Thursday, 19 October 2017

Animals in Translation by Temple Grandin and Catherine Johnson

Subtitled 'the woman who thinks like a cow' this is a fascinating book about animal behaviour. Temple Grandin has autism and has used her different way of seeing the world as a way into understanding animals.

Temple Grandin is an associate professor of animal science at Colorado State University. She has worked in the meat processing industry, helping to make slaughter houses more humane. As a vegetarian I didn't find this part of the book the easiest to read, but I have to admit that so many people are meat eaters who will never give up eating meat that it is vital that slaughter houses are made more humane. Also it is fascinating to read how the author thinks her way into the cow's mind, how it perceives the world and how it can be made to feel calmer and less threatened.

The rest of the book looks at all kinds of animals, how they learn and how they relate to humans and whether the ways in which animals communicate can be considered to be true language, including the story of Alex the parrot, who seemed to be able to genuinely communicate and learn quicker than his owners and trainers expected . She outlines what makes dogs so good at being helper animals (particularly their sense of smell!) and how best to train dogs to increase their chances of growing up into well behaved, calm pets or working dogs (and she's a great believer in dogs working to give them a purpose in life!). The author constantly compares her own way of thinking as a person with autism to the way that animals think.

All in all this is a fascinating book, whether your main interest is in autism in humans or in animal behaviour.

Animals in Translation by Temple Grandin and Catherine Johnson published by Bloomsbury

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Autumn Red (a poem)

the early turning leaves of maple and cherry

slanting light glances
on rosehips
and five shades of rowan berries

the last poppy splashed
against ochre grass

the minor key
of robin's autumn song

first posted September 2008

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Plastic is #NotWhaleFood

Every year, over 5 million tonnes of plastic ends up in the world’s oceans.

Plastic pollution poses a serious problem for the creatures who live in the oceans.

According to Whale and Dolphin Conservation,  56% of all whale and dolphin species have been recorded eating marine plastics that they've mistaken for food. In a 2006 report, Plastic Debris in the World’s Oceans, Greenpeace stated that over 267 different species are known to have suffered from entanglement or ingestion of plastic debris in the oceans. The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration says that plastic debris kills an estimated 100,000 marine mammals every year, along with millions of birds and fishes. That's a lot of death in the oceans.

Plastic that is ingested can then block the animal's stomach and intestines causing it to slowly starve or find it's way into their brains, where it can change their behaviour. Often parent birds and turtles are seen trying to feed their offspring with plastic debris.

Plastic is #NotWhaleFood. We need to use less plastic and dispose more carefully of that we do use.

Here's a very long article from Coastal Care on the issue

Meanwhile, Whale and Dolphin Conservation are asking people to join their #NotWhaleFood campaign, you can find out more here or take part on Twitter

Monday, 16 October 2017


for the hurricane -
yellow skies


The tail end of Hurricane Ophelia is sweeping through Ireland at the moment and will reach Scotland in the next day or so, though probably will be downgraded to a storm by then

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Not Just Black and White

Yesterday, I shared a blog post showing a selection of the reds and oranges in Edinburgh's Botanic Gardens. Those weren't however the only colours on display. It's easy to think of the magpie as purely a black and white bird, but in the right light, its feathers are wonderfully irridescent, thanks Crafty Green Boyfriend for this photo

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Autumnal reds and oranges in the Botanic Gardens

Edinburgh's Royal Botanic Gardens are lovely in the autumn! One of the highlights of today's trip was seeing several fly agaric toadstools. These poisonous toadstools are very beautiful to look at

Meanwhile in the cafe garden, this robin was defending the returned tray trolley as if it were his home territory. When there are lots of trays on the trolley there's often a lot of food for the birds and they sometimes squabble over the crumbs, a territory worth fighting over!

and several red admirals were feeding on the scabious!

and this prowling cat tried to blend in with the fallen leaves

Friday, 13 October 2017

Autumn Colours and Fungi in the Dells

It's a warm and damp autumn day today and it looked beautiful in Colinton and Craiglockart Dells by the Water of  Leith.

I took quite a lot of photos of fungi as the Water of Leith Conservation Trust are leading a fungi walk round the Dells next week and wanted me to help them find out where the best fungi are at the moment.

The puffballs on the mossy wall up above Colinton weir are looking great at the moment

there's lot of candlesnuff around at the moment, I took this photo in Spylaw Park

and some funnel caps have suddenly appeared

Honey fungus is never good to see (as it kills trees) but is totally fascinating for the way that it displays its mycelia once the tree starts falling apart, there are no fruiting bodies at the moment, just the mass of black mycelia

Then there are more fungi, which I'll need to check out to identify them.....