Saturday, 17 February 2018

Weekend Birds

Very mixed weather  today and most of the rain seemed to fall while we were out walking! The shelduck at Cramond didn't seem to mind too much though

There were plenty of other birds at Cramond too including good numbers of  lapwings and curlew, with a small flock of geese (probably pink footed geese) flying over. 

By the time we'd got to the fields at Silverknowes the sun was out again and we were delighted to see so many curlews and oystercatchers

Plenty of sheep in the fields too, they're only there some of the time, I think they're taken to other fields sometimes.

The light was lovely at this point in the walk and this curlew posed beautifully for us

Thanks Crafty Green Boyfriend for these photos!

Friday, 16 February 2018

Plastic Free Friday

 pile of trash

 image from Free Images

The crisis of plastic pollution that is affecting our waterways and oceans is big news at the minute. Many supermarkets are pledging to reduce their plastic use while others are digging their heels in. The Queen has pledged to make Buckingham Palace and the Royal Estates plastic free and BBC are going to ban single use plastics by 2020.

This article here is excellent in teasing out some of the complications round the issue - for example, some foods, such as cucumbers, keep much better when wrapped in plastic, so the use of plastic here reduces food waste. (On the other hand, in my own experience most foods keep just as well without plastic and mushrooms really shouldn't be kept in plastic - I really can't understand the stores that insist on packaging mushrooms in plastic punnets.) Part of the secret though is to buy the food you need when you need it, rather than buying fruit and vegetables in bulk (though this depends on you living or working close to good grocery stores). Also take your own reuseable carrier bags and produce bags or refuse produce bags at all where possible.

What is undeniable however is that plastic waste is compromising the health of our riverine and marine environments.

As part of a response to this Friends of the Earth Scotland have started Plastic Free Fridays! They are asking people to sign this pledge to reduce their use of plastics and to completely avoid single use plastics on Fridays.

And to help you, they have compiled a list of ten top tips to reduce plastic use.

My additional top tips

Have a few reusable carrier bags which you carry round in your handbag so you always have one with you to avoid picking up any plastic carriers (but avoid the temptation to acquire loads of reusable bags, they use more energy in their production than plastic bags)

Get refills on products where possible (New Leaf in Edinburgh offers a brilliant  refill service for a number of products including washing up liquid and shampoo. Just take along a bottle and fill it up with the product you need! You save money that way and your bottle doesn't need to be the same brand as the product in store!)

Do you have any top tips for reducing plastic use? Share them in the comments section!

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Trees in Shadow

It's a lovely winters day today with beautiful blue skies and low sun creating wonderful shadows of the trees in the Meadows area of Edinburgh. A flock of 30 redwings was flying around in the trees, lovely to see so many, they're not as reliable a winter sight in this part of town as they used to be.

The trees in the Meadows aren't going anywhere as far as I know but then these days you turn your back for a minute and suddenly a whole load of trees are felled.

Sheffield in England has been notorious for this recently, as the council there entered into a road maintenance contract that involved removed huge numbers of mature trees from the city's streets. There's been a huge outcry on social media and in the city itself with many people decorating the trees and holding demonstrations. You'd think that the message would reach Sheffield Council and councils across the country. But no, Sheffield council continues to fell its trees, currently people are trying to prevent the felling of a rare elm tree (rare because it is resistant to Dutch elm disease and valuable also as it is a home to the rare white letter hairstreak butterfly.) To find out more or join in the campaign to save Sheffield's remaining street trees visit the Sheffield Tree Action website.

Meanwhile Edinburgh has jumped on the bandwagon of chopping down healthy trees - the trees outside the Cathedral on Picardy Place have all been felled, almost before the completion of the consultation on traffic management in the area. So trees are lost  to improve the area for cars, making the place look like a concrete wasteland and ruining the environment for pedestrians and cyclists, not to mention the birds that lived in the trees.

Plus the controversial redevelopment of Edinburgh's Meadowbank Stadium includes plans to remove the beautiful healthy trees at the front of the current stadium. You can find out more about the protest group here.

One of the problems can be that trees sometimes seem to be felled almost secretly, or the felling plans are under the radar or the maps showing the proposed development can be difficult to interpret in terms of how they affect the trees in the area. You almost need to be able to keep one step ahead of the council's planning department, which is tricky to say the least.

Urban trees are valuable for many reasons. Trees in our towns and cities help to cool the air, reduce wind speeds and provide shade, which makes the environment more pleasant. Trees help to protect soils and support urban wildlife. Urban trees can also reduce air pollution and relieve stress.You can find out more about the benefits of urban trees here.

So wherever you are, stay vigilant and stand up when you can for your local trees.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018


dark clouds
from one horizon
to the other -
strange how quickly
we forget our joy


previously published on Lyrical Passion Poetry. 

meanwhile for those of a more romantic disposition, I've posted my poem Admired over on my Shapeshifting Green blog, you can read it here

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

The Last Wilderness by Neil Ansell

The Last Wilderness, A Journey into Silence by Neil Ansell

Subtitled A Journey into Silence, this is a beautifully written account of one man's explorations of the Highlands of Scotland as he meditates on his increasing deafness (which he measures by the birds he can no longer hear sing) and the loss of species from our countryside. He writes about his preference for being in nature by himself and I can totally understand that love of solitude,  however as it becomes clear that failing hearing is not his only health concern it starts to seem foolhardy of him to be out there by himself, not for him alone (that is after all his decision to make) but because he is single parent to two children.

Setting that concern aside I did really enjoy this book. Ansell's writing is beautiful without falling into the self conscious overly poetic style beloved of many of the more literary nature writers of the day. Here is his description of the call of the curlew:

'Once of twice, a curlew called its plangent, rising trill. For me, this is the most evocative of all bird calls. It has a visceral effect on me, like a punch to the solar plexus. Whenever I hear it I am immediately transported back to my childhood self, wandering the marshes alone.'

I love the way he weaves together his observations of the Scottish Highlands alongside similar experiences in other times or other places (though this does become slightly confusing on occasion, perhaps deliberately so).

The Last Wilderness by Neil Ansell published by Tinder Press (February 2018)

Monday, 12 February 2018

Heron and snowdrops

It's very cold today with a light dusting of snow on the ground but it's lovely to be out. This grey heron was patiently standing in the Water of Leith - it was in the same position when I walked by at both the start and end of my circular walk round Craiglockart Dell.

It was lovely to see snowdrops too

Saturday, 10 February 2018

Brilliant Birds and signs of Spring

We had a lovely walk today through Inverleith Park and Edinburgh Botanic Gardens.

We were delighted to get very close to this little grebe (dabchick) in Inverleith Park

and  up the hill from the pond the crocuses were looking lovely in the late winter sun

Meanwhile in the Botanics the snowdrops are looking lovely

the rhododendrons are getting ready to bloom

and the oriental plane trees are decorated with fruit that look like pom poms

At the Botanics Pond we were greeted by mallards

and a kingfisher turned up happy to pose for the camera

It even treated us to a fishing masterclass though we didn't capture that on film!

And a grey squirrel also posed for us

Thanks Crafty Green Boyfriend for the bird and squirrel photos!