Friday, 19 July 2019

A walk in the park for Love Parks Week

It's Love Parks Week this week. I'd already planned today's trip to Inverleith Park with a nature writing class before I realised this but it was a nice tie in. We walked along the Water of Leith from Stockbridge Library to get to the park and then some people sat in the Sundial Garden with its formal beds of flowers and others went down to the pond. People wrote some beautiful pieces about the park area.

Before the class I had walked a different stretch of the Water of Leith to get to Stockbridge Library. The water crowfoot looks wonderful at the moment

Last week due to high turbulent water after heavy rains, the plant had been entirely underwater and no flowers had been visible. Amazing how much everything can change in a week.

The Anthony Gormley statue has been reinstated near the Stockbridge

The local kingfisher has adopted this statue as it's new fishing perch (see this blogpost on the Water of Leith Website) but I didn't see a kingfisher here today.Though I was delighted to see two kingfishers the other day on the river near the Gallery of Modern Art.

Thursday, 18 July 2019

Fun with Collage

Yesterday I went to the excellent Cut and Paste: 400 Years of Collage exhibition at the Gallery of Modern Art 2 (you can read my review of the exhibition here).

I came back from the exhibition inspired and spent the evening creating my own collages. Although I admire many different types of collages, I like to keep the ones I make simple (too many collage elements can look really cluttered unless you really know what you're doing). I make a lot of greetings cards, many of which are decorated with simple collages. All my collages incorporate cuttings from magazines and other small upcycled paper elements.

Last night though I wanted to experiment a little. The collages are still very simple but are unlikely to adorn greetings cards. Taking inspiration from the history of political protest and commentary in collage art I made some, like the one below to make a point about disappearing seabirds

Then I made a series with the faces cut out and replaced with a grid like pattern, to represent the anonymous aspect to certain elements of modern life, this one is the best I think

and some I made just for fun

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Cut and Paste - 400 Years of Collage

If you're at all interested in collage, Cut and Paste is a wonderful exhibition to see and it won't be touring so you need to catch it in Edinburgh.

Spread over 5 rooms in the Gallery of Modern Art 2 this collection of collage gives a concise, informative and inspiring history of the art form.

The exhibition casts its net wide in its interpretation of collage, including crazy patchwork, decoupaged vases and collections of memorabilia. But the focus is on collage as most widely understood, art made with paper and other items (including buttons, metal and even in one case a starfish) glued onto card or another base.

The original collages were often just accidental, in that the artist added paper to an artwork that had gone wrong and corrected it on the new paper.

Collage really came into its own in the Victorian period with the fashion for scrapbooking, card making and the like. In the 1850s you could buy kits to make your own collages, with all the small pieces required to dress your characters etc. A precursor to the sticker books that are still popular today.

In the Victorian period, collage was almost entirely an amateur pursuit. Later though it developed into a genre of art used by world renowned artists including Picasso and Matisse. It still remains a very accessible, democratic form of art that can be enjoyed by those of us who can't paint or draw with any degree of expertise.

Collage has often been used as an indicator of artistic rebellion, being used by artists to protest wars, repressive regimes and the patriarchy. Pictures on display include a couple of the Merz collages by dissident German artist Kurt Schwitters and Fish Circus by Eileen Agar. Ther are also a couple of videos, including Carolee Schneeman making herself into a living collage with stills of the results of her collage which are protests against the Vietnam War. Add in the priceless reactions of her cat and this is a remarkable video. Towards the end of the exhibition you can see collaged mock ups of the set for Terry Gilliam's brilliant and weird film Brazil.

Cut and Paste is showing until Sunday 27 October at Gallery of Modern Art 2, Belford Road. Full price tickets start at £11. Concessions are available.

The Gallery of Modern Art 1 across the road contains a number of free exhibitions.

When you have experienced enough art for the day, both galleries have fine cafes and both are situated right by the Water of Leith. If you're very lucky (as I was) you will see kingfishers flying around (this is one of their favourite spots along the river).

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Make the Most of the Coast - National Marine Week


 Bottlenose dolphins by Harry Hog (used by permission of the Wildlife Trusts)
In the UK, we are never more than 70 miles from the coast. National Marine Week runs from 27th July to 11th August 2019 (actually a fortnight to allow us to take advantage of the changing tides) and showcases the wonderful wildlife around the UK's seas and coasts.

There's loads going on across the country, including rockpool rambles, dolphin and whale watching and seashore safaris (find out what's happening near you here).  During the fortnight, organisers The Wildlife Trusts will also launch a new version of their popular citizen science project – Shoresearch.  You can find out more about this exciting initiative here - there are several surveys you can take part in to help scientists find out more about marine and seashore life. The data collected through Shoresearch will help experts monitor our fragile sea life and better understand the effects of pollution, climate change and invasive alien species.

The Wildlife Trusts have also published a range of colourful seaside spotter guides and marine activity sheets to help all ages enjoy and protect the beach and rock pools. These include guides to marine megafauna, seabirds, jellyfish, how to reduce your plastic use and even how to make your own basking shark from a discarded plastic bottle!

The Wildlife Trusts recently welcomed the news that the Government is designating a third phase of new Marine Conservation Zones bringing the total to 91 of these specially protected underwater landscapes around our shores. 

There are 46 individual Wildlife Trusts across the UK, working for an environment rich in wildlife for everyone.  The trusts have more than 850,000 members including 150,000 members of the junior branch Wildlife Watch.  Their vision is to create A Living Landscape and secure Living Seas.  They run marine conservation projects around the UK, collecting vital data on the state of our seas and celebrating our amazing marine wildlife. 

Monday, 15 July 2019

The Larch tree and other things in the Dells

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you may remember that back in 2014 I studied a larch tree in Craiglockart Dell for Tree Following. You can see from this post how I recorded the development of the flower into a cone over the course of a year, and in March this year I photographed a larch flower at an earlier stage than I'd ever been able to before. I feel as though I know this larch tree pretty well, so was quite sad to see this last week

the larch tree is covered in a white messy substance. When I showed the photo to Crafty Green Boyfriend he guessed it might be some sort of moth but someone from the Edinburgh Natural History Society's Facebook group said it is caused by wool aphids, which don't harm the tree to any serious extent, though they do make it look weird.

Sure enough this week I saw the aphids themselves - you can see them hanging from the branch in the centre of the photo below with more of the white stuff on the right.

Hopefully the larch ladybirds which are supposed to be active at the moment will come along and eat these aphids, though I saw no sign of any types of ladybird today.

I took a photo of one of this year's young cones on the larch

Meanwhile in the orchard / meadow area near Redhall Walled Garden, a couple of common spotted orchids are in bloom,

they can be quite elusive here, even though in the meadow at the other end of the Dells they are regularly present in large number.

The lime (linden) trees are also in bloom and smell wonderful

I was delighted to see a Leucozonia glaucia hoverfly (a species which is rarely seen in Edinburgh except here, by me). I like the shadows in this photo too.

Also I was pleased to be able to capture this distinctive looking wasp on film, it was very active,

I think it's Haemorrhoicus crassigena but am waiting for confirmation on that.

The wildflower meadows in Spylaw Park are looking beautiful at the moment

just in time for Love Parks Week!

Friday, 12 July 2019

Lunchtime up Corstorphine HIll

I joined Crafty Green Boyfriend at lunchtime today for a walk round Corstorphine HIll (which is so near his place of work that he walks round the hill most days!).

Many of the umbellifers are covered in red soldier beetles

And the common spotted orchids are looking lovely in the marshy area

Yesterday, on a guided walk I was leading along the Water of Leith in Stockbridge, we came across this ladybird, which is an unusual colour variant of the 2 spot ladybird (more commonly seen in its red form with two black spots)

Thursday, 11 July 2019

The Missing Lynx by Ross Barnett

 Media of The Missing Lynx

15,000 years ago, Britain was home to lynx, bears, wolves, bison and many other species of large mammals. But climate change and the spread of human populations changed the landscape and wiped out wildlife, resulting in the loss of most of our megafauna.

In The Missing Lynx, palaeontologist Ross Barnett introduces us one by one to the magnificent creatures that have been lost from these islands, some of which are globally extinct, others which are missing here but still live on elsewhere and could potentially be reintroduced. He starts from the beginning with the cave hyena which became extinct in Britain 46,000 BC and was globally extinct by 29,000 BC and ends with the European beaver which became extinct in these islands in the 16th century but which has, with some success, been reintroduced.

He examines stone age cave art and carvings to get an idea of our ancient ancestors' relationships with the animals such as cave lions that they shared their world with. He is also a mine of fascinating facts such as how to tell the difference between ivory from mammoths and that from elephants and why some mammoths grew a silky coat. He muses on how difficult it is to tell exactly when wolves became domesticated into dogs and looks at how the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone had a beneficial effect on the area's ecology. and suggests that Scotland would benefit from wolves too, with all the excess deer we have (though those who like to hunt deer for fun would disagree with the wolves return).

He also has this to say about the Scottish wildcat, which still hangs on in parts of the Highlands:

'The wild glens and strachs cannot even support a 5kg (11 pound) wildcat thanks to humans. It will in all likelihood soon be gone. But we won't notice for a little while. The abundance of feral cats and hybrids will ensure that the true wildcat will disappear without fanfare, masked by the abundance of a similar form.'

Barnett looks at the potential of reintroductions, rewilding and resurrection. He suggests that lynx would be an ideal candidate for reintroduction and his argument is very persuasive and includes strategies for reducing antagonism from farmers, my only issue with it is that it would seem to be a shame to put energy, resources and money into reintroducing the lynx when wildcats need so much help to remain here.

This is a fascinating and entertaining book, packed full of interesting facts, enthusiasm for these lost creatures and hope for the renewal rewilding could bring to our landscapes and ecologies.  Read it.

The Missing Lynx by Ross Barnett, published by Bloomsbury.