Friday, 31 October 2014

Oh, deer!

It was a lovely mild day today at Musselburgh Lagoons. When I arrived an the first hide there were hundreds of birds, including lapwings, teal, wigeon and dunlin. Then suddenly almost all of them took off, the lapwings whelled around above the hides for a while then they all disappeared. I'm guessing a peregrine had passed over, as it often does and scared them all.

When I was just about to leave the third hide, I was delighted to see these roe deer move into view. They came very close to the hide and were happy to have their photos taken. They were later joined by a third.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Watching Trees and Fungi in the Dells

The larch I'm sturying for Tree Following is turning yellow only slowly compared to some other larches I've seen, it's starting to lose its needles though.  (The larch is the only type of conifer to lose its needles in winter).
The larch tree stands on one side of the Water of Leith Walkway in Colinton Dell. Its roots spread to the other side of the path and poke through the soil in the side path into the field. At the moment there's a nice lot of what I think are brown bell cap toadstools growing just by the roots of the larch.

Not far from the larch but on the oppsite bank of the river there's a lovely patch of hairy stereum fungus growing on a branch of a hornbeam tree

this fungus normally grows on fallen trees and it was nice this time to be able to take the photo below which shows the underside of the fungus

The grey squirrels throughout the Dells were very lively today, chasing each other and running round. There were a good number of birds around too, and it was specially nice to see a grey wagtail and a pair of goldcrests. I also had a lovely view of a dipper.

For Nature Notes

As ever, red text contains hyperlinks and takes you to other websites where you can find out more

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Fixing jewellery

When I recently bought the cheap bags of jewellery that I've already used to make this bookmark and this keyring, there was a pretty flowery necklace that at first I thought was in perfect condition. However, when I wore it, the flowers sort of bunched together in a strange way and then I noticed that there had obviously originally been other flowers in there to hold the whole design together. So I took out my jewellery making kit and set about seeing what I could do to repair it. I took out two of the flowers and made them into earrings and I think they look nice with the pared down new necklace design.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

How I learned about birds

male mallards at Blackford Pond

Maureen of Josephina Ballerina recently asked if I would blog a bit about how I learned about birds.

I had a copy of the Observers Book of Birds when I was young, later I added the RSPB book of Birds and browsed them constantly. This meant that often when I see a new bird I can often recognise it straight away from having learned it from these books (this doesn't apply for brown waders or other more confusing groups of birds or for very rare birds that are only occasionally seen in the UK!)

When I was growing up, my parents' garden was full of starlings, house sparrows, blackbirds, song thrushes, robins, blue tits, chaffinches and the occasional visit from other birds including bullfinches. (These days their garden has far fewer starlings, house sparrows or song thrushes, but new visitors include goldfinches, magpies, jackdaws, woodpigeons and the occasional visits from siskins, redpolls and jays.

So I started watching the birds in the garden at a very early age. We also went on trips to other places where we saw birds. I particularly remember a lovely holiday cottage on the island of Anglesey, which had a beautiful hedgerow at the bottom of the garden, that always seemed to overflow with birds of all sorts. Sadly my Mum recently told me that the hedge is no longer there, and a new road was built there several years ago.

I learned the most obvious bird songs when I was young (robin, blackbird, song thrush) but more recently have been trying to learn as many bird songs and calls as possible This is quite challenging as most birds only sing for a few months of the year so once you think you've learned a song, you won't hear it again for several months and then you need to refresh your mind. The robin, which is one of the few birds to sing (rather than call) all year, has a different song for the autumn and winter than for the spring and summer, so that doesn't help (though it's a relatively easy song to learn). (The RSPB website is very useful for learning bird somg, as it includes sound files for every species of bird in the UK; while xeno canto includes bird songs and calls from around the world).

The best way to learn about birds is to get out there and see them in their natural habitats and I do that very regularly - leading birdwatching walks for Edinburgh Council, taking notes of the birds I see when volunteering with the Water of Leith Conservation Trust and regularly going for walks in green places with Crafty Green Boyfriend. I also regularly visit Musselburgh Lagoons and have learned a lot from the other birdwatchers there, we regularly swap tips on what we've seen where and the birdwatchers with telescopes are happy to lend me their scopes to see far off rarer species (I've only got binoculars!).

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

Monday, 27 October 2014

The Ecology of Eden by Evan Eisenberg

This is a history of the changing human relationship with nature, starting out with our beginnings and encompassing religious attitudes to nature; and explorations of the development of agriculture and technology and how that changed our relationship with nature. How do images of Eden (and other representations of paradise) fit with reality?

The author's central argument is that our relationship with nature cannot help but be complicated:

The love of nature and the urge to master nature have always, I am sure, been basic to the human mind. And they have always gone hand in hand, as they seem to do in the cave paintings of Lacaux. Yet there has always been a tension between them - a tension expressed, for example, in the rituals by which some indigenous hunters placate the spirit of the animla they have just killed.

It is a beautifully written book, always readable and thought provoking, though often deeply depressing as the realisation hits just how disfunctional our relationship with nature has become.

The chapter on climate change feels dated now (the book was written in 1998), but apart from that it feels like a classic of ecological philosophy.

The Ecology of Eden by Evan Eisenberg published by Picador.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

A Year of Insects - Moths

It's been my best ever year for moths, here's the list of species I've seen and been able to identify, with photos where available, or links to websites with photos if I've not got my own photos

Six spot burnet moth, 2 July, Musselburgh

lunar yellow underwing, 8 September, Musselburgh

latticed heath, 2 July, Musselburgh


silver ground carpet 25 June Colinton Dell
lesser broad bordered yellow underwing (?) 17 July in our living room!
  Udea lutealis 3 September Musselburgh

You can find out more about UK moths on the UK moths website.

If you prefer a book as your field guide then I can definitely recommend The Concise Guide to Moths of Great Britain and Ireland by Martin Townsend and Paul Waring illustrated by Richard Lewington and published by British Wildlife Publishing. It might not solve all your id queries immediately, as moths can be very tricky, but it's certainly a very useful guide. 

I recently blogged about A Year of Insects - Hoverflies.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Cloves cupboard sachet

Cloves have a lovely scent and they're also a moth repellent so are ideal for scenting your wardrobe. I made this little clove scented sachet from scrap fabric and part of an old shoe lace.

It's now in the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop (to be on the safe side of customs regulations regarding plant parts this item is only available for delivery within the European Union).

Meanwhile I'm delighted that one of my photos has been included in this autumn colour themed Treasury on Etsy. For those who don't know Etsy, a treasury is made up of items selected from across Etsy that fit a theme.