Monday, 1 September 2014

Pigeon by Barbara Allen

100 years ago today, the passenger pigeon became extinct

Pigeon is a beautifully produced, gorgeously illustrated and fascinating book on pigeons and doves.

It looks at the varieties of domesticated pigeons and how they have been used in sport, for food and in delivering messages, including the vital roles they played in wartime.

The book also looks at how pigeons and doves have been portrayed in art and literature and how, despite being essentially the same group of birds, doves are portrayed as symbols of love, peave and fidelity while pigeons are often referred to as 'rats with wings' and treated as vermin.

Pigeons are amongst the most intelligent of birds, being one of the few species of animals (and apparently the only group of birds) that can recognise their own reflection in a mirror.

A whole chapter is devoted to the many species of pigeons that have become extinct, most notable the dodo and the passenger pigeon (which was once the most numerous bird on the planet).

R W Shufelt, who carried out the autopsy on Martha, the last passenger pigeon to die in captivity, said:

"In due course, the day will come when practically all the world's avifauna will have become utterly extinct..... Such a fate is coming to pass now, with far greater rapidity than most people realise".

Sadly, current population trends in many bird species in the UK and beyond seem to suggest that his prophecy will be proved correct.

Pigeon by Barbara Allen part of the Animal Series published by Reaktion Books. The Animal Series also includes Rabbit. (I suspect many readers of this blog may want to add that to their list of books to read!)

100 years ago today, the passenger pigeon becane extinct. Don't let the turtle dove go the same way

As ever, red text contains hyperlinks that take you to other webpages where you can find out more.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Saughton Park

Yesterday while we were walking along the Water of Leith from the Visitor Centre on Slateford Road to Roseburn, we took a detour round the lovely gardens at Saughton Park. We particularly loved this bed of flowers, a lively mix of native and garden species and obviously popular with the local bees and hoverflies!

We were also intrigued by the teddy bears in the greenhouses

There are lots of pretty flowers in the greenhouses

though sadly a lot of them are infested by aphids and what look like scale bugs (though I could be wrong with the id on these)

Good news for the park is that the Heritage Lottery Fund has awarded the City of Edinburgh Council funds to develop detailed plans to restore and improve Saughton Park (which will hopefully include funds for environmentally friendly pest control in the green houses). They are looking for people who visit Saughton Park to take part in a survey to help them develop these plans.

As ever, red text contains hyperlinks that take you to other erbpages where you can find out more.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Water of Leith

Today we walked the stretch of the Water of Leith downstream from the Visitor Centre to Roseburn.

There were plenty of hoverflies around, like these two on a dandelion flower

and several trees had galls growing on them (galls are the plant's reaction when wasps lay eggs in the plant), like these on an oak tree

and these on a willow tree

I was delighted to find this group of cuckoo pints in berry

and I'll need to remember to go back in spring time to photograph them in their arum stage. There are lots of individual cuckoo pints in Colinton Dell (the area of the Water of Leith that I help to look after in my voluntary work) but I never see them as arums. Hopefully this group will be easier to find!

I was also pleased to find this clump of nettles, clearly showing the difference between the stinging nettles (on the left, with the greenish flowers) and the white dead nettles (on the right). Their leaves are superficially similar but they're not related plants and the whilte dead nettle doesn't sting!

We also walked round Saughton Park, but I'll blog about that separately tomorrow - it looks like Saughton Park has an exciting future ahead!

Friday, 29 August 2014

Latest earrings

These are three of the latest pairs of earrings I've made

the earrings in the middle are for a friend, the orange ones and pink ones are in the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop

All are made using new nickel free silver earring hooks and beads and charms from my stash, though I bought the crackled stars new from the Number One Bead Shop, as there had been just a couple of these stars in the starter kit I got when I attended the jewellery making workshop there.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

The Guga Stone by Donald S Murray and Douglas Robertson

St Kilda, the most remote island in the British Isles is uninhabited now, but is full of mythology surrounding the people who used to live there, before they were removed from their homes and resettled in other places across Scotland and beyond.

The Guga Stone is Donald S Murray's attempt to question the mythology, by rewriting some of the accepted truths about the island and inventing some mythologies all of his own. The result is a collection of stories and poems, which are by turn entertaining, exasperating and moving. The beautiful line illustrations by Douglas Robertson are a delight throughout the book.

It is entertaining trying to work out which stories are based in fact (I'm pretty sure the slippers made from gannets are real, as is the island's overall reliance on hunting seabirds) and which are false (I know for a fact there was never a goth culture on St Kilda, though the description of the island's goths is striking and apt:

Some thought they resembled cormorants 
with hair permanently tufted by the wind.

from Youthful Fashions on Hiort)

Some stories are much more hard to pin down and it in a sense doesn't matter. After all, isn't everything most of us know about St Kilda based on myths and misunderstandings? Yes, but sometimes I felt some of these pieces were perhaps too flippant. After all, though it is fun to play around with myths, it was a great tragedy that happened to the St Kilda community, one that Murray captures beautifully in Storm Petrel:

After the islanders were gone
storm petrels were no longer
guided ashore by psalms.

Ultimately this book that tells us more about how we see the world through myths, than it does about St Kilda itself

The Guga Stone by Donald S Murray, with illustrations by Douglas Robertson, published by Luath Press.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Liking lichens and watching birds

Lichens are fascinating! This xanthoria parietina is growing on the sea wall at Musselburgh.

The velvet scoters are back for the season on the water, such wonderful ducks with their fabulously weird faces. Swimming alongside them were two red necked grebes. I was also delighted to notice on the Musselburgh Boating Pond that there's now a family of little grebes, with five youngsters! The adults are just themselves small bundles of fluff, so you can imagine how cute the youngsters are! Then on the lagoons, along with several other birds, I was very happy to see several ruffs are still around. I'm beginning to think they may be here for the winter season, as they used to be many years ago.

Meanwhile, I've added a photo of canal boats on the Union Canal to the downloadable photos section of the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Ice Bucket Challenge

Ice Bucket Challenge -
reservoirs dry up across


Yes, charities need to find imaginative ways to raise money for their vital work. However to me, the Ice Bucket Challenge sums up in some senses how profoundly disconnected we are from the environment. Yes, let's throw water at each other, while all across the world people lack drinking water and one of the richest places in the world is experiencing severe drought (and people in that very place continue to take part in the Ice Bucket Challenge!).

Meanwhile, here is a good article from another perspective about why charities shouldn't need to resort to gimmicky fundraising such as the Ice Bucket Challenge. 

in Gaza, where people are very aware of how precious a resource water is, they have started doing the Rubble Bucket Challenge to raise awareness of the poor living conditions in Gaza.

and in India, one woman has set up the Rice Bucket Challenge, in which you give a bucket of rice to a poor family.