Friday 30 September 2011


in the river
this fallen tree
so full of rubbish
and low hanging perches
for kingfishers

Thursday 29 September 2011

Autumnal Hornbeam

As you may remember, I've been studying the hornbeams along the Water of Leith for Tree Year. The wonderful chandelier fruits of the tree are turning yellow just now, they're such a pretty sight!

This tree is not native to Scotland (though I think it's native to the south of England) and was planted along the river as its wood is very hard and was used a lot in construction in the years when there were mills along the river. (There were over 70 at one time!). I walk along the same part of the Water of Leith every week, as part of my voluntary work with the Water of Leith Conservation Trust. So I pass these trees every week, though I haven't blogged about them as often as perhaps I had intended to when I first heard about Tree year!

Wednesday 28 September 2011

Corvus by Esther Woolfson

Corvus is a memoir based on the author's relations with birds. Specifically corvids (crows, magpies and jays) and even more specifically the crows and magpies she has kept as pets. In each case the bird was found as a fledgling and abandoned by its parents (fledglings can often seem abandoned but usually the parents are going to come right out, so you should leave them be and trust nature in most cases). I found the style of this book a bit annoying and sometimes felt it could have done with a more thorough editing. However, having said that it is a delightful read. Full of the antics of Spike the magpie, Chicken the rook and Ziki the crow. They seem to have more or less free range of Woolfson's house (and make quite a mess!). They also have huge personalities and are very entertaining. Woolfson often uses incidents from the birds lives as a starting point to talk about elements of bird biology - so the book covers evolution, the structure of feathers, myths and folklore about crows and musings on the intelligence of birds. The reader is left with no doubt whatsoever that corvids are intelligent:

We were standing by the kitchen stove discussing [Spike's future]....... Spike formed a triangle with us, part of the conversation, standing, as he had just learned to do, on the ears of the wooden rabbit on the mantlepiece, when he joined the discourse, gave forth his opinion, sealed the argument.

'Hello!"he said, very suddenly, loudly, with astonishing clarity. Han and I stared, gaped. Then even louder 'Spike!' He was pleased with his effort. 'Spike. Spikey. Hello! Spikey? SPIKE. His voice was a voice so human as to be shocking.

A must read for bird lovers!

Corvus by Esther Woolfson published by Granta

Monday 26 September 2011

Camera Case from Repurposed Fabric

At the weekend, I made this carry case for my camera using fabric from a load of fabric samples I had found thrown out in the street one day. It looks quite nice. Unfortunately though the fabric had seemed to be the right size when I measured it at the beginning, it was just too small by the time I'd finished making the case (this is the downside of repurposing materials, sometimes you are restricted by the existing dimensions of the materials!) Luckily I have other fabric I can use to make a camera case and Crafty Green Boyfriend assures me he can use this one. (And apologies for the rather poor photo!)

Sunday 25 September 2011

Bridges along the Water of Leith

The Water of Leith Conservation Trust in Edinburgh are looking for information about the bridges that cross the river. They want to put together an information resource about all the bridges! So if you know any unusual facts about any of the bridges, why not let the trust know by contacting them on admin{at}waterofleith{dot}org{dot}uk. Meanwhile here are photos of some of the bridges!

This is Bogs Bridge, a pedestrian bridge over the Water of Leith. This is a photo from last year. The bridge has since been repaired and you can see more recent photos here. It's near this bridge that the hornbeam trees grow that I am studying for the Tree Year Project.

This is the aqueduct that carries the Union Canal over the Water of Leith, just near the Water of Leith Conservation Trust Visitor Centre. The aqueduct was built in 1822 by Hugh Baird, modelled on Thomas Telford's work on the Ellesmere Canal.

This is one of the older bridges along the Water of Leith, near Dean Village.

and another bridge!

Saturday 24 September 2011


pink clouds
above the city rooftops -
a skein of geese

drizzle -
two kestrels


Thursday 22 September 2011

World Rhino Day - Stop the Poaching!

One of the most amazing sights I remember from the various safaris I made while I lived in Africa was of seeing a rhino running across Matopos National Park, in Zimbabwe. It was a magnificent creature, though slightly less magnificent for its horn having been surgically removed to prevent poaching.

Despite measures such as surgically removing horns, poaching continues to be a huge problem for rhinos. In 2007 13 rhino were killed for their horns in South Africa. In 2010 the figure was 333. So far, in 2011, 291 rhino have been poached in South Africa. These figures are shocking and don't bode well for the future of that wonderful iconic animal in Africa (most rhinos in Africa are found in South Africa).

There are five species of rhinos across Africa and Asia and all of them are threatened with extinction. There are, for example, only 50 Javan rhinos left in the wild (and none of this species in captivity) making this the most endangered mammal species on earth.

By far the greatest threat to rhinos is the myth that their horns contain medicinal compounds. So this year's World Rhino Day is using that as its campaign theme. Rhino Conservation has a good article: Busting the Rhino Horn Medicine Myth with Science.

Alison Nicholls, a wildlife artist, has written an excellent post for World Rhino Day, which includes a beautiful painting of a rhino, you can see it here.

You can read a poem I wrote about rhinos here.

World Rhino Day celebrates these amazing animals and raises awareness about their plight and about the fact that their horns are not medicine.

As ever, text in red contains hyperlinks which take you to other webpages where you can read more.

Wednesday 21 September 2011

iPoems for the Dolphins to Click Home About

'Poetry will never be able to compete with skydiving. Or juggling fire.'

This is a quote from the entertaining introduction to iPoems for the Dolphins to Click Home About a collection by Luke Armstrong. There is only one poem about dolphins in the book:

Dolphins are clicking at us, but nobody
cares. We haven’t forgotten the past, they click. We just see
no need to keep it in the same desperation that obliges you
to recreate the ocean for us. We’re not idiots. We know this
isn’t the ocean. But we’re easy going.

From Something for the Dolphins to Click Home About

Luke is not primarily a nature poet or an environmentalist, but environmental concerns appear in several of his poems. Going with the Garbage takes a trip with household rubbish up to the garbage mountain where:

Maria and Rosa, Hernan and Jose, Julian and Julianita
spend their days, plucking bottles from hell,

and details the appalling life conditions of the people who scrape a living from collecting garbage (I recently saw Waste Land an inspiring documentary film about an art project involving a community of waste pickers, you can read my review here).

Luke's main preoccupation in his poetry is with human relationships and social justice, both of which he treats by turn with humour and with tenderness, often using imagery from the natural world:

Open a cocoon and you've
nearly found a butterfly

from Death in the Morning

He is also a poet of ideas, some poems seem to burst with the number of ideas in them and many of these seem to read like prose rather than poetry. One of these is iPoems, which after sharing lots of ideas, ends beautifully, with the idea of an infinite range of poetry being out there:

These are the elapsed poems that are always shuffling,
waiting for the right color of twilight to be seen suddenly
just before descending to night.

This is a very varied collection of poetry and well worth reading.

Tuesday 20 September 2011

Danger! Musical Crocodiles!

Hermitage of Braid, Edinburgh

The top photo is of some bricks embedded on one of the paths, that isn't really dangerous at all. The crocodile seems to be made entirely of recycled materials and you can play it as a musical instrument, though it doesn't sound particularly melodious!

Monday 19 September 2011

Bats on Two Scottish Rivers

Central Edinburgh. The Water of Leith.

Dusk. Pipistrelle bats appear out of the gloom and flit round our heads and higher up above the trees, between the aqueduct and the viaduct. With bat detectors in our hands, the clicks of the two species of pipistrelles sound loudly against the gentle swirling of the river. We wonder where they roost, perhaps in the aqueduct or the viaduct or in the walls of the old converted school nearby? I hold my breath as the pipistrelles come closer and move away again.

Months later, mid-morning, I'm walking upstream from where we had been with the bat detectors. There's an intriguing old folly here, built from stone with a domed roof, lined with shells. It was built in the 18th Century as a Ladies Grotto, where the women of the party would rest, as the men went hunting through the extensive country estates round about. This particular day, I catch sight of a movement inside the darkness. A bat flutters round, close to the inside of the roof. I wonder how many others are in there, hiding in the cracks in the stonework.

Outskirts of Dumfries. Cluden Water.

After dusk. The swollen river swirls in white-flecked vortices. Daubenton's bats twist and turn low above the water. We try to watch them, but keep losing sight of them in the growing dark. We wander along the tree lined bank a little way to look for more bats. We stop in a clearing and look up into the dark grey sky above the trees. It is full of pipistrelles and a few larger bats too, which we don't recognise, but are probably not Daubenton's flying so high. Every so often one of the pipistrelles flies towards the trees, occasionally almost brushing past us, but just swerving away from us at the last moment. We walk back as dark descends, the air around us alive with bats chasing insects.

for Nature Notes

Saturday 17 September 2011

Arthurs Seat

We had a lovely walk round Arthur's Seat today. I was wanting to find a good circular walk for the Birdwatching class I'm teaching for City of Edinburgh council starting from a week Monday. The challenge for me with Arthur's Seat is to find a circular walk off the main path that avoids any vertiginous slopes (it would be embarrassing to say the least to be paralysed with vertigo when leading a birdwatching walk and Arthur's Seat is full of steep slopes!). Anyway we found a perfect walk, that takes in the hidden valley where ravens can sometimes be seen and a nice little grassy path that passes some lovely vegetation. We also had excellent views of two hunting kestrels. The weather changed moment to moment, rain, sunshine, rain.

Friday 16 September 2011

A whirlwind of birds at Musselburgh

We had a lovely wander along the mouth of the River Esk at Musselburgh today. One of the banks was lined with Canada Geese and the river was full of mallards and gulls (mostly herring gulls and black headed gulls) with a couple of female goosanders.

Then suddenly we noticed that the air above the river was full of house martins, swallows and possibly sand martins (the two species of martin can be difficult to tell apart when they're speeding past in low light!). It was amazing to be caught up in the middle of all their activity as they zoomed over our heads in their circling round. I've seen loads of swallows andmartins this year, I'm wondering whether they've had a particularly good year or whether I've just been lucky with my sightings? What about swallows and martins in your area (if you're in northern Europe!).

There were also a lot of pied wagtails and goldfinches running and flying around and seeming also to be flocking together (though they're not species that I would normally see together).

Then we walked onto the beach, which had a wonderful autumnal feel to it, though it was warmer here than it was by the river. There were curlews and oystercatchers wandering around and a few mute swans too. A skein of geese flew overhead.

Thursday 15 September 2011

Speed eating squirrel

The weather has been perfect today. Still, sunny and mild (with a chill in the shade). I had a lunchtime walk up Corstorphine Hill with Crafty Green Boyfriend. We were entertained by this squirrel. Yes, I know it's blurry, but that gives some indication of how busily it was feeding!

The yew berries are now out, they're such a lovely sight (though poisonous, so don't touch!).

Up above our heads, a group of house martins were twittering excitedly, they'll be leaving us soon. There were also a lot of what looked like chiffchaffs in the trees, they'll be going back to their wintering grounds soon too.

for Nature Notes

Wednesday 14 September 2011

7 x 7 Links

I was delighted when KC Woolf of The Woman Condition passed on the 7x7 Link Award to me, which asks participants to highlight their older blog posts in the following categories:

Most Beautiful
Most Helpful
Most Popular
Most Controversial
Most Surprisingly Successful
Most Underrated
Most Prideworthy

Most Beautiful
There are lots of photos of beautiful places in Scotland (and beyond!) on this blog, so I fairly randomly chose this post about Corstorphine Hill in Edinburgh.

Most Helpful

This might be this article on Reducing Plastic Use. It had a lot of hits and a few comments and was intended to be helpful, but I have no real way of knowing what people really find to be helpful!

Most Popular

By far the most popular post on Crafty Green Poet is Oil Spill Poetry which is a list of links to poetry about oil spills. This has had an amazing 1, 241 hits!

Most Controversial

I find it interesting that although I often post on issues such as climate change and biodiversity loss, I don't seem to cause a huge amount of controversy to show itself in the comments section. This post Climate Change - Lifestyle Change is probably one of posts that gets closest to actually causing any real controversy.

Most Surprisingly Successful

This is difficult to judge, but I'll go for Winter Morning - a prose poem, which was written for (the now defunct) Poetry Thursday and unsurprisingly got quite a few comments (29) but even for a Poetry Thursday post it got a lot of hits (233).

Most Underrated

Back when my blog was very young (6 years ago to be precise!) this post about Callanais in the Western Isles of Scotland received no comments.

Most Pride-worthy

Not sure about this one, I'm 'proud' of the fact that I've been blogging here for over five years and am happy with all my blog posts.

Bonus Category: Silliest

I thought I'd invent this category for this post about the Inner Life of our rabbit Anya.

I want to pass this on to the following seven bloggers, who've all been actively blogging for a while:

Pat at Weaver of Grass.
Annette at Dragon House of Yuen.
Michelle at Raspberry Rabbits.
Lucy of Out with Mo and Box Elder.
Alf of Day by Day (a new blog, which is an amalgamation of all his old blogs)
Selma in the City.
Deb of Stony Moss.

I'm interested to see what they'll all bring out of their archives! And feel free to join in even if you're not in the list!

Monday 12 September 2011

Conservation Volunteering

The EU has designated 2011 as the European Year of Volunteering. The year celebrates the millions of people across Europe who volunteer in their communities, making a huge difference to those communities and the people who live in them. The year also offers a challenge to the three-quarters of the European population who do not volunteer, to think about how they could do so!

As many readers of this blog know, I volunteer with the Water of Leith Conservation Trust. I patrol a section of the river every Monday and record the wildlife I see, pick litter and report on graffitti, pollution and vandalism. I also make friends with a lot of dog walkers and their pets.
Today's highlights were two excellent views of dippers (one of my favourite birds) and making friends with a very young black fluff ball of a dog (before I started this volunteering I wasn't really a dog person at all, which just goes to show volunteering can change you in unexpected ways!).

Other activities you can get involved with at the Water of Leith Conservation Trust include large scale litter picks, planting native species and dressing up as a pirate to help on the annual treasure hunt.

Conservation volunteering is great! Since getting involved with the Water of Leith Conservation Trust, not only do I feel I'm doing my bit to protect an important part of the local landscape and wildlife habitat, but also: my plant identification skills have improved, I've met lots of new people (not to mention new dogs!) and my experience there has helped me get work as an adult education tutor with City of Edinburgh Council and the University of Edinburgh Office of Lifelong Learning. The trust are an excellent organisation to volunteer with - they treat volunteers very well and always have meaningful work for us to do and give us plenty of opportunities to get more involved with the trust, if that's what we're interested in. It's very worthwhile and I can definitely recommend it, if you're looking for conservation volunteering in Edinburgh.

For an American perspective on volunteering, Michelle of Rambling Woods has a good article here about how volunteers are helping nature to recover from Hurricane Irene.

Sunday 11 September 2011


I've been thinking for a while (with some encouragement from Annette of Dragon House of Yuen) of setting up a store on Etsy. I've thought of selling:

1. poetry related crafts (such as poetry collages. Annette suggested haiku on second-hand crockery and even made me a sample featuring one of my own haiku - isn't it lovely?
I'm not sure if this is something I will do myself though, as I have nowhere to store loads of crockery).

2. art and craft supplies (I've heard that Etsy is more of a sellers market these days and therefore more difficult to break into than it used to be. I figured selling supplies might be a popular move?

3. Items such as lavender bags, purses and cushion covers made from reclaimed fabric.

My own concerns are that a) the crafts I make aren't (mostly) good enough to sell and even if they are they will sell for low prices which would mean it might not be worth setting up the shop.

What do you think? Would anyone here buy any of these things (and please be honest!). Do you think setting up an Etsy Shop would be a good idea? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Friday 9 September 2011

Green Space Poetry competition

I was delighted to find out that one of my poems will be included in the anthology arising from the Green Space Poetry prize, organised by Poetry Space. The anthology will be published later this year. Meanwhile you can read the winning poems here.

I was also delighted to hear recently that one of my pieces of short prose will feature at the Feast on the Bridge, which is this year, a celebration of sustainable fish, and takes place on 10 September as part of the Mayor's Thames Festival in London. (Which looks like a great event to go along to, if you're in or near London!)

Thursday 8 September 2011

Things Change....

In those days - a hundred years ago.... our alleyways were not yet choked with garbage, and sewage did not yet flow under our bridges; our ferries funnels did not yet spew out great clouds of tar-black smoke, and people never elbowed each other rudely at bus-stops. In those days the horse drawn street-cars went at such a leisurely pace you could step on and off as they were moving; the ferries were so slow that passengers could step off at one station, amble down the shore among the linden trees, laughing and talking as they went, and relax for a few minutes at the teahouse outside the next ferry stop before boarding the same ferry they had left and continuing on their way. Where we now see electricity poles plastered with posters advertising circumcisers and tailors, in those days we saw chestnut and walnut trees. Where the city ended we did not see bare garbage hills bristling with electricity and telephone poles, but the groves, meadows and woodlands that our sad and merciless sultans used as their hunting grounds. It was on one of these green hills, later to be criss-crossed with sewage pipes, apartment buildings and cobblestone lanes that the Prince had his hunting lodge.

from The Black Book by Orhan Pamuk, translated by Maureen Freely, published by Faber.

I think it's interesting to think about how places change. Here, for example, much as I mourn the loss of the meadows and woodlands, I wouldn't mourn the loss of exclusive hunting estates.

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

Tuesday 6 September 2011


grey skies -
herring gulls brace their wings
against the wind


stubbled fields -
afock of woodpigeons
takes flight

Monday 5 September 2011

Edwin Morgan: Selected Poems

(Actually the book is the New Selected Poems, but as the book is now over 10 years old, that New can be a little confusing!)

Edwin Morgan was Scotland's greatest poet, who died last year at the age of 90. He was an incredibly versatile poet and could move with great ease between sonnets and experimental form and subjects varying from tender love poems to science fiction, poems about the history of Scotland and a poem in the voice of the Loch Ness Monster.

New Selected Poems showcases the whole range of his talents. I love the surrealism of many of his poems, as in From the Video Box: 25 - an imagining of the televising of the world jigsaw finals:

.............But what I liked best
was the last shot of the completed sea
filling the screen; then the saw lines disappeared,
till almost imperceptibly the surface moved

Although he didn't write often about nature, Morgan did have a fine sense of the natural world, as shown in An Abandoned Culvert:

The daffodils sang shrill within the culvert.
Their almost acid notes amazed the darkness

and he could write a good campaigning environmental poem too as in The White Rhinoceros
which proves that poetry doesn't need to rant to make a campaigning point:

and the safety catches started to click in the thickets
for more. Run holy hide - take up your armour-
Run - white horn, tin clown, crown of rain woods

Morgan is best known perhaps for both his science fiction poetry and his love poetry. His science fiction poetry is very clever and often highly entertaining such as The First Men on Mercury, in which the voices of the earthlings and the Mercurians move closer and closer together, until they can barely be distinguished and eventually change still further so that the Mercurians are speaking English and the earthlings are speaking gibberish.

Morgan's love poetry is tender and often melancholy. Morgan came out as gay on his 70th birthday, you can read more about his sexuality and his love poetry in this excellent article on Aethelred the Unread, where you can also find Morgan's well known love poem Strawberries.

Edwin Morgan: New Selected Poems published by Carcanet

As ever. coloured text contains hyperlinks which take you to other webpages where you can find out more.

Cross-posted to Over Forty Shades

Sunday 4 September 2011

Falling Leaves

It still feels like summer here to be honest, the sky is blue and it's warm. But leaves are starting to fall. I love the colours.....

Just a reminder to any photographers out there, the Nature Conservancy photo competition is closing to entries on 12 September, so now is the time to pick out your best shots and send them along. You can find out more here.

Saturday 3 September 2011

Seasons Change

We had a lovely walk today from Cramond Brig across Dalmeny Estate to South Queensferry. The weather was very changeable (see the photos above), it started off overcast and humid, then it rained then we had lovely sunshine. The fields and woodlands felt as though they were in transition, with house martins flying high over fields where the harvest is being gathered in, some leaves being brightly coloured while others are still very green (and some like those below have obviously been badly eaten!)

Walking towards South Queensferry, there is a lovely view of the Forth Rail Bridge. Several interesting species of birds breed on the islands in the river. We didn't see as many birds as we might have expected to, though we did see a couple of terns (probably Sandwich terns) and we heard curlew.
For Shadow Shot Sunday and Sunday Bridges