Friday, 22 May 2020

Birds nests!

It's been a day for seeing birds at their nests! We've seen two blue tits nests, one in the eaves of a roof in a house near one of the cemeteries we visit on our #DailyExercise walk, another in the wall of a block of flats near the park which we also walk through for #DailyExercise.

We noticed this hole a few weeks ago

It's in an old whitebeam that seems half dead but is regenerating nicely with all that new growth sprouting from the bottom!

Over the past few visits, we've noticed the sound of cheeping birds from the hole, if you listen carefully to the video below you may also hear them (though there's a strong breeze blowing which may drown out the cheeping)

We think it's a great spotted woodpecker nest, as we have seen the adults flying round in this particular part of the cemetery, though we haven't as yet seen them visiting this tree.....

Edited to add: the next day we saw a great spotted woodpecker fly out of this hole! This probably proves that the woodpecker is nesting in there, though as woodpeckers are known to raid other species' nests and eat the chicks, it's not final proof. 

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Corstorphine HIll

With lockdown easing slightly in Scotland so we're now allowed unlimited exercise (as long as it starts and ends at home), we've decided that occasionally we'll go on a longer walk than our usual #DailyExercise round the cemeteries.

Today we took the day off and walked along the cyclepath and along a stretch of the Water of Leith then over to Corstorphine Hill.

The weather was wonderful and the hill looked amazing

there are large patches of speedwells

and forget-me-nots

the walls around the hill are always interesting, here's ivy leaved toadflax

yellow corydalis

and a species of nomad cuckoo bee (possibly a Marshams nomad bee) just about to enter a hole which a mining bee had entered (the nomad bee will lay its eggs in the same hole and then it's larvae will eat the larvae of the mining bee)

We were serenaded on the hill by this beautiful song thrush

Monday, 18 May 2020

A Short History of Progress by Ronald Wright

A Short History Of Progress

This is a brilliant short book that gives an overview of human progress that looks at questions posed by the French painter Gaugain who asked: Where do we Come From? What are We? Where are we Going?

Tracing our journey from prehistory to the present day and looking at possible futures, Wright casts an eye on how humans have made progress and how this affects the world around us. There is a strong eco-consciousness in this book, the critique of how human development has had generally a devastating impact on the environment.

The book highlights key elements of human development including the discovery of fire, the development of agriculture, tools, weapons and cities. The history of human development is littered with civilisations that fell victim to progress traps, where progress goes too far. An early example of such a trap given in the book is this:

Palaeolithic hunters who learnt how to kill two mammoths instead of one had made progress. Those who learnt how to kill 200 by driving a whole herd over a cliff had made too much.

The author's overarching premise is that civilisations overreach themselves, get caught in progress traps and then use up all their natural capital in unsustainable ways and then collapse. The classic example given is that of Easter Island but, as the narrative explores, the concept applies (to some degree at least) to many other civilisations from the Romans to the Mayans.

Can we learn from our history to fashion a sustainable future for ourselves? 

It should be required reading for anyone interested in the future of humankind, particularly pertinent as we face the global pandemic of COVID_19. It's also a great introduction to the issues that are explored in greater depth in the work of Jared Diamond (particularly Collapse).

A Short History of Progress by Ronald Wright published (2005) by Canongate

Sunday, 17 May 2020

Baby Bunny and Lots of Ladybirds

Now that lockdown in Scotland has been eased very slightly, allowing us unlimited #DailyExercise, we've decided to take a longer walk on Saturdays, though other days our walk will remain the same route through the local park and cemeteries as it has been every day since lockdown was imposed.

Yesterday we walked along a cyclepath, then along part of the Water of Leith to Saughton Park.

We passed an area of rough bare ground surrounded by bushes, where we saw two rabbits, including this adorable youngster

We studied the green fence outside Saughton Park which is famous for it's insect life and there were several ladybirds, including this, which i think is a variant form of the two spot ladybird

these more normal looking two spots ensuring there will be a next generation of two spots

these pine ladybirds doing their bit for their next generation

this 10 spot ladybird

and this cream spot ladybird

There were lots of other insects on the fence too, some of which we had little idea of what they were (I'm going to post photos on the Edinburgh Natural History Society Facebook group to try and genet things identified!) plus several spiders including this wolf spider which is eating something

It's amazing what you can find on a fence! (Though I do think this is an unusually good fence for invertebrates!)

For Nature Notes

You may be interested to read my short essay about bees Wildlife Drama Under Lockdown on the Pendemic website, you can read it here.

Thursday, 14 May 2020

Friendly Robin

Robins are often the friendliest birds to humans (in contrast they can be very aggresive to other robins!). This is a lovely robin we met yesterday on our #DailyExercise walk round the local park and cemeteries.

Thanks to Crafty Green Boyfriend for the photos.

Sunday, 10 May 2020

Artistic insects!

We were fascinated to find these patterns in the leaves of an elm tree in one of the cemeteries on our #DailyExercise walk today.

It seems that insects have been nibbling their way through the leaves, leaving these lovely patterns. I have no idea what species of insect is  responsible, but if you think you know, leave a comment below! 

Friday, 8 May 2020

Tree Following Update

For Tree Following this year I've selected a beautiful horse chestnut tree in one of the cemeteries on our #DailyExercise route.You can see my first blogpost about this tree here.

This is a magnificent tree and its leaves are now fully open as are some of its flowers. But not all of them. It's very noticeable that the candles (that's the name for the groups of flowers) on the south side of the tree are much further on in blooming than the candles on the north.

Here is a candle on the south side of the tree a couple of days ago

and here's one on the north side on the same day

and these are typical. Though oddly the first candle to come fully into bloom was one on the north side, nestled right against the boundary wall of the cemetery.

Here are some more photos of this beautiful tree, taken over the last week or so

For Tree Following.