Sunday, 24 March 2019

Great Crested Grebes and other Sights at Linlithgow Loch

Every year at around this time, Crafty Green Boyfriend and I visit Linlithgow Loch (a short train journey away from Edinburgh) to hopefully see great crested grebes performing their wonderful courtship dance.

In 2013 we had great luck seeing the grebes dancing in early March (see this blog post).

So how did we fare yesterday?

Well, when we arrived at the loch we were greeted by this friendly coot, showing off its feet, which are beautifully lobed (unlike the feet of ducks, geese and swans which are webbed)

Several male tufted ducks were swimming round, showing off their tufts

and fairly early on in our walk we had the first reasonably close view of a great crested grebe

but when we got to the reed bed where the grebe courtship dances mostly seem to take place we saw that the birds were already building nests! We watched this pair for a while and were quite impressed by the size of the sticks (or reeds?) that they were moving around (if you click on the photo to enlarge it you may be able to see that the grebe on the right is carrying a very long stick in its beak)

I've never seen grebes building their nests before so this was very interesting! And further round the loch we saw this pair of great crested grebes performing a half hearted courtship dance

It was also very interesting to see these small fish (sticklebacks? minnows? I don't know my fish very well)

They were swimming around quite freely but every time a bird approached the fish all dashed into the safety of the nearby reeds, which was fascinating to watch.

There were a lot of lesser celandines in bloom around the loch, including this field

And just near the end of the walk we saw lots of mole hills

signs that this little creature is busily tunnelling near the loch.

Friday, 22 March 2019

Crafty Green Leafy Bunting for Granton Walled Gardens

The Friends of Granton Castle Walled Garden are inviting people to contribute fabric leaves to be used in a piece of nature inspired community bunting to be displayed at their Celebration Event at the garden on 4 May.

They're particularly interested in bunting made from upcycled materials and that somehow reflects the garden itself by for example including embroidery that references the gardens colourful history or prints of leaves that can be found in the garden. You can find out more about this project and download the template for the bunting here.

Completed leaves need to be handed in by Friday 26 April to allow time for the bunting to be strung together before the Celebration Event on 4 May.You can hand in your leaves at the front desk at North Edinburgh Arts, 15a Pennywell Court or take it along to one of the Granton Walled Garden creative events or garden open days (the first Saturday of each month from 12noon to 2pm) and hand to a member of the Granton Castle Walled Garden team.

I've started sorting my fabric stash to find some fabrics to make a leaf with.

I'm looking for fabric with leafy designs of about the right size to fit the template (basically A4) with other smaller pieces for decoration. I'll post my completed leaf once I've made it!

Granton Walled Garden is fairly well hidden in Granton, you can find a map here.

Thursday, 21 March 2019

International Day of Forests

Yesterday was International Sparrow Day, World Frog Day and International Day of Happiness, today is International Day of Forests and World Poetry Day!

Woodlands and forests are wonderful habitats for a range of wildlife and offer beautiful, peaceful places for people to wander round. Even a relatively small area of woodland can bring lovely encounters with nature - today I visited Musselburgh and in the small stand of trees near the bird hides (that overlook the lagoons) - I heard my first chiffchaff of the year here as well as seeing chaffinches and goldfinches. Later in the year this area is one of the best places near Edinburgh to see speckled wood butterflies.The male willow trees were delightfully in bloom today too

I love woodlands so much that I volunteer for two woodland organisations! As a volunteer for Water of Leith Conservation Trust, I patrol the wooded Dells along the Water of Leith once a week, picking litter, recording wildlife, noting how many people are out enjoying the area and recording any pollution or vandalism. It's a beautiful place and one I always enjoy visiting.

I also volunteer for Woodland Trust, mostly as a campaigner but I've also lead guided walks round the Dells for groups of people connected with the trust.

I also write poetry inspired by trees, including Corstorphine Sycamore about one of the iconic trees of Edinburgh.

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Happy World Frog Day

Apparently it's World Frog Day today though I can't seem to find a website for it!

Many species of frogs face difficulties in the wild, including

Loss of habitat – we often build on areas where frogs live, or fill in the ponds where they breed
Pollution – chemical pollution of ponds and lakes can be a big problem
Disease – there are a couple of really worrying diseases effecting frogs and other amphibians, you can find out more here

One of the easiest ways to help frogs (if you have a garden) is to build a pond. Crafty Green Boyfriend's Mum has two frog ponds in her garden. This is the larger one and is currently home to about 12 adult frogs and a lot of spawn

You can read more about the pond and see more photos of the frogs in this post from February.

Last night just on cue, the first tadpoles appeared in the pond! So I recorded these on the Woodland Trust's Nature's Calendar website.

If you want to learn more about frogs and how you can help them, the Froglife website is a great place to start!

Today is also International Day of Happiness and seeing frogs always makes me happy!

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Moths Matter

Butterfly Conservation (the UK charity for both butterflies and moths) has just launched the Moths Matter campaign. The campaign aims to get people interested in moths, which are often overlooked next to their more well known butterfly relatives.

However moths are well worth learning about and they're not all small, dull coloured night time creatures. Many moths in fact are beautiful day flying insects. Here are just some of the moths I've seen in the past few years

 cinnabar moth, Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh, June 2018

silver carpet moth (I think!), Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh, June 2018

 narrow bordered 5 spot burnet moth, Musselburgh, July 2016

brimstone moth, Colinton Tunnel, Water of Leith walkway, Edinburgh, June 2013 

This is just a very small selection of moths in and around Edinburgh. but it gives a sense of the variety of patterns and colours you can find in these lovely insects.It's not just the adults either! Some moth caterpillars are very easily spotted like these cinnabar moths on Arthur's Seat in August 2016

and Caroline Gill has written a very interesting post about leaf mining moth larvae on her Wild and Wonderful blog here

The Moths Matter campaign will show how moths are important pollinators, why they are key parts of the food chain and how they are sometimes even more beautiful that butterflies.
Like butterflies, the UK’s moths are in trouble with many once common species struggling in the face of habitat loss and climate change.

Every month over the next year, the Moths Matter campaign will focus on a different theme, from spotting springtime caterpillars, planting a garden to attract night-flying visitors, to searching for Hawk-moths in hedgerows. There will be online moth quizzes and downloadable ID guides to help you get to grips with our most striking species. Blogs and video posts will help you learn more about moths and find out how Butterfly Conservation is working to protect moths across the UK.

Monday, 18 March 2019

Larch Trees in Bloom again

At this time of year I always look carefully at my favourite larch tree in Craiglockart Dell along the Water of Leith (this is the larch I 'followed' for Tree Following back in 2014). The reason I look so carefully at the tree at this time of year is to see if the flowers are out yet. Last week they weren't out and the buds were barely recognisable as such. Today though I was delighted to see that several flowers are already out and I was able to capture photos of some of the flowers at an earler stage of their development than ever before!

Here is a very young larch flower

this one below is I think slightly further along

and these are at their best already

This photo below, though out of focus) gives you some idea of how many flowers are in this tree so far

As part of Tree Following in 2014 I put together this post showing the development of the larch flower into a cone, which was something that before then, I'd never noticed before. It's well worth looking very carefully at any larch trees you pass, though not all of them have this many flowers!

The larch isn't the only tree in bloom at the moment, the hornbeam catkins are at their best

As many readers of this blog know I love trees and so I am very concerned to read articles like this one (Why are all the trees gone?), about the possibility of thousands or even millions of our trees being destroyed to allow for the development of 5G mobile phone networks and to all for the roll out of self driving vehicles. For me I'd much rather have trees than extra smart mobile phones and buses that don't have drivers.

Edited to add: It's worth pointing out that the academic paper linked to from the 'Why are all the trees gone?' article (linked above) mentions masts at shorter than tree height being a problem for the 5G signal. It then goes on to suggest masts need to be much taller, it doesn't suggest cutting down the trees. Which of course doesn't mean that councils won't cut trees down for 5G. The actual paper is here  and the section about trees is section 3.1. I'm going to write to all my political representatives (councillors, MSPs, MP) to see if any of them can give clarity of the future of trees in Edinburgh once 5G is introduced. The more people contact their political representatives the more they will realise people see this as an issue.

Saturday, 16 March 2019

Redwings and Willow Catkins in the Snow

It's been snowing all morning! Crafty Green Boyfriend and I braved the slush and mud along the Water of Leith Walkway up to Saughton Park.

Saughton is an old British word (from the Brythonic I think rather than Gaelic) that means willow and the pussy willows just outside the park were looking beautiful today

We were delighted to see inside the park that a flock of redwings and starlings had taken up residence on the football pitch, flying between the grass and the trees. Crafty Green Boyfriend managed to get these photos of some of the birds

The redwings will soon be returning to Scandanavia to breed. 

The snow has now turned to sleet and we're drinking coffee to warm ourselves up!