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

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Birds Drinking from a Puddle

Yesterday I wasn't able to join Crafty Green Boyfriend for his walk round Corstorphine Hill but I was very impressed by these photos he took of some birds drinking from a puddle. (Click on the photos to enlarge them)

long tailed tit and blue tit

 blue tit having a really good wash

long tailed tit arrives to watch blue tit bathing 

long tailed tits all in a row

long tailed tits in conversation 

a goldcrest


Friday, 17 November 2017

Witches Brooms

A little late for Hallowe'en I know, but I was impressed by the witches' brooms growing in this birch tree in Silverknowes. Now the leaves have mostly fallen the brooms are more noticeable than they usually are.

The witches broom is a growth caused by pests  or disease, for example wasps, viruses or fungi. Although they occur in a number of different species of tree, in this country at least they are most obvious in birch trees.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Olive Tree

Dark comfort of the olive grove
protects earth from storm and drought,
offers sanctuary.

Dark fruit, plump with food and oil,
creates a whole cuisine,
supports villages.

Dark branches laden with symbolism
represent the unattainable.


Another poem reposted from back in 2006! 

I also recently reposted an old poem over on my Shapeshifting Green blog, you can read it here

I've recently had a couple of poems published in online journals, you can read them by following the links below: 

Raspberry Picking on Misty Mountain Review

Rogue on Quatrain Fish.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Peregrine at Musselburgh Lagoons

The autumn colours are still beautiful along the wooded paths leading to Musselburgh Lagoons. This tranquil scene though hides a much more frenetic world on the Lagoons themselves!

The oystercatchers had gathered in their hundreds in a large crowd on the lagoons, along with a few curlews. They were hopping around unconcernedly as a peregrine circled overhead, divebombing the oystercatchers then flying up again to repeat the whole process. I think the apparent lack of concern from the oystercatchers' point of view was due to them knowing that if they flew off  then the peregrine would have a better chance of catching one of them - though an adult oystercatcher seems a rather large meal for a peregrine (can anyone comment on that?). After several minutes the peregrine flew off without a meal.

Later as I was walking along the River Esk returning to Musselburgh town, I saw a kingfisher flash blue under the bridge.

Then I managed to catch this cute goose, a cross between a Canada goose and a greylag (in the second photo you can see a Canada goose to the right of the photo). You often see these hybrid geese at Musselburgh.

Monday, 13 November 2017

Leaf Islands and Mysterious Balancing Stones

One of the things I love about autumn are the leaf islands that form in the mill lade next to the Water of Leith in Colinton Dell

The leaves float downstream until they collide with the stones on the bed of the lade and arrange themselves like this.

Meanwhile on the river itself the mysterious rock balancer has been at work again (click on the image to get a better view)

The autumn colours are still beautiful, here's just a selection

But some trees are already almost entirely bare

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Wojtek the Bear - Polish War Hero

Wojtek was a bear, rescued as a cub, from a cruel fate as a dancing bear in Iran by Polish soldiers who then kept him as a mascot, friend and helper.

This memorial statue, by Alan Beattie Herriot, recently placed in Edinburgh's Princes Street Gardens is a wonderful tribute to a brave and characterful bear (though I do find it astonishing that Edinburgh has far more statues to animals than it does to women).

Seeing the statue made me want to find out more about Wojtek and so I was delighted to discover Wojtek the Bear, Polish War Hero a book by Aileen Orr. This entertaining, informative and moving book follows Wojtek from his initial rescue in Iran, through his life in the Polish army during the 2nd World War and in a camp in the Scottish Borders to his last years in Edinburgh Zoo (where one of his keepers was Crafty Green Boyfriend's Dad!) Wojtek truly was a hero, he helped carry supplies, caught a spy and was a huge morale boost for the troops. He loved swimming, making friends, dancing at local dances in the Scottish Borders and eating. He drank beer and smoked cigarettes.

As well as telling Wojtek's story, the book outlines Polish history during the war and immediately  afterwards, the terrible suffering of Poland during the war at the hands of both the Germans and the Russians. The book concludes by telling the story of the author's campaign to get the statue to Wojtek erected in Edinburgh.

Wojtek the Bear, Polish War Hero by Aileen Orr, published by Birlinn Books

Saturday, 11 November 2017

November Sunshine

A lovely late autumn day today! We started at the exhibition for the proposed housing development on Cammo Fields held at Cramond Kirk, where we posted our comments of don't build on these fields as they are valuable habitat for various farmland birds that City of Edinburgh Council commits to protecting in the local biodiversity action plan.  You can read my previous blog posts about this proposed housing development here).

Then we went into Cramond village for coffee and cake outside overlooking the River Almond

We were delighted to see a flock of about 50 lapwings flying around above the river!

We then walked past Cramond Island 

and along the River Forth to Silverknowes. It's always worth stopping to admire the fish sculpture by Ronald Rae.

The wildflower meadows are still looking lovely

and the wild rosehips are decaying beautifully

Someone had laid out this row of shells

We finished our walk up the road between the sheep pasture 

and the golf course, where the trees were full of birds.

Though the birds (starlings, bullfinches, goldfinches, fieldfares and redwings) didn't want to be photographed!

Friday, 10 November 2017

Mythologies of the Moon

New moon she is virgin.
Full moon she is mother.
Waning she is wise,
healer and transformer.

She rides a white chariot to watch
the tides of sea and woman.
Her wheel takes souls to death
and possible rebirth.

She hunts me and she haunts me
while, sprinkled with her dust,
I am a satellite, enslaved
to orbit her.

I let my eyebrows grow and howl,
dress in white as she wanes,
red when she is full
and my tides run blood.

As an owl she reads my soul,
stretches out soft wings of healing,
gives insight into previous lives
and solace for the present.

New moon she is virgin.
Full moon she is mother.
Waning she is wise, 

healer and transformer.


(Reposting from back in 2006, also previously published in both Curlew and Moonstone poetry magazines)

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

The Great Animal Orchestra by Bernie Krause


 This wide ranging book takes as its starting point the soundscapes of wilderness areas (of which there are a diminishing number as the human population increases, encroaching onto previously pristine habitats.)

From there, Bernie Krause, former musician and sound recordist examines natural sounds and how humans have intereacted with them, from devising our first music inspired by the natural sounds around us to our impact on nature, both through destroying habitats to the huge impact of human generated noise on the world.

It turns out that even an environment that looks to the eye to be healthy can reveal itself, through analysis of recordings of its soundscapes, to be much less complete that it seems. Krause gives many examples of specific habitats that he has studied and found to be diminished. He also examines the impact of human noise - by for example demonstrating how a jet flying over an area can disrupt the natural soundscape.

Soundscape is the sum of all the sounds made by all the animals and other natural features in an area, including bird songs and calls, wind and rain, to mention just a few. Most sound recordists focus on recording individual species and the study of intact soundscapes is under resourced. Similarly where  modern music takes inspiration from nature it tends to be by using the sounds of one bird or other natural sound and the whole of nature's soundscape is generally ignored.

This is a fascinating book, full of intriguing facts though very sobering in its assessment of our impact on the natural world. It ends with a plea to be quiet and respectful of the natural world.

The Great Animal Orchestra by Bernie Krause published by Profile Books (2013)

Monday, 6 November 2017

Dean Gardens

Dean Gardens is one of the private parks in Edinburgh, set aside for use by people in nearby streets who do not have their own gardens. Today I was able to visit it with one of my birdwatching groups, as a member of the group is also a member of Dean Gardens! It's a lovely place, covering seven acres of the banks of the Water of Leith and offering a number of pretty paths, stunning views and lovely autumn colours.

one of the paths 

a view over the weir at Dean Village 

the back view of Hygeia (the goddess of health and hygiene) in St Bernard's Well

some of the flats overlooking the gardens