Thursday, 17 August 2017

The Importance of Naming

It's wonderful to go out and enjoy nature at all times, whether or not you know the names of the species you're looking at. But it's also important to learn the names, partly because that means you can help conservationists know how widespread a species is and so inform conservation action but also because it helps you to learn more about nature. One of the things that I love about nature in fact is that there is always something new to find out. I first became interested in hoverflies, for instance, a few years ago, when I happened to notice and photograph a species I'd never noticed before. Soon after that I began to notice the diversity of hoverflies around Edinburgh and joined the UK Hoverfly Facebook Group, which if you're interested in hoverflies is well worth joining if you're on Facebook.

There are around 250 species of hoverfly in the UK, which certainly gives you something new to learn every day through the warmer months!

Today I found this hoverfly along the John Muir Walkway near Musselburgh

which, according to the UK Hoverfly Facebook group is Dasysyrphus albostriatus, which according to the UK map on this page, has rarely been recorded in Scotland and never in East Lothian. It is likely that this is due to the species being under-recorded, rather than actually being rare. There are relatively few hoverfly recorders in Scotland, so if you're in the country and interested in hoverflies this is something you might like to take on!

***

There's a great article here: Why I Obsess about the Names of Plants and Animals, well worth a read.


Wednesday, 16 August 2017

New Curtain tie backs

Curtain tie backs sell consistently well in the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop. They're also fun to make but require the right type of 'thing' to go on the end to allow them to fit onto the side of the window. So I don't make them as often as I would like to.

I made two tie backs to this design recently, using beads from old jewellery that needed to be restrung.

These are now in the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop here.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

After the Rain

It rained a lot last night though today has been mostly beautifully sunny. The Water of Leith is very high after all the rain, particularly noticeably so at the weir above Kate's Mill


The fungi also love the wet weather, these puff balls are emerging for a second year


and this hairy stereum seems to be totally taking over the tree it's growing on





Monday, 14 August 2017

Gossip from the Forest by Sara Maitland

Subtitled 'The Tangled Roots of Our Forests and Fairytales' this is a mix of reports of walks in forests and woodlands around the UK alongside retellings of fairytales with their sources in woodlands.

This book appeals to me not only because I love forests, but also because several of the forests featured here (Airyolland Wood, The Purgatory Wood, Glenlee and Knockman Wood) are to be found in Dumfries and Galloway, where Maitland lives and which is co-incidentally one of my favourite holiday destinations!

Maitland has a keen interest in not only the natural history of the forests, but also their cultural history, the way that humans have shaped the woods and vice versa and the way that stories have grown out of these same woods. She contemplates how different types of stories arise from different types of woodlands and the connections between stories and forests and critiques our current cultural relationship with wild places:

'Stories and woodland are alike in a particular way - they are specific.... Stories and woods are actual not abstract.... To know about woods you have to go into woods. So if we want healthy children in healthy forests we need to get the children out into the forests, and to do that we need to see the forests as friendly, generous places.....'

The retellings of the fairytales are engaging and refreshingly new, making this a real treasure trove of a book for anyone interested in how our landscape and culture interact.

Gossip from the Forest by Sara Maitland published by Granta Books and printed on paper 'from responsible sources'


Sunday, 13 August 2017

Incident at Loch Ness

In 2004, Incident of Loch Ness was one of our favourite films to be screened at the Edinburgh International Film Festival. As it featured the great German director Werner Herzog and one of Scotland's enduring favourite creatures, the Loch Ness Monster, we thought it would return to our screens quite soon after getting it's premier at the festival. We only had to wait 13 years.....


Directed by Zak Penn, this purports to be a documentary of the making of Werner Herzog's documentary 'The Enigma of Loch Ness'. We are given access to production meetings and one to one discussions about how the film is going to be made and the increasing tension between the crew members. It becomes more and more obvious that something is not quite right, from the miniature Loch Ness monster that keeps appearing to the lack of credibility of the scientific and technical members of the crew.

Herzog becomes more and more disillusioned with the whole project and things take a decidedly dangerous turn.....

So does the Loch Ness Monster exist or is it just a figment of our collective need to believe in the unseen and unknowable? Is the film a hoax? Was Herzog ever intending to make a film called 'The Eniglma of Loch Ness'? Are any of the crew members who they say they are? Are the stories about Herzog as a director true or just myths?

This era of fake news in in fact the ideal time to see again this brilliant film about the nature of truth, the distinction between truth and facts and the difference between lies for the sake of art and downright lies. I just hope we don't need to wait another 13 years before it next hits the big screen!

Incident at Loch Ness screened as part of Edinburgh Filmhouse's current Herzog of the Month series.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Dean Village (Water of Leith)

We enjoyed a walk along the Water of Leith today from Roseburn to Stockbridge, via Dean Village. (Along this part of the walkway there is a diversion, due to a dangerous landslide that's waiting to happen. It could happen at any time, so it is best to follow the diversion, though not everyone does).

We stopped here, opposite the picturesque Well Court (built in the 1880's by a newspaper magnate as housing for his workers)

We watched a lovely grey wagtail (probably not visible in the photo, even if you do click for a larger view!). It was flying repeatedly from a large stick in the river, catching insects.

We had earlier stopped to look at the progress of the wildflower meadow near the Gallery of Modern Art

It's full of a variety of wildflowers and the bees and hoverflies love it, though there weren't as many as there would have been on a sunnier day.

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



Friday, 11 August 2017

sharing the pavement with red legged shield bugs

After today's lunchtime walk round Corstorphine Hill, Crafty Green Boyfriend and I noticed there were a few red legged shield bugs on the pavement of the busy Corstorphine Road. These two were so oblivious to the traffic that they were busily working on the next generation of shield bugs!

They must have been blown down from the overhanging trees by the wind, which was pretty strong. Unfortunately there was no easy way of moving them to safety!

These red legged shield bugs are woodland insects and rarely to be found on pavements....

Thursday, 10 August 2017

haiku

sunset -
swifts gather to feast
on flying ants

**

(Arthur's Seat last night. The swifts will leave for Africa very soon).


Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Windowsill tomatoes

Most years we grow tomatoes on some of our windowsills. We've also experimented with other 'crops' including herbs and small salad leaves (you can see a photo of last year's salad selection here).

The tomatoes are the most consistently successful. This year's crop are already ripening - the first photo shows how they looked a couple of weeks ago and the second photo was taken yesterday!



Monday, 7 August 2017

Dreamcatchers

Last September I started experimenting making dreamcatchers. For my first attempts, I made small dreamcatchers using bangles that came in some of the bags of broken and unsellable jewellery I often buy from second hand shops. I used lacy fabric inside the bangles as the webbing of the dreamcatchers (You can see these ones here).

This weekend though I decided to try my hand at a large dreamcatcher, using a kit I bought from a second hand shop along with some of my own extra embellishments. This is the first time I've made the webbing feature myself and I was quite pleased with how it turned out. I think I need to readjust the ribbons at the bottom though as they're a bit bulky at the top at the moment. I probably should also add some feathers, but I'm not sure how best to attach them (any tips, feel free to let me know in the comments!)

As I said in a previous post, I hope to have a giveaway of some of these dreamcatchers, so watch this space.....

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Figgate Park looking lovely today!

Figgate Park is always a lovely park for a walk, with it's lovely wildfower patches and views across to Arthur's Seat in the distance.

The pond swans seem to be doing well bringing up their cygnets this year

and many other birds were busy with their youngsters too - this is a young willow warbler, you can tell it's a willow warbler rather than a chiff chaff as it has pale legs and you can tell it's a youngster because it's more yellow than an adult would be.

The bees were enjoying the flowers as much as we were, though as the sun kep disappearing behind the clouds there weren't so many bees around as they might have been on a more consistently sunny day. This is a buff tailed (or white tailed, i can't tell the difference to be honest!) bumble bee

While the bees foraged, we took photos

As well as the beautiful flowers


there's a new area planted with vegetables in nice circular raised beds

The park looks after its wildlife too, having bird feeders and bird boxes

At this time of the year, I always like to take photos of the water lilies, some of which are beautifully on display


and some of which are hidden away


It's a beautiful place for a walk but it takes time and effort to keep it that way! The Figgate Friends Group are organising a park clean up and litter pick tomorrow (Sunday 5th August) from 9.30-11.30am. More details here.






Friday, 4 August 2017

Even the smallest insects dance!

I joined Crafty Green Boyfriend for his lunchtime stroll round Corstorphine HIll today as I often do on a Friday. We spent a few minutes staring at this rotting giant polypore fungus

It may seem like nothing much to look at, and it was a bit smelly too, but we were fascinated by the fungus gnats (you'll be able to see them if you click on the photo to enlarge it). They were dancing! Some of them (probably the males) were fluttering their wings and jumping around. It was very much like a miniature grouse lek! It's amazing what's going on all around us!

This marmalade hoverfly on the other hand wasn't dancing, but makes for a nice photo with it's pretty markings (again click on the photo for a larger, better view)

It was also nice to see the new acorns forming on the oak trees

Sometimes you can find malformed acorns or other strange growths on oak trees, these are oak galls, formed by various species of wasps. In the olden days, oak galls were harvested to make ink. The Tree Charter is looking for people to harvest oak galls (once the wasps have burrowed their way out of them!) to make ink to write the final Tree Charter. Find out more about the oak gall harvest and how to take part here.


Thursday, 3 August 2017

haiku

between showers -
the last swifts of summer
criss cross the sky

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Wasps and Water

I always have my eyes open to what I might see (and my ears open too!). It's an important habit both as a naturalist and as a writer.

Today I took a photo of this wasp (I can't identify wasps to species level except for the common wasp and this isn't a common wasp, so if anyone can offer an ID that would be great!)

 As I was taking photos I heard an eerie call from over the sea wall and then picking up my binoculars I saw five great northern divers all swimming together really close to shore! This is unusual on these coasts! (No photos, sorry!).

The water was beautiful today

and though there are none in that photo, the firth was more or less covered in eider ducks as far as the eye could see!




Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Birds at Beecraigs (and a couple of lambs)

On Sunday, we had a lovely trip to Beecraigs Country Park in West Lothian (you can read about it here). On Sunday I wrote that I hoped to share some of Crafty Green Boyfriend's photos of the birds and here they are.

This dabchick is sitting on a floating nest, there were several of these little grebes on the reservoir

and here are the goldcrest chicks being fed by one of the parents

they were left alone for only short periods between feeds

before the parent came back

We also enjoyed seeing the rare sheep breeds, this little lanbs are Hebridean sheep






Monday, 31 July 2017

From Dragonflies to Sparrowhawks

As part of my voluntary work with Water of Leith Conservation trust, I did my weekly patrol of Colinton and Craiglockart Dells along the Water of Leith this morning. Sparrowhawk chicks were fledging in or very near Spylaw Park and their calls cound be heard through the whole of the top part of the Dells! They really are raucous! I saw one of the youngsters in the top of a tree, but it was too far away to get a photo.

Meanwhile at ground level in the park the woldflower meadow is looking wonderful



There were a good number of bees and hoverflies in here too.

It was right at the other end of the Dells though where I was able to take photos of this pellucid hoverfly (Volucella pelucens)

Also around the same spot a large dragonfly kept flying past me! It didn't come close enough for me to even guess at what species it was, but it was lovely to see it buzzing around, it's a rare sight in the Dells.


Sunday, 30 July 2017

Beecraigs Country Park

Today Crafty Green Boyfriend and I joined his brother and their mother on a trip to Beecraigs Country Park in West Lothian. This was the first time we had visited this park.

It's a lovely place with a reservoir

 
plenty of woodlands

an Animal Attraction, that includes red deer, cattle and sheep



and wonderful views over to the Firth of Forth and Edinburgh (away in the distance)

There's plenty to see including damselflies that were too speedy to be captured on film and hoverflies, like this Sericomyia silentis

The reservoir was started in 1913 and despite having a sometimes difficult history supplied water to the local area until 1972, since when it has been a fishing reservoir and the centrepiece of the country park.

Several grey wagtails were flying round catching insects near this stony bank of the reservoir, it looked like there were two familes feeding their young, though the birds were too quick to be caught on camera


One of the highlights was seeing goldcrests (the smallest British bird) feeding their young! Hopefully Crafty Green Boyfriend has some photos of those on his camera and I'll be able to share those in the next few days!