Tuesday, 22 May 2018


Seven years old, in my jigsaw world map
I saw the west coast of Africa
fit neatly beside Brazil
despite the expanse of ocean
that correctly came between
in broken blue.

Years later in a college lecture room
I discovered continental drift,
plate tectonics, theories of biogeography
and instantly understood.

Now, sifting through photographs
I see your distant face:
Africa to my Brazil. 

First published in my pamphlet Unthinkable Skies and originally posted on this blog in 2006.

Meanwhile you can read my poem Beach Hut over on my Shapeshifting Green Blog here

Monday, 21 May 2018

Insects and Ducklings enjoying the Sunshine

It's a beautiful day today and I took a walk along the John Muir Walkway at Musselburgh. Birdwatching is the usual draw to the area, but today the insects were well worth paying attention to.

With my increasing interest in lichens, I was fascinated by this tree, but what really stands out are the two spot ladybirds hiding in amongst the lichens

When I got to the Boating Pond, I was delighted to see about 6 common blue damselflies, though only one stopped for a photo

Meanwhile the eider ducks have got ducklings

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Dalkeith Country Park

Beautiful sunshine today for our walk in Dalkeith Country Park. We visit at this time of year, every year as the bluebells are so lovely

The wild garlic was also beautifully in bloom

and the dandelions are seeding

The park is a Site of Special Scientific Interest for it's lichens, including these

The ancient oak trees are always a highlight of the visit, whatever the time of year

We saw several speckled wood butterflies but only this one allowed us to get close enough to take a photo

We also saw a few solitary bees and their little holes

This larger hole belongs to a bunny

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Granton Hub Community Garden

Yesterday, as part of my new job with Granton Goes Greener, I visited Granton Hub, a volunteer run community project with a real environmental ethos!

There is a wonderful garden space  behind the building, with space to grow vegetables and woven willow shelters

  and a wildflower nursery.

The Hub sells wildflowers and has supplied Butterfly Conservation and others with plants for their projects.

Edinburgh Scrap Store is also based here, though it was shut when I was there

Granton Hub is based in the original office building of the Maldevic Motor Carriage Company which in 1899 was manufacturing electric cars!

This aspect of the history of the site is reflected in the occasional events held at the Hub that focus on the history of cars and alternative transport. The car factory itself is now derelict (the building can be seen in the background in the photo below).

The Granton Hub Garden is one of three Granton community gardening projects that are involved in the Power of Food  Festival, which is happening across Edinburgh on 16 and 17 June. The other local gardens taking part are Granton Community Gardeners and Granton Castle Garden. The Hub Garden will be making an Iron Age Boat as part of the power of Food Festival, the boat will be built in this space

and then launched into the nearby Firth of Forth. Once the boat has been built, the area will probably be turned into a wildlife area. As I stood there, several goldfinches were flying around and white butterflies too.

The garden is already very set up for wildlife, I really like the way that the ant hill has been marked out to protect the ants and their home.

A slightly different version of this blog post will appear on the Granton Goes Greener blog tomorrow.

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Fighting Food Waste - One Garlic Bulb at a Time

I hate wasting food and particularly now as part of my job at Granton Goes Greener is to help redistribute useable unsold food from bakers to the local community.

I was annoyed to say the least when I discovered that our garlic looked like this

I did some online research and it seems as though it's the wrong time of year to plant garlic and also it seems as though it's not a crop that will grow well on a window-ledge. However, given that in the past we've very successfully grown tomatoes on our window-ledge (see for example here), I'm going to try growing garlic.

I've separated the sprouting cloves and planted them into two pots and we'll see what happens. If it's successful I'll blog about it again!

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

King Crow by Michael Stewart

 The cover of 'King Crow' by Michael Stewart.

Paul is an outsider, obsessed with birds. He watches birds all the time and constantly compares birds to humans and vice versa:

'People often overlook the starling. I  think that's a shame. Just because they're common, doesn't mean they aren't fascinating. What I like more than anything else is their sociability. This can often be mistaken for aggression, but I reckon one goes with the other - you see people piling out of the Brown Cow on Friday evenings and you'll know what I mean.' 

Ashley is everything that Paul isn't, tough and good looking, and inexplicably happy to make friends with Paul. When the two get into trouble, they leave home in Salford and head off to the hills of the Lake District. Paul wants to find ravens, Ashley wants to disappear.

Along the way they meet Becky and the three explore the Lakes together, though definitely not taking the tourist route.

There are many reasons why I love this book - the setting (Salford being close to where I grew up and the Lake District being a favourite place), the writing (Stewart creates a very convincing voice for Paul), and of course the birds. I also really enjoyed Paul's journey to self discovery.

This is Michael Stewart's debut novel. 

King Crow by Michael Stewart published (2011) by Blue Moose Books

If you like quirky novels about birdwatchers, you might also like Pelican Blood by Chris Freddi, which I reviewed here).or An English Guide to Birdwatching by Nicholas Royle, which I review here).

Monday, 14 May 2018

It almost feels like Summer

The weather is beautiful today! A lovely day for a patrol of Colinton and Craiglockart Dells alongside the Water of Leith.

The wild garlic is blooming now and smells and looks wonderful

The horse chestnut trees are also fully in bloom now and looking beautiful

and the larch flowers continue their slow and steady development towards becoming cones

Later in the morning I saw lots of orange tip butterflies, though none stopped for long enough for me to photograph them.

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Frogs, Hoverflies and a baby robin

We spent a lovely afternoon in Crafty Green Boyfriend's mother's garden.

This beautiful young robin was happily wandering round the apple tree

Meanwhile there were lots of frogs in the pond just by the side of the apple tree and sunbathing round the pond too

and the whole garden is full of hoverflies including this beautiful Epistrophe elegans

and this Platycheirus peltatus (?)

The rhododendrons all look lovely too

Saturday, 12 May 2018

The Return of the Swifts


The swifts have returned to Edinburgh! 
As many readers of this blog know, the swift is my favourite bird. It arrives in the UK in May and has left by the end of August. It spends almost all its life on the wing, only landing to build its nest and lay its eggs. The skies outside our flat are full of swifts at this time of the year, they are wonderfully acrobatic. There are at least ten of them most years. But how long will this last? Swifts are in trouble in the UK. 

You can help them by fitting a swift nest box. Swift Conservation can help you with fitting and maintaining a nestbox, you can find their local experts here.

BBC Wildlife Magazine has some tips on helping swifts here.

Concern for Swifts Scotland aims to have swift nest site conservation incorporated into building specifications and to support the inclusion of the swift in Local Biodiversity Action Plans. 
I'm taking part in the Edinburgh Swift survey again this year and will post updates here! 

Thursday, 10 May 2018

The Meadows are a Mass of Blossoms

Edinburgh's Meadows are at their most beautiful at the moment, a mass of blossom, mostly pink ornamental cherry but also white ornamental cherry and two shades of crab apples! Here's just some of the photos I took today