Wednesday, 13 December 2017

A Frozen Pond and a Rushing River

Yesterday we had a lovely lunchtime wander around Blackford Pond and part of the Hermitage of Braid. The pond was frozen

 mallards and a black headed gull on the ice
 moorhen showing off its funny feet
female mallard preening 

We also walked along part of the Braid Burn, where we had brilliant views of a couple of dippers

Thanks Crafty Green Boyfriend for these lovely photos!

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Wintry Walkden Wildlife

Crafty Green Boyfriend and I spent the weekend with my Dad in Walkden, Greater Manchester. As well as having a nice time with my Dad, we enjoyed a couple of lovely winter walks. We went to the local park

where we saw plenty of birds, including redwing and nuthatches. We also heard a tawny owl when walking close to the park at dusk!

We also had a walk at Blackleach Country Park near Walkden Town Centre. We had a lovely walk in a blizzard!

We were very happy to see lots of ducks and geese on the pond

As well as lots of tufted ducks and Canada geese, we were delighted to see at least four gadwall, one male shoveler and a great crested grebe!

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Bugged by David MacNeal

Bugged: The Insects Who Rule the World and the People Obsessed with Them

Subititled The Insects that Rule the World and the People Obsessed with Them, Bugged is a  fascinating look at the world of entomology (the study of insects). It outlines the history of  the human relationship with insects, going back to the first cave painting of an insect. The book then looks in more detail at topics such as pest control, epidemics of diseases carried by insects, social insects, insect sex and insects as food with a whole chapter devoted to the history of the human relationship with the insect that is most important to us, the honey bee.

The book considers such vital questions as:

how can we effectively control insect pests in an environmentally friendly way?
can we save the honey bee from the many threats that face it?
is insect food the food of the future?

The author travelled a lot for this book, including undertaking a tour in Japan, trying to eat as many insect based foods as possible (which turned out to be quite a challenge!) and a trip to Greece to find the most delicious honey in the world.

It concentrates more on people than on the insects themselves, and though in parts it is quite technical, it relies more on anecdotes and human interest. Ths isn't a criticism, it's just to say that if you're looking for a totally serious scientific study of insects this may not be the book for you! On the other hand, with its mass of fascinating facts it's a perfect book to get you interested in insects.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Weather Forecasting

When her divorce came through
she spent hours browsing old photos
as if they could tell her secrets.

She stares at one of her and her brothers
playing in the snowy garden
when they were very young.

She and her husband used to laugh at this photo,
at her strange flowery anorak and how
there would never be winters like that again.

Two heavy winters later
she realises we can never know
the future ice and snow.

Previously published on Verse Wrights

Yesterday, over on my Shapeshifting Green blog, I posted another poem 'Influential Poets' that had originally been published on VerseWrights. You can read it here.

Monday, 4 December 2017

Nuthatches, ladybirds and funnel web spiders!

Another lovely sunny winters day, ideal for a walk round Colinton and Craiglockart Dells along the Water of Leith. Plenty to see too, starting with a group of four nuthatches! Nuthatches have only recently started to colonise Scotland from England and it's always lovely to see them. Crafty Green Boyfriend has worked extra hours recently and so was able to take time off to join me today and managed to photograph one of the nuthatches - click on the photos for a better view

We were also delighted to find some orange ladybirds, already snuggled together for their hibernation. This is a common winter sight along this particular fence in the Dells!

(If you're interested in finding out more about ladybirds and other beetles of the British woodlands then you may like the new issue of the Woodland Trust's Wood Wide magazine, which is all about 'Beguiling Beetles' you can download it here.)

There's a particular tree in the Dells which is covered in spiders webs, I had always noticed these webs but for some reason never thought to look closer. Today though, Crafty Green Boyfriend noticed that they are funnel webs, built by a species of funnel web spider

Each web as you can see includes a hole at the front. The spider builds the web and then hides in it and leaps out through the hole to catch unsuspecting insects!

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Woodland Trust Volunteer of the Year Awards!

Crafty Green Boyfriend and I travelled down to Grantham in Lincolnshire on Friday to attend the Woodland Trust Volunteer of the Year Awards ceremony at the Belton Woods Hotel. I was delighted to have been nominated for one of the awards.

On the Friday we arrived early enough to have a dusk walk through part of the lovely wooded nature trail that runs around the grounds of the hotel.

Yesterday morning we revisited the nature trail to explore it a bit more before attending the event. It's a nice area of mixed woodland

we were tempted to wait to see if a badger would emerge from the hole! We found another hole too, the sett seemed to be quite extensive

 and we were impressed by this little patch of oyster fungi

Less than impressed to see this sign on the fence, but then this is England, not Scotland, where we have the right to roam....

Then we returned to the hotel, scrubbed the mud off our shoes and went to the event

The event consisted of speakers, a three course lunch and an awards ceremony. I was delighted to be shortlisted for the 'Juniper Award' which recognises volunteers who provide their voices to protect and raise awareness of woodlands and the work of the trust in protecting them. It was great to see the videos about the work of the winning volunteers in the various categories, a very inspiring group of people!

So thank you  to the Woodland Trust for a great event to recognise the work of volunteers and  in particular for shortlisting me from such a large pool of inspiring volunteers!

Also thanks to Belton Woods Hotel for being a great venue, the nature trails were a great draw, but also the food is great and the staff  are incredibly helpful and friendly. Though the hotel corridors are a maze!

Friday, 1 December 2017

The Canal approaching Winter

It was so cold yesterday that the Union Canal started to freeze!

The gulls and mallards weren't sure what to make of the new conditions, though the old boat house reflects beautifully in the ice 

Fallen leaves look beautiful in the wintry light

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Ghost Moon and Schrodinger's Cat

Yesterday's ethereal ghost moon in Edinburgh

Meanwhile I'm delighted that my story about Schrödinger's Cat 'In the Box' is now up on Quantum Shorts, a website devoted to stories inspired by Quantum Science. There are some great stories on the site, so feel free to browse them here. Or you can go directly to my story here (and you can vote for it if you want!)

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

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Winter Trees

It's a  beautiful late autumn day today, almost wintry with the cold and frost!

The trees certainly look wintry in Craiglockart Dell along the Water of Leith. This is my favourite larch tree in the Dell, the larch is the only species of conifer that loses its needles in the winter, which is why they're all yellow!

A few years ago I studied this larch for Tree Following and here you can read my post about how the larch flowers develop through the year.

Here's a selection of other winter trees in the Dell

It's National Tree Week in the UK, a time to celebrate trees at the beginning of the winter tree planting season! Find out more from the Woodland Trust, here.

Monday, 27 November 2017

Book Week Scotland

It's Book Week Scotland! A chance to celebrate books and literature! You can find out more on the Scottish Book Trust's website here.

The Book Trust has put together lists of books for different ages annd on different topics, which you can browse here. Alternatively if you're interested in books about nature and environmental issues, you can browse my book reviews here

There are events all over Scotland too, you can find out what's happening near you here.

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Hordur - film review

After being bullied mercilessly by her classmates, Aylin (Almila Bagriacik) a 17-year-old Muslim girl of Turkish descent gets into trouble with the law and  is sentenced to community service at an out-of-town horse stable. Things don't immediately go well as the owner of the stables is too distracted by her own disintegrating homelife to want to offer support and training to a troubled treenager. However Aylin soon discovers a bond with the spirited and beautiful Icelandic horse Hördur and a talent as a horserider. 

Can she persuade the stable owner to let her enter a riding competition and can she persuade her father that horseriding is a worthwhile pursuit? 

Aylin's daily struggles at the stables, at school and at home (where she looks after her younger brother while her widowed father works all hours in low paid labouring jobs) are intercut with beautiful etehreal dream sequences where she rides a horse through a mystical woodland.

This is a wonderful coming of age film that offers insight into the difficult lives experienced by many migrant workers and the transformations that relationships with animals can make.

Hordur had one screening today as part of the Fokus season of German films at Edinburgh Filmhouse.

Saturday, 25 November 2017

A Woodland Walk to mark the start of National Tree Walk

Today we walked round Corstorphine Hill, but chose a different part of the hill than we normally walk on a Friday lunchtime (you can see the photos from yesterday's walk here).

It was a frosty start to the day, but this only enhances the autumnal colours

the orange conifer tree in the photo above isn't ill, it's a larch and is the only conifer to change colour  and lose its needles!

There were a lot of birds to see, most appropriately for National Tree Week is this lovely treecreeper

also several bullfinches, though they wouldn't pose for a group photo, there is a 2nd male in this photo, can you see him?

Corstorphine Tower, a monument to Sir Walter Scott rises above the trees at the top of the hill

The paths are carpeted with leaves, I love the copper carpets under the beech trees.

National Tree Week marks the start of the winter tree planting season and you can find out more here.

Friday, 24 November 2017

Wintry clouds

I joined Crafty Green Boyfriend up Corstorphine Hill again for a lunchtime walk today! The low clouds over the Pentland Hills were very impressive

and this skeleton tree looks beautiful against the cloudy sky

There were lots of bullfinches and chaffinches flying around this part of the hill, the male bullfinches' breasts shining beautifully pink in the low sunlight. They didn't want to stop for photos though!

The falling leaves are rotting down now but are still beautiful

and the hairy stereum fungus is looking at its best!

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Changeable Weather

The light was lovely looking over to Arthur's Seat from Musselburgh today

but the flooded paths were evidence of recent rain

and during my walk the weather changed almost by the minute!

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

What is Left

This room was once alive
with colour and chatter.

Now bare, it is silent -
the sea licks at piles of bags
packed with our lives.

We will carry these things
to the bay tomorrow
where the boats will wait.

The furniture will stay -
stuffed with our memories
to become reefs

where fish will gather -
moving their silent mouths

Previously published on The Bijou Poetry Review

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Down to the River and Up to the Trees by Sue Belfrage

 Down to the River and Up to the Trees by Sue Belfrage

Down to the River and Up to the Trees, written and illustrated by Sue Belfrage, will inspire you to get outdoors more and be more creative once you're there! It's divided into sections dealing with different aspects of the outdoors (such as Earth, Sky, Water) and each section is packed full of ideas for activities including recipes for using foraged ingredients (including elderfower cordial and hedgerow jam), creating rainbows, dissecting owl pellets and taking photos.

It's a book to dip into whenever you want, and the ideas are accessible for people of all ages. It includes pages to make your own notes or drawings. It's a great way to encourage people out into nature who normally don't go outdoors much or to use with children to inspire them to be more observant of nature and more creative in their responses to the outdoors. If you already spend a lot of time outdoors, the activities offer a number of new ways of speding your outdoor time!

 ** A Winner of the Woodland Books of the Year Award **

Down to the River and Up to the Trees by Sue Belfrage published by Harper Collins (2017) and printed on paper from FSC certified sustainable sources.

Monday, 20 November 2017

autumn haiku

urban park—
plastic bags among
the autumn leaves 


previously published in Sketchbook

Sunday, 19 November 2017

A Christmas Tree in Waiting

Every year for the past several years we have had a living Christmas tree in a pot, taken from Crafty Green Boyfriend's mother's garden and  returned there after the festive season. Today we chose this year's tree, though it will be a while before we collect it and bring it home.

It was a lovely day for a wander round the garden. The apple tree is as ever laden with fruit

and the maple looks stunning in its autumn colours

and its leaves make a beautiful carpet when they fall