Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Blooming Cactus

This is the cactus that grew so tall and at such an angle that it kept falling over. So we chopped its top off and then later it grew back an extra four tops. It still leans at a funny angle but it no longer generally falls over. It did however once fall over and roll under the television and sat there for a day before we noticed it. Since then it has behaved well and sat nicely on the windowsill. It has never flowered though.

Until now.

These blooms are well worth the wait....

Monday, 25 May 2015

Sunshine and shade in Colinton Dell

Today started out quite chilly but has warmed up along the way. I spent most of the morning, as I often do on a Monday, walking round Colinton Dell alongside the Water of Leith.

it was lovely to find several cornflowers in the 'Hidden Meadow'

and the ash trees are looking lovely now too

as  indeed are the hawthorns, some of which are already fully in bloom

The wild garlic (ramsons) are still in full bloom and looking wonderful. I love the light in these photos, which makes the ramsons flowers look pale green, although in reality they're white.

For those of you in the UK, a reminder that Springwatch starts at 8pm tonight on BBC2. The live cameras are already set up .....

Sunday, 24 May 2015

More from the Big Nature Festival

There's so much to see at Scotland's Big Nature Festival this weekend, that I couldn't fit into just one blog post!

The Wild about Scotland bus is there, a project from the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, which is travelling across Scotland engaging children with Scotland's wonderful natural wildlife. The bus offers fun, practical lessons that connect children to nature with a view to creating a lifelong appreciation and respect for Scotland's wildlife and the important role it plays in wider conservation issues.

while PAWS the Partnership against Wildlife Crime in Scotland is informing people about their work in fighting wildlife crime, and have a mock up of a crime scene, complete with toy bird

 Visit East Lothian had built a sand pit outside their tent, where children were happily playing. The beaches are one of the many visitor attractions in the area.

So all in all it's been an excellent festival, offering activities of all types to appeal to all ages and levels of experience. Plus the money raised will go towards conserving the curlew, an iconic wader, for which the UK is a breeding stronghold, with 68 000 pairs. Sadly the bird is declining across it's range and is globally 'Near Threatened’ on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. So a very important cause to support.

Thanks again the the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds who gave me a free ticket for this event.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Scotland's Big Nature festival

Crafty Green Boyfriend and I went to Scotland's Big Nature Festival in Musselburgh today. The weather was perfect for this kind of event, sunny and warm, though with a breeze coming in from the sea.

The route was signposted well for cyclists

though we walked from Musselburgh along the John Muir Walkway, one of my favourite birdwatching walks.

There's lots to do and see at the Festival, including tthe lovely Wild About East Lothian Tent

which is East Lothian in miniature, including all the main wildlife habitats found in the country, along with interactive activities, and lots of information about wildlife and the problems it faces.

The packed programme offered something for everyone. Our first stop was the Scotland's Larder tent for a demonstration from Anna Canning of Flora Medica of how to make pesto from wild greens, in this case ground elder, nettle and sticky willy (goosegrass).

After the demonstration we sampled the pesto, which was delicious. It's also a great way to use ground elder if it's a problem weed in your garden.

Next we went to the bird ringing demonstration, where we watched bird ringers from the BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) ringing a beautiful male reed bunting. The bird is having his wing measured in the photo below.

We also went to a very interesting short talk from Ben Darvill (also of the BTO) about swallows, martins and swifts in the UK. Swifts are my favourite birds and this year so far I've seen about ten of them flying above our flat. In this talk, Ben outlined how all these birds are declining in the southern parts of the UK but doing relatively well in Scotland. He packed a lot into the 20 minute slot but it would have been nice to have had longer! However that would have meant fewer talks in the programme, so there needs to be a balance!

We enjoyed browsing the various stalls and were particularly impressed by the beautiful pencil-drawn art works of Fran Knowles. We were also struck by Gill Hatcher's lovely little book, Bunny behind the Moon, about a young bunny called Wonder, who finds out that her extra large ears are picking up messages from the bunny behind the moon.

We bought lunch from the Whitmuir Organics food truck, which was delicious, but slightly messy to eat! We also enjoyed a couple of real ales from the Orkney Brewery. It's good to see the Scottish Nature Festival offering ethically produced food and drink from Scotland.

Before and after the festival, we enjoyed listening to the spring birdsong as we walked between the venue and Musselburgh, including reed buntings, skylarks, willow warbler and whitethroats. The grassy areas were full of speedwells and vetches bursting into flower (photos tomorrow) and we found this beautiful little creature

So all in all we had a wonderful time! More tomorrow, I hope.

Thanks to the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) for giving me a free pass to the festival!

Friday, 22 May 2015

A brief history of rhinos

Today is the International Day for Biodiversity. A chance to celebrate the diversity of life on earth, to understand what that diversity contributes to our lives and to focus on the need to reserve and conserve our wild plants and animals and the places where they live. I've been thinking particularly about rhinos. 

Thirty million years ago, the world was home to giant rhinoceroses, which weighed up to 5 tonnes, making them the largest land mammal that has ever lived. Since then, many species of rhinos have come and gone, including wooly rhinos that thrived during the Ice Ages.

Today, there are five species, most of which are becoming rarer all the time, due to pressures from poaching.

In Africa, the southern white rhino fell to 100 animals in South Africa in the 1960s and conservation efforts raised the population to 20, 000 by 2008. Since then though, poaching has lead the population to fall again. Botswana is seen as the only country that is safe for rhinos. The country's KhamaRhino Sancutary hasn't had a single rhino poached in 24 years. In great contrast to South Africa, where in 2013, a rhino was poached on average every eight hours.

The outlook is even bleaker for the northern subspecies of the white rhino. There are only five left in the wild, the one male has its own personal 24 hour armed guard and has had his horn removed to deter poachers.

The other African species, the black rhino is critically endangered. In the 1960s when there were only 100 white rhinos in Africa, there were 120, 000 black rhinos. This population was reduced by paoching to 2 000 in 2000, though conservation efforts had increased this to 4000 by 2008. This number has since been reduced by a new, more organised and extreme wave of poaching. Having said that, in Kenya there were 381 black rhinos in 1987 and in 2015 there are 640, not a huge number but the population trend isn't all downwards, though  three of the subspecies of black rhino are already extinct.

The Sumatran rhino, the smallest species, and the only one that is hairy, is critically endangered, threatened by poaching and the loss of the secluded shrub areas it needs to give birth in.

The Javan rhino may be down to 40 individuals, all found in a tiny area in Java.

News is slightly better for the Indian rhino. It is doing particularly well in Nepal, which over the past year has seen no poaching of wild animals. The rhinos suffered from poaching that became rampant during the civil war which ended in 2008. Since then their numbers have increased. In 2015 there are 645 individual rhinos in Nepal, compared to 534 in 2011.Bumbers of Indian rhinos in Assam have increased from 200 in the 1900s to 2,544 in 2014.

References: (click on the links to read the articles)

The Story of Rhinos and how they conquered the world.

Rhino Coservation in Botswana.

Botswana's Rhino Sanctuary leading the fight against ivory poaching .

Critically endangered black rhinos re-introduced to native habitat (Kenya).

National Rhino Count 2015 (Nepal).

Wikipedia entry for Indian rhinoceros.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Fabric storage bag

The large carrier bag that I had been using to store all my fabric supplies finally fell apart recently and I made this one to replace it. I used two fabrics, they're the same type of fabric but different patterns. The fabric came from a friend when we were clearing out her Mum's house.

I decided not to make it a reversible bag so the blue fabric will always be on the outside and the brown  fabric lining inside as well as making the 'drawstring' tie. I'm quite pleased with the way it looks and it turned out more roomy than I expected. It's certainly a neat way of storing (some of) my crafting supplies!

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Musselburgh Lagoons from a different angle

When I walk around the John Muir Way and Musselburgh Lagoons, I usually keep to the coastal path, to get better views of the sea birds. That path also gives excellent views of many of the birds (such as skylarks, reed buntings and wheatears) that make the scrubby grassland their home.

However it's also nice to walk up into the grassland, keeping to the paths to avoid accidentally damaging the nests or young of ground nesting birds. (I wish more dog owners would pay attention to the signs asking them to keep their dogs properly under control in this area).

This area is part of what used to be ash pits from Cockenzie power station that have been allowed to return to nature, with a little help from sensitive wildlife management, tree planting and the creation of the Lagoons which host large numbers of wading birds, particularly in August and September when the passage migrants stop over on their routes.

Now Cockenzie Power station has been decommissioned and the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) is going to convert the ash piles in this photo into an extension of the nature reserve (the ash is the grey hill in the foreground, the darker, green and gorse-yellow hill in the background is iconic Edinburgh landmark Arthur's Seat)

That project will take years to complete and is still only in the planning stages.

A more immediate project from the RSPB is Scotland's Big Nature Festival, to take place here this weekend. The site is already filling up with tents....

The festival has an exciting programme of talks and events (which you can see here). If you want to find a greener way to travel to the festival, details are here. We'll be there, probably travelling by bus to Musselburgh and then walking along the John Muir Walkway.

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