, and we had an interested and interesting audience raning from children through to retirees. I discovered, whilst talking with them afterwards, that we were in the presence of not one, not two but three Tansy beetle experts – nearly a world record! Tansy beetles are the ‘jewels of York’ – find out more here. Geoff Oxford, Roma Oxford and Duncan Sivell have all been instrumental in researching and protecting them.

No Tansy beetle experts at my second NIW gig, but a beady-eyed member of the audience noticed a Cabbage moth that sat through the show on the floor! This was a solo Buzzing! show that I put on as part of the York Cemetery Green Day. It was a stunningly sunny day and the audience was very enthusiastic.

Both my NIW events this year coincided with important football matches in the World Cup in South Africa. The York Cemetery event clashed with the crucial England v. Germany match, which might explain why there were many more women than men in the audience!

Thank you to the Royal Entomological Society for their support of our University of York event, and to the Friends of York Cemetery for their assistance at the Green Fair event.

Anneliese Emmans Deaninfo@theBigBuzz.bizwww.theBigBuzz.biz


A night in the cemetery

York Cemetery is a great place to be after dark. If, that is, you’re looking for moths. Which is precisely what we were doing on Wednesday night.

The night began with me performing a special Buzzing! Moth Show in the beautiful chapel at the Cemetery.

Performing my Buzzing! Moth Show, 24 June 09 (Photo: Paul Rhodes)

Performing my Buzzing! Moth Show, 24 June 09 (Photo: Paul Rhodes)

After this, moth expert Dr Dave Chesmore took us outside, where he’d rigged up his moth trapping equipment. We clustered round and, over the course of the next couple of hours, we saw a  total of 25 different species, all identified for us by Dave.

Moth Trapping at York Cemetery with Dr Dave Chesmore, 24 June 2009

Moth Trapping at York Cemetery with Dr Dave Chesmore, 24 June 2009

Our finds included several Straw Dots, a Large Yellow Underwing and a beautiful Swallowtail.

Thank you to everyone at the Cemetery for making us so welcome, especially to Paul Rhodes for the photo of me performing above. Thank you too to everyone who came along. I hope you enjoyed the event.

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