Thursday, 21 September 2017

Beach Lovers Come Forth!

This afternoon, after a writing class at the Ripple Project, a couple of us went along to Bijou Bistro, a local cafe to take part in an Edinburgh Shoreline community interview, run by Streamline Research. We were given free tea and coffee and scones with locally made jam and asked lots of questions about our hopes and visions for the future of the Edinburgh shoreline from South Queensferry to Portobello. We talked about our hopes for nature conservation, renewable energy, natural flood defences and a future free from heavy industry and fossil fuel extraction. We also talked about the potential of the shore and the communities along its length to be places for recreation, entertainment and community cohesiveness. It was a very interesting interview (and the refreshments were great too!).

Streamline are looking for more people to take part, so if you live or work in the coastal communities of Edinburgh (South Queensferry, Dalmeny, Cramond, Silverknowes, Granton, Newhaven, Leith, Craigentinny or Portobello) and are interested in the future of the shore, then contact them to find out more!

Update on the Swift Survey


As some of you may remember I took part in this year's swift survey, carried out in Edinburgh by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). These lovely birds have been declining drastically over the last few years and the survey is part of a programme to determine how we can help swifts recover in Edinburgh. You can read my earlier posts about the survey here, here and here.

Last night, the RSPB held a follow up event, where they shared some of the results from the survey and laid out plans for what might happen next. Not everyone who signed up for the survey has yet returned their results so the discussions were based on incomplete data. Twenty seven screaming parties of swifts were seen across Edinburgh (screaming parties are groups of swifts that gather together to fly low over the roofs, usually near their nest sites and are a good indication of breeding colonies.)

Nine nest sites were identified in total (including one that Crafty Green Boyfriend and I found very close to our own flat!). This may not sound like many, but swifts prefer to live in the backgreens behind buildings and so often their nests are only seen by the people who live round that backgreen, as you can only generally access the backgreens through the buildings. We were actually delighted to indentify our nest site, as we had always thought that all our local swifts nested in the backgreen across the road (apart from one pair that nested in our own backgreen).

In the future, the RSPB will carry out more detailed surveys of the areas where they now know that swifts currently nest. They will also work with the local council to ensure as many swift bricks (nest boxes that can be built into a building during construction) are fitted to new build homes and offices. They also hope that Edinburgh can become a future swift city (following on from the model of Oxford).

It was great to catch up on the progress of the project and it was also a very sociable evening and a chance to chat about my favourite bird with other people who share my interest!

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Sea Pottery Jewellery in the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop

I've been recently going through my collection of sea pottery and choosing pieces to make brooches! The back of the pottery shard needs to be flat enough and big enough to be able to fit a metal brooch clasp on it, but other than that I'm looking for nice, striking looking shards. These are some of the brooches I've made recently

I've added them to the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop where they sit alongside my sea pottery rings in a new Sea Pottery Jewellery section of the shop!

As ever, red text contains hyperlinks that take you to new web pages where you can find out more.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

White Rhino, Matobo

to deter poachers
it was magnificent

as odd and ancient
as the primeval rocks
of the Matobo.

Wide mouthed and grey white
it watched us
as we watched it

through lenses
taking photos that fade
with the years

as the rhinos
become memories.

First posted for World Rhino Day 2012. World Rhino Day happens every year on 22 September.   

You can read about the work of the World Wildlife Fund to help rhinos here

* rhinos have sometimes had their horns surgically removed to deter poachers. However, this is a stressful operation for the rhinos and not necessarily effective as poachers will kill rhinos for very small amounts of horn, particularly as the animals become rarer and rarer.  

As ever, red text contains hyper-links that take you to other websites where you can find out more.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Hiding Snails and Oak Galls

It was a bank holiday here today so Crafty Green Boyfriend joined me for my walk along the Water of Leith in Colinton andCraiglockart Dells. It wasa lovely autumnal morning, with the leaves starting to turn

 We were fascinated by the oak trees, some of which had oak apples (a type of gall caused by a parasite)

and some had this different type of gall

and this tree also had leaf scale insects on the underside of the leaves, it looks like quite a bad infestation

Meanwhile, we noticed lots of snails hiding away, in bindweed flowers 

and under raspberry leaves

and there were quite a few hoverflies around, including this footballer hoverfly (also known as a sun fly)

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Acorns and a lovely surprise on Corstorphine HIll

As I often do on a Friday, I joined Crafty Green Boyfriend for a wander round Corstorphine Hill yesterday lunchtime.

The acorns are looking lovely on the oak trees just now

but the most wonderful thing was to see two spotted flycatchers! These birds are really declining in the UK and are very rarely seen in Edinburgh. We knew that they had been seen on Corstorphine Hill in the past, but didn't think they were still around. We don't know whether these birds had been on the hill all summer and we'd just missed them (but their behaviour is so distinctive that it seems unlikely that we would overlook them all summer) or whether they were just passing through on their migration to warmer climates. It was lovely to see them flying from their perches and back again, though like Thursday's bats they were too speedy and slightly too far away to get photos of them. There were lots of other birds around too, but the spotted flycatchers were definitely the stars of the show!

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

Friday, 15 September 2017

Bats in the Park

Yesterday evening, Crafty Green Boyfriend, his brother and their mother joined over 100 other people in Harrison Park for a bat walk! Luckily the weather was lovely, a warm evening with not too much wind.

Organised by Edinburgh and Lothians Greenspace Trust, the evening started with a talk about bats from Graeme Wilson from The Wildlife Information Centre. As dusk deepened, the bat detectors were handed out and we wandered round the park to find bats!

There were actually quite a few bats around, mostly soprano pipistrelles, but they were impossible to catch on camera as they're so small and move so fast!

So we quickly gave up on the photos and just enjoyed watching the bats flying round between  the trees and listening to them via the bat detectors. A bat detector makes bats' high pitched echolocation calls audible to humans - and because different bat species hunt different prey and are different sizes, they make different calls which can help identify them.

It was great to see so many children enjoying the event, some of them had dressed up as batman or batwoman or were wearing bat masks. Some of them also knew quite a lot about bats, as they demonstrated during Graeme's interactive talk!

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

The Great British Beach Clean

Marine wildlife is under threat from the waste and litter that finds its way into our seas - every year hundreds of birds, turtles and marine mammals accidentally eat or become entangled in litter. This article from Oceana  describes how baby albatrosses suffer from a diet of plastic trash while this article from the BBC offers an overview of the plastic pollution issue.This video from ITV Anglia gives a sobering idea of the amount of plastic that finds its way into the oceans.

We can all play a part in turning the tide on marine litter!

Every year, the Marine Conservation Society organises the Great British Beach Clean. This year it takes part between the 15 - 18 September. You can find out more here and find your local event here.

This year, for the first time, many of the plastics collected at clean up events will be sorted and recycled, giving them a second life as new products. Rigid plastic and cigarette stubs that are collected will be made into shampoo bottles and advertising boards with TerraCycle.

It's also important to avoid waste and litter reaching the sea in the first place! Don't flush anything other than human waste and toilet paper down the drains! In Edinburgh, you can (as I do)  volunteer with the Water of Leith Conservation Trust to (among other things) collect litter from the river and walkway to prevent it reaching the sea.

As ever, text in red contains hyperlinks to other pages where you can find out more. 

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

An Autumn of Butterflies!

Butterfly Conservation have been saying for weeks that we might be in for a great autumn for butterflies, following a mediocre summer (though when we were in Dumfries and Galloway recently we saw more butterflies than we've ever seen anywhere ever, see for example this post).

Earlier this month, Butterfly Conservation said, and I quote from this article: 'We may be poised for an impressive autumnal emergence of species such as Comma, Red Admiral and Speckled Wood in the coming weeks'. 

Well yesterday I was lucky to get very close views of a red admiral in Spylaw Park and today it was the turn of the speckled woods. There were at least four of these lovely butterflies flying around the trees alongside Musselburgh Lagoons, though there may have been six altogether, chasing each other. Only two agreed to be photographed

So all I need now are the commas, which have been remarkably elusive all this year, despite moving into Scotland from further south over the past few years.

Monday, 11 September 2017

Red Admirals, Earth Stars and a Wood Mouse too shy to be photographed

Knowing how terrible the weather is in some places at the moment, I was particularly keen to make the most of today's glorious weather here in Edinburgh. I made my weekly patrol of the Dells along the Water of Leith today.

A beautiful moon hung in the wonderful blue sky

nearby a grey heron was resting in a tree (I know herons nest in trees, but they always look somehow wrong standing in among the branches like this...)

There were earth stars everywhere - these lovely looking fungi seem to be spreading across Edinburgh

Also spiders webs everywhere, this conifer bush in Colinton Village particularly caught my eye

while the wildflower meadow in Spylaw Park still looks stunning in the sunshine

and is still attracting reasonable numbers of bees and hoverflies and this lovely red admiral which was happy to pose for photos

I also saw a tiny wood mouse, that ran under a plant and stayed there shivering, it looked a little ill and I didn't want to disturb it by taking a photo.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Late Summer in the Park

Yesterday we visited Figgate Park, which is well known for its wildflower meadows and views of Arthur's Seat

and it's pond, which used to be a great place to see unusual ducks - including shoveler and gadwall (see this post) and a mandarin (see this post). Yesterday the pond was almost empty apart from these mallards

and moorhens, including this youngster, which was making a lot of noise

Though we did for the first time ever in the park, see a dragonfly!

There were plenty of birds in the trees, including this pair of stock doves, which looked to be nest building - taking sticks into this hole in the tree (some species of pigeons and doves can nest at any time of year). Sorry the light isn't very good in the photo, but you can click on it for a better view

The pollinators were enjoying the late summer flowers and the sunshine, like this footballer hoverfly (Helophilus sp)

this Syrphus sp hoverfly

and this common carder bee

and this speckled wood butterfly (iy may be tricky to spot, but you can click on the photo for a closer view)

The wildflowers are at their best just now, so it's a great time to visit

and the rowan berries are ripening beautifully, promising a wonderful autumn for the birds that like to eat them

Friday, 8 September 2017

What I avoid - Poetry Thursday

I was browsing through some old blog posts and this one made me smile! I originally posted it back in 2006 for Poetry Thursday, a now defunct blog network that was very useful to me in my early blogging days!  


Poetry Thursday this week asks us to think about what we avoid - both poetically and in more general terms. I have to say that there isn't a type of poetry that I would entirely avoid, without first finding out that I don't like that writer or style. I prefer to read French, German or Italian poetry in the original language and avoid reading it in translation (but that's not avoiding the poetry!) . I also avoid writing in certain forms, for example I have never written a villanelle or a sestina, though I know they can be effective in expressing some types of emotion and would consider writing one in the future if I felt the need. The poem below is a combination of a form of poetry that i dislike (though don't actually avoid) and a few of the things I avoid in life:

Things I Avoid
dogs with snaggly teeth and glowing red coals for eyes
political marches hijacked by extremists
mainstream films and bestseller books
the sleeplessness of real coffee after midday
flying when I could take the train or boat
throwing out what could be recycled
working too hard
pounding techno music and military marches
Talk Radio and banal tv
soulless shopping malls
stilettos and make up
products from multinational conglomerates
statements lazily drawn together in a so called ‘list poem’

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Celebrate Street Trees!

rowan trees in berry, Gardner's Crescent, Edinburgh


Trees are vital in towns and cities. They offer welcome shade in hot weather and can help reduce the impact of flooding, especially if surrounded by bare soil or grass rather than concrete. Apparently for example, London's trees catch enough water on their leaves to fill 1365 Olympic Swimming Pools, stopping that water from causing flooding on hard roads and pavements. This article from Anthropocene, evaluates the benefits of megacity trees, while this article from  the Nature Conservancy talks about the role trees can play in reducing environmental injustice

However, not all towns and cities value their street trees! Sheffield, in Yorkshire, England, is often considered to be a green city (and in many ways is) but has blotted its copybook recently by it's ill advised street maintenance contract, which has seen many of its street trees destroyed or threatened with destruction - including an ancient elm tree that is home to a rare butterfly! You can read the Woodland Trust's latest article about the situation in Sheffield here.

The Trust are aware of the great value of street trees in all our built up areas and they are encouraging people to join their Celebration of Street Trees!

They have developed a Street Trees Celebration Starter Kit to help you build community relations and celebrate your local trees. In November 2017, they want everyone to show how much they care for their local trees and take part in a tree dressing day as part of National Tree Week. They will then hold an awards ceremony to highlight the biggest and best events. The more people you can get together and the more events and celebrations you can run, the greater chance there is that your street will be chosen for an award.

The Woodland Trust have also recently been involved in a consultation on trees and road building, which you can read about here.

woman and child statue with street trees, Festival Square, Edinburgh. You can read more about this statue here.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

An English Guide to Birdwatching by Nicholas Royle

Anyone expecting a guide of any sort to birdwatching is going to be disappointed or at least discombobulated by this book. It's a novel, though a strange novel, that at one point breaks down into a series of meditations on different types of bird hides.

Nicholas Royle is not only the name of the author but of two of the major characters in the novel, characters who of course get confused with each other throughout the course of events. The story revolves around a short story on the subject of Gulls, purported to be written by one of the Nicholas Royle characters and published in an anthology edited by the other Nicholas Royle character. In real life this is a story written by Nicholas Royle the author of this novel and published in an anthology edited by another Nicholas Royle, though in the novel it is claimed that it's been stolen from Silas Woodlock, who has retired to the seaside and taken up creative writing as a hobby and who is plagued by the local gulls.

Many well known people turn up briefly or are name checked in the story, which makes for an added sense of believability but may well make the book date faster than it otherwise would (who are all these people? we may well be asking ourselves in a few years time).

This is a confusing, hilarious and insightful book. It centres on birdwatching, the human relationship with birds and mistaken identities. It also addresses issues including immigration, extinctions and climate change while indulging in a bewildering array of wordplay, which is sometimes exhilirating and sometimes irritating. It's the kind of book you either can't put down or end up throwing across the room in exasperation!

An English Guide to Birdwatching by Nicholas Royle, published by Myriad (2017).

The two Nicholas Royles are often confused with each other (see this article) and in fact I proved the point myself when I tweeted the wrong Nicholas Royle in my tweeted link to this review!

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Too Early to think about Christmas but...

In past years the Christmas tree decorations I've made from upcycled odd earrings have proven popuar in the Crafty Green Poet Etsy store. So I've added two new sets this year.

These gold decorations can be found in the Crafty Green Poet shop here.

 And these red ones can be found here.

Monday, 4 September 2017

First Signs of Autumn

It was dull and misty this morning, though also warm and humid. There are definitely signs of autumn around, whether you believe autumn starts on 1 September or at the autumn equinox or on whatever date that autumn wants to start. There are already some beautiful fallen leaves in Colinton Dell

though most of the leaves are still on the trees and only just starting to turn.

I was delighted to see a couple of groups of earth star fungi, they're very impressive fungi to find. These are in Spylaw Park by the banks of the Water of Leith.

I don't know what this fungus below is, there were several of them but they were very tricky to photograph - if you have any ideas on what it might be, please let me know in the comments!

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Late Summer, River Almond

Yesterday was a lovely late summer day and we walked along the River Almond from Cramond Brig up to Edinburgh airport. It's a lovely walk, though you do need to be prepared for sudden loud noises from relatively low flying aircraft. The river is very picturesque

and much of the walk is along a wooded walkway that runs alongside agricultural land

Many flowering plants are seeing now, like this rosebay willowherb

We had a picnic lunch near our traditional picnic tree

and as we often do, we saw a kingfisher not far from here.

On the way back we decided to take the lower path, which has lovely river views

but is very overgrown and in parts almost blocked by fallen trees! This made the walk more of an adventure than normal!

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Fishing masterclass from a grey heron

More from our staycation! Yesterday in Inverleith Park we stood and watched this grey heron as it gave a masterclass in fishing, just in front of us!

It caught quite a few small fish!