Thursday, 16 August 2018

Sunshine and Rain in the Dells

The weather was very changeable today, luckily I had put a rain jacket in my rucksack!

When the sun came out it was lovely! These flowers in Spylaw Park were basking in the sunlight

and attracting lots of hoverflies like this pied hoverfly

At the other end of the Dells, this grey heron was roosting in its favourite tree

Herons somehow always look too big for the trees they sit (and nest!) in.

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Malindi Beach

Even now, my chitenje* smells of the beach,
that particular beach,
like your shirt I used to sleep with
smelt of you ten weeks after you had left.

I can still see the mountains
across the lake, blurring
into distant blue
or leaping sharply
into focus
depending on the light.

Side by side on the scented beach,
we watched the sun sink
and glow worms write
love poems in morse.

Ten years on,
memories of you are elusive
as the mountains,
indecipherable as code.

*chitenje is the cloth worn by women in Malawi

This poem was previously published in my pamphlet Bougainvillea Dancing and first appeared on this blog in 2007

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

If you like my poetry you can now buy me a virtual coffee on Ko-Fi.

Monday, 13 August 2018

The House Between Tides by Sarah Maine

 The House Between Tides

This is an impressive debut from Scottish author Sarah Maine.

In 2010 Hetty returns to her family home on a remote island of the Hebrides after her parents die. She needs to decide the future of the house but soon realises that it is not her decision alone. Her story is interwoven with that of her distant relative Beatrice, a forward thinking socialist and her husband, the renowned naturalist and painter Theodore Blake, set in the early 20th century.

The various stories of the family of the house mix in with the stories of the other islanders. There is inevitable conflict between the house owners, the local community and the wildlife of the island.The stories from the two time periods reflect each other both in terms of these conflicts and also the specific relationships between Hetty and Beatrice with the islanders.

Beatrice, with her opinionated views and disregard for convention is a much stronger character than Hetty, who is far too passive. 

The book is full of beautiful and well observed descriptions of weather, landscape and wildlife.

"They left the dunes and dropped down onto the beach, sending up a cloud of shore waders which rose only to settle again a few yards further on. And he guided her past a shallow scoop in the sand where three eggs lay camouflaged among the small stones, drawing her away as the parent bird appeared from nowhere, piping stridently, feinting an attack."

 As well as the political insights and beautiful descriptions there is a beautifully drawn love affair and a mysterious dead body. It's a book that's well worth reading though perhaps one that isn't quite sure which genre it fits into.

The House Between Tides by Sarah Main published by Freight Books (2016)

Saturday, 11 August 2018

North Berwick

To birdwatchers in Scotland, North Berwick is famous for the Bass Rock, which at this time of year is white with nesting gannets.

Gannets are one of the few species of sea birds that are doing well at the moment. They're increasing  in numbers whereas many other species are declining. This is partly because gannets can travel further to find food than many other species and also as other species decline and desert their nesting sites the gannets move in and take over the nest sites.

North Berwick also has lovely beaches. We travelled there today in a crowded train but most people went into the town while we walked along the beach which was almost deserted

The beach was also pretty clean and free from plastic pollution. I collected a nice selection of sea pottery which I will put in my Crafty Green Magpie supply and vintage shop on Etsy.

There were plenty of birds around, including lots of pied wagtails flying round the beach chasing the insects, including several juveniles (see first of the photos below)

 as well as adults
The insects included this lovely small copper butterfly

and plenty of hoverflies including several marmalade hoverflies

North Berwick itself is a lovely town with a nice selection of cafes and craft shops. And it's just a short train journey away from the centre of Edinburgh.

Friday, 10 August 2018

Granton Parish Church Grounds

I thought it would be interesting to have a look at the wildlife in the grounds of Granton Parish Church where I work as Climate Change Officer for Granton Goes Greener.

Granton Parish Church has a lovely churchyard with a number of shrubs and trees that are great for wildlife.


Blackbirds have nested in the grounds and the flowering shrubs attract white butterflies and at least three species of bumble bees.

Plus a pied hoverfly visited recently! I tried to get its photo but it wouldn’t stay still so this is a photo of a pied hoverfly I saw in Spylaw Park recently. There are around 250 species of hoverflies in the UK, they’re fascinating insects that are harmless but mimic stinging insects such as wasps and bees.

Faith Action for Nature is a great project, encouraging churches in Scotland to look after wildlife and manage their grounds for nature. They have resources on their website – you can see the Summer resource pack here!

If you're interested in learning more about the work of Granton Goes Greener, you can:

Visit our website and read our blog (where an earlier version of this post appeared)

Like our Facebook Page or ask to join our Facebook group.

Follow us on Twitter.

Thursday, 9 August 2018

Beautiful Butterflies and Other Creatures at Musselburgh

Today was a beautiful day for a walk round the Lagoons at Musselburgh. A beautiful day for butterflies too. This peacock, looking in peak condition was basking in the sun

while in the wooded area near the bird hides there were at least 5 speckled woods

 I recorded thes and the whilte butterflies I saw in the Big Butterfly Count, which is open until 12 August. 

This seven spot ladybird had found a cosy little place to rest

and these tiny little pollen beetles were burrowing their way into the flower as far as they could

Lots of hoverflies around too, though the wind was high which made taking the photos difficult.The larger one in trhis photo is a pied hoverfly and I need to identify the other (it may be a long hoverfly, but I'm not sure). There were other species I need to identify too (The Nature Spot guide to UK Hoverflies is my favourite resource to help with this task).

There were also plenty of birds including these eider ducks

And away in the distance in the photo below, you can see Arthur's Seat, which is where we had an evening walk the other day, which you can read about here.

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Beautiful Evening on Arthurs Seat

We had a lovely walk up Arthur's Seat yesterday evening. Everywhere looked beautiful

We had hoped to see some swifts gathering to catch insects before their long migration back to Africa but we didn't see any. We did however have a wonderful view of a kestrel hovering over the grass, obviously with its eye on a vole or a mouse.

This caterpillar of the cinnabar moth chose a silly place to eat in the middle of the path

I was very happy to be able to get some reasonably good photos as the light faded - the wonderful Salisbury Crags and the lights of Edinburgh

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Once Were Fields

Green becomes concrete
for wheels to glide over

Inexorable as rainfall
landscape flies past,
transmutes into shopping malls,
office blocks and science parks.

Grey sky reflects in glass houses
and everyone is throwing stones.

Poem previously published in The Journal and originally posted on this blog in 2007. Still a sadly relevant poem.

The collage is made from 100% recycled magazines and is a detail from a flier, on the reverse of which there is a copy of the poem against the background of a photo of a city street. 

I posted another poem from the past today on my Shapeshifting Green blog, you can read it here

Monday, 6 August 2018

Snapper by Brian Kimberling


Nathan Lochmueller studies birds for just enough money to scrape a living in Indiana. Other than that he lives a fairly aimless existence and is in love with Lola.

I really enjoyed the natural history elements of this novel, the descriptions of fieldwork and observations of the birds:

"Neighbouring pairs [of wood thrushes] sing to each other in a chain of call and response that occurs in every wood in the Midwest. ..... A male indigo bunting will try desperately to get your attention if you stray near its nest..."

The book also captures beautifully the melancholy of a naturalist surrounded by landscape and wildlife that is disappearing.

I had hoped that the natural history element would be matched by the humour of the opening few pages, but that mostly wasn't to be. I enjoyed the book and the disjointed nature of the chapters seemed to nicely complement the disjointed nature of Nathan's life, but it would have been even better if the laughter had continued.

Snapper by Brian Kimberling published by Tinder Press

Sunday, 5 August 2018

Thumper the rabbit and friends at Gorgie City Farm

We had a lovely trip to Gorgie City Farm yesterday. There are lots of new animals to get to know including Thumper, a large, fluffy bunny who is blind in one eye

and his friend Lily

Nest door to the rabbits are the micro pigs who are still young but even when fully grown will be less than knee high..... These are specially bred to be pets and they're very cute

The farm also has two young cows that seem to have lovely natures, enjoying being petted by the visitors

and the goats seem very happy in their enclosure

while this jackdaw was hanging around

Hidden around the farm are several scarecrows, children are invited to wander round the farm and find all of them

Adults may be more interested in the new 'Build Your Own Veg Box' idea where for a suggested donation of £5 you can put together your own vegetable box

The farm is a brilliant place for city children to learn about farming and also about nature. The beautiful flowers round the farm attract many insects, including these two small white butterflies which were engaged in a courtship display (or at least the male was!)

several species of bee including early bumble bees (that's their species name, though here they seem to be later in appearing than most other bumble bees!)

and this that looks like some sort of cuckoo bee

and of course hoverflies including several marmalade hoverflies

If you've never visited Gorgie Farm, I can definitely recommend it! If you're outside of Edinburgh and want to find your nearest city farm then hop over to the website of the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens.

Thursday, 2 August 2018

Beautiful butterflies

The small copper is one of my favourite butterflies, it's so small and fragile looking with beautiful patterning. In the past it used to be reliably seen on Corstorphine HIll in Edinburgh but is much less frequent now. So we were delighted to see two today, including this one that posed for Crafty Green Boyfriend to take its photo

 There were also fifteen large white butterflies. I recorded all these butterflies in the Big Butterfly Count which runs until 12 August.

There were also loads of hoverflies around including several pied hoverflies

Corstorphine Hill is also well known for its views over Edinburgh