Thursday, 21 March 2019

International Day of Forests

Yesterday was International Sparrow Day, World Frog Day and International Day of Happiness, today is International Day of Forests and World Poetry Day!

Woodlands and forests are wonderful habitats for a range of wildlife and offer beautiful, peaceful places for people to wander round. Even a relatively small area of woodland can bring lovely encounters with nature - today I visited Musselburgh and in the small stand of trees near the bird hides (that overlook the lagoons) - I heard my first chiffchaff of the year here as well as seeing chaffinches and goldfinches. Later in the year this area is one of the best places near Edinburgh to see speckled wood butterflies.The male willow trees were delightfully in bloom today too

I love woodlands so much that I volunteer for two woodland organisations! As a volunteer for Water of Leith Conservation Trust, I patrol the wooded Dells along the Water of Leith once a week, picking litter, recording wildlife, noting how many people are out enjoying the area and recording any pollution or vandalism. It's a beautiful place and one I always enjoy visiting.

I also volunteer for Woodland Trust, mostly as a campaigner but I've also lead guided walks round the Dells for groups of people connected with the trust.

I also write poetry inspired by trees, including Corstorphine Sycamore about one of the iconic trees of Edinburgh.

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Happy World Frog Day

Apparently it's World Frog Day today though I can't seem to find a website for it!

Many species of frogs face difficulties in the wild, including

Loss of habitat – we often build on areas where frogs live, or fill in the ponds where they breed
Pollution – chemical pollution of ponds and lakes can be a big problem
Disease – there are a couple of really worrying diseases effecting frogs and other amphibians, you can find out more here

One of the easiest ways to help frogs (if you have a garden) is to build a pond. Crafty Green Boyfriend's Mum has two frog ponds in her garden. This is the larger one and is currently home to about 12 adult frogs and a lot of spawn

You can read more about the pond and see more photos of the frogs in this post from February.

Last night just on cue, the first tadpoles appeared in the pond! So I recorded these on the Woodland Trust's Nature's Calendar website.

If you want to learn more about frogs and how you can help them, the Froglife website is a great place to start!

Today is also International Day of Happiness and seeing frogs always makes me happy!

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Moths Matter

Butterfly Conservation (the UK charity for both butterflies and moths) has just launched the Moths Matter campaign. The campaign aims to get people interested in moths, which are often overlooked next to their more well known butterfly relatives.

However moths are well worth learning about and they're not all small, dull coloured night time creatures. Many moths in fact are beautiful day flying insects. Here are just some of the moths I've seen in the past few years

 cinnabar moth, Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh, June 2018

silver carpet moth (I think!), Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh, June 2018

 narrow bordered 5 spot burnet moth, Musselburgh, July 2016

brimstone moth, Colinton Tunnel, Water of Leith walkway, Edinburgh, June 2013 

This is just a very small selection of moths in and around Edinburgh. but it gives a sense of the variety of patterns and colours you can find in these lovely insects.It's not just the adults either! Some moth caterpillars are very easily spotted like these cinnabar moths on Arthur's Seat in August 2016

and Caroline Gill has written a very interesting post about leaf mining moth larvae on her Wild and Wonderful blog here

The Moths Matter campaign will show how moths are important pollinators, why they are key parts of the food chain and how they are sometimes even more beautiful that butterflies.
Like butterflies, the UK’s moths are in trouble with many once common species struggling in the face of habitat loss and climate change.

Every month over the next year, the Moths Matter campaign will focus on a different theme, from spotting springtime caterpillars, planting a garden to attract night-flying visitors, to searching for Hawk-moths in hedgerows. There will be online moth quizzes and downloadable ID guides to help you get to grips with our most striking species. Blogs and video posts will help you learn more about moths and find out how Butterfly Conservation is working to protect moths across the UK.

Monday, 18 March 2019

Larch Trees in Bloom again

At this time of year I always look carefully at my favourite larch tree in Craiglockart Dell along the Water of Leith (this is the larch I 'followed' for Tree Following back in 2014). The reason I look so carefully at the tree at this time of year is to see if the flowers are out yet. Last week they weren't out and the buds were barely recognisable as such. Today though I was delighted to see that several flowers are already out and I was able to capture photos of some of the flowers at an earler stage of their development than ever before!

Here is a very young larch flower

this one below is I think slightly further along

and these are at their best already

This photo below, though out of focus) gives you some idea of how many flowers are in this tree so far

As part of Tree Following in 2014 I put together this post showing the development of the larch flower into a cone, which was something that before then, I'd never noticed before. It's well worth looking very carefully at any larch trees you pass, though not all of them have this many flowers!

The larch isn't the only tree in bloom at the moment, the hornbeam catkins are at their best

As many readers of this blog know I love trees and so I am very concerned to read articles like this one (Why are all the trees gone?), about the possibility of thousands or even millions of our trees being destroyed to allow for the development of 5G mobile phone networks and to all for the roll out of self driving vehicles. For me I'd much rather have trees than extra smart mobile phones and buses that don't have drivers.

Edited to add: It's worth pointing out that the academic paper linked to from the 'Why are all the trees gone?' article (linked above) mentions masts at shorter than tree height being a problem for the 5G signal. It then goes on to suggest masts need to be much taller, it doesn't suggest cutting down the trees. Which of course doesn't mean that councils won't cut trees down for 5G. The actual paper is here  and the section about trees is section 3.1. I'm going to write to all my political representatives (councillors, MSPs, MP) to see if any of them can give clarity of the future of trees in Edinburgh once 5G is introduced. The more people contact their political representatives the more they will realise people see this as an issue.

Saturday, 16 March 2019

Redwings and Willow Catkins in the Snow

It's been snowing all morning! Crafty Green Boyfriend and I braved the slush and mud along the Water of Leith Walkway up to Saughton Park.

Saughton is an old British word (from the Brythonic I think rather than Gaelic) that means willow and the pussy willows just outside the park were looking beautiful today

We were delighted to see inside the park that a flock of redwings and starlings had taken up residence on the football pitch, flying between the grass and the trees. Crafty Green Boyfriend managed to get these photos of some of the birds

The redwings will soon be returning to Scandanavia to breed. 

The snow has now turned to sleet and we're drinking coffee to warm ourselves up!

Friday, 15 March 2019

Nuthatch and Kestrel on Corstorphine HIll

Today has been a day of everchanging weather. When I got on the bus to go to meet Crafty Green Boyfriend for a lunchtime walk round Corstorphine HIll it was sunny, by the time I got off the bus it was hailstoning! Luckily the sun soon came back out again and we could enjoy most of our walk under beautiful blue skies but by the time we got off the hill it was hailing again.

There were lots of birds around today including this nuthatch that was very happy to eat the mixed grains and seeds that we put down in the walls at the Rest and Be Thankful at the top of the hill path.

Nuthatches have only recently moved into Scotland from England. It's always so lovely to see them and you can quite regularly see them now on Corstorphine Hill or other wooded areas of the city.

On the other side of the hill we were delighted to see this beautiful kestrel hunting.

Thanks Crafty Green Boyfriend for the photos.

Thursday, 14 March 2019

Isle of May - an illustrated talk by David Steel

David Steel is the warden of the Isle of May bird reserve in the Firth of Forth, not far from Edinburgh. Today he gave an excellent illustrated talk about the island at the National Library of Scotland as part of their excellent series of regular talks.

He talked first about some of the human history of the island, including a monastery and Scotland's oldest lighthouse, The Beacon, built in 1636 which still stands on the highest point of the island though it was replaced in 1816 by a new lighthouse.

He then talked about the island's birds, which include large numbers of breeding arctic terns, puffins, guillemots and razorbills, eider, and kittiwakes and shags. Plus one pair of manx shearwaters, which have bred on the island for a number of years despite most of their number breeding on the west coast of Scotland. David regaled us with stories about the lives of the birds including the guillemots and razorbills chicks throwing themselves over 100feet from their cliff top nests into the water to join their waiting fathers and the puffin chicks leaving home in the middle of the night and walking down the paths to the sea.

Most of these seabird species are thriving on the Isle of May (which they're not generally doing in other places around the UK and in fact across the world). Sadly though even here the kittiwakes and arctic terns aren't doing so well. The kittiwakes are struggling specifically because the sand eels that they eat are moving further down the ocean as the seawater becomes warmer. This isn't too much of a problem for diving birds such as puffins, guillemots and razorbills but is a problem for a surface feeding species such as the kittiwake.

The island is open almost daily (weather dependant) from May until 30th September, it is free to land once you pay the boat fare and you can have up to three hours exploring the island. For boat information and sailing times check out the websites shown below.

Boat Operators (you can book on line)

May Princess (sails from Anstruther):
Osprey Rib (sails from Anstruther):
Seabird Rib (sails from North Berwick):