Tuesday 30 December 2014

Water of Leith

It wasn't so cold today as it was yesterday. I did my regular volunteering stint round Colinton Dell today .I hadn't noticed before today how lovely the gioldenrod seed heads look in winter.

this tiny toadstool growing in the moss is just lovely

and on the same fallen log there's this lovely combination of moss and fungi (this fungus looks like hairy stereum, though I'm not entirely sure)

  and not far away, yet another toadstool (some sort of bell cap) in the dead leaves

I've been learning a lot about fungi this year, though I'm far from being able to identify them all. As to mosses though, I don't have a clue, so I'm looking forward to the forthcoming talk about the mosses and liverworts of the Water of Leith. You can find out more about this talk on the Water of Leith Conservation Trust website.

Lots of birds today as well, including a flock of about 20 redwings  feasting in holly bushes along the mill lade of Redhall Mill. One of the birds fluttered in such a way to show off all the vibrant red under the wing. Beautiful.

for Nature Notes

Monday 29 December 2014

It's icy out there!

Today we walked through Inverleith Park 

the black headed gulls (in winter plumage, hence white heads with only a back spot behind the eyes) seemed comfortable enough on the ice

there were redwings in the holly bushes all over town. The photo above (taken in Inverleith Park) sums up why I tend to watch smaller fast moving birds rather than trying to photograph them!

We then wandered over to Edinburgh Botanic Gardens and made friends with this lovely squirrel. 

There was a kingfisher on the Botanics Pond, several birdwatchers had gathered to watch it, I enjoyed seeing it fly across the pond from tree to tree. i didn't even try to take a photo!

This tree is beautiful in the cold winter light

and I liked the arrangement of this cone and stone on the icy pond in the Scottish Woodland area of the Botanics

Sunday 28 December 2014

Winter on Linlithgow Loch

black headed gulls

mute swan and (below) with cygnet


We had a lovely trip to Linlithgow yesterday and walked round the Loch

Saturday 27 December 2014

Corstorphine Hill Christmas Eve

Crafty Gren Boyfriend and I had a lovely walk round Corstorphine HIll on Christmas eve. The weather was beautiful when we set out, though that didn't last

It was another great day for fungi

jelly ears

velvet shank

jelly antler fungus (sorry for the poor focus in this shot, but the light is lovely in it).

and most excitingly this orange peel fungus. Crafty Green Boyfriend works very near Corstorphine Hill and had told me about this orange peel fungus, but we didn't expect it to still be looking good on Christmas Eve. My camera battery failed after taking the photo above, but Crafty Green Boyfriend helped out by taking the photo below

This autumn has been my best ever season for seeing and identifying wild fungi, you can see more photos of some of the species we've seen by following these links

Fungi in roadside verges in suburban Manchester.

November Fungi on Corstorphine Hill.

stump puffballs in Colinton Dell

Wednesday 24 December 2014

Wishing everyone a Green and Happy Christmas

The Crafty Green Christmas tree is a living tree, in a pot and will return to Crafty Green Boyfriend's mother's garden after 12th night. It's decorated with two wooden bird decorations from my parents and a load of earrings! The earrings are either odd earrings with no pair or earrings that I've found in the street. The star on the top of the tree is made from felt that I made from the shed fur of our old rabbit Anya (it's a lovely way to remember her at this time of year!).

Monday 22 December 2014

stump puffballs

This is the first time I've ever seen stump puffballs, a species of puffball toadstools that only grows on rotting wood. The other species of puffballs all grow in the ground.

when you look closely you can see all the spores inside the fungus, just waiting to be puffed out by raindrops or the footsteps of a passing animal.

These puffballs were growing on a dead tree in Colinton Dell alongside the Water of Leith.

For Nature Notes

Sunday 21 December 2014

Ten Reasons to buy local

great sign on a food stall in Edinburgh's Grassmarket

and a good reminder at this time of year!

Saturday 20 December 2014

Calton Hill

We enjoyed a walk round Edinburgh's Calton Hill today. Always a great place for photos, there are so many interesting buildings and follies up there, great views of Salisbury Crags too.

Friday 19 December 2014

Update on my novel

As many readers of this blog know I'm currently working on a novel that is basically about climate change refugees in a future independent Hebrides.

I wrote a very rough first draft of this novel for NaNoWriMo on November 2011.

Today I finished the current draft. It still needs a final edit and polish and may need extra scenes, but at least I have something that looks properly novel shaped.So that's my early Christmas present to myself!

Whether I ever find an agent or a publisher for it is another matter entirely!

Thursday 18 December 2014

Tuesday 16 December 2014

Woodland Trust leaf identification swatch book

I was delighted to win this leaf identification swatch book in a recent Woodland Trust online tree identification quiz.

It is a beautifully produced guide to 32 of the most widely seen trees of the UK. The book is small enough to fit into a large pocket but large enough that most of the leaves are shown at life size. It's laminated for easy use in the rain and with the pages easily displayed alongside each other so you can compare and contrast the different species.

Each tree is represented with a photo of its leaf and bud

with on the back of the page some facts about the species

I'll definitely be using this with my nature walk groups.

This is just one of a series of Woodland Trust wildlife identification swatch books. You can see the whole range here.

I reviewed the Woodland Trust fungi identification swatch book here.

Monday 15 December 2014

Colinton Dell on a wintry day

It's a lovely winters day out there, cold and slightly frosty but still and clear.

A couple of months ago someone had told me there were earthstar fungi in Colinton Dell, but foolishly I never asked exactly where, so I've been searching ever since. Finally today I found them, past their best, their stars almost rotten away, but still worth taking a photo of, and next year I'll know where they are and I'll see them earlier in the year. Assuming they come up again next year, I know fungi can be unreliable like that.

The larch tree that I've been stusdying for Tree Following looks beautiful in the winter sun

Also an amazing selection of birds today. A total of 15 mallards (unusual for this stretch of the river these days), 5 goosanders (a record for my observations in Colinton Dell), 8 bullfinches in one tree (probably the most adult bullfinches I've ever seen in one place), two medium sized flocks of redwings and lots of long tailed tits everywhere. Plus other birds too.  

Saturday 13 December 2014

Two Edinburgh parks on a cold winter's day

Inverleith Pond in Inverleith Park, the water almost entirely frozen

One of the ponds at the Royal Botanic Gardens, not quite so frozen

one of the several grey squirrels we saw, note its dirty nose from rummaging through the fallen leaves

a beautiful cat stalking another of the squirrels

the grey squirrel that the cat was stalking, it was onstantly making alarm calls while the cat was around.

For Weekend Reflections

As ever, red text contains hyperlinks that take you to other web pages where you can find out more.

Friday 12 December 2014

Wolf Totem by Jiang Rong

In the 1970s nomadic Mongolian herders lived in balance with their environment, moving from one area of pasture to another to gain the most benefit from each type of grassland and to ensure that the grassland and its wildlife had the best chance to survive and thrive. They revered wolves even as they feared them, hunting them when necessary but recognising that the wolves ensured that gazelles, rabbits and mice couldn't overrun the grasslands and reduce them to desert.

Wolf Totem, the semi-autobiograhical novel from Jiang Rong, focuses on a year in the lives of two Chinese students sent to Mongolia to work alongside the herders. Chen adopts a wild wolf cub (after killing its siblings) and tries to study its development as a top predator. His love for the cub is very touching as is his gradual realisation of the crime he commited against nature in ripping the cub from its natural way of life.

This story is set against the wider story of the settlement of the area by Chinese farmers who don't understand the relationship the herders have with the landscape and the wildlife. Gradually the grasslands become overpopulated by people and livestock and wolves are over-hunted, gradually creating a sandy desert where once there was a vibrant ecosystem.

This is a heartbreaking study of how inappropriate human development can destroy a natural ecosystem and ultimately destroy too a human community that had evolved over centuries to co-exist with that ecosystem.

My only criticism of the book is that the dialogue often sounds as though the author has taken chunks out of ecology and soiology textbooks and put them into the mouths of his characters. Otherwise it is a truly insightful and sobering exploration of a lost way of life.

Wolf Totem by Jiang Rong (translated by Howard Goldblatt) published by Penguin.

Thursday 11 December 2014

winter weather haiku

clouds gather -
the grey and white cat watches
the rain


grey skies -
two crows chase each other
through falling snow

Wednesday 10 December 2014

War Poets Trail, Craiglockart

I've blogged a few times about how we enjoy walking round the Craiglockart Hills. I also knew about the historical connection between the buildings on the hills with the famous war poets of the First World War. However I hadn't heard about the War Poets Trail until a few days ago when I picked up a leaflet that outlines walks that trace the footsteps of Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon on the walks they enjoyed taking while they were recuperating at Craiglockart War Hospital.

If you walk along the trail you can also pop in to view the War Poets Collection that is on permanent display in the Craiglockart Campus Library.

The War Poets trail is being highlighted (and possibly has been formalised this year) to mark the centenary of the First World War.

However we can't let it distract us from the controversial development of the Craighouse Buildings.

The Friends of Craiglockart Woods and Nature Trail have a very optimistic point of view about this development, while Friends of Craignhouse Grounds and Wood - Save Craighouse (a local campaigning group which has fought against three development proposals for the site) has a much more pessimistic view. I have to admit, my view probably falls somewhere in between. I'd like to be optimistic, but I'm afraid that I have little faith currently in the City of Edinburgh Planning Department or in the private developers who are planning to build new houses on this site.

The latest proposals were given the go ahead so the site is to be developed (and let's be honest, it needs to be developed in some way otherwise the historical buildings will fall into decay). Time will only tell what effect the development has on the surrounding Local Nature Reserve. 

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

Tuesday 9 December 2014

Winter sun

It's wild, wet and windy today. Hard to believe that only yesterday the sky was this blue (it was freezing cold though and many of the paths alongside the Water of Leith were frozen)

Scots pines


Monday 8 December 2014

From flower to cone - the larch tree through the year

The best thing about studying a larch tree for Tree Following this year has been discovering the beautiful little flowers (which I had never noticed before!) and observing them as they gradually change into cones. I've used photos of different flowers / cones in some instances, but they still give a nice idea of the development.

26 March 

31 March 

14 April

30 April 

12 May 

27 May 
9 June

1 July

31 July

11 August

1 October

11 November

24 November

8 December

This has been a fascinating study and I'll certainly pay more attention to larch trees in the future!  It's also been fascinating to follow the other trees that participants have chosen. Thanks to Lucy at Loose and Leafy for organising Tree Following.

For Tree Following and Nature Notes.