Monday, 28 November 2022

Earth Star

Fungi are amazing, there's such a variety of them. One form of fungi that never ceases to astonish me is the Earth Star. There are several species, which I haven't yet learned to tell apart, but all of them are quite striking in appearance. I found this one on the overgrown area at the back of the roof of a building at the corner of Spylaw Park (the roof is on a level with the Water of Leith Walkway that passes by the park). 

I've seen Earth Stars in several places in Edinburgh, but never before in this particular spot.

Saturday, 26 November 2022

Saughton Park

 We had a lovely visit to Saughton Park this morning. The Water of Leith flows through the park and the bridge over the river in the park is one of the best places in Edinburgh to see either Otters or Kingfishers. We didn't see either today, but we did get a brief glimpse of a Dipper as it dashed downstream under the bridge. Further upstream we had a lovely sighting of a Grey Heron.

The ivy on the banks of the river was still in bloom, and we even saw a Banded Hoverfly (Syrphus sp) enjoying a aote season snack

The light was lovely and the trees looked beautiful, especially this paper birch

There were quite a few fungi around too, including these inkcaps

and these seed heads of some sort of giant thistle looked very dramatic against the clouds

Friday, 25 November 2022

Planting Bulbs and Finding Ladybirds

 Today, I joined other members of the committee of Friends of North Merchiston Cemetery to plant daffodil bulbs in the cemetery. We planted bulbs alongside the newly restored perimeter wall that overlooks the railway line. (The wall had become unstable and had to be demolished and rebuilt). 


The daffodils will hopefully look lovely in the Spring.

Before and after planting bulbs, I wandered round the cemetery to take some photos. You'll notice from the first two photos that some gravestones in the cemetery lie flat. Some were vandalised, others were deemed unsafe and laid down by the council after an incident in Glasgow when a child was killed by a collapsing gravestone. It is expensive and time-consuming to put the graves right and in this cemetery, priority will be given to the gravestones that needed to be removed to allow the perimeter wall to be rebuilt.

Looking up into the camopy of trees!
A nice view of St Michael's Church across the road from the cemetery.

I was also very happy to find some ladybirds already hibernating on a gravestone. In the first photo, from the top down we have: Harlequin larva, Harlequin adult, 2 Spot and Cream Spot ladybirds. 

and below we have a mix of Two Spot (the red ladybirds with black spots) and Pine Ladybirds (black with red spots) 


Tuesday, 22 November 2022

Back to Nature by Chris Packham and Megan McCubbin


 Chris Packham and his step daughter Megan McCubbin are best known for appearing in the BBC TV series Springwatch and its spin offs Autumnwatch and Winterwatch. Both have also been involved in campaigning to conserve the UKs wildlife.

Back to Nature is a book the two of them wrote largely during the COVID-19 lockdown. It's a celebration of British wildlife and a plea to conserve what we have. It reads like an episode of Springwatch in some ways with both Chris and Meghan taking it in turns to write sections and with lots of different topics all thrown into the mix. Topics include the state of the UKs national parks; the failure of our governments (or our governmental agencies such as NatureScot or English Nature) to properly protect wildlife; the pros and cons of planting trees (basically make sure they're the right trees in the right place and look after them after planting); issues around how new developments impact on wildlife; climate change and how it's a much bigger challenge than the COVID pandemic;

Chris is in typical combative mode, pointing out for example that the wildlife we often say we've lost, we haven't in fact lost, but have destroyed, either directly (eg shooting) or indirectly (eg building over prime habitats). He calls for a major overhaul of our governmental agencies that so clearly fail to protect what they're supposed to protect and suggests we need to replace them with apolitical organisations that are staffed only by people who are experts committed to saving nature. He also shares a personal story about his youthful fondness for a group of badgers that lived near his home, and how devastated he was when their sett was destroyed to make way for a new development. 

There's a discussion here too about why nature should be protected and a great quote from Lord Sandford, speaking in 1974 when he was chairing the National Parks Policy Review Committee: "If there's a conflict between protecting the environment and people enjoying the environment that can't be resolved by management, then protecting the environment is more important."

This is a comprehensive overview of the plight of wildlife in the UK and manages to be both entertaining and sobering at the same time. 

Back to Nature by Chris Packham and Megan McCubbin published (2021) by Two Roads.

Monday, 21 November 2022

First Frost

 After a very mild Autumn so far, it finally feels like November and the Dells alongside the Water of Leith all look beautiful in the frost. 

The river is very high due to recent rain (though not as high as it was over the weekend). 

Most trees have lost most of their leaves now, but this Beech tree is still beautifully in leaf 

Sunday, 20 November 2022

A Hill, A Cemetery and the Gardens

 We started our walk today at Calton Hill, which is largely famous for its picturesque follies and monuments.

it also offers lovely views across Edinburgh, including overlooking St Cuthbert's Kirkyard in the High Street.

A faint rainbow appeared while we were on the hill, though it didn't actually rain. 

We then walked over to the 'orphan' section of Old Calton cemetery. This small section of the cemetery was separated from the main cemetery in 1816 when Waterloo Place was built through the middle of the burial ground. It offers some nice views, including looking towards Calton Hill

and looking towards the larger section of Old Calton Cemetery 

Knowing that ladybirds and other invertebrates like to hibernate on gravestones, we had a good look on the stones under trees and were happy to find this Juniper Shieldbug 

and a closer look from Crafty Green Boyfriend's camera 

as well as several ladybirds including this group, made up of a Two Spot Ladybird, a Seven Spot Ladybird and a Harlequin Ladybird.

After leaving the cemetery we walked through Princes Street Gardens. At this time of year, East Princes Street Gardens is traditionally a site of controversy as the gardens are routinely damaged in the 'essential works' otherwise known as the Edinburgh Christmas Market. The first thing we noticed (aside from the Ferris wheel and the piles of wooden boards waiting to be turned into shacks selling cheap mass-produced Christmas items) was that the disabled access path has been blocked off with metal fencing

This disabled access path was controversial itself as its creation involved the destruction of a number of healthy mature trees and many people (myself included) argued that there were better ways to bring disabled access into the lower part of the park. 

Not only is the disabled access blocked off, but many of the trees that were planted to replace the original trees are now in desperate need of being released from their supports

In West Princes Street Gardens we were pleased to find some interesting fungi including these Sulphur Tufts

and these, which I've not yet identified 


In other news, I'm delighted to have three haiku included in the Plum Tree Tavern's Autumn Moon Festival. You can read the whole festival here.

Friday, 18 November 2022

Coming Soon - National Tree Week

skeleton trees at Rouken Glen Garden centre

National Tree Week is the UK’s largest annual tree celebration. Every year, conservation organisations, friends of greenspace groups and individuals plant thousands of trees to mark the start of the annual tree planting season.

Organised by the Tree Council, this year's National Tree Week (NTW) will take place from 26 November to 4 December! The week will focus on the Hidden Connections that are so vital to the life of trees – including roots, soil and fungi to highlight the world of complex activity happening beneath the ground.

The Tree Council will hold two Tree Talks during National Tree Week:

On Monday, 28 November at 7pm, The Tree Council’s Director of Trees, Science & Research, Jon Stokes will be joined by Chartered Arboriculturist and President of the Institute of Chartered Foresters, Sharon Durdant-Hollamby to Demystify the Tangled World of Tree Roots.

On Thursday, 1 December at 7pm, Professor Martin Bidartondo, will join Tree Council CEO, Sara Lom for a discussion:Trees and Fungi Working Together – A Remarkable Relationship.

While trees are wonderful plants, it is important to emphasize that the right trees need to be planted in the right places. All too often, over-enthusiastic groups destroy areas of valuable scrub or species rich grasslands in the bid to plant trees. If you are planting trees for this year's National Tree Planting Week, please check that the area where you are planting, is not already a valuable wildlife habitat.